Slow control, a misunderstood and underrated skill
All manual bikes will have a minimum speed at which they can be ridden with the clutch out, 125s tend to go at about 7 – 8 mph in first with the clutch out, and the bigger the bike the higher the minimum speed will be. This minimum speed can be too quick in some situations forcing the rider to swing out to turn into a side road, or run wide in U turns or mini roundabouts. Hence the need for slow speed control.
You will need slow control to pass the Module One Test and to keep your road positioning tidy on a Module two Test. Out and about on two wheels it will enable you to keep the flow of a ride going, for example easing up to a give way line using slow control will normally give you time to check the main road and then if clear follow through. This is much more efficient in time and fuel than stopping to look and much safer than not checking properly.
Remember when turning on a motorcycle the tightness of the turn, the angle of lean and the speed are all related as one changes so will all the others. When using slow control you need to keep any changes to the speed/turn/lean of the bike smooth and progressive to keep control.
The principle is easy, getting the feel for it takes practice.
On manual bikes
Drag the back brake, this gives stability by pulling from the back of the bike, better and more stable than pushing the front tyre. It also frees up your right hand to control just the throttle and saves you having to juggle the front brake and throttle at the same time. Use just enough back brake to keep the bike steady.
Keep the engine busy, you don’t need loads of revs, some where between 2000 and 3000 rpm is usually about right. This will give you the power you need to push the bike through the turn and bring it back upright. It will also give you more stability as the spinning engine will act like a gyroscope, the effect is subtle but useful. You can, when you know your bike very well use just enough revs and/or put the revs up or down as the power needed changes. For example as the camber changes in a U turn. To start with though keep the engine busy all the way through the manoeuvre.
Control the power to the back wheel by slipping the clutch. If the clutch is to far in you will not put enough power to the back wheel and you will slow down and lose balance. If the clutch is to far out you will need to put on a lot of back brake to hold the bike back. If you do this even small changes in the amount of back brake you have applied will give you very big changes in speed.
On automatic bikes
The principles are exactly the same on an automatic, use a steady throttle pushing you along and drag the back brake to give you control and stability. Remember that the clutches on automatic bikes usually run dry. If you have too much throttle on you will need a lot of back brake to hold the speed, this will make keeping the speed steady difficult and quickly over heat and burn out the clutch. Keep it light !
Hints and Tips for slow control
Sounds obvious but have a plan. Where am I now, where do I want to go to, how am I going to get there ?
Look and ride into the space where you want to go next. You will go where you look, look at the kerb, that ‘s where you will end up, look at a cone and yes you will hit it. As an instructor I have taken people struggling with U turns to the widest road I know near a military base, wide enough to be a runway ! Yes you ‘ve got it riders will still end up at the opposite kerb. Look up and look to where you want to go. If the road is wider than the turning circle of your bike then you are not interested in where the kerb is.
Shift your grip on the throttle, if you move you wrist up then as you steer hard right you will still be able to move the throttle.
If you have the right amount of throttle set, and the clutch set at the right biting point you should need to do very little if anything with your hands. Ease and squeeze the rear brake to control the speed.
Make sure you use the throttle, clutch and back brake all they way through the manoeuvre. Don t pull the clutch right in and try to coast, keep the throttle on, don t shut it just because you think you don t need it, stay on the back brake. Using all three controls together will give you the stability you need.
Keep the speed steady and flow smoothly through the manoeuvre.
This works for some and not others, sit up and lean the bike. Unlike faster cornering, for slow control it helps if you lean less than the bike.
Changes of camber will make a difference but much less than you think.
If you are struggling with U turns etc, practice riding in a straight line and get the knack of smoothly changing the speed with just the back brake.
Try and get a feel for the stability at low speed that dragging the back brake gives you.
Don t be lazy out and about, make a point of using a bit of slow control when you get a chance rather than just getting away with doing the minimum.