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How to perform a tight, feet-up u-turn

Perform static and stationary u-turn

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.Perform static and stationary u-turn
  3. 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.
  4. Look: As you start to do the u-turn, briefly look down to the ground about 2-3m to your immediate right. You go where you look and if you look down for too long you will go down. So quickly lift your gaze and swivel your head as far right as you can. Your body will follow, pulling your arms as well which helps steer the bike. Make sure your motorcycle helmet allows you good peripheral vision.
  5. Steer: Don’t counter-steer! At this slow pace, you need to turn the bars in the direction you want to go.
  6. Lean: You need to lean the bike into the turn while keeping your body upright. Don’t lean with the bike.Perform static and stationary u-turn
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!

What tips do you have for performing a moving u-turn? Leave your suggestions in the “leave a reply” section below.

  1. These training articles are great but I feel that I have to say that point 4 …”As you start to do the u-turn, look down to the ground about 2-3m to your immediate right.”… contradicts the training I was given (from several sources including HART) on how to complete the U-turn in the MOST test ( a feet-up U-turn in a 6.1m box).

    The advice I was consistantly given was “never look at the ground, if you look at the ground you’ll end up there!”. Instead they had us keep our head up, eyes level with the horizon and turning our head and torso around to look down the road behind us. That large gum tree in the photos would have been pointed out as the object to look at all the way through the turn.

    But thanks for writing these articles – its good to go over the basics from time to time.

    1. Hi Nigel,
      Whatever works for you!
      However, I got this advice from the US police gymkhana champion. He said they look down on a tight turn to keep their bike leaned over.
      At the start of the turn, if you look up, the bike will straighten up and you will go where you are looking – off the other side of the road! If you look down, you will shorten your arc and keep the bike leaned over.
      As you progress through the turn, you need to lift your gaze to look down the road.
      However, if you are doing slow-speed manoeuvring, you definitely need to look up at the horizon to keep your balance.

      1. Look down go down, is what I’ve been told, otherwise good article though

        1. Hi Jim,
          The American police told me they look down as they start the turn to tighten their turn. You will also note later it says: “As the manoeuvre is completed, lift your gaze in the direction you want to head.”

  2. You need to look at where you are going to traverse, a flat clean car park is nice but roads are rarely flat or clean and following these instructions in the wrong place can result in failure. Crossing the hump in the centre of the road should be done when you are nearly finished the turn or at the start not in the middle, and beware of gunk on the road be it gravel oil or whatever it can drop a bike that’s turning quicker than you can get a foot down.

  3. Very helpful, but point 6 says to lean and not lean the bike. Surely it should be to lean the bike!!

    1. Hi Mat,
      Yes, you lean the bike and your body should remain upright: “You need to lean the bike into the turn while keeping your body upright. Don’t lean with the bike.”
      Hope it works for you!

  4. Best advice I found so far. What worked for me was to briefly look down at the moment of arc initiation and once the lean is established then immediately look up in the direction where I am planning to go (this keeps my balance). On the very first training session using this technique I went from inconsistent 20-28ft u-turns to consistent under 20ft turns. Thanks!

  5. Great article providing some useful and unique information. Got some new tricks like not using front brakes and not using throttle while taking a u-turn in a small area because of forks contract and expand.

  6. Just dropped my shiny new bike, attempting a right u-ie from a stop, in a low traction environment, and have been looking at the net to figure it out. Thanks for the nice write up. My old regular ride is about a foot shorter in wheelbase and #1 and #3 are what I need to keep in mind. Now to find the nerve and a place to practice.

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