Friday, October 12, 2012

Honing Your Superbiking Skills: Part 1

[Article copyright Ewe Paik Leong]

Some tips for riding a superbike. Live to ride!

Be Prepared For The Worst
Research conducted by Heidleburg University Hospital in Germany has shown that superbikers who are prepared for accidents are more likely to escape from serious injuries than those who are not. There is nothing superstitious about this preparedness. Planning how to deal with a biking crisis not only means wearing safety gear and checking your bike before each ride. It also means practising emergency riding tactics, and even what to do if a road bully tries to ram you with his car or a policeman flags you down for speeding. Such mental preparedness coupled with practice can help you triumph over a crisis.

Using Target Fixation
Do you know that your bike goes where you are looking? This phenomenon is called target fixation. In other words, you tend to steer in the direction your eyes are fixed on. You can use target fixation to your advantage simply by actively scanning for potential hazards. By focusing your fixation away from a threat and towards an escape route, you will auto- matically steer away from danger. If an on-coming car is going to crash into you, don't look at the car -- look for a gap. If you focus your attention and eyes on the car, you will certainly head straight for the car!

Talking To Yourself
You are well aware that constant practice is the only way to learn riding skills and emergency riding techniques. But how do you bridge the gap between the actualisation of your practice and a panic situation? After all, when you practise you do so in a safe environment, while in a panic situation adrenalin courses in your veins and tends to confuse. The secret is to tell yourself to do what you have to do to get out of that particular danger. As an example, you should say something like: "Swerve to the right!" or "Control the bike!" This self-instruction triggers muscle memory, activating the lessons learned from prior practice and gets the job done.  

Avoiding A Highside
One of the most dangerous trouble a superbiker can get into is to do a highside. A rider does a highside when he is thrown high out of the superbike with the latter tumbling behind him. Often, the superbike crashes into him as well. Very serious injuries are a certainty when the rider is smashed by a flying superbike! (In contrast, a lowside involves the rider falling behind the superbike, and is less dangerous).

What causes a highside? Normally, a highside happens in a curve when the rider applies so much rear brake pressure that the rear wheels are locked, causing it to slide away from the direction that the superbike is travelling. The next (and wrong!) response of the rider is to release the pressure on the rear brake and attempt to ride away from the slide. Full traction is regained by the rear wheel; its sliding stops suddenly, and the highside happens! But why does it happen?

Briefly, when the rear wheel stops sliding, a torque is developed, twisting the superbike in the direction of the earlier slide. (lt should be pointed out that a highside can also occur when the superbike is travelling in a straight line and the front brakes are applied abruptly). How to avoid a potential highside? The safest option is to go for a lowside. This means if you are caught in a slide, you should turn the front wheel in the direction of the slide. At the same time, release pressure on the front brake (if pressure has been applied) but maintain pressure on the rear brake. The worst that can happened will be a lowside. Sometimes, however, the front wheel slides instead of the rear. How would you handle this situation? Exactly as mentioned earlier!

Handling Hydroplaning
Hydroplaning simply means skimming on the surface of water. When road conditions are wet and the superbike is travelling fast, the tyre threads do not have time to propel water away from the centre of the tyres. The result is the tyres are lifted from the surface of the road by the water, with a consequent loss of traction. At what speed does hydroplaning occur? Though the answer depends on many variables such as tread design, tread depth, tyre pressure, weight of superbike, and level of water, any speed approaching 80 km/hr is fast enough to support hydroplaning.

If you feel you are starting to hydroplane, strictly observe two rules: (l ) do not apply the brakes, and (2) steer only straight. Also, adopt two tips. First, if you think you are going to ride in heavy rain, add 3 to 5 psi of pressure to your tyres. The increased pressure will make the contact patch between the tyre and the road smaller. Second, try to ride closer to the centre of the road. Hydroplaning also depends on water depth and the centre of the road --due to less wear and tear -- is usually convex. Therefore the depth of water is lower than compared to the sides of the road.


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