When The Racing Line Could Kill You

Just because certain lines work on the track doesn’t mean they won’t get you into trouble on the street.

Car crossing head-on into motorcycle
The minivan is in your lane, that’s true, and it’ll take fast reflexes and the discipline to look away from it to execute your escape. Are you up to it?©Motorcyclist

Here’s the scenario: You have the afternoon off from work so you decide to rip up and down the twisty canyon roads. You recently attended a track day where the instructors put a lot of emphasis on cornering lines…what some people call the “racing” line. You learned that by entering a curve from the outside, swooping inside toward the apex and then letting the bike drift wide at the exit, you can go through the corner faster with less lean angle. Since then, you also learned that this “outside-inside-outside” line allows you a better angle of view into curves when riding on the street. With this new knowledge, you started using this line on almost every corner with good results.

About an hour into your ride, you come upon a very tight blind corner that spirals downhill to the right around a barren cliff. As usual, you set up wide to the left near the centerline and just begin to lean into the curve when suddenly you see a minivan coming up the hill in the other direction with his left wheels well into your lane. You stare at the front bumper as it closes in fast and try to lean the bike harder into the turn to get away, but it’s too late. Your bike glances off the minivan and you’re knocked to the ground. The next thing you know, you’re staring into the face of an EMS worker asking your name.

You are smart to explore beneficial tools like cornering lines, but you also must know that, unlike the racetrack, the street riding environment does not always allow use of the ideal line. In this case, you should have predicted the danger and slowed down a bit more so you could make the turn from the middle of your lane, away from oncoming vehicles that may cut the corner. Also, next time you are faced with a hazard, look to the escape rather than the problem to avoid the target fixation trap. Live and learn.