Patience, Grasshopper. Let the Corner Come To You.

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We all know that one of the coolest things about motorcycles is corners.  Seriously, that whole lateral lean thing is just fantastic, am I right? 

In fact, for so many of us, when we see a corner coming, we just can’t wait to get into the corner so we can get our turns in!

But, lets be honest, all that impatience… er… I mean, excitement tends to mess us up before we even reach the corner we are so excited for.   So, I’ve been involved in motorcycle education for over 20 years now, and in that time, one of the most common mistakes I see intermediate to experienced riders make is getting their corner entrance wrong.  

Bear Tooth Pass

Well, what do I mean by wrong? Well, rushing. entering corners too fast. Tipping in too soon. Apexing too early. That desire to be fast tends to cause many a rider to simply enter corners too quickly, or the thinking that in order to be fast, we need to brake hard at the last second. And then because we are going fast, we start turning too soon, rushing our apex.  Probably each and every one of us who has tried to ride a section of twisty tarmac quickly has made these common mistakes.

Rider blowing his corner because he rushed his entrance

One of my greatest mentors bestowed upon me a morsel of wisdom that took me years to fully understand, let alone appreciate.  You see, Dale, one of my greatest moto teachers in the world, well, he loves the old ‘70s tv show Kung Fu starring David Carridine. 

It was this weekly western that followed the adventures of a monk who traveled through the Old West armed only with his spiritual training and his skill in martial arts while he searched for his missing brother. Every week he’d be forced to fight for justice and protect the underdog before having to move on to avoid capture.  A pre-Han Solo Harrison Ford was even the heavy in one episode.   Pretty typical ‘70s TV.   

Kung Fu Television show

So where am I going with this?  How does a 1970s TV show about chinese martial arts lead to one of the most significant morsels of wisdom ever bestowed upon me as a rider?  Well, as it turns out, the show Kung Fu adapted a lot of Taoist philosophies from Lao-Tzu.  And Lao-Tzu believed that one of our greatest treasures is patience. Now, how did Dale combine a 1970s Kung Fu western with eastern philosophy into something about motorcycles?  

Well, Dale’s Patience Grasshopper interpretation:  “Let the corner come to you” 

That doesn’t make sense. I’m going super fast getting to that corner.  But, letting the corner come to us is a unique way to think about patience in a different way. Patience isn’t just our ability to wait, its the ability to maintain emotional balance, calm and contentment while we wait.  Patience is the realization that there’s great value in being present for the moment, not always rushing to the next thing. You know, like that next awesome corner.

“Let the corner come to you” 

Look, there’s a lot happening as we enter a corner.  We need to set our entrance speed, we need to look for a tip-in point, we are trying to stay to the outside to maintain visibility, we really should be looking for our apex, we are checking out the road surface, looking for oncoming traffic, determining how much pressure is needed to get the bike leaning the right amount…  There is a lot going on and we have to get it all done correctly if we want to have a fun corner. 

Setting up the entrance to a corner on Monte Cristo Canyon

So why do so many of us rush through the most risky and important part of a corner?  Why do so many of us rush our corner entrances? 

“Let the corner come to you”

The key to being quick in the corners isn’t how fast we enter that turn, but how quick we get out of it. Being quick out of a corner is far less risky.  The road is straightening out, we have more visibility, we’re reducing lean angle. We get to accelerate, and acceleration is fun! The goal is to be fast out of the corner …we need to go slow in the slow bits so we can be fast in the fast bits. And then, carrying all that added exit speed all the way to the next corner is what makes fast guys even faster.

That means the best way to achieve that extra fast while reducing risk is to set ourselves up for a good, fast exit, is we need to make sure we get the entrance right. 

“let the corner come to you” is also a way of saying “wait until you have all the data before making a decision”. Tipping in early or going back to the gas before we have all the facts is never the best strategy. By waiting until we can see your exit, remaining outside and continuing to slow until we’re happy with our speed and direction, gives us the most options to find the “best” solution to the corner. There comes this wonderful moment when we do this, where suddenly the “solution” to the corner is presented and we get to line up our current position through our apex to our exit and accelerate. If it feels like we don’t have a plan, or if we can’t see our way out, we’re not there yet.

Dale, the great moto philosopher, coaching a new rider

To do all of this means patience.  That means calm.  That means being mindful and present in those precious moments leading up to the corner.  So, relax. Stay calm and remember the immortal words of the great moto-philosopher Dale; Let the corner come to you. 

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