Gravel will typically fall...
Gravel will typically fall from the hillside and land directly in the apex of a corner. Pay attention to your position in your lane and adjust accordingly, without panicking. If you are forced to cross the gravel or water, make sure you are off the brakes and that your lean angle is reduced.
Perfectly executing a corner is an unmatched sensation on a sportbike. It comes down to applying the brakes with accuracy, turning into the corner with precision and applying the throttle with absolute finesse. It requires that the rider be 100 percent concentrated and that the road be in near perfect condition. No rider is faultless though, and no road is seamless. That said, it’s not uncommon to make a mistake on occasion and enter a corner too hot, or lean in only to find a heap of gravel or stream of water directly in your path. How you react to the situation is instrumental and could be the difference between continuing on your ride unscathed or having to pull over to allow your heart rate come back down to normal.
Always try to practice looking...
Always try to practice looking through the corner. Especially when entering a corner faster than you are comfortable with, relax, increase lean angle as needed and look through the corner. You will go where you look.
In canyons especially, riders are most often caught off guard by decreasing-radius corners, or corners that tighten up on the exit. Without notice, a corner that originally looked to be moderately fast can turn into a tight, very slow curve that loops around the hillside and closes up. Without much time — or room — to spare, you must adjust to the corner, without panicking and running off the road or lowsiding. Racers obviously avoid this situation altogether by walking the track and getting a feel for what corners go where. That is a luxury you don’t have when riding on public roads, and as such, it is important to adapt your riding when passing through a section of road that is new to you. Go about unfamiliar roads with caution, and at a moderate pace that allows you time to adjust accordingly when the road does throw you a curveball. Pay attention to the road signs that indicate a suggested speed, and get a feel for the nature of the road; most sections of a road will have a general flow throughout.
If you realize ahead of time that the corner tightens up — and the bike is still straight up and down — then applying the brakes is still an option. A quick stab at the brake lever is not advantageous though, no matter how daunting the situation. Apply the brakes generously to bleed off as much speed as you can, but recognize that trail braking, or leaving the brake on as you tip into the corner is not the best alternative. Instead, release the brake lever and let the bike’s chassis settle.
 Target fixation is one...
 Target fixation is one of the primary causes for crashes on the street and in the canyons. Riders who enter a corner too fast will often panic and target fixate on the outside of the road.
If and when you do find yourself getting into a corner with more speed than desired, or discover — too late — that the corner decreases in radius, the key is to remain calm and make smooth inputs to the motorcycle. The situation can quickly turn from bad to worse if you panic; chopping the throttle will upset the chassis and stabbing the brakes will compromise front tire grip. How you react will depend heavily on your position relative to the corner; if you have yet to initiate turn-in, then you will have more time to adjust, although you must still avoid abrupt inputs. Roll off the throttle smoothly for instance, without chopping it, and your bike’s suspension will be more able to handle the accompanying weight transfer. This will allow the bike to remain settled, and rather than fighting the chassis, you can focus on leaning the bike into the corner.
The scenario looks a lot different if it’s not until mid-corner that you realize the turn has a decreasing radius. Unfortunately, most riders will panic in this situation and revert to grabbing the front brake. As a result, front tire grip is compromised and a lowside is almost inevitable. Although it requires great faith in your equipment, the better option is to stay off the brakes and smoothly increase lean angle. Easier said than done, we know. The important thing to remember is that modern sportbikes are plenty capable, and although you may feel like you are at maximum potential, it’s likely that your bike has enough in reserve to get you through the situation. So long as you provide smooth, fluid inputs and don’t upset the chassis, your chances of making the corner are good, with the one limitation being ground clearance. That said, become familiar with the feel of your bike and the point at which your footrests, for instance, start dragging. The condition of your tires, and their compound will also play a large role. Have a good understanding of this before you increase lean with absolute faith.
The one thing that you want to avoid in a panic situation such as this is target fixation, a common cause for people riding off the road in the canyons. By remaining calm and looking through the corner, rather than at the edge of the road, your chances of making the turn are exponentially higher. At the end of the day, the old saying rings true: “You will go where you look.”
Target fixation is also a serious concern when you encounter gravel or debris mid-corner. Stare with peril, but that rock is not about to move for you. Nor is that stream of water cutting across the road going to dry up suddenly, which means you as the rider must react accordingly. And on nearly every ride, you will at some point come across a dirty section of road. It’s inevitable, especially considering most good roads are made great because of their tendency to knife through a hillside. In order to avoid having to react suddenly, increase your peripheral vision, remain 100 percent concentrated and look ahead constantly. The benefit to looking ahead and increasing your peripheral vision is that you will likely see the gravel or water in the road soon enough that you will have an ample amount of time to react. It’s also important to understand that the insides of corners which butt up against a hillside are likely to be dirtier than any other part of the road. Little rocks and gravel continually fall from the hillside and it’s not a good idea to hug the inside line of such corners.
When approaching the debris, the important thing is to — again — not panic and chop the throttle or stab the brakes. At the same time, you don’t want to cross the water or gravel with much lean angle. To avoid doing so, increase your lean angle as you approach the debris, which will give you additional room to spare mid-corner, then pick the bike up just slightly as you cross the gravel or water. If you are straight up and down, you can apply the brakes modestly, paying attention to how much room you have on the road and making certain to release the brakes prior to crossing the debris. In no circumstance should you look to cross the double yellow line to avoid gravel or debris in the road.
The truth is, canyon roads will never be as spotless as a racetrack, and you will likely never be able to remember every corner of a given section of road. That in mind, it’s important to always stay 100 percent concentrated and to practice looking ahead. When the road does catch you out, remember to not panic and make fluid inputs to the bike rather than abrupt ones. It could be the difference between continuing on your ride unscathed or having to pull over so that your heart doesn’t come ripping out of your chest. SR