5 Tips for Low-Speed Riding

The lowdown for when you slow down.

street savvy motorcycle riding tips
Slow-speed riding can be tricky, and it requires a specific set of skills.Motorcyclist

Unless you’re somehow not subject to the laws of gravity, you likely feel a bit wobbly during slow-speed parking-lot maneuvers. This is because the stabilizing effect of inertia and the gyroscopic forces imparted by your bike’s wheels diminish as speed decreases, giving gravity the upper hand. Staying upright and balanced requires a deft orchestration of clutch, throttle, and brake, along with precise lean and steering angles, body positioning, and visual focus. Putting all these pieces together is challenging, but we’ve got a few tips that will make slow-speed riding a little less nerve-racking.

Since your bike is less stable at slow speeds, it’s important to maintain smooth, steady drive. A lot of bikes’ throttles are too sensitive for precise control at a walking pace, so it’s best to keep the throttle steady and instead use the clutch to control speed. Locking the throttle by anchoring your thumb or index finger against the handlebar switch pod can be helpful.

For even more exact control, drag the rear brake. Not only is it great for fine-tuning your speed, but it also has the beneficial effect of increasing stability by putting some tension in the drivetrain and rear suspension. The front brake on most bikes is quite powerful, and even a light pull on the lever is going to shift weight forward, compress the fork, steepen steering geometry, and upset the stability you’re working so hard to maintain. Reserve the front brake for stopping, not adjusting your speed.

Now that you know how to preserve slow-speed stability, it’s time to make a tight turn. While it’s common to lean off the inside of the bike in faster corners, at slow speeds you’ll want to keep your body upright and let the motorcycle lean beneath you by shifting your weight to the outer edge of the seat, dirt-bike style. Keep your feet on the footpegs to stabilize your body and so you can use the rear brake as needed to regulate your speed. Of course, if you mess up and need to put a foot down, do it.

Yes, leaning a bike at slow speed is unnerving, but it is required. Remember that you can lean quite a bit without falling as long as you maintain enough momentum to counteract gravity. Being loose on the handlebars allows quick and fluid adjustments to maintain your balance, and remember to keep your eyes up, even if you get nervous.

Slow-speed riding can be tricky, and it requires a specific set of skills. As always, practice makes perfect, so spend some time riding slowly to get used to slow-speed balance. Use the clutch, throttle, and rear brake technique to creep along slowly. You know you have good balance if you don’t need to saw the handlebars back and forth to stay on course. Now put all the pieces together to make slow U-turns. With a bit of courage and a lot of practice, you’ll be the master of your local parking lot.