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Thread: Your speed in the twisties

  1. #1
    Kbiker BCKRider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    B.C. Canada

    Your speed in the twisties

    This is a serious question: "how Do You determine a fun but safe appropriate entry speed for the curves on those twisty two lane back roads?" You know the ones: there is a curve sign, a "suggested" speed, and the almost certain knowledge that there is no LEO waiting around the bend.

    Sure, it depends upon conditions. So here are the hypothetical conditions for your response: sunny 70 degree day; pavement dry; pavement good with no potholes and no loose gravel on the road in first three miles - though the shoulder is gravel; slight cambre in both directions from the center line; traffic in both directions very light; almost all curves are "blind" because of rock formations or trees.

    Do you check your speedometer? If so, by what percentage do you increase your entry speed over the suggested one? Do you use the suggested speed as an indication of what gear you should use? Do you cover your front brake in curves? Do you believe you could stop within your sight distance? Where do you look approaching and making the turn? (Feel free to add advice or tactics which have served you well.)

    Hey, there are two months or more of winter ahead of me. Time to think about riding. Hope this OP rouses some discussion and gets us all thinking about how to ride those twisties we all love in a fashion which brings us home smiling and safe.
    1992 K100RS

  2. #2
    Interesting post.

    I don't consciously think about it at all; it all comes from a lifetime of experience in previous roads, my brain does the calculations on its own.

    The things I think of that may influence the calculations and the speed is the pitch and yaw; how steep the incline, up or down.

    Some roads were built with a pitch that you just feel when you begin cutting a line from outside to in. If the road engineer did it right, the road is pitched from left to right or right to left just right to allow for rapid increase of speed increase on the apex, and out of the corner. The speed going into the corner is based on the design of the road, and you just feel it as you begin the turn.

    Having said that, this forum is full of "experts" who will correct me here, so get your pencil sharpened and take notes, because I'm sure the experts will give you the right way to do it.

    But for this hillbilly, that’s my opinion, and I'm sticking to it!
    Last edited by redclfco; 01-07-2010 at 01:06 PM. Reason: spelin

  3. #3
    Honey Badger Semper_Fi's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    Kingston, NH
    +1 same for me

    I dont approach a turn at Y mph if it shows x mph, it is solely based on conditions (road, weather, bike) and comfort level,

    The one thing I do try to do at the utmost is to NEVER cross of the line, especially on blind curves, never know who is coming.

    Great question
    2011 R1200 GSA Smoke Grey Metallic Matt
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  4. #4
    From MARS
    Doug, the greatest consideration, for me, is have I been there before, recently. Other considerations are: am I on a trip or day ride, is the bike loaded down or naked, besides the "curve ahead" sign, is there an "intersection" sign, what's happening in the area, is there construction or harvesting going on which may mean "crap" in the curve. (For instance, cattle haulers loose cow poop in curves and that's slippery s**t) I never enter an unfamiliar curve anywhere close to maxed out; too many possible gotcha's. But having said all that, I generally set myself up for entry at 50% over the "recommended" speed. That involves shifting down and positioning myself, both on the road and on the bike, properly before entry.


  5. #5
    In Texas (and most places - I think), the cautionary signs near cures are not enforceable - they're for advice only. I've found that the posted cautionary speeds as relates to the actual curves vary greatly from place to place - I think the guidance given civil engineers for this task must be very broad. But in most places - all the things noted above being nominal - I can take those curve between 50% and 100% higher than the cautionary speed. Of course, if I'm on a nice 2 lane road with a 65 MPH speed limit and approach a series of curves with a 45 MPH cautionary speed, I do not speed up to 75 or more - I simply keep it at or a little above the 65 MPH speed limit. It's the 30 to 40 MPH cautionary speed turns that are the most fun!

  6. #6
    Bikes, Guitars, and ... beemokat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI

    Interesting subject

    I don't have a real set formula, the previous posts have put it very nicely. I'll just add an anecdote or two.
    Here in Michigan, the "suggested" speed postings are very conservative; I generally add 50%, some other riders I know, more skilled than I, actually double the suggested speeds. But a lot depends on if the corner is blind, how recently I've been there, am I loaded down in touring mode...all factors mentioned by previous posts.

