A few weeks ago, I was out riding my motorcycle and enjoying what I consider the start of Florida’s best riding season, winter. I was heading to a local biker hangout and found myself behind a couple of other riders: a man on a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and a woman on a Sportster. It looked like they were headed to the same restaurant. Just prior to getting to this location, there are three stop signs about one block apart. At the last stop sign, you have to make a 90-degree right turn and then a quick left into the restaurant’s parking lot.
As I approached the first stop sign, the guy on the Ultra in front of me made a full stop in the left side of his lane and looked left and right, waiting for traffic to clear. The woman on the Sportster came to a shaky stop in the right side of the lane, about 10 feet behind the guy. She never looked left or right. Instead, she looked only at the guy in front of her. He pulled out when traffic cleared, and she followed. I could hear her over-revving the motor as she slipped the clutch while trying to start off smoothly. She was duck-walking her motorcycle as she tried to get going, still looking dead ahead. It took her so long to get through the intersection that the driver of a car on the cross street without a stop sign had to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting her. At the next stop sign, it was the same story, except luckily there was no cross traffic.
As they approached the third stop sign where you have to make a 90-degree right turn and then a left into the parking lot after about 50 feet, I thought to myself, “This ain’t gonna be pretty.” The guy made the right and quick left and pulled into a parking spot. The woman, though, stopped again in the extreme right part of her lane. This time she looked left and saw no cars coming, so she decided to make the right at the stop sign. Instead of looking to the right where she wanted to go, she looked directly at a car that was coming in the opposite lane. Sure enough, she started heading right toward that car. Just as she was about to cross the center line and collide with the car, she snatched the front brake on her motorcycle. Because her handlebars were pointed slightly to the right, she went down hard and fast. The car swerved a bit and went on its way. I quickly jumped off my motorcycle and helped her pick up hers. She wasn’t hurt but was obviously very embarrassed, as several people in the parking lot also observed the incident. She thanked me, got back on the motorcycle and duck-walked it across the road and into the parking lot. The guy who’d been riding with her was standing there shaking his head.
I then pulled in next to the two of them. I was trying to think of a tactful way to give her a few helpful tips, so I started with, “Just started riding, have ya?” From the look she gave me, I could see my question wasn’t nearly as tactful as it sounded before my lips started moving. “For your information, I’ve been riding for 10 years,” she snapped back. As I began taking my helmet off and trying to figure out how to get my foot out of my mouth, her angry look turned to a surprised smile. She said, “Hey, you’re that guy from SPEED TV.” I nodded and was about to introduce myself when she turned to the guy with her and said, “What’s his name? We watch him all the time.” The guy blurted out, “Motorman.” She then looked at the decal on my tank and said, “You’re the Ride Like a Pro guy!” Then she added, “Now I’m really embarrassed. I’m really a good rider out on the road. It’s just the slow stuff that gets me every time.” With the ice broken, I was able to explain to her how she could prevent the situation from happening again.
Because I’ve seen many riders, both “experienced” and “inexperienced,” with similar problems when turning from a stop, here’s the easy way to do it.
First, if you’re going to turn right at a stop sign, stop in the extreme left portion of your lane at an angle facing toward the right. This accomplishes two things. You’re already facing in the direction you want to go, and because you’re in the left side of your lane, you’ve got 12 feet or more to go straight before you have to turn your handlebars. The more time you have to turn your bars, the easier it is. Next, once you’ve made sure no traffic is coming from the left, turn your head and eyes to the right and look way ahead at the lane you want to pull into. Never look at the yellow line or oncoming traffic. Stay in the friction zone until the bike is going straight ahead down your lane.
You can practice this on a deserted road or, even better, in an empty parking lot. With a little practice using the clutch and throttle and a little pressure on the rear brake, you should start challenging yourself. By that, I mean start making the turn sharper and sharper. Eliminate the start-off angle. With enough practice, you should be able to make a sharp right turn starting off with the handlebars at full lock right from a dead stop. When you can do that, you’ll never have to worry about turning too wide.
About the Author
Jerry Palladino is the founder of Ride Like A Pro, Inc., a company that produces motorcycle instructional DVDs and books. Jerry also teaches classes to experienced riders who want to enhance their motorcycle skills. VisitRideLikeAPro.com.
47 thoughts on Riding Right: No More Wide Turns
I really like Motorman’s “Ride Like a Pro.” I watch him all the time and although I think I’m a pretty good rider I still listen to him and get pointers so I can be a better rider. Thanks for the tips and support in this matter.
