By Road Toad
Out on the highway … 65 mph … “knees in the breeze”… “fists in the wind” … lookin’ fine! Bike is upright and stable. Life is good. It is hard to fall down at highway speeds.
Uh oh, traffic ahead, lanes clogged and traffic is moving at a crawl. How’s life now?
Can you maintain your balance at 3-5mph with the “better half” leaning against the sissy bar? Are you “walking” your bike like a toddler in their first little go buggy, or are you working in the friction zone of your clutch and throttle and maintaining a balanced upright position, “feet up” at a crawl?
A skilled and practiced rider is able to manage their scoot expertly at slow speeds. This is important in a number of instances like heavy traffic, maneuvering through parking lots and crowded events.
How do you learn this? Take a Sunday morning and run over to an empty parking lot and practice riding at 3-5 mph. Sit upright and look a hundred feet in front of you. With your foot on the brake find the friction zone, where your clutch is partially engaged. People often refer to this as riding the clutch, but on most big bikes, clutches are multi-disc design and are able to tolerate this type of use.
By applying foot pressure, yet maintaining the throttle at a fast idle, practice going as slow as you can. See if you can maintain a straight line at less than 5 mph. Practice this until you have the sense of riding slow and in control.
Now, if you have the inclination to gain some more skill at slow speed, cut some tennis balls in half and space them 12 feet apart and now practice riding in between them. You will need speed and clutch control, plus you will need to learn how to lean your bike at slow speeds. Wrap something around your crash bars in the event you dump your ride, at these speeds it will not do damage but may scuff your chrome, so protect your bars the best way you see fit.
Next, lay out a 22-foot circle and practice riding within that area. Eventually, you should be able to get it down to 18 feet, but you will have to lean the bike to get to this point.
If this has peaked your interest in how to gain even more skill with some slow speed bike maneuvers, go to YouTube and search “friction zone.” There are any number of qualified experts demonstrating these tasks. The better you are at handling your bike, the safer you will ride. Never think you are as good as you can get. It is never wrong to get better.
Ride with pride … be safe, be aware!