Getting stuck at a traffic signal or stop sign is frustrating enough, but it’s made even more frustrating if that traffic signal is on a hill. For some, having to come to a complete stop on a hill and then get smoothly started is more than frustrating though; it’s downright scary. It is in these situations that the rider’s control actions are put to the test, and if you are not able to cover the brakes, smoothly disengage the clutch and apply the throttle, you can easily be thrown off balance; worse, the bike could stall and you could drop it.
As with any stop, when you come to a stop on a hill, your primary concern is with making sure you have the clutch fully engaged and the throttle closed. On a steep grade however, there is the obvious risk of rolling backwards, and as such, it is important to make sure that you apply and maintain pressure to the brakes even after you come to a complete stop. Since your right hand will be used to apply the throttle when it comes time to get underway, it is easiest to use the rear brake to hold your position on the hill. With the bike at a standstill, the best way to then maintain your balance is to take your left foot and plant it firmly to the ground. As soon as you are ready to get rolling again, begin to disengage the clutch slowly until you feel the friction zone; it is in this area that you will just slightly feel the bike want to creep forward. As you do this, you can begin to apply a little throttle. Continue to disengage the clutch, and you will begin to feel it work against the rear brake. It is at this point that you can release the brake and apply the throttle as necessary to move forward.
If you are forced to use your...
If you are forced to use your right foot to maintain balance and are unable to use the rear brake, you will need to use the front brake to hold the bike, while simultaneously applying throttle to get underway.
As you already probably know, no two hillsides or streets are the same, and there will come a time when to your left is a patch of gravel or object that won’t provide stable footing. If you find yourself in this predicament, you will need to apply the front brake and use your right foot to maintain balance. This technique will require more skill, and in turn, more practice because it forces you to use your right hand to both keep pressure on the brake and apply the throttle.
As such, before you find yourself facing a steep grade, practice your control actions on flat ground. As you become more and more comfortable with releasing the brake, disengaging the clutch and applying the throttle simultaneously, begin moving to sections of road that have more of an incline.
It’s not all about what you do once you have come to a standstill though; what you do prior to coming to a stop is very important as well. Given that your extremities are busy covering the other controls, you will find it difficult to search the gearbox as you sit at an incline, which is why it is important to make sure you are in the proper gear some distance before your stopping point. If you are in a gear too tall, you will be forced to rev your engine to a higher rpm and slip the clutch longer as you proceed to drive up the hill, even if you don’t come to a complete stop. And if you are unable to keep the rpm up, you run an even greater risk of stalling your bike as you begin your ascent.
Once you have come to a complete...
Once you have come to a complete stop, keep pressure applied to the rear brake with your right foot and plant your left foot firmly to the ground to maintain balance.
The rpm range that you need to be in to proficiently climb the given grade will vary depending on what bike you have. For instance, if you have a V-twin motorcycle with a good deal of low-end torque, you will find it unnecessary to get too aggressive with the throttle. Instead, you will be able to use your bike’s sufficient torque to thrust you forward. If you are on a smaller displacement machine however, such as a 250, you will find it crucial to apply a larger amount of throttle and use a lot of clutch slip. If you are not already comfortable with your bike’s power delivery, be sure to pay attention to it as you practice your control actions.
Another thing to pay attention to as you practice on level ground is the location of your controls. See to it that your clutch lever and brake levers are in a comfortable position and are properly adjusted. Also, make sure all of your cables are lubed and in good condition. After all, sitting at a stop sign on a steep hill is not the best place to realize that you can’t adequately grasp the hand levers or get a good footing on the rear brake pedal.
Additional practice with working your motorcycle’s controls isn’t just beneficial when dealing with hills, but also when executing various additional slow-speed maneuvers. Practicing the techniques listed above will further aid you when it comes to executing U-turns and turns in restricted areas.
When parking your motorcycle...
When parking your motorcycle on a steep grade, keep it in gear and butt the rear tire up against the curb to make certain the bike cannot roll backwards.
Sometimes even more frustrating than having to get going on a hill, is parking on a hill; steep inclines can often leave you guessing if your bike will still be upright when you return to it. Fortunately, there are a handful of tricks that you can draw on to make sure you don’t come back to a tipped-over motorcycle.
Obviously, one of the main concerns when parking on a hill is that the motorcycle will roll backward or even forward and right off its sidestand. To guarantee this doesn’t happen when parking your motorcycle, be sure to leave it in gear. In doing so, you will effectively be using the engine’s compression to keep the bike from rolling away. Ideally, park your bike facing slightly uphill, with the rear tire up against the curb. Try to avoid parking your motorcycle facing downhill, as the chance of it rolling forward off the kickstand is still possible — even if it is in gear.
Seeing as how all kickstands are different in length, it is also important to make note of your bike’s stance when it is parked on level ground; that way, when it is parked on a hill you can tell if it is off axis and susceptible to gusts of wind or other movement around it that can put it on its side. And remember, the kickstand of your motorcycle should always be pointed downhill.
If for any reason, your gut instinct says the bike isn’t secure parked how it is on the hill, then it won’t hurt to park the bike in a different location. The bottom line is you are better safe than sorry.
The truth is, there is little skill required to parking your motorcycle effectively, but if you take the time to do it properly, you won’t have the frustration of coming back to a tipped-over motorcycle. sr