    The first time I encountered "real twisties", as opposed to the sweepers we find on the river and lake roads here in MI, was in West Virginia. I entered the first marked corner at about 10mph over the posted speed, and that was the LAST corner I entered over the posted speed the rest of the day! I got through fine, but the thought in my head was that I hadn't seen another vehicle on that road in the last 45 minutes, it was long way down off of one shoulder, a very short distance into rocks and other hard stuff off the other shoulder, and that there was probably no cell phone coverage. All in all, a very bad place to make a mistake.

    I tend to ride conservatively when I'm touring. It paid off, also in West Virginia a couple of years ago. I'd just come down from a very steep and twisty section of US 50, and was tempted to turn up up the wick in a set of sweepers, when I heard the sound of a high revving motor coming the other way. I had just decided to resist the urge when I caught sight of the source of that sound: A Mustang convertible with his entire left quarter-panel in my lane. I was mighty glad that I didn't need my whole lane to hold a line. Sometimes just staying to the right of the double-yellow is NOT enough!
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  7. #7
    Rally Rat
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    San Antonio, Tx
    I'm generally slightly more aggressive if it is just me, and very conservative if my spouse is on the back. I generally follow the posted speed limits, but the advisory speeds in corners I use as a basic guideline on unfamiliar roads ( I use the old +10MPH formula), and almost totally ignore them on familiar roads. I have encountered gravel in the center of a large percentage of turns on back roads, often not visible from the entry point. Therefore, I tend to lean toward more conservative speeds (no pun intended).

    PS I always pull over when save, and wave faster riders/drivers by.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Conyers, GA
    I attended a seminar at the NEFL rally last year given by Susan Galpins (sp), who recommended using the advised speed, double it, and subtract 10. It seems to work pretty well on dry clear roads, and is probably on the conservitive side. Some riders use double that speed without the subtraction factor.

  9. #9
    Rally Rat
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Sheboygan, WI


    Here's what I would suggest: First, forget about any 'ideal or target speed.'

    Speed will be determined by your technique and level of experience.

    But I understand your curiousity: You are approaching a new curve for the first time, and want to enjoy the experience of negotiating it on a motorcycle, safely but with a little 'thrill factor' tossed in. Very understandable.

    As you approach a new curve that looks like fun, dump much of your 'approach speed' (assuming you have distanced yourself from tailgators), and (this part is crucial) make sure you position your front tire on the 'outside' of the curve as you enter it.

    That way, you can drift inward thru the curve (which might be towards a shoulder or a centerline, depending on the type of curve), and gently roll on the throttle to achieve the max velocity that conditions will tolerate.

    Then let centrifugal force cause you to exit the curve again on its outside edge. "Always be looking where you want to go; don't be lookin' around at where you are - you're already there." Remember: The bike obeys the body; the body obeys the brain; the brain obeys the eyes.

    Outside - Inside - Outside: the perfect path of travel for any curve. Smooth is fast.

    Slowing down may not feel like what you want to do to achieve that 'thrill factor,' but as you learn to roll on the throttle more confidently with each opportunity to practice negotiating curves, you will be amazed at your speed.

    If speed gets away from you in a curve, do not brake (abrupt braking when a bike is not perpendicular to the ground has its own vicious penalty!), but simply roll off the throttle and lean a bit more away from the direction you do not wish to go - it works.

    Give these methods a consistent workout next time you have twisties to play with, and amaze yourself!
    Last edited by Greenwald; 01-09-2010 at 06:42 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by BeemoKat View Post
    .... some other riders I know, more skilled than I, actually double the suggested speeds.
    oh, i would never do that!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Suches, Ga
    Listen to Greenwald, work on your technique once that becomes second nature speed will increase naturally.

    Main thing is to ride lots of miles in the mountains and never ever allow your ego to take charge.

    Cal Garcia

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Altoona pa
    Great discussion, I always ride a curve harder if I know it and am sure I can handle it. I always worry if I have someone behind me that has not been on the road before. I have scared the heck out of myself riding a road that I "forget" about a corner or come upon an unexpected obsticle. I agree to let it come natural and increase your skills as you grow as a rider.

  13. #13
    Registered User texanrt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Lafayette LA
    Quote Originally Posted by Greenwald View Post
    If speed gets away from you, do not brake (braking when a bike is not perpendicular to the ground has its own vicious penalty!), but simply roll off the throttle and lean a bit more away from the direction you do not wish to go - it works.
    I started riding again a few years ago and was asking myself the same questions -- how to properly analyze a corner. I soon was looking for something more than the MSF courses and found Stayin' Safe. I won't go into a long testimonial, but can say they helped me achieve a whole new level of riding ability. Many of their tools and techniques for analyzing a corner you can get from lots of practice and experience on your own, but they help you put it all together with real-time instruction via one-way radio while you're riding.

    After the courses (I've taken two tours with them) I have practiced what they've taught me about keeping your eyes moving for threats and changing road conditions, looking down the road and far through the corner to determine where the exit is (or if the corner is decreasing in radius), watching the road sides for visual clues as to where the road is leading (especially important in hilly terrain when you cannot see beyond the next rise), setting a proper entry speed and keeping the bike stable through the corner, then rolling on the throttle when I see the exit.

    The other thing they taught that was most important was handling a corner when you've entered a bit too fast -- more lean or pushing on the opposite grip (countersteer) to get you through the turn. Of course, it's important to keep some lean angle in reserve. The other thing that I had to get over was the tendency to avoid "more lean." I used to have a hesitation about adding more lean into a corner -- so I began using countersteering instead -- one of the methods emphasized during the Stayin' Safe tours. Now I countersteer to add more lean when it's necessary, keeping in mind just how far I can push the limits of tire adhesion and ground clearance -- that came by practice and experience.

    With their help, and lots of practice on my own, I'm confident enough to tackle some challenging roads at a brisk pace even if I haven't ridden there before.

    Finally, I'll add that one of my instructors, Pete Tamblyn, recently took the Lee Parks Total Control class and highly recommended it. That's next on my list.
    John H | TexanRT | Lafayette | IBA
    BMW K1600 GTL '18 | Honda Goldwing '12

  14. #14
    Friend of the Marque Sue's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Madison, WI
    We have a riding buddy who we call "The Awful ONE" Great guy, incredible motorcyclist. However, he rides with RapidRoy - what does that tell you?

    He used to say that if the speed limit sign is in the teens, then that actually means as FAST AS YOU CAN GO in first gear. If the sign is in the twenties, then that actually means AS FAST AS YOU CAN GO in second gear. And so on...

    It was a fun joke, and one I think of frequently and smile - when I am leaned over in a curve in second or third gear.

    Seriously though - every day is different, every road is different. Sometimes I am in the groove and just feel relaxed and dialed-in. On those days, I ride a little hotter. On the other hand, some days I am more tense, not as comfortable on the bike, and might not know the roads - - on those days, I am more conservative.

    Snowing here like crazy today. dang.
    Sue Rihn #43753

    *** Sometimes it's the bend in the road that makes life worth the ride ***

  15. #15
    God? What god? roborider's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Raleigh, NC
    Obviously, it depends on so many things as you noted. I drive by feel. And by how I feel. Sometimes I am in the mood to cruise, sometimes I'm in the mood to light it up. And you can only do that for short periods of time. You can't ride all out all day. Even on the track with a track bike, I'm shot after seven 20 minute sessions and I usually leave and skip session 8--I'm just too tired to be safe.

    I find on the RT that I can EASILY add 15mph entry speed on any corner. If it's marked 15 mph, 30 works fine. On a 10 mph corner, 20 is about my max as the RT will drag a foot peg on those and I prefer not to do that--that's my safety buffer if I've over estimated.

    But one thing is certain, the right bike (non cruiser) will lean more than your brain will usually accept. If you cross a double yellow it's because YOU gave up, not the machine. Until you're leaned off and dragging a peg, the bike has more turn in it if needed.
    Rob C. , Raleigh, NC
    '10 R12RT, R90/6
    2007 CBR600RR & 09 V-Star
    Suzuki DR 350

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