Street Savy: What a Drag

Slow turning smoothly and confidently

Street motorcycles are not the most agile animals in the motoring forest. They're more nimble than our four-wheeled friends, for sure, but they're not nearly as maneuverable as, say, your '83 Honda CR480R or '70s-spec Schwinn Sting Ray.

The stability inherent in today's streetbikes is a welcome thing when you're haulin'. But what about when you're picking your way through a really crowded parking lot, or through stopped traffic on the freeway? Once in a while you need to thread your way through tightly spaced cars or other obstacles, and doing so while keeping the bike from lurching around is not easy.

But here's a trick that can make such maneuvers a lot easier. Use the rear brake. We know what you're thinking; "Rear brake? They might as well tell me to steer left to turn right." (That one works, too; try it sometime.)

Maneuvering a 400-plus-pound streetbike within tight confines is tricky business, especially in terms of throttle and steering inputs. Too much throttle and you overshoot; too much front brake and you stop short, the chassis pitching forward violently. It's a hobbyhorse type of thing.

So, try dragging the rear brake when you're pirouetting around a tight obstacle. Use throttle and clutch to provide smooth and constant forward motion, but use the rear brake to regulate it. Unlike the front brake, which can make the bike pitch forward when it's applied, the rear brake keeps the chassis steady, which is just the thing you need when you're carving a 2-mph turn around that Cadillac's bumper.

Don't believe us? Give it a try in an empty and grease-free parking lot sometime. Try turning circles with your handlebar up against the right or left stop; go slowly in first gear, push the bar all the way left or right, lean the bike over a bit, keep the throttle steady and practice using the rear brake to regulate forward motion and keep the bike from lurching. With practice, you'll get quite good at it and you'll be ready to tackle those tight parking-lot confines with confidence, even if said parking lot is your neighborhood freeway.

... the rear brake keeps the chassis steady, which is just the thing you need when you're carving a 2-mph turn around that Cadillac's bumper.