Mountain Riding - Use your head and enjoy


With people moving out of flood infested Bangkok, some of us moved up the mountains in the north. Like all fantastically exciting things, mountain riding can be dangerous. Use your head and enjoy the experience.

Before riding a mountain road, decide whether you're sight-seeing or going out for a hack. Riding fast on challenging, unfamiliar roads while trying to take in the views is likely to make you part of the scenery – and that hurts. If your concentration starts to crack, take a break, relax and have a look around.

The number-one rule when tackling hairpins is to swivel your upper body and move your head so you're looking right through to the exit, up or downhill. Pick a line using the whole road, if you can see it's clear.

A mountain always has the potential to throw up surprises, so ride at a speed that allows you to deal with the unexpected. Most areas have animals, minivans piloted by the blind and coaches with overheating brakes blocking the road. There are walkers, rock slides, or water that decide to cross the road. If you're going quickly, choose a line that maximizes your view ahead and be in a constant state of anticipation.
Your motorcycle's brakes don't know they're born until they take their first trip to the mountains. On really sleep, uphill sections, you may find yourself braking too much – but that's hardly a problem compared with braking downhill when you realize the approaching hairpin is sharper than it looked. You not only need to brake harder, but also have to overcome the back wheel's desire to lift and wave about. This can make it a test of nerve to come off the brakes and turn.

The inside of many hairpins is very steeply cambered. Downhill it's best to stay a few meter from the natural apex and uphill it's vital to be in a low enough gear to drive up the camber and out of the bend. Bogging the engine down out of bends and losing momentum is the cause of many a low-speed drop: you go-to put a foot down and the severity of the slope means there's nothing there.

TO go quickly when the bends are coming back-to-back requires the ability to pick a line all the way through, exiting each bend in position for the next. Get one bend in a series wrong and it can push you so far off line that by corner three you're almost at a halt or running off the road. Only experience and calm thought will help you with this one – try to go faster than your brain can process the information and it will all go to overload..
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