When Do We Reach Maximum Lean Angle in a Corner?

It’s a question I’ve received a number of times in the past – “when should I reach my maximum lean angle and get my knee down?”

Often the question comes about because the rider feels that they’re getting to their maximum lean angle too late, and they wonder if they’re taking the right approach.

In this article we’re going to talk about the factors that dictate when you reach maximum lean, and how that point will often be different relative to the apex.

What Dictates When You Reach Maximum Lean Angle?

In order to better understand when we reach our maximum lean angle, first let’s talk about the things that dictate when you reach that point for a given corner.

Your Speed of Steering: The faster you can steer the bike and lean it over into a corner, the earlier you’re going to reach your maximum lean angle.

Flick the bike over quickly and it’s possible to be leaned right over with your knee on the floor well before the apex.

On the flip side to that, if you steer very slowly into that same corner you will be reaching your maximum lean angle closer to the apex. If your entry point was far too early, meaning your entry line is shallow, it’s entirely possible that you’ll have to continue steering and leaning the bike over past the apex, meaning you’ll reach your maximum lean angle past it too.

As you can see, the rate at which you lean the bike over is going to have a big impact on how early you reach max lean relative to the apex.

Your Corner Entry Plan: Essentially another way of describing the above, the approach you decide to take at corner entry is going to dictate how early you reach maximum lean.

If you’re heading into a long and fast 90 degree bend and you steer late and quickly (because you believe that’s the best approach), you’re going to reach max lean early.

However, if you’re leveraging the front tyre with trail braking for instance, you’ll reach your maximum lean angle considerably closer to the apex because, like our previous example, you’re going to be steering slower.

The Type of Corner: Yet another evolution of the above, the type of corner you’re about to go through will dictate the approach you take into it.

In hairpin bends for example, you’ll often reach maximum lean close to the apex because that’s the common approach to them, and you’ll remain at that lean angle for a short time before picking the bike up again for corner exit.

In a long and fast corner that leads onto a straight, however, it can benefit you to steer a little later and quicker to open up the exit, where you’ll reach your maximum lean well before the apex.

Your Point of Maximum Lean Will Differ

As should now be clear, the point at which you reach max lean is going to be different depending on the corner itself, as well as your approach to it.

The advice I now give is going to be very similar to the advice I gave in the Quick Steering vs Trail Braking article I published a short while before this one.

Every corner is different, so the point that you reach maximum lean angle relative to the apex is going to be different too.

Once again it comes back to the notion that we don’t want to try and force a strict cornering approach to every situation.

Simply saying “I will reach max lean angle at the apex” may be the correct approach for some corners, but it most certainly won’t be the best approach for all of them.

How to Know if It’s Too Late

Once again this is going to sound familiar if you saw my article on steering too early.

We know that your steering rate, which is largely governed by where you steer, affects the point that you reach max lean.

Therefore it’s the result of that corner entry approach that will help us determine if that particular approach is the wrong one.

Most notably, if you feel like you’re stalled on the throttle well past the apex and you can’t exit the corner as you’d like, this is a possible indication that your line into the corner is too shallow – a line that would mean you reach maximum lean late in the corner.

Don’t Overthink This

I get that many newer riders want to be sure they’re doing the right things at the right times, but considering your ‘max lean’ point by itself is pretty meaningless. Better questions for many corners would be things like “how was my exit drive?” and “how much did I sacrifice at corner entry to get that drive?”

As we’ve discovered here, the point at which you reach maximum lean angle is a by-product of your approach to the corner, so it’s the result of that approach (and the actions you took to get it) that should really be the focus.

In the instance of corner entry that’s things like where you’re steering, how quickly you’re steering, and how you’re using the brakes. If you get a positive result then it really doesn’t matter how close or far away from the apex your knee hits the deck.

Photo by Smudge 9000