How to back up on a motorcycle

WE see this happening on the track almost every weekend, a rider deftly steers his bike at obscene angles as he heads for a bend. With the bike gliding along the track, they accelerate and navigate the bends with ease. But how to get back on a motorcycle?

Why do riders slide the rear wheel of a bicycle into a corner?

Reversing on a bicycle occurs in many forms of track riding and racing. From MotoGP to BSB, this is a common way to enter and get around a corner faster than just following the race line.

The main reason it’s done, besides looking cool as hell, is to make the bike point towards the top of the corner. Rolling a bike backwards also reduces some of the home stretch speed, not as effectively as straight-line braking, but the glide combined with braking all the way to the top is more beneficial in some corners.

What is the rack in a bicycle?

Recoil is what happens when the rear tire loses traction with the road, sliding in the opposite direction to the corner you are approaching. If you slide the rear into a left-hander, the rear wheel will slide to your right and vice versa. When the rear wheel slips, it has the effect of spinning the bike to face the top of the turn, effectively aligning you for a cleaner, faster turn exit.

Can you practice this technique on the road?

It’s probably best to leave this on the trail, backing up a bike in a roundabout on the road might sound like fun, but if everything goes wrong, that curb outside the road will really hurt when you slide down it!

It’s also best to learn the technique on a small, lightweight bike like a Supermoto machine. The lack of weight, the long-travel suspension and the lower speeds carried will make learning the technique much easier than on a 200hp, 200kg superbike. Once you define the method, you can upgrade it to work on any bike, just take your time.

How to get back on my bike?

First, you need to get to know the track you’re riding on and pick a few turns that might work well. When you’re ready to slide, shift your weight forward more than you normally would. On a Supermoto this is easy, on a sports bike you may have to slide your body back out of the fuel tank a few inches to get the desired result.

Once your weight is more on the front than anywhere else, start to brake in a firm but controlled manner. As the bike slows down and the forks dive down, you will feel the rear go light and start to jump across the track. Practice it for a few laps and familiarize yourself with the feel of the rear wheel moving.

As you gain confidence you will start to brake later and deeper into the turn and in doing so you will naturally introduce more lean angle into the situation. While you are doing this, you need to release some pressure on the front brake, like you do during track braking, and press the rear brake very gently to make the bike move. This lean angle, combined with your body position and rear brake pressure, is what will force the rear wheel out at a greater angle as you lean the bike.

How do I control a slide?

As with a car sliding around a bend, the steering in the slide will keep it from warping further. So when the rear wheel comes out to the left of the bike, you need to apply a small amount of left-hand lock on the bars to counter it.

The first time this happens you will likely apply too much lockout and neutralize the slip completely, but with a little practice you will be able to steer the bars with precision to keep the rear tire at the desired angle.

You can brush your hips to help push the rear of the bike out and away from the approaching corner. This action combined with a decent feel on the brakes and the right amount of steering lock-up is the key to getting and holding onto the slide in a safe and controlled manner.

And the demotions?

A well-tuned bike with a quickshifter and a slip clutch should be able to help you slide the rear. Most are set up to measure just the right amount of resistance without locking the wheel completely. For a bicycle without a slip clutch, the work will be more delicate. You will need to manually release the clutch between downshifts to prevent the rear from locking up completely and knocking you off the bike. The problem here is that there’s going to be a lot going on in your brain, and there’s a good chance that you have one or all of the dots needed to do it safely.

What about installing the bike?

Dragging the bike is as much about bike setup as it is about body positioning. A rock solid front end with compression and fully coiled preload will not dive the way you want it to. This lack of diving is linked to a lack of forward weight transfer and this will make the initiation of a slide much more difficult. The lack of nose-down will also make it harder to control a slide, as the bike will have a lot more maneuverability.

To begin with, smooth out the front end, removing almost all of the compression damping and much of the preload. Next, remove some of the rebound damping from the rear shock. If you have too much, the rear can instantly lift when you apply the brakes. You don’t need it, you want as smooth a transition as possible on the brakes.

Once you have mastered the art of sliding the rear around the corners and holding it there, you will find that you use less of your body weight to slide the bike and more of the front and rear brakes on the bike. Now your body can be used to mix bikes between gripping and sliding by shifting your weight forward and backward.

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