Swerving

By Brian P.
October, 2004

In last months column we talked about braking, and more specifically about the correct technique for the maximum braking collision avoidance maneuver. In this months column we will talk about the swerve collision avoidance maneuver. If a situation occurs, requiring our immediate attention in order to avoid a collision, there are two choices we can make. Either we can stop quickly applying the correct maximum braking technique, or we can swerve to avoid the collision. Of these two options, often swerving is the better choice to make. In fact, at speeds above 18 mph, a motorcycle can swerve to avoid an obstacle, in less distance than it would take to stop. However, in order for the swerve to be the best choice, one important thing must exist; that is an escape lane in which to swerve. The definition of a swerve is two consecutive counter-steers. The first counter-steer is to avoid the obstacle, and the second is to get back on track. Counter-steering is a technique used at speeds greater than about 5 mph to initiate a path of travel change on a motorcycle. The technique involves application of a slight forward pressure (a press) to the handgrip on the side of the desired path of travel change. In other words, press right to go right, and press left to go left. Only the hands and forearms are used to counter-steer. No shoulder or leg manipulation is required or desired. In fact, balance will be better maintained during the swerve, if the knees are kept against the tank, rather than flapping in the wind. The correct counter-steering techniques would then be something like this. PRESS – HOLD – PRESS. The Hold part of this procedure is important, because that first press must be held long enough in order to entirely miss the obstacle, after the application of the second press to get back on track. An important consideration while performing a swerve is that of body position. In normal turns involving counter-steering, we normally lean with the motorcycle. However, while performing a swerve it is important that we keep the upper body position independent of the motorcycle lean. In other words, we want to maintain an upright torso while the motorcycle leans underneath us, during the swerve. Keeping the torso upright, while the motorcycle leans underneath, is the quickest way to initiate a path of travel change on a motorcycle. This is exactly what we need to do! Now we will talk about one thing we definitely DON’T want to do during a swerve. During our braking discussions we found that while a motorcycle leans, the amount of traction left available for braking is reduced. Thus, one thing we definitely want to avoid during a swerve, is braking of any kind, including engine braking. Separate all braking from the swerving process. You can brake before or after the swerve, but you should never brake during the swerve, and remember to keep a steady throttle while swerving, to avoid the effects of engine braking. With a little swerving practice, you will be better prepared in case of a sudden traffic conflict. Remember, laying a motorcycle down is seldom the right choice to make. Swerving done properly is just one more way to help keep the shiny side up!

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