Conquering Your Fears

_Ortiz Big Apple Motorcycle SchoolBy Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School.

Cloverleaf entrances and exits off major roadways can be challenging, even for the experienced rider. It’s hard to judge where to position yourself if you can’t see around the curve. If you’re too far to the inside right on an exit ramp that curls and banks upwards, you’ll have to make a sharper turn. Taking the middle track may be better at least until you can see through the turn, but probably a better position would be further to the outside left of the lane. You should avoid getting too close to the shoulder where there could be debris.

Curves that bank sharply can be fun at the right speed and lean angle, until traffic comes to a dead stop in front of you. Stopping in a curve can be challenging as you have to carefully brake to a stop while you straighten the motorcycle. Not a big deal if you’ve been looking ahead and were able to anticipate the stop. It’s a recipe for disaster, and a possible tip over, if it catches you by surprise and you use up your traction reserve by braking too early or too hard. Those of us who are riding bikes that are a little taller than our inseam length and can’t flat-foot have an additional challenge to make sure we can steady the bike at a stop with just one “tippy-toe” to hold us vertical.

Recently, we met a couple who were relatively new riders and one of them was very afraid of cloverleaf-type intersections and ramps. It was keeping them from going on major roads which kept them from riding to a lot of places they wanted to go, including group rides. They came to us for help and as we tried to figure out the best way to help her conquer her fear. We realized that a major cause was the way she felt when she came to a stop. She felt very unsteady and was very abrupt with the controls. Fixing the stopping issue was the first step towards building the confidence she needed to face those cloverleafs. As she quickly improved her stops by looking further ahead, rolling off the throttle and progressively braking, rather than abruptly squeezing in the clutch as she had been doing in order to stop, she was able to increase her precision and skill. Some further practice of quick stops and stopping in a curve seemed to do the trick as well. More confidence building!

The next step was to tackle an actual cloverleaf so we headed off in a small group of four on a nearby higher-speed roadway. We had her ride in the second spot with her husband following and I took “tail” position. I could see that she was a little nervous as we started into the first exit that ran up and over the roadway. As we exited onto the bridge over and into the sharp right to get back on she looked more comfortable and by the time we did the whole thing again the second time she was smiling broadly. SUCCESS!

Now she and her husband are looking forward to the curves and are planning their next trip. Just in time to enjoy the upcoming Fall Foliage season in the Northeast.

Ride Safe!

Diane