While I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, in my 10 years of riding on the track I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say they like very slow corners.
As motorcycle riders we tend to prefer faster, flowing circuits rather than tracks with a more ‘stop-start’ nature. There’ll be a few reasons why that is, but one of those reasons is that slow corners are simply more difficult both physically and technically.
In this article I want to touch on some points as to why that is, to hopefully show you that your struggles with these types of corners are actually quite common.
If you ride a track with a tight hairpin, you’ve likely experience what feels like an extra strain that comes in slower corners like this.
Getting into your usual hang-off position just feels more difficult and it feels like it takes more effort to achieve, and when you’re in that position you don’t feel like you can hold it for long before your body position or bike control begins to suffer.
There’s one big reason why that is.
In high speed corners the wind has a massive effect on you as a rider. For instance, momentarily rolling off the throttle in a high speed corner will cost you a lot more time than a slow one, chiefly because wind drag will slow you down much quicker after you roll off.
This is one of the downsides of wind drag and why you’ll see many pro riders forgoing a typical hang-off position for high speed corners in favour of getting tucked behind the screen, particularly in the lower classes where power is lower and momentum is more important.
However, one of the benefits of that wind drag is that it provides another layer of support for your upper body.
With the wind blasting at your upper body it’s essentially holding your upper body up to a degree, relieving some of the stress on your legs and core.
In slower speed corners, let’s say around 40mph, you don’t have that support anywhere near as much, so as you bring your head and upper body down and to the inside of the bike your legs and core are called upon to a greater degree to pick up the load.
This is naturally going to mean that the muscles feel more strained, and getting into your ideal hang-off position becomes more difficult.
Stand at the inside of a hairpin and you’ll see many rider’s body positions suffering because of this.
What you’ll also see watching those same riders is the many instances that they won’t be able to put the bike where they want, they’ll often miss apexes and display sloppy bike control.
And this will come directly from the issue we discussed above.
I’ve spoke many times now about how trying to hang-off too much from a body position perspective can create issues for riders on a fundamental level.
Basically, a poor body position that leaves you looking for support in the wrong places will have a detrimental effect on your ability to control the motorcycle. This largely comes from a tight grip on the bars due to the lower body and core not being up to the task of supporting the upper body.
As such, you default your support to your hands and arms on the bars and tighten up because of it, making controlling the bike and doing the things you want to do more difficult. Mainly steering, line selection and throttle control when considering mid-corner actions.
In slower corners, as it becomes more difficult to get into an ideal hang-off position, if that difficultly gets to the point of needing to call upon your hands and arms for support and to pick up the slack, your bike control is going to suffer.
A common trait is to physically lock the steering head because your grip is too tight, and if you haven’t properly set your line for the corner when this happens, you’re going to find yourself running wider than you’d like.
Your throttle control technique could begin to suffer too, because you can’t smoothly operate that control when your grip is too tight.
One final point is that motorcycles generally feel more stable at high speed than they do at low speed (due to their design and dynamics).
Many riders talk of the feeling of the bike wanting to fall over in slow corners, which largely comes from the fact that the bike will be more sensitive to your steering inputs at slower speeds. The faster your bike is travelling, the harder it is to change direction. The slower it’s going, the easier it is.
Whatever the reasons though, all of this can translate into the feeling of an unstable bike in slow corners, further adding to the difficulty of tackling them.
Hopefully it’s beginning to make sense why you struggle in slower corners, why they feel more difficult and why you can’t always hit the spots you want to hit.
To be honest, these corners are always going to be harder for the majority of riders, that we can’t change.
The only thing we can change is what we do so that we can ride effectively, and the key to achieving that is to merely try to relieve some of the stress taken by the lower body in these corners in particular.
The best way to relieve lower body stress is to adopt (and accept) a more conservative body position in these situations. This means not sliding so far off the seat, and not moving your upper body so far to the inside.
If your grip on the bars through these corners is excessively tight, simply doing that should be a good first step to getting it more relaxed.
Like I said though, these corners are always going to feel more difficult, so don’t feel like you’re somehow doing something wrong that needs to be fixed (assuming correct technique is already being displayed) .
All you can do is to try your best to remain comfortable, and normally a tweak to your body position for that corner in particular is going to get you closer to that goal.