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About the Survival Skills “Double Bends” course

There’s been a little confusion about the distinction between my new(ish) “Double Bends” course and the cornering content already in the “Bends” and Survival Skills advanced courses.

The Double Bends course is is a one day course, and functions as an ‘add-on’ to the cornering content of either the one day Bends course or the two day Survival Skills advanced course, taking over where the cornering element in the ‘Survival Skills’ 2 day course, or the 1 day ‘Bends’ course leaves off.

The cornering element in the two courses above covers the core skills a rider needs to progress beyond the basics of simply ‘getting round’ the bend. Before looking at how to use the various machine control skills of braking, counter-steering and accelerating required to ride corners as well, we first look at Risk Assessment and Risk Management techniques, by using a detailed system of hazard identification, including use of concepts like the Vanishing (or Limit) Point, road signs and the various clues as the general layout of the road ahead.

We then put all that together into a system that not only allows us to pick a safe and effective line through a particular bend, but also links bends together so that we’re not treating bends as “one-offs” but as complexes. Having done this course, a rider should now be able to deal with 99% of corners efficiently and without fuss.

The ‘Double Bends’ course takes all that core cornering knowledge and adds a whole raft of new techniques I use myself from time to time like trail braking to deal with decreasing radius turns and body shifting by ‘hanging off’ and counterweighting. To confirm what I’m doing, I’ve looked at expert riders around the world. For example; Nick Ianetch’s “power-up steering”, Reg Pridmore’s “body steering”, Keith Code’s “peg weighting”.

A key point is to clarify the pros and cons of what are often seen as track techniques, and to see whether they have any relevance on the road. We show how they influence the way the bike handles in turns and where they can be used to advantage, as well as their drawbacks.

An example of a track technique is hanging off. Moving your body inside the bike when it leans moves the Centre of Mass of the bike and rider inside the “centreline” of the bike. The most obvious consequence effect is that it pushes the bike more upright. Most riders will assume that’s good because it increases ground clearance, which is true – but it also has other effects on the way the bike steers which aren’t so obvious.

Firstly, it makes the bike turn on a slightly wider line because it’s not leaning over so far and it’s the largely the camber thrust controlled by the contact patch of the tyres that determines the radius of the turn at any particular speed – this might not be the best way to deal with a tight turn if you have lean angle in hand (and we’re not on the racetrack but on the road, so hopefully you will have, and counterweighting might be the better option!). The second effect is that it reduces the self-centering torque generated by the offset contact patch (as the front tyre’s more vertical it’s not so far off the axis that the steering rotates around) – this makes the steering lighter in turns (and even neutral feeling if you move far enough) and could reduce wobbles if you hit bumps mid turn. You also need to consider the potential to destabilise the bike if you move at the wrong moment, the possibility of impaired control if you need to do something other than you expect and the loss of vision round a bend if you hang off like a gibbon.

These are not necessarily skills you’ll need every day you ride – indeed trail braking into a bend has its drawbacks when used inappropriately – but they are skills that come in useful in certain situations; for instance where we’ve misjudged the corner, the bend tightens out of sight or we detect a surface problem part way round the bend and need a rapid change of line or speed to compensate. Or the road is completely blocked by an accident or a fallen tree!

You may be wondering why I don’t simply put all this into the other courses – one simple reason: time! There’s simply too much to learn and practice in a single day, so the Double Bends day can be added to existing training covering cornering.

And the routes planned for the course allow us to take in a range of challenging bends in a variety of different shapes, sizes and speeds, so it’s a fun course too.

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