Reaction to a slide may be the difference between saving a crash and having one. We look at how to keep control.
You're coming out of a corner and get too confident on the throttle application. Before you know it the motorcycle is beginning to break traction and any reaction from here on might be the difference between you correcting the slight error or crashing to the ground.
When we begin to explore the limitations of both man and machine, it's a very real possibility that breaking traction can, and most likely will, happen. It's how you control the slide that is important.
When I say exploring the limits, I don't just mean going out and riding like a maniac until the rear end breaks loose. The limits can come unexpectedly if you ride over something slippery on the road's surface, and it definitely happens much more easily in wet conditions. With the raining season coming up quickly it's not a bad idea to look into this.
A good way to get a feel for sliding is by learning to do it on a dirtbike, where it's not so critical if you fall off while practicing since the speeds are mostly slower and the motorcycles don't have fairings or anything too expensive to crunch. Some riders are lucky enough to have grown up riding in paddocks or on race tracks as kids, essentially giving them the perfect breeding ground to work on their throttle control from a very young age.
If you never rode dirt before you began on the blacktop and don't currently own a dirtbike, do yourself a favor and go hire one to get a feel for how a motorcycle really moves around. This will not only help you ride more safely in all circumstances, if you're looking to excel on the circuit you'll gain a feel for the connection between the throttle and the rear tire like you're never had before.
And that's exactly what we're all dealing with when accelerating out of a turn – the balance between going fast enough out of a corner by applying the correct amount of throttle, applying too little throttle, or getting too eager and putting yourself in a position to have an accident.
On a dirtbike, you'll learn that the more you twist the throttle the more it will cause the rear tire to break traction. The connection between the throttle and the tire is a little looser on a dirtbike, mostly because the surface has less traction.
On paper it's simple. Don't apply much throttle and the motorcycle will stay in line. Apply more throttle and you will feel the rear begin to drift out. If you do begin to slide, roll off the throttle and the motorcycle will bring itself back into line pretty quickly.
Once you experiment on the dirt and feel comfortable with your new-found drifting skills, aim to adapt these skills on you road going motorcycle. This is where it becomes more difficult because you're on an expensive piece of equipment, and the road usually hurts more than dirt if you come unstuck.
It isn't really your goal to get the motorcycle sliding on the track/tarmac in the same way I explained in relation to your dirt skills; instead, you want to ride to the point where it's about to slide, but without actually getting the rear to break loose. However, the techniques learnt on the dirtbike will work to your benefit if the unexpected does happen and all of a sudden you do find yourself unintentionally crossed up.
Applying throttle hard off the corners will cause quite a bit of flex on road tires before they lose traction. It's great to get a feel for this when riding a road bike on the track or the road is that you want to find a comfortable balance between twisting the throttle, sitting the motorcycle upright, and straightening up off the turns.
If you can do this all in one smooth process then your transition from the apex of the corner to the straight will be much easier and safer. If done right, it will almost eliminate any problems with having the rear end lose traction unexpectedly – allowing you to focus on maximum acceleration.