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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.