Controlling your motorcycle and maintaining balance, has much to do with how you position your own center of gravity (COG) relative to that of the motorcycle. Sudden transfers of weight or an unevenly distributed load can throw you off balance and have you greeting the pavement.
Balancing your workload and personal responsibilities, prioritizing your activities and learning to say no, helps you manage your power and energy levels. Looking after yourself is the first step in looking after others and fulfilling your purpose.
9 ways to manage power through balance
- Shift weight to front. The force from rapid acceleration will pull you backwards on the bike, lightening the front end. When done to extremes, you “pop a wheelie”. To combat this, move your weight forward. Likewise, sudden increases in speed at work or home can throw you off balance. Move your load of work and responsibilities around if you’re going to sprint.
- Shift weight to back. Usually a result of panic or an impulse, grabbing a handful of front brake will cause rapid deceleration and transfer your weight forward. Consciously shifting your weight back will help keep the back end down, and you on the bike. Thinking through life situations and preparing for contingencies can help avoid reactive decisions which can unbalance you.
- Jump obstacles. Cruising down the highway and having a muffler or ladder suddenly appear in your path, leaves you no choice but to go over it. Increase your chances of remaining upright by transferring the center of gravity. Applying a shot of gas transfers your weight back and lightens the front end, making it easier to go over the obstacle. As you’re crossing it, letting off on the throttle moves your weight forward, lightening the back end for it’s crossing. Overcoming obstacles in life is no different. You may need to make temporary changes before continuing on your way.
- Maintain control during slow times. Common as it is, losing your balance and dropping your bike on a slow speed turn is downright embarrassing, especially when you have an audience. To avoid this, use the energy of resistance by riding the clutch, shift your weight and use the rear brake only. This helps you maintain traction, stay upright and look cool. Sometimes the only way to maintain balance when life throws you a curve is to use the energy of the resistance you feel and shift your load to help.
- Gain control in loose conditions. An inexperienced rider’s first impulse when hitting an unexpected patch of gravel is to let off on the throttle. This transfers weight forward and lightens the back end, which can then slide around. Keeping at least some throttle on, keeps the weight back, over the rear wheel and maintaining traction. Standing up and lowering the COG also helps. Life has rough spots too. Maintaining momentum, even at reduced speed helps with balance, keeps you from getting mired down and prevents loss of control.
- Pack weight low. Carrying weight up high and raising the COG makes it hard to balance, especially at slow speeds, corners or stretches with reduced traction. Because it’s top-heavy, it affects handling and takes more effort to manage the weight. To stay healthy, you need to balance attention to body, mind and spirit. Place too much emphasis on mind or spirit at the expense of your physical body and you lose your grounding.
- Pack weight evenly. Even when packed low, weight needs to be evenly distributed. Too much weight in one saddlebag makes it harder to maintain control at slow speeds and through corners. Inexperienced riders fail to realize this until they run into trouble. Just as in life. Sometimes it takes losing your equilibrium and falling before you realize life was out of balance.
- Keep your suspension healthy. The suspension is your bike’s support system. Keeping it in tune is what allows the bike to respond predictably to weight transfer. Manufacturers spend many hours having professionals design, test and fine-tune the suspension before releasing it for sale. However incorrect alterations, improper maintenance can cause handling problems. Keep your support system healthy too. These are the relationships with family, friends and community – those who support you during good times and bad – who can be counted on to help you stay balanced.
- Know yourself. Where the COG is, depends on the design and function of your motorcycle. A bike with a low COG feels more stable at lower speeds but isn’t as smooth cornering and it takes greater effort to shift weight from side to side. Understanding your bike’s configuration is essential to understanding how to use weight transfer to maintain balance. Know yourself and what throws you off balance.
Learning to maintain balance, whether on your motorcycle or life’s road, happens through practice, perseverance and resilience. It’s worth the effort though so your response is second nature. Although you can’t control the things that happen around you, staying centered and responding appropriately will help you remain balanced through life’s ups and downs.
NOTE: An excellent way to learn how weight transfer affects motorcycle handling, and how to maintain control in a supervised setting (and on someone else’s bike), is to take an off-road training course, such as that offered at S.M.A.R.T. Program’s school.