2012-06-27 11:59:57+0000 - California, United States of America

Riding faster can either be fantastically thrilling or life-threateningly dangerous. It all depends on your skill and experience, and most importantly when and where you do it. Even top racers agree, riding fast on the public roads is dangerous. But before we get into things in greater detail, let's understand some basic fundamentals.

Firstly, riding above the speed limit is illegal. Depending on where you live, the consequences can range from fines to disqualification and even jail time, and the faster you go, the worse the penalties can be. Everyone speeds at some point and I mean everyone from your mother to the coppers and the judges who prosecute you for doing it. But rules are rules, and whether you think they're unfair or unrealistic is beside the point.

Riding fast needs everything to be in place. There are the things you can control: your own skill and state of mind, as well as the state of your bike. Obviously, you need good tires to grip the road and brakes to slow you down, but few people consider their attitude: the faster you go, the more you need to concentrate and if you're angry or stressed, that's not going to help.

Then there's the things you can't control: the weather, the road surface and other road users. Each of these (and many others) will increase your risk factors and there's two ways you can deal with that. Either slow down, or learn to look ahead and read the road more. The old adage is that you shouldn't ride further than you can safely stop.

Traffic - It can be avoided by riding down a quiet back road on weekday morning, but while traffic may be lighter, remember you may be trading cars for farm vehicles, animals and even sand on the road. Familiar roads aren't a guarantee of safety either. Just because you're riding in the summer sun down your favourite road doesn't mean you'll be safe. Where every you ride, don't take unnecessary risks and remember that emergency help will take longer to reach you in remote areas.

Corners - All riders have rushed into a corner too fast and experienced the terror and lack of control. If you're fighting the brakes and trying to turn the bike, you are going to have a bad time. While you'll see racers braking into the turn (called trail braking) it's not recommended on the road as it requires both consistent grip and an absolute commitment to the corner. Most importantly, look around the corner, and not with your eyes but your whole head. Looking into the corner allows you to determine what type of corner you're facing and as long as you haven't gone in too fast, you'll have enough performance left to tighten up a decreasing radius curve. Once you pass the apex (where you see the road straightening) start to roll on the throttle and drive out of the corner.

Braking - On the road, you are better off getting your braking done early and selecting a gear with enough drive to pull you out. As you enter the corner, you need to keep your throttle steady - not shut off.

Peer Pressure - Trying to go faster than you're able to can be very risky. Peer-pressure from mates to keep up during a group ride is a good example of this. Life isn't like "The Fast and The Furious", drop out of that sort of competition it's much safer than from a hospital bed. Remember, the old saying - "there are old riders, and bold riders, but there are no old, bold riders".

Riding Tired - If you're tired for whatever reason, take that into account, either don't ride or ride slowly and carefully. Your frame of mind is very important. If you're worrying about something, just had a fight with your partner, do what you can to stay calm. Riding full of emotion can be risky as the heart is nowhere near as skilled as the mind. Avoid running late too. Do that and you will take risks.

Alcohol - Be very careful with alcohol: Long before it starts to affect your reactions and become illegal it can change your attitude, boost your confidence and make you feel like you are the best rider in the world. In fact, if you're riding, don't even think about drinking.

Obstructions - Tractors crawling along at walking pace leaving behind a trail of mud are very difficult things to stop for if you don't see them well ahead vision is reduced in the countryside in the warmer months because the vegetation flourishes and blocks your view. Take care on roads lined with limb-breaking furniture, garbage, fencing or rocks. When you encounter an obstruction on the road like a tree or a bear - what do you do? Depends on when you see it; too late and you're toast, which is why it's never a good idea to commit too hard to a corner. You have to ride with enough in the bank that you can change your path as you need to.

Still hungry for speed? Take it to the track where circuits are designed for just that. Depending on the track there's usually plenty of run-off areas so mistakes don't have the same consequences as they do on the road and you will be going far faster than you ever can on the roads. Race schools are safer still. You get good overtaking etiquette which makes life much more predictable and safer.

Learning to up your pace is an important part of motorcycle riding. What you're capable of all depends on your training, skill and experience. If you want to ride fast, stay within the speed limit and only up your pace when it's safe to do so. Have the sense to back off when it's not safe and save your speed hunger for another day. Enjoy the ride! Eat Sleep RIDE.

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Old saying: Never ride faster than your angels can fly.


Very good basics. But excuse me if I cringe when the suggestion to improve things is learned on the track. In the UK we have a whole network of post test Instructors training people in defensive on road techniques that are different to track based instruction.  

Please do not get me wrong, I am not against improving our riding skills through track based practice, it's just a different world to riding on the road. If your focus was off road skills then it could be argued that the very different techniques used for motorcycle Gymkhana would be more applicable. Also there is far more to talk about for road based riding. It's great doing a stoppie on a lightweight race bike with a steering damper, but you try doing a stoppie on a big tourer and you will be off. Just something as simple as braking can be open to debate.

See: Emergency Stops on a Motorcycle

But although the ability to handle a motorcycle is important, riding it on a public highway also involves other things that need attention. In the UK Advanced Training has for years been based on the Police Motorcycle Rider Training approach called Roadcraft. Here is an excerpt from it - Cornering, braking and avoiding skids pdf. But as we are always looking to improve on things, along with the limitation that Roadcraft only really works when everybody else plays by the rules. We are now working on a new approach beyond Enforcement.

“All accidents are the result of prediction failure.______Surprise is Nature’s way of telling us we have experienced such a failure.
______If there is no surprise there can be no accident”

Duncan MacKillop - No Surprise / No Accident



Thai Safe Rider





Beautifully common-sensical!  Thanks!

  • 2016-02-13T16:35:06-05:00

"While you'll see racers braking into the turn (called trail braking) it's not recommended on the road as it requires both consistent grip and an absolute commitment to the corner"

Granted "Trail Braking" does take consistent grip, commitment, training of some kind, and lots of practice, it is a valuable skill when used appropriately for street riding.

sometimes you find your self riding on a lane and a half wide road in the sticks with mostly all blind corners. you can't drive so slow that you end up getting run over from behind, but at the same time, you need skills to avoid the occasional cager suv driving on the wrong side of the road on the other side of a blind corner.

from personal experience, "trail braking" has saved me from becoming a hood ornament on a Range Rover passing a bicyclist on a blind turn.

there is such a thing as non-race, lower speed trail braking that helps you turn into the inside edge of a turn faster at that last second while already in a turn, to avoid something in your path. just like quickly standing the bike up to avoid something on the inside edge of a turn, then dropping it back into your counter steer, it is a way out of trouble for both sides of a obstacle, not just one.

I don't use it all the time because it glazes my brake rotors, but there are practical uses in safe street riding.