Simple as they may seem, U-turns can be a concern to riders of any level of experience. In fact, talk to any beginning rider and one of his 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 headcheck to assure that there is no oncoming traffic.
The important thing to remember when executing a tight U-turn is 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, like the security of having both feet on the ground, but doing so increases the radius of the corner since the bike remains nearly upright.
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, placing the majority of your weight on the outside footpeg; if the bike starts to fall in too quickly, arrest the lean angle with throttle application or simply dabbing your inside foot on the ground. Make sure and look through the turn; this rider is not even looking ahead of the motorcycle, instead fixing his eyes on where he wants to be next.
In the middle of the turn, keep your head pointed down the road in the direction you want to go, with your weight still concentrated on the outside peg. At this point, you can use the rear brake to tighten the arc of the corner. Remember to keep a little power applied to the rear wheel while using the brake. Stay off the front brake, as the accompanying weight transfer upsets the chassis more and affects steering to a greater degree.
Notice that the bars are still at full lock to complete the turn. At this point, release the rear brake so the bike can smoothly exit the turn. The bars are turned to full lock, the rider is leaning toward the outside of the turn and using the rear brake while 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, you'll have no problem getting out of it smoothly.