My friend Walt Fulton from Streetmasters presented me when requested, with these pointers on how to make the perfect U-Turn.
“Hard to believe, but many of our students have exactly the same issue. Seems that the heavier and taller the bike the bigger the problem. I think the bags shouldn’t have that much effect except in your mind. Just forget about them and pretend they aren’t even there. That said, it’s important to load them evenly; you don’t want 15 pounds on one side and 5 on the other, as an example. If they are troublesome, take them off. Once you are comfortable making turns without the bags refit them. Start with them empty and then add weight to them incrementally until you reach max weight. It would be ideal if you could find something lighter to practice with, even an off-road bike, but if none are available try this: In a large and clean parking lot, with no obstructions, start by easing the clutch out and ride in a straight line for a short distance; far enough to stabilize path of travel and speed. Once you reach 10 to 15 mph, and in one smooth motion, turn your head in the direction you want to go and press on the inside bar to initiate the turn. Keep looking and keep pressing. Don’t worry how much room this takes, you’ll tighten the turn up after you get more comfortable. This may be the time to practice counter balancing, leaning your body off the bike to the outside of the turn while the bike is leaning into the turn. The slower the speed the more counterbalancing you need to do. And always be smooth!
Again, the radius of the turn isn’t important at this point in time, the technique is. Remember that you want to get turned around in as tight a turn as possible so the object is to work up (or down) to that. To accomplish a tight turn you must use a big head turn. You’re not making a 90 degree turn, but a 180 degree turn and that means that you must look over your inside shoulder to see where you want to go. If your neck won’t make that great a turn limber up before you start. Turn your head to a point where you start to feel pressure in your neck and hold it for 20 or 30 seconds and then try to turn a bit more and hold it and so on. If that doesn’t work, as you slide your cheek (bum) to the outside of the corner (counterbalancing) you can also rotate your body on your buns to help you get your head looking where you want to go, that is, behind you.
No matter how tight you turn you must maintain some momentum. One thing on this earth that’s fairly constant is gravity. You must remember that gravity always wins and if you slow down too much you will find yourself, and the motorcycle, on the ground.
Once you are getting comfortable with large arcs try tightening them up little by little.
To tighten up the turn and still be smooth (this is the difficult part) you will need to use several controls: throttle, rear brake – never the front – and clutch. This becomes a very coordinated effort on your part and requires you to be relaxed. At first try holding the throttle steady – just off an idle -and apply a little rear brake to control your speed. Apply the rear brake to slow you down and ease off of the rear brake to increase your speed. By modulating the rear brake you can slow or speed up and not rely solely on the throttle. Here is where the clutch comes in – if you do need to add a little throttle because you have slowed too much, turned too sharply and find yourself on the way down, you must always use the clutch before you open the throttle. Doing this smooths out the power delivery to the rear wheel and reduces the tendency for the bike to straighten.”
I hope this helps others of you having difficulty making U-turns. We all can use improvement.
Thank you, Walt. Now to go mount up.