Tips for Low-Speed Riding
Unless you’re somehow not subject to the laws of gravity, you likely feel a bit wobbly during slow-speed parking-lot maneuvers. This is because the stabilizing effect of inertia and the gyroscopic forces imparted by your bike’s wheels diminish as speed decreases, giving gravity the upper hand. Staying upright and balanced requires a deft orchestration of clutch, throttle, and brake, along with precise lean and steering angles, body positioning, and visual focus. Putting all these pieces together is challenging, but here are a few tips that will make slow-speed riding a little less nerve-racking.
Since your bike is less stable at slow speeds, it’s important to maintain smooth, steady drive. A lot of bikes’ throttles are too sensitive for precise control at a walking pace, so it’s best to keep the throttle steady and instead use the clutch to control speed. This is called the friction zone. Locking the throttle by anchoring your thumb or index finger against the handlebar switch pod can be helpful.
For even more exact control, drag the rear brake. Not only is it great for fine-tuning your speed, but it also has the beneficial effect of increasing stability by putting some tension in the drive train and rear suspension. The front brake on most bikes is quite powerful, and even a light pull on the lever is going to shift weight forward, compress the fork, steepen steering geometry, and upset the stability you’re working so hard to maintain. Reserve the front brake for stopping, not adjusting your speed.
Now that you know how to preserve slow-speed stability, it’s time to make a tight turn. While it’s common to lean off the inside of the bike in faster corners, at slow speeds you’ll want to keep your body upright and let the motorcycle lean beneath you by shifting your weight to the outer edge of the seat, dirt-bike style. Keep your feet on the foot pegs to stabilize your body and so you can use the rear brake as needed to regulate your speed. Of course, if you mess up and need to put a foot down, do it.
Yes, leaning a bike at slow speed is unnerving, but it is required. Remember that you can lean quite a bit without falling as long as you maintain enough momentum to counteract gravity. Being loose on the handlebars allows quick and fluid adjustments to maintain your balance, and remember to keep your eyes up, even if you get nervous.
Slow-speed riding can be tricky, and it requires a specific set of skills. As always, practice makes perfect, so spend some time riding slowly to get used to slow-speed balance. Use the clutch, throttle, and rear brake technique to creep along slowly. You know you have good balance if you don’t need to saw the handlebars back and forth to stay on course. Now put all the pieces together to make slow U-turns. With a bit of courage and a lot of practice, you’ll be the master of your local parking lot.
Keep The Contact Patch Between The Lines
National Road Captain
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ASR Ohio District Coordinator and National Road Captain at Azusa StreetRiders Motorcycle Ministry
Michael Theodore is married to Laureen, and both are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Michael serves the Azusa StreetRiders Motorcycle Ministry as both National Road Captain and as Ohio District Coordinator. He is passionate not only about riding, but also using motorcycles as a witnessing tool to affect souls for the Lord Jesus.