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HOW I GOT BETTER AT SLOW SPEED MANEUVERS

July 10, 2019

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WHEN YOU'RE LEARNING TO RIDE A MOTORCYCLE NEAR DALLAS...

Dropping your bike sucks. Pulling in a parking lot with a group and wobbling all over the place while you try to find a spot is embarrassing. Having trouble taking off on an uneven, pitted surface is dangerous. If you struggle with any of the three, you could probably stand to improve at slow speed maneuvers.

AN HONEST CONFESSION

I don’t know why they passed me when I took my motorcycle training course. I had never been on a bike before, not to drive it. I’ve never told anyone this, but I dropped the training bike twice during the two-day course. I seriously think they just felt sorry for me. Or maybe they knew I was determined to get my motorcycle license and they didn’t want me to come back and drop their bike more the next time the course was offered.

I’m short and I’m clumsy. My spatial reasoning isn’t great. I only know how to drive an automatic car. So believe me when I say learning to ride a motorcycle didn’t come easy. If you’re struggling, I understand it’s work. Some people take to it like a duck to water. For others, it requires hours and hours of practice. I’m in the second group. 

I really love my bike. It's in the photo above, and I'm convinced it's the best looking Harley-Davidson® ever made (I always, always ride with a helmet, but this was when we just bought the bike, we took it home on a trailer.) I don't want to tear it up. Here are a few things tips that helped me.

PRACTICE USING THE FRICTION ZONE

They talked about this during my training course and I understood it in my mind, but my body is sometimes slow to catch up. I like the way they explain it in this motorcycle training video. In the first five seconds a girl drops a bike on purpose, check it out if you get a chance.

The friction zone is the few degrees between when your clutch is engaged and disengaged. When it’s all the way in, no power is going to the rear wheel. When you start to let it out gradually, you’ll find the friction zone, where the motor is partially engaged and you can move at extremely low speed.

We explored the friction zone in training, but I don’t remember my instructor telling me to also apply rear brake pressure at the same time. Find an empty parking lot and try riding at slow speeds in a straight line using the friction zone, throttle and light rear brake pressure. Repeat until you feel like you can ride comfortably at walking speed.

Once you’re able to do that, start to add in turns. The rear brake supplies tension that will help you stay steady.

TURN YOUR HEAD

U-turns still make me nervous, but I became proficient when I finally started remembering to look where I wanted to end up. If I watched the road right in front of me for bumps and dips I wobbled. If I turned my eyes to where I would complete the turn, my bike seemed to guide itself.

Start practicing U-turns when you’re already moving so you have stability under control. You’ll also need to practice U-turns from a stop, which is harder. 

Pre-position yourself by turning the handlebars and leaning the bike into the turn. Apply throttle and ease out the clutch, going from a standstill to a stable 3-5 miles an hour using the friction zone. Be patient with yourself and practice where you don’t have to worry about traffic.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who will get it almost right away. Maybe you’ll be like me and have to spend hours and hours in a parking lot. Either way, the time you invest in learning slow speed maneuvers is worth the effort. You’ll soon be able to ride with confidence and lower the risk of dropping your bike or injuring yourself. See also -- What You Should Know Before Your Next Group Ride.

Dallas Harley-Davidson® is your source when you want to buy a new Harley-Davidson® or see used Harleys® for sale near Dallas. Stop by our dealership near Dallas in Garland to find out more.