Friday, October 12, 2012

Honing Your Superbiking Skills: Part 2

[Article copyright Ewe Paik Leong]

Overcoming Wheel Traps
Occasionally, superbikers have to contend with wheel traps that generally take the form of a trough that stretches interminably along the road. If the front wheel gets into the trough, the back wheel is dragged in as well. With both wheels trapped you cannot steer out. Any attempt to turn away from the trough will result in the bike falling over.

Specifically, wheel traps are one of the following kinds: an exposed drain at the side of the road; a narrow resurfaced lane higher than the one adjacent to it; a sharp drop from the road surface or pavement. Overcoming such obstacles requires either riding up and over them or away from them.

To avoid getting caught in this situation, here's the first tip: Never ride within six inches of a raised surface that runs parallel to the direction you are heading. To ride over such an obstacle, if it is only one to two inches high, you have to approach it at an angle greater than 20 degrees. Usually, the stumbling block is not your front tyre but your rear tyre. The latter, having a lower angle of attack, is prone to slide along the obstacle rather than go over it.

So, here's the second tip: to ride over a raised obstacle that is relatively close, first turn away from it, then toward it so as to attack it in the largest possible angle possible. Just before your front tyre hits the obstacle, accelerate and lift your butt off the seat, shifting your weight on to the pegs. If you don't, you may be thrown off the seat since the rear end of the bike will be jolted upward when the rear tyre hits the obstacle.

Riding Down A Declining Bend
Superbikers descending from a hilly area may be confronted with the situation of having to ride down long curves on steeply declining slopes. To handle this situation safely, you need to establish your entry speed before you enter a curve. This means that while you are still riding straight with the bike vertical, you should reduce excess approach speed by braking or engine braking. As you enter the curve, shift your weight to the rear tyre by moving as far back as possible in your seat. At the same time you must lean the bike. While negotiating the curve, use your brake and/or engine braking to maintain or increase the entry speed but never, never use the throttle! If for any reason you need to stop while in a curve, you should gradually straighten the bike as it slows down due to your braking.

Proper Braking
First, a misconception about braking to clear away. As a superbike is heavier than an ordinary bike, don't misconstrue that it takes more time or more distance for the former to stop. Not necessarily so.

Brakes basically work by a non-revolving material pressing against a revolving material, and they come in many sizes. As bike designers have incorporated the brake that is sufficient for the heavier bike in question, what determines how fast (or in what distance) the bike can stop is the traction of the tyres. In heavier bikes with bigger brakes, merely more energy is needed to slow down and eventually stop the revolution of the wheels. Only when the bike is severely overloaded, do the brakes become insufficient to perform their function.

For safe braking, follow these guidelines: (1) brake firmly only when your bike is travelling straight, (2) vary brake pressure according to road conditions (avoid hard braking when the road is wet), (3) avoid using the front brake when the bike is on loose surfaces and when the bike is turning or banked over, (4) when going on a decline, preferably use engine braking (engaging a lower gear).

Parking Skills
Parking is easy, right? Yes and no. Minor accidents have happened when superbikers try to move their bikes out of parking bays. Some nothing-to-lose tips to adopt are:

(1) Park with the rear of the superbike facing the curb. Why? Many roads slope down towards the drain. It is easier to ride away when your superbike is facing the road.
(2) If you are parking on a soft surface, use the side-stand instead of the centre-stand. Also, try to put a flat support under the side-stand (An improvised flat support can be a piece of plastic, wood or a flattened soft drink can). On a soft surface, using the side-stand gives more stability than the centre-stand. The former gives three-point stability; the latter, only two.
(3) Depending on the width of the road, park at between 90 and 45 degrees to the flow of traffic. Parking parallel to the road makes you and your bike least visible and is not recommended.
(4) If, for any reason, you have to park on a sloping road, angle the superbike at 45 degrees to the road with the rear wheel facing downhill and against the curb.
(5) If there are designated parking bays available, the best choice is the bay: where the road is widest, furthest from any corner, under a street lamp, and not behind a vehicle.


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