Hairpins are challenging and not for the faint hearted. When I was preparing to tackle my first mountain, I had to take cornering practices to get rid of my dread. After a while, I realized anxiety was my biggest problem. It so happens that I wasn’t the only one.
Working in the motorcycle imports industry has given me the opportunity to visit different countries as I try out different machines. If you are planning to ride hairpins and switchbacks, here are my two cents on how to survive them.
The first thing you need to do is practice. Hairpins need you to be confident while choosing a cornering line and tilting the heck out of your motorbike. Parking lot tight turns should be your best friend. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Have exceptional slow-speed control to avoid tipping over when you are just in the middle of a corner. Maintain steadiness using sturdy throttle and clutch control. Some of the tightest turns need you to apply counterweighting and the rear brake.
Another thing is keeping an uphill momentum. The good thing is that gravity favors you when going uphill helping you slow down for turns. Step on the gas early enough to maintain stability but not too early to run wide. On the other hand, gravity works against you downhill so you have to use more force to brake. It’s always good to brake early to reduce the intensity of the braking force.
You need to learn how to help your bike turn. This is done by braking past the turn-in point then holding the light brake pressure. Do this until the bike is pointed around the turn then fully release the brakes as you continue to lean in. To keep your bike properly aligned, use the rear brake and maintain the pressure on them after you’ve applied and released the front brakes. This helps minimize your forward pitch and hook the bike around sharp turns.
To keep your speed up and stabilize the chassis, gradually accelerate immediately as you approach mid-corner. This way, your riding path is predictable. You don’t want your bike to be making wide exits so ensure you release the brakes smoothly while cracking the throttle.
Lastly, you got to remember you aren’t the only one using the winding road. You’ll have busses, cyclists, or cars with you. Watch the traffic and plan ahead to avoid any accidents.