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How do you know the limitations of grip?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by viiictor, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. Hey guys, just a very basic/advanced question, I have been riding for about 3 weeks now and was always wondering: How do you know the limits of the grip available on your tyres? I had lowsided the bike once because stupid me thought free tyre shine was too good to give up :p. When the bike started to slip it didn't really give any signs of loss of traction so before I knew it, it was too late. From that accident, it feels like I am now limited to riding slowly and too carefully (not to full potential).

    So lets say, without stupidity and decent tyres, how do you know you are on the limits of traction and if you reach or exceed those limits, what do you do? How far can you lean into a turn before it becomes dangerous?

    Any help would be appreciated :) Thanks
  2. This is a very good question and I wish I could give you a good simple answer.

    As a rider with very little experience there is not a whole lot I can tell you which is useful. The things I've spent 40 years learning are not easily teachable or transferable over an internet connection.

    You often find the limit of grip only by exceeding it, and when you break traction the bike falls over very fast - far too quickly to do much of anything about it. If you have a sufficiently good idea of where the limit is, you can (in some situations) approach it very closely and get a situation where there will be a distinct feel or sign that you're at or near the limit. You can even get into situations where the bike slides but doesn't crash. But I can't teach you to do that in a text message.

    There's no distinct feel that I know of that the rear is near the limit. If it starts to slide a little, you may get a sense that the bike is dipping down at the back - sinking in quicksand. That's what it feels like if the back breaks away in a very forgiving and progressive way. If it breaks hard, there will be a sudden falling feeling, and the bike will rotate sharply into the corner, going away from under you.

    The first sign that front grip isn't good, is that the bike will want to tip further in, more easily. It's as if the tyre just got harder or more inflated. Go from a low grip surface to a high grip surface while in a steep turn, and the bike will suddenly feel like it wants to stand up a little, and the 'bars will have an electric, alive feeling to them, like a living thing. You can feel each piece of gravel, each spot of tar. So when you go from high grip to low grip, the opposite happen - the bike wants to tip in further, and that alive feeling in the bars fades or goes away completely. A little further than that and the bars may start to turn into the corner of their own volition, but the bike doesn't stand up - indeed, it starts to topple over into the corner. This will be accompanied by a slight falling feeling, and you may notice the bike start to run wide in the corner, as it understeers. Generally, if you get that far, it's gone. Too late to do anything much about.
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  3. when you fall off you have exceeded the limitations.
  4. The words that I hear a lot when is baby steps baby steps baby steps.

    How about we learn to ride in a straight line 1st.
    Then we learn to corner slowly.

    Learn the right way to corner. You should be read 101 corner basics on here as a starting point. Once you have the basic concept of cornering you can stretch you legs and build up the speed. But you want to be smooth which is the secret. Not fast.

    I took a lot longer then 3 weeks to find the limits of my bike and at 3 months I still have a long way to go. This is what I practice now. I have an easy stretch of road with some twists and some hairpins. All I worry about is getting the lines and being smooth. I don't watch my speedo I don't try and hang my knee out. You will be suprised how much you lean as confidence builds up.
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  5. when your chicken strips are gone you're pretty much there. if you ride like a numpty it can happen a fair bit earlier.
  6. First thing my mechanic told me after purchasing my first bike......................DO NOT USE TYRE SHINE ANYWHERE ON THE TYRE!!!
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  7. I won't even use 'Wash N Wax' on the bike!!
  8. Also some tyres will talk to you and others will give you no warning what so ever. My Dunlops will squirm and move a bit before they spin. A set of tyres I had a while ago would feel 100% then just slip or spin up. Just don't be foolish, learn how your bike feels and reacts.
    The fun part is the massive amount of riding you do while you learn.
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  9. Thanks for the feedback so far guys, do keep them coming. The mindset I have on motorbikes is: "learn fast or die fast". So ideally it would be logical to learn as much as possible each ride without crashing. Yes it is a shame nobody told me about tyre shine even though I have read all the cornering basics, so you want to ride a motorbike, and Flux's tips for making a bike dance. I apply these techniques frequently.

    Physically, I think that in the event if a tyre starts slipping (front or rear), the logical reaction would be to turn the front wheel into the corner while easing off the throttle. Easy to say and MAYBE easy to do, but it's feeling the limits that's the hard part. Feedback on this theory? In contrary, in the Ls test and book, we are taught to countersteer the slide (very much like a car) in the event of a slip.
  10. There are a few signs you can look for that will tell you that you maybe have exceeded it a little

    Attached Files:

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  11. Yes, those are good points. Don't use any kind of tyre black or tyre shine anywhere near a motorcycle. Not on the side-walls, not on the tread-face, not on the seat ... don't bring the can near the bike.

    The amount of grip available varies enormously, depending on many things. Wear and chronological age both make a difference. Tyre pressure, tyre temperature, the type and age of the asphalt itself, the presence of anything on the surface - like oil or sand or dust. (And water, obviously.) Bumps that seem to be very small and inconsequential when you're droning along straight can badly impair grip when you're leaned well over.