Good article. My biggest problem is turning left. I have been riding practically all my life. Since I retired and got a Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited, I’ve dumped it twice leaning to the left. I have a bad left knee but I’ve been thrown off the bike quickly twice and don’t like it—it hurts. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong after all these years it just feels very uncomfortable and of course I do not feel I have control of the bike at that point. Any thoughts?
Hi Rudy,It’s pretty difficult to try to figure out what you are struggling with from my armchair. It’s always helpful to take a refresher course to get some practice and coaching, like the MSF Advanced RiderCourse or BRC2.No matter how long you’ve been riding, these classes are worthwhile and a great way to practice proper riding techniques in the safety of a closed course.Good luck!
When you stop and for a sharp 90-degree turn, turn your handlebars to the way you want to go, at your dead stop, then it’s all throttle control from there. Slow and look where you are to go next—not at traffic or the wrong lane. You do not need to lean the bike if you’re at that slow speed, but will need to straighten out your bars once you have accomplished the 90-degree turn. Practice.
While I agree with some of his instructions, I disagree with his suggestion to stay left in the right lane when making a right turn as it allows a car to slip next to you on your right, hopefully not hitting you as they do. Stay more centered and make sure your turn indicators are being used. As a rider for over 32 years, I’ve encountered problems with cars not following the rules of the road, and their impatience.
Thank you. Been riding less than a year and I still stuggle a bit with these turns. I am improving, but still. I will practice this and luckily I have an empty parking lot across the street from where I live.
At a stop sign and making a right-hand turn, I never get clear over as far as I can to the left of the lane because as soon as I take off somebody can pull beside me on the right hand side. If I was on the left hand side they could think I was turning to the left. Most people don’t even look at my blinker, they look where I am positioned.
Your advice on position in the lane prior to turning is what I was missing when I was a novice (after a couple of years I now feel that I have moved from novice to beginner). This kept tripping me up. It seemed intuitive to be far right in the right lane for a right turn or far left in the left lane for a left turn. But intuition can be wrong! I had looked at a dozen videos and websites but yours was the first to discuss position in the lane prior to a turn. I think that being far right in the left lane for a left turn or far left in the right lane for a right turn allows the turn to begin immediately and thereby hit the spot in the turn as intended. Thanks for the essay. It helped!
I bought my first bike last year—a 2008 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic. I completed the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy two Aprils ago as a refresher course even though I have a license already. But it’s been since the early 1980s I last rode. Being 52 and getting back in the saddle again was definitely a challenge but I was totally up to it.I passed the riding course with a good score but I put my foot down and lost points doing figure-eights in the box and other slow maneuvers. I now ride two-up with my wife and plan on taking the next level riding course that covers this more using your own bike. (FYI, I have Jerry “Motorman” Paladino’s Ride Like a Pro CDs on my Christmas wish list this year.) Thanks for the tips and keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.
I need all the advice that I can get. I learned a lot from the clip “wide turns.” I still have fear of riding alone. My son and I would ride together, but things have changed and I want to start riding again. I want to meet more riders. But the fear is still there to ride alone. Any advice would be very helpful. Thank you.
As a new rider at 56 years old, I need all the help I can get. Thanks Jerry!
Thanks! I’ll practice this right away as I’m a beginner and definitely have this issue.
I used to dread riding around town with all the stop lights and signs. But I hvae gotten the hang of using the friction zone, throttle and rear brake maneuver.I have watched so many of Mr. Palladino’s YouTube clips and they sure helped me overcome some of my fears. Practice really does make perfect, and presence of mind helps tremendously.
Great article. Never be embarrassed to admit that you have trouble doing anything on a slow moving motorcycle. Take another course if you need to. I learned a lot watching the police putting on the golden helmets ride. Take as much time to ride slow as the time you take to clean your machine. Ride safe.
I’ve been riding alone always, so it’s great when I find out I’ve figured how to do some thing right on my own or someone says something that helps me fine tune what I’m doing.
I read this article a couple of weeks ago. It reiterated what I had learned in my Motorcycle Safety Foundation class. Yesterday I test rode a motorcycle much larger than the one I’m used to. I got to a tight turn on an unfamiliar road, with a car in the other lane. As I approached the turn, the words of this article came back to me. I steered to the left side of my lane. I looked down the road where I wanted to be, kept my head and eyes up. I feel like I took that turn on that larger motorcycle as well as, or better than, I do on my smaller one. These articles help me be a better rider. Thank you.
