When you enroll in a riding school, we’re pretty sure you’ll be hearing a lot from your trainer about ‘throttle control.’
Good throttle control is the essence of riding well. Why? The throttle is the most used control on a motorcycle, as it directly manages the power generated by the engine and transmitted to the wheels. Simply put, throttle control is as important as braking and steering.
Still not convinced? If you want to develop your throttle control techniques, here are six simple tips:
1) Learn more about motorcycle dynamics.
Motorcycles are two-wheeled, single-track vehicles. This design makes it inherently unstable—especially when turning—and maneuverable. Your goal as a rider is to keep the bike upright and stable.
Maneuverability tends to have trade-offs with stability. You must learn how to keep the motorcycle under control at all times. One input can result in multiple outputs.
Imagine opening up the throttle on a straight path. That single action pulls your center of gravity behind its normal position and immediately transfers weight from front to back due to inertia. The front suspension extends and the rear shock absorber resists compression because of the bike’s anti-squat geometry.
Such movement also alters the load on the tires, and affects traction depending on how smooth you throttled in. Then, the bike’s wheelbase lengthens. It’s a different story when you throttle in during a turn, which will increase the speed of your bike and can change your line. This affects how much you need to countersteer and lean into the turn.
2) Recognize proper hand placement.
Your hands are in direct contact with the control grip of the throttle. Be aware of proper hand placement. You should hold the handlebars as if your wrists were in the same horizontal position as the centerline of the grip.
Grasping it at a higher angle may cause inadvertent wrist movements and generate unintended power to the rear wheel. Grip it at lower and you might have a hard time twisting the throttle.
3) Do not stress yourself by over-gripping.
Aside from holding the handlebars correctly, you should also keep your arms relaxed and your elbows slightly bent. Just imagine that your handlebars are delicate bananas to avoid ‘death-gripping’ or over-squeezing it.
If you hold on too tight on the handlebars, you won’t be able to control the motorcycle as effectively and feel how it reacts to every input. Your arms can also work as an extended suspension just in case you encounter unexpected bumps.
4) Keep the bike stable.
Riding is a skill that influences your motorcycle’s performance and stability. Your job for the rest of your riding life is to keep the bike stable. If it feels stable under you, you will feel more confident and in control. This will help you make better decisions in whatever riding situation.
For better understanding, let’s dissect the term ‘throttle control.’ The throttle regulates the flow of air and fuel mixture to an engine, which results in varying power output. Control means the power to influence or direct the course of events.
So, good throttle control equates to how well you direct the power on the motorcycle for your desired speed. It may sound simple: Get on the throttle and you gain speed, get off it and you slow down. However, learning how to increase or decrease the throttle smoothly makes a big difference.
When cornering at the track, we can take Keith Code’s (California Superbike School) basic rule on the matter: “Once the throttle is cracked open, it is rolled on evenly, smoothly, and consistently throughout the remainder of the turn.”
5) Try being smooth in first gear.
First gear is the most reactive gear. Every time you get on a motorcycle, you can always start practicing throttle control. Try to twist the throttle on and off on first gear until you minimize the torquey-ness and don’t feel the sudden weight transfer.
Smooth is different from slow. Imagine a bell curve. Practice throttling on and off as smoothly as that curve instead of handling the throttle abruptly like in a heartbeat.
When you’re smooth, the reaction of the bike becomes more predictable. Your confidence level goes up because you know what to expect. You tend to be more relaxed, and riding becomes more manageable. On the other hand, when you’re abrupt, the motorycle reacts erratically.
6) Practice, and still more practice.
Riding is all about muscle memory, which is acquired through repetition. Practice helps you perform with more ease, speed, and confidence.
You can hone your throttle control whenever you are on the road or tarmac. Mastery is not equivalent to the number of hours you train, but rather the quality and effectiveness of that exercise.
Effective practice is not only consistent, but also intensely focused on refining your current skill and improving your weaknesses. Start out slowly. The seamless synchronization of using your eyes, hands, and feet, plus how you react based on high situational awareness on using the throttle and other controls can be built through repetition.
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