    Different brands and models of tyre, tyres built for different functions or market niches, all have differing levels of grip and different feel. Sporty Dunlop tyres are said to offer good grip and lots of feel and a very progressive break-away, once they're properly warm. I've had good experience with Michelin Powers and Pures, in terms of grip and feel. I find the feel particularly clear and easy to interpret with them. Grip is very good but not sensational. Some of the sportier Pirrellis offer what is probably the best grip on the market, in a road legal tyre, but the feel is somewhat lacking. Some people can read them, but I have trouble. Bridgestones usually have a fairly strong, stiff carcass, which can help with the toughness and longevity of the tyre, but it alters the feel, changes the way the tyre talks to you. The Metzler M5s I'm using now don't have a lot of feel unless you're pushing them pretty hard, but they let you know what you need to know. Grip is good, handling and steering are outstanding, but they're wearing out a little quicker than I thought they would. They seem to be very progressive and forgiving at break-away. They suit this bike (ZX14) beautifully, but they might not suite a smaller lighter bike as well.

    Be a little wary of the advice you get on things like this. People say things that are clever and funny for their friends, giving very bad advice. They don't expect you to go out and try it, or they just plain don't care. Bikes can also feel and behave quite differently for (say) a big person v a small person. What works for them may not work for you.

    Most of the time, on clean dry smooth asphalt, as newer rider who is being sensibly cautious, with tyres that are appropriately scrubbed in and free of slippery contaminants, you will not get anywhere near the limit of grip. Even a fairly agricultural tyre will offer more grip than you will ever approach. Unless you do something silly.

    [edit] That's a nice smile you got there bretto!
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  12. Dewd! That is some graphic material LOL. Nice surprise. Do get well soon and all the best ;)

    So kneedragon, what you're trying to say is get to know a type of tyre well? Would you recommend practising cornering and grip limitations in secluded factory areas? Don't mind falling again or a few times if that's what it takes to be safe and fast.
  13. #13 kneedragon, Oct 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2015
    Deserted factory areas can have dirty surfaces, which are quite slippery. Also, because you're working at low speeds a lot, the tyres don't really heat up, so they don't really get to the optimum grip temp. I like to find a road not too far from home, which has a few mid-speed corners, and go up and down it.

    Something like this


    or perhaps this.


    Note, these are long videos, esp the 2nd one.
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  14. I try to get a feel of how much pressure I can get out of braking. I know your changing K for G in forces. but it's still an amount of force.
    if I can comfortably pull X amount in braking the tyre should take it in cornering. As I am really only loading one wheel to near its grip level the the bigger one is dangling in the breeze.
    So yeah I corner up to that level of force. And a little bit more.
    The main thing when your playing hard it too keep your balance. And keep it very well.
    One of the purest feelings in riding is drifting both the wheels out of a corner.
    And to do that you have to be focused, loose and in total balance or you wont flow with it.
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  15. its just something that you learn. its a little hard to explain but i'll try.

    1 way (that really isnt testing the grip of a tyre) that you 'lose grip' is riding off the edge of the tyre. this is where you are leaning too far on the tyres, causing there to be less and less tyre on the road until one end starts to slide. with street tyres the rear usually goes first, and it will go away smoothly but suddenly. there wont be much 'bucking around' from the bike, but you really want to pick the bike up when this happens. i have a big issue with riding off the edge of tyres on the road as i am used to slick racing tyres, so when i get on a streetbike and hit up some turns the first few the bike goes all sideways until i re-adjust.

    but the real way i use to judge grip is with the throttle and brake while the bike is leaned over. i go around a turn at a certain speed then while leaned i will open the throttle until the bike just starts to break traction and then i will just work out what the grip level is like from previous times. if i can open the throttle alot, then the grip is high. if only a little then i know its low and i'm close to the limit. when i get very close to the rear grip limit the bike will start going sideways a little, and a little bouncing from the shock will happen. the bike will be steering from the rear, and the line i take will tighten if i dont adjust the bars. when the bike is like this, i know that i really have to be careful with the throttle, as only a little more and the rear wheel will break loose properly and lowside the bike.

    same with the front, but you have to be more careful as a front slide isnt as much fun as a rear slide. i will come into a turn trail braking and see how much brake i can apply before it chatters (or patters). you will get a vibrating feeling through the handlebars when this happens and it means you're basically just over the bikes capabilities. the front wheel will be skipping across the road, pushing you wide.

    its hard to explain all this stuff over the net, and even in person it is still hard to do. you really just have to read a few things, and in your riding just think about them. soon enough you will start to figure out what was complete bs and what works. its hard for me personally to go through this because it all came so easily to me. i just jumped on a roadbike and it all just happened haha.

    just one point though - how far a rider can lean a bike doesn't show the skill of the rider, its how much throttle and brake they can use while the bike is leaned over that shows the skill.

    also, alot of the crashes from new riders are probably from rider errors, not a lack of grip.
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  16. The Simple Answer.

    You get your butt off the side of the seat, shift your shoulders and weight to the inside of the corner and put your knee out and down. With practice you will get into a position that when your knee touches the ground you will be very close to the limits of you tyres. Deceleration and acceleration at this time reduces that limit.


    As for how do you know when your out of traction. Trust me, you'll feel it.

    Ride within your abilities. You will improve with practice. DON'T rush the learning curve. You could develop bad habits or worse, bring about an unnecessary accident.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. what happened to your back?
  18. So does a squealing front tyre indicate your close to the limit?

    Had this for the first time last weekend on the last big right hand bend coming down the mountain in to Lithgow.

    Came in pretty hot, the bike felt fine but I'm pretty confident it was the front rather than the rear.
  19. Two lower and one upper disc bulging and cant get them back in.
    I need the tape so I know I am standing strait. Otherwise I bend to the right.