As an instructor at Supermotoland.com one of the most frequently asked questions from my clients is how can I back a bike into a corner?
It's something we see the Moto GP and superbike stars doing with ease as they pitch a bike into a corner under heavy braking, with the rear wheel skipping sideways. All very spectacular and something that is best practiced and refined on a Supermoto bike before trying it with a sports bike.
The basic mistake that everyone makes, is that they believe that backing a bike into a corner is all about the rear brake and skidding/sliding the rear into a corner. In fact the opposite is true, whilst the rear brake does have a role to play, it's all about the front brake.
Basically, backing a bike into a corner, is a consequence of really heavy front braking which is then trail braked all the way into the corner. This is where it gets tricky on the bigger bikes as trail braking a sports bike into a corner is a risky business with the front able to slide away or fold very easily.
It's much better to practice this skill on a Supermoto bike on a closed track environment with specialist one to one instruction, which is what our clients receive at Supermotoland.com and most of our clients are backing a bike into a corner at the end of a 3 day course.
Everything is easier on a Supermoto bike as the bike is lighter, and you have a lot of suspension travel. The speeds are also lower and if you do get it wrong and the front folds, then a crash normally just involves a slide down the track, a dust down and off you go again. No expensive fairing repair bills when compared to a sports bike.
So how do you back it in? Approach the corner at speed, make sure your body position on the bike is forward, so your weight is at the front of the bike, and then brake hard with the front brake whilst using a tiny rub of rear brake. Use both brakes together and release them together when you finish braking at the apex of the turn. I usually advise my clients to forget the rear brake to start with as there is just too much going on, and just get used to hard front braking. Keep at it each lap, just focus on the one corner (preferably a naturally hard braking corner at the end of a straight).
On a Supermoto bike with a slipper clutch, you can add in the down shifts as soon as you start braking. if you have a good slipper clutch then you don't need to use the clutch to downshift and can tap down through the box very quickly as you start the braking process. If you don't have a slipper clutch then you will need to pull the clutch lever in a little so it's just slipping, and hold it there so your hand is in effect the slipper clutch. You will know if you're getting it right as everything will be smooth, if its jumping or hopping at the rear then you need to pull that clutch lever in more.
The down shifts with a slipper clutch help settle the bike as it puts a braking force through the rear wheel, sometimes this is enough to back it in but I feel you always need a little rub of rear brake all the way into the corner as well. A lot of people struggle with the rear brake at first and use too much. if you hear a screech and the rear starts sliding then you are using too much rear brake and have locked the rear. This is dangerous, release the rear brake immediately or the bike will fish tail and you will lose control. Rear brake application is the lightest of touches, just a rub, no more!
So back to the corner, approach it, choose your braking marker and brake hard, once you start braking hard with the front then you start looking at the apex of the corner as that is where you want the bike to turn into. The first part of braking is upright and hard, but then as you focus on the apex of the turn you should release your pressure on the front brake lever a little, so as you start to turn into the corner you are still braking but with less force than before. This is called trail braking and if you are on a Supermoto bike you should keep this braking force applied right to the apex of the corner.
Now this is where the rider needs to know what is going on with the bike. So much of being a good motorcycle rider in any category of bike riding or racing is about body position and more importantly weight distribution on the bike. As you approach the braking zone under acceleration the rear of the bike is under load with most weight on it. Then as you hit the brakes and move your body forward all the weight goes to the front, this compresses the front suspension and extends the rear suspension as the weight transfers from rear to front. As you become better and harder at the initial braking you will find the rear starts go light and you feel it start to hover.
Now this is the first part of backing it in, once you feel the rear start to hover you have got it, then just keep trail braking into the corner with both the front and rear brake applied and this will naturally start to put the rear out to the side, away from the corner you are turning into. It will be tricky at first and keep everything smooth and constant, you don't want that rear skipping and sliding out all over the place, you want a slow, steady drift of only a few inches until you start to get the feel of it. You can help the slide start a little by 'twerking' your hips away from the corner to push the rear out a little, but generally the backing it in will be a natural occurrence as you turn into the corner under trail braking.
Once you reach this point then it's all about continued braking and trail braking into the corner, as you brake harder and deeper into the corner and trail brake right to the apex then the rear slide will follow you in. You will gain confidence and get better and better, but be warned, it takes a very long time to really master backing it in and you will find that track conditions play a role as well. If you find that you cannot back it in like you were the day before, then maybe the track has got gripier and it won't let the rear release and slide so easy. If this is the case then a quick trip to the dirt section and back onto track with a dusty rear tyre can get you sliding again.
As with all things there are a few cheat codes to help get that rear backing in. Firstly take all compression damping off the front suspension and any preload adjustment if you have it. You want that front as soft as possible to dive and transfer weight to the front. Raising the forks through the triple clamps can help a little as well, as its lowering the front of the bike. Sit forward on the bike as this will help load the front, once you have mastered backing it in then you will find that you actually end up with body weight to the back of the bike to lessen the slide and give more rear braking stability, but for beginners you want that weight all over the front. Secondly raise the rear tyre pressure so it gives less grip and make sure you don't have too much rear rebound damping on, you want that rear to hop up into the air once you hit the brakes so its hovering.
I hope this article helps explain the concept of backing it in but please only practice this in a safe environment with full safety equipment and preferably professional instruction. If you would like more information on Supermoto training then visit my site at www.supermotoland.comfor some excellent Supermoto holidays and training in Spain.
Instructor at Supermotoland.com
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