1. We know we're constantly harping on this subject, but we've seen one too many accidents lately that were caused by a rider getting into a corner a little too hot, locking up the brakes and/or straightening the bike, then running off the road. We can't emphasize enough how important it is to not only look where you want to go, but to also scan far enough ahead of yourself; this is basically a recital of the racing mantra, "Don't ride the front wheel." Riding a sportbike well means being in control, and though it may not appear that way, it's vitally important for a racer to constantly be on top of his motorcycle's handling. Since racers are more often than not traveling at warp speed, they must anticipate what their racebike is going to do long before it happens—which means looking far ahead of their present location. This is why racers seem to be checking out spectators on the side of the track when entering hairpins. Instead, they're looking at where they'd like to be in a 10th of a second. Yamaha 500 Grand Prix rider Norick Abe demonstrates.
2. Try practicing your vision skills at a fairly tight corner, either on your favorite canyon road or on the racetrack. As you approach the apex (or a fixed, readily visible point on the pavement), note how close you are to that mark before you begin to scan ahead for your next reference point. If you are staring at that point until you are nearly on top of it, you're target fixating—if the corner ahead tightened up or if you found an obstacle in your path, it would be difficult to correct. In fact, if you're looking at that point even 25 to 35 feet before you get there, you're still not looking far enough ahead.
You need to get your steering and vision skills honed to the point where you can hit a certain spot on the pavement repeatedly without having to actually look at it. This involves using your peripheral vision to see the intended path of your tires, while still looking ahead at the next reference point (or as far ahead into the corner as possible). Try this: Find a tight, second-gear corner, have a buddy stand on the side of the road, and have him observe how close you can come to a fixed point on the pavement repeatedly while keeping your head turned as you scan far ahead into the bend.
3. Heading into a corner with a little too much speed or having a turn unexpectedly tighten up on the exit is terrifying for a novice rider. Modern sportbikes are highly capable machines, and as long as the suspension is even halfway close to being dialed-in and the tires are in decent shape, you are likely to be astounded at the lean angles/midcorner corrections they can achieve.
The most important point to remember when faced with having to tighten your cornering line is to look ahead into the corner—where you want to go. If you come into a turn a little too fast, roll off the throttle gently and force yourself to keep your vision fixed on the exit; don't panic and stare at the outside of the corner or the hazard you're trying to avoid. When you see racers making close passes, you'll note they're not looking at one another as they go by—they're looking past the object they need to avoid in order to get to their intended destination.
4. Another disturbing habit we see with some sportbike riders is the tendency to "hug" the center dividing line when entering left-handers. The problem with this practice is that while your tires are technically on your side of the road, your body and some bike components are in the oncoming lane. Should there be a car or truck (or even another bike) drifting toward the line as you're headed in the opposite direction, you'll be in for a nasty surprise if you don't change your line. Plus, you drastically cut down on your available options if you find them drifting into your lane.
Try to keep your tires far enough on your side of the center dividing line to allow your body and bike parts room while leaned over. You should also remember that if you're close to using all of the available ground clearance while riding on the street, you're "riding on reserve"; get thee to a racetrack, where you can practice riding at that level in a far safer environment.-SR