How to perform a standing-start u-turn

Perform static and stationary u-turn

It is more difficult to perform a u-turn from the stopped position than while moving because the bike wants to head straight ahead as soon as you take off.

Small bikes are easy to u-turn, but the heavier and longer the bike, the more difficult it becomes. Some bikes also have a wide turning circle, such as the new Indian Scout and many sportsbikes.

However, with a little practice, the following tips will help you perform tight, feet-up u-turns from the stationary position on just about any bike.

We’ve already tackled the task of moving u-turns in a previous article.

Now let’s tackle the more difficult task of performing a u-turn from a stationary position. (Of course it’s different on the dirt – just hold the front brake, tip the bike a little, rev hard and let the clutch out! However, these tips are for the road.)


  1. Position: Pull up at the road’s edge, being aware of any gravel or rough edges. This gives you the widest arc in which to make your turn. Don’t forget to have a good look forward and back for traffic before turning.
  2. Right foot down: Normally, when stopped you leave your right foot on the brake and your left foot down. That will work if you are going to turn left on a right-hand-drive road. However, in Australia, most u-turns are right turns and since you need to lean the bike immediately to the right, you can’t do that without your left foot on the ground.Perform static and stationary u-turn
  3. Body position: Your body position needs to be facing into the turn. A good tip for making your body turn is to point your right foot at 90 degrees to the bike. Also turn your head as far to the right as comfortable, looking about 3m to your right and lift your left elbow.
  4. Lean: The idea of pointing your right foot and lifting your left elbow is that this will promote the leaning of the bike to the right. Try to lean it as much as possible without too much weight being transferred to your right foot. You can also shuffle your backside a little to the left on the seat for an even greater lean angle.
  5. Steer: You are not going to counter-steer, but steer in the direction of the turn, so turn the bars full lock to the right. This will also help give the bike a bit more starting lean.Perform static and stationary u-turn
  6. Clutch: Give the engine moderate revs and let the clutch out slowly but not all the way. You want to keep the revs steady and use a slipping clutch to moderate your speed.
  7. Brakes: Stay off the front brake as this will make the forks compress which will make the front wheel tuck. While keeping a moderate and steady speed with the clutch, you will actually govern speed and steer the bike with the rear brake. A bit of rear brake will not only slow the turn, but also make it turn sharper. So you will need to get your foot off the ground and on to the brake pedal as soon as you start moving.
  8. The difficult bit: As soon as you start to move, the bike will want to go straight, not right, even though the front wheel is pointed that way. This is the point where your body position has to be slightly exaggerated. Stay upright, or slightly left-leaning and push the right hand directly down to maintain the starting bike lean angle.Perform static and stationary u-turn
  9. Temptations: There are two temptations at this point. One is to lean with the bike. Don’t. Stay upright and make the bike do all the leaning. You will need to physically fight the bike’s tendency to want to stand up straight. The other temptation is to sneak a glimpse at the outer edge of the road. Don’t. As the bike starts to turn, keep shifting your gaze further and further around the turn. This will also maintain your body position.
  10. Practise: Find a quiet carpark with a level surface and start practising. Try doing a u-turn within three or four carpark bays and gradually bring it in to within two lined bays. The white lines are good guides and not as intimidating as the rough edge of a road.

Watch where the cop in this video looks – down, not out!

What tips do you have for performing a static u-turn? Leave your suggestions in the “leave a reply” section below.

One thought on “How to perform a standing-start u-turn

  1. Good advice, but one point needs to be emphasised. When doing U-turns don’t use the front brake. Keep your fingers off the lever so you don’t use it instinctively. The angle of the telescopic fork front suspension means that whenever you use the front brake the forks compress. When the bike is upright and travelling in a straight line it pitches forward, which is not a problem. Have a look at the angle of the front wheel in the photos. When the bike is leant over and the steering is at or near full lock the bike moves sideways as well as forward when the forks compress. The weight of the bike shifts sideways which unbalances the bike. I was surprised to hear that some riders actually find this manoeuvre to be difficult. If you are one of those riders you simply need more practice.

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