World Superbike Champion
Join Date: Jul 2011
I Ride: 2012 Ninja ZX6R (Rin), 2015 KLR
Roll off: True Newbies Read
Please forgive me if this post makes no sense, because I'm a little tipsy (Read: Jameson), but I thought of this when I was on a ride this weekend and still think it's a good idea, somehow. I've seen some new riders popping up here and there, so maybe this will be handy. Of course, it was so cold that my brain might have frozen, so maybe you should move on....
I would love if the expert riders would contribute, clarify and correct me where necessary (I've much to learn, too!).
I wanted to bring up a riding technique (specifically, a throttle control technique) that is vastly underappreciated among new riders. Specifically, the number of videos I see of riders with all the right gear and nice bikes that end up plastics down due to sudden throttle chops has driven me to the magnanimity of elucidating the point: roll off (do not chop) the throttle.
Briefly, by a roll-off I mean you don't let the throttle slip closed or jam it closed suddenly. Instead, you keep your grip and close the throttle with control, specifically actuating it to decrease the amount of throttle mindfully.
Remember that even given the presence of a slipper clutch on your modern, high performance cornering device, the engine slowing the motorbike achieves primarily wear on the engine, but secondarily and most importantly drag forces over which you have no control.
The reason the strongest brake is in your right hand is that your hand, being more dextrous than your foot, will provide the most precise control of the drag forces slowing your motorbike. The rationale for this is that slowing the cycle will transfer the weight to the front (your thinner tire, with the smaller traction patch), so you want to be very precise in doing so.
However, when you chop the throttle, you allow the engine to brake with no deference to your will. Not only is engine braking out of your control, but it is sudden, ever present and nigh unpredictable since the degree of drag will vary with your current speed. The brake allows for the precise application of drag, the engine applies it at a constant rate based on its friction regardless of your input.
Particularly in cornering, this will destabilize the bike, result in the wrong weight distribution and, if you're at your traction limit on the rear tire, possibly produce a quick high-side.
The point? A slow, or at least smooth roll-off with the throttle will reduce the sudden impulse of resulting drag. In mid corner (upon noticing a hazard or finding traffic) it will give you an opportunity to hold your lean angle rather than standing the bike up and going wide (an immediate result of increase weight and drag on the front tire).
The place to practice this, I have found, is on the highway. With long straights where all you have to consider is the joy handle, it's easy to attentively practice the roll off and notice the results. With a smooth roll-off, you will notice the forces throwing the bike forward, even at highway speed, aren't as pronounced. The bike will feel stabled and controlled, and so will you. You'll become accustomed to this there, and when you're mid-corner and come up on a minivan moving 20 mph slower than you are you'll be ready.
As an added bonus, the smooth rolloff will require that you anticipate your moves on the highway, which I found enhanced the precision of my negotiation of traffic. Remember that one of the downsides of your weightless machine is your ability to change velocity unpredictably. If you're smoother, other drivers are (slightly) better able to anticipate your path.