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How to handle a decreasing radius corner

Decreasing radius corners
What's around that blind corner

It’s one of those heart-in-the-mouth moments when the corner suddenly tightens up and you’re running out of cornering clearance and room to complete the turn.

We’ve all had that moment.

In the best-case scenario, we get a fright.

In the worst-case scenario it can lead to running off the road, into oncoming traffic or low-siding the bike.

How you deal with the corner really comes in three parts: avoiding being caught by surprise, positioning your bike correctly and dealing with a tightening radius.


Don’t ever get in the situation where a bend surprises you.

If you’ve ridden the road before, you should file a mental note of which turns tighten up so you are better prepared next time.

A mental note could consist of a sign on approach, an unusual tree or some other landmark.

Sings like this would, of course, be welcome!

Curve signs

However, if it’s a new section of road you’ve never ridden before, survey the line markings or the road edges for clues of the radius.

If the outside line or edge of the road is getting closer to the centre line or inside edge of the bend, then it is tightening.

Don’t commit your lean angle and speed to this corner until you see the road edges moving further apart again, which is the clue it is opening up again.

Some corners can be blind and you may need to look for other clues such as the brake lights of the vehicle in front, overhead lines that suddenly turn or a diminishing tree, hedge or fence line.

Decreasing radius corner
Survey all corners


If you’ve determined the radius is tightening, position your bike as wide as possible while washing off speed with brakes and downshifts.

A wide approach to the corner will make your apex further around the bend and alert you earlier to a tightening radius.

Keep looking at the end of the corner, that point where the “lines” are close together. Don’t look at the other side of the road or the bushes where you think you might end up … or you will.

Decreasing radius corners
Green is good, red bad!


Even so, you might still get caught out by long bends that tighten unexpectedly toward the end, so you may need to make some mid-corner corrections.

If you’ve been holding some throttle, don’t shut it down. Hold it neutral or slightly decrease the throttle.

Don’t try downshifting, either, unless you are really smooth at matching engine and ground speeds or the rear wheel may lock up and flick you over the high side.

Instead, push a little more on the inside handlebar which is a counter-steering input that will lean your bike further. You’ll be surprised how far you can lean the bike without sliding or falling off.

You can also add a little more rear brake which will pull the bike into a steeper lean as well as slow it down.

Don’t touch the front brakes, either, unless you are really smooth as it may cause a low slide or stand the bike up again which will run you wide.

Decreasing radius corner
Road edges getting closer


If you’ve overcommitted and have run out of ground clearance, you may be in a fair bit of trouble.

The only thing to do is to smoothly squeeze more front and rear brake to slow you down as much as possible while keeping your lean angle stable.

Keep looking at the corner exit and you just may wash off enough speed to make it around the corner.

And then you can set up for the next one!

Decreasing radius corners
Set up wide for the next corner
  1. There is also the double stab. you quickly straighten up hit the brakes hard but not too hard then let go and lean hard.
    This method is not recommended of course . The best method is not getting so overconfident that you enter an unknown corner too hot in the first place.

    1. This is the funniest and best thing I’ve read all day. Well played sir! “The Double Stab” will be forever etched in my repertoire of crazy but possibly life saving bail-out manoeuvres.

      1. Done the double stab once inadvertantly. Was leaning in a fair way on a tight bend when my right foot jagged on the ground and pulled me down. A bunch of front brake stood the bike up and left me time to lean in again to complete the turn.

    2. I’ve done that too! It does work, but you have to be quick. I’ve also had to do it approaching a roundabout when some dumbass car decides to go the whole way after a ‘mis-indication’ while I’m just about to enter the roundabout – I straighten up the bike real quick and immediately apply the brakes (only apply the brakes when you’re vertical otherwise you WILL come off).

  2. And yet the article doesn’t mention the easiest way… Lower your center of gravity. How you can do that? Easy… Drop your upper body in the corner (not just your head, only if you have a 50 kg head). Meaning that lean your upper body more then the bike.

    That will straighten the bike up a bit, so you can lean more. And there you go. Was taught at honda safety motorcycle driving courses. Works well.

    And leave your knee where it is. Close to bike. The racers only put their knee out, because that’s how they feel the max. lean angle. They don’t have footpeg scratching screws.

  3. In daylight Look for tire wear on the road or worn in road line indicating heavy breaking from regular travellers on the road. On softer roads surfaces in warmer climates you’ll also see the trough worn in by regular travel.

  4. I follow the Mick Doohan method: get further off the inside and use the rear brake. The deceleration throws weight on to the front tyre tightening the line. It is surprising how much rear brake pressure the rear tyre will tolerate on the edge. It worked for Mick and it works for me.

    1. Yep.. works for me.. and as he says.. look for the vanishing point.. gives you an idea (in most cases) of the nature of the corner.

  5. Came across this earlier this year on a poster at Blue Gum Cafe in the middle of the Putty Road.

    ‘Cruiser riders need to pick a tighter line through corners. Do not follow the same line as other styles of bikes’.

    OK so far, cruisers shouldn’t try and keep up with sports bikes period. It goes on to state:

    ‘We are noticing that the number of cruiser riders becoming unstuck is increasing, whether it be a lone rider or someone riding in a group of bikes. This is more common when it is in the company of different styles of bikes. The line a sport bike takes through a corner is totally different than that of a cruiser. If you take a wide line line on a cruiser, in a tight corner you can, and will more likely, scrape due to a lack of ground clearance. Picking the correct line is much more important on a cruiser than on anything else. The best line in the ‘race’: close in then out wide through the corner to limit the amount you lean in a corner. You brake more and ride slower through the apex, relying less on lean angle. It’s also the quickest way through a corner.’

    I can only assume that was not written by a motorcyclist. In close then out wide on a cruiser – what happens when the corner tightens up ffs? You will painfully discover the ‘lack of ground clearance’ and also ‘the quickest way through a corner’ straight into oncoming traffic!I don’t know who or what group placed the poster but they need standing up against a wall and shooting!

  6. Mt Glorious rd has two nasty bends when going up the mountain (West bound)
    Caught me a couple of times and have seen many a rider go wide.

  7. Nobody mentioned the method I learned at superbike school phillip island. Weight on the outside footpeg, and lean forward a little more. They never mentioned braking, but slowly rolling on a little more throttle through the curve.

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