1. Simple as they may seem, U-turns can pose a significant problem to riders of varying levels of experience. In fact, talk to any beginning rider and one of their biggest fears is typically tight turns. At one point or another, most riders have dropped a bike while attempting to turn around. Steering lock, rider height, bike size and a number of other factors come into play when negotiating a U-turn, so here are a few tips to help those struggling every time they find themselves wanting to go in the opposite direction.
The rider shown in the first photo has pulled all the way to the edge of the road in order to give himself as much room as possible for the U-turn. Notice the over-the-shoulder head-check to assure that there is no traffic coming. This is important for obvious reasons.
2. The important thing to remember is that to execute a tight U-turn, the bike must lean toward the inside of the turn. The more you lean, the tighter the arc of the turn. Many riders, especially beginners, want to feel the security of having both feet on the ground, but doing so increases the radius of the corner since the bike remains nearly straight up-and-down.
This rider is using a respectable amount of lean angle and has turned the bars to full lock. In order to ensure that the bike does not stall, it's helpful to modulate the clutch in the friction zone (i.e., slipping the clutch to a small degree). Turn the bike quickly, getting the majority of your weight on the outside footpeg; if the bike starts to fall in too quickly, the lean angle can be arrested with throttle application or by simply dabbing your inside foot. Make sure and look through the turn; this rider is not even looking at the front of the motorcycle, instead fixing his eyes on where he wants to be next.
3. In the middle of the turn, your head should be pointed down the road in the direction you want to go, with your weight still concentrated on the outside peg. At this point, the rear brake can be used to tighten the arc of the corner. Stay off the front brake, as the accompanying weight transfer upsets the chassis more and affects steering to a greater degree. The rider in the inset photo can be seen modulating the rear brake.
4. Notice that the bars are still at full lock to complete the turn. At this point, the rear brake should be released so the bike can smoothly exit the turn. The inset photo demonstrates the proper body positioning during a tight U-turn. The bars are turned to full lock, the rider is leaning toward the outside of the turn, the rear brake is being used and the rider is looking through the corner. With the proper technique, extremely tight circles can be made at very low speeds. Practice going in circles in both directions using these techniques and the next time you find yourself in a tight spot, there'll be no problem getting out of it smoothly.
This article originally appeared in the December 1995 issue of Sport Rider.