How many of us have dropped a bike, run wide or simply messed up a tight, feet-up u-turn or resorted to paddling like a crippled duck?
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 on just about any bike.
There are two types of u-turn; moving and static.
The hardest is the static, so let’s tackle the moving u-turn first in this article. There is another article on static turns.
- Position: Obviously you will have more chance of completing a full turn if you give yourself space, so you need to position yourself close to the edge of the road. However, don’t go too close for fear of gravel and broken edges. Stay about half a metre from the edge and slow down.
- Pace: Slow down to the speed at which you are going to perform the manoeuvre. Make sure you are in first gear. Don’t forget to have a good look forward and back for traffic before turning.
- Flick: Even though you are about to turn right (or left in Europe and the USA), the first part of the manoeuvre is a slight flick to the left. It’s more of a slight weave, followed by the turn to the right. It helps by giving the bike some pendulum-style momentum to lean further right than if you just turned right.
- Look: As you start to do the u-turn, look down to the ground about 2-3m to your immediate right. You go where you look and if you look hard right, your body will follow, pulling your arms as well which helps steer the bike.
- Steer: Don’t counter-steer! At this slow pace, you need to turn the bars in the direction you want to go.
- Lean: You need to lean the bike into the turn while keeping your body upright. Don’t lean with the bike.
- Brake: Keep your right hand off the front brake as it will compress the forks and make the front wheel tuck. Use the right foot on the brake pedal to govern your speed, NOT the throttle. Throttle use will also slightly change the steering geometry as the forks compress and unload. Keep the throttle constant and feather the clutch a little to maintain a smooth speed. A bit of rear brake will also govern the speed and tighten the arc as needed.
- Temptation: Do not be tempted to look at the outer edge of the road as you will go there. As you turn, keep your head looking as far right as possible all the time, shifting your vision further around as you go. As the manoeuvre is completed, lift your gaze in the direction you want to head.
- 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 down to two bays. The white lines are good guides and not as intimidating as the rough edge of a road.
Watch where the officer is looking in this video – down not out!
What tips do you have for performing a moving u-turn? Leave your suggestions in the “leave a reply” section below.