I truly enjoy all the information that is given here and I watch a lot of videos as well on Riding Like A Pro on YouTube. Excellent advice on the turning. I have been riding my own for four years at 64 now and I used to make my right turns too wide and well, only took a couple of times of doing that I remembered what my instructor says, “Look where ya wanna go.”I truly love riding and enjoy all the safety tips given. We all can always learn something that is safe for us. Also on the hill thing well, I also read here about using the back brake on a hill and by George it worked. Thanks for all the wonderful things you folks put out here. As we have enough problems just trying to make sure no one hits us, let alone being our worst enemy. Ride safe and keep the shiny side up.
When I started riding in 1985, right hand turns were the scariest. (Dropping it was worse when you had to get up and kickstart you bike) in 2012 I sold my old Shovelhead (26 years of service) and got a Dyna. After all these years of riding, I did it again! I was so ashamed, dropped the new bike on a righthand turn. I am comfortable with the new bike now, but I want to try and practice this, just to conquer any lingering uneasiness in crowded places like in the story.
This is what I have a problem with also. Very good advice. Thank you.
Very good information! Just started reading the site.
I do well on my own, but,in a large group where it’s “crowded” or when traffic is heavy and cars are driving crazy I lose my focus. I become distracted by worrying about where THEY are going and forget to keep my eyes where I want to be. I had a windshield on my Sporty and this actually seemed to help me keep my chin up and eyes ahead. Thank you for the info. It is very helpful!
At age 47 I just got a bike for Christmas. So far the right turn at a stop into traffic has been my scariest challenge. Thank you so much for this informatio.n I will definitely try it next time I’m out.
Seen Jerry (the Motorman) and his riding team at this year’s Tennessee HOG State Rally, 2013. I have been riding more than 30 years now, and when it came to parting with 25 bucks for his DVD, Ride Like A Pro, I figured, never too old to learn something new. Additionally, I taught my wife, daughter and son to ride and figured they could benefit too. Jerry also conducts live riding classes.After reviewing the riding materials Jerry’s sells—I rarely recommend anything because then you take ownership of that advice—I can sincerely recommend the Motorman’s training materials. They are worth the investment, that is, if you enjoy life, and love to ride. I’ve learned some good new riding fundamentals as well as some advanced riding tips. I love to ride my Harley-Davidson Softail Nightrain (FXSTB – 1999), however, I also have a bagger, a Road Glide Ultra Screaming Eagle – CVO (FLTRUSE 2011). Especially if you ride a bagger, buy the DVD. Anyone who rides a Bagger with a passenger know it takes solid riding skills, but anyone could benefit from Jerry’s riding materials.
I have more trouble making tight left turns. Always looking down…can’t seem to break this habit, then I panic and at the last minute make the turn but real sloppy.
These hints were exactly what I was looking for. I am a new rider at age 54 and during the safety course I realized I, as well as others, were having much difficulty with the right hand turns. My husband and I are getting our new bikes this week and all I can think about is riding and making those right hand turns in my dreams. This article was very helpful.
Thanks Jerry. I’m soaking everything in. Alll good advice is sound advice!
Your hint was very helpful. I shall try it as soon as I get my bike back from the shop being overhauled.. I am a newbie, just got my bike licence last fall. Any helpful hints sure helps me build my confidence. I got on a bike for the first time in the course I took. It was great, but haven’t been on a motorcycle since. A little nervous…
Great article! I am a new rider, three weeks, weekend practice. This was something I was not comfortable with, so read your article, watched the video, and practiced all weekend. Looking forward to getting off of work today and ride on the street feeling a lot more comfortable with those turns from a stop. Thank you!
I ride a 750 Honda Shadow. Mhusband has a Gold Wing. I am 5 feet 120 pounds. I would love for him to give me a chance at holding it up or at least let me try.
Thank you Jerry. I’m still a new rider and I really like the info. Actually, I’m trying to be like a sponge and absorb any and all info given. Again thank you.
Aren’t these articles on how to be a better rider just the greatest! Lisa in NC: I can relate, as I too have a SG. Did you know that you can go to the Ride Like A Pro Web site and contact Jerry and Donna Palladino? I am sure they will address your question to set your mind at ease! My humble thought is that you are not looking where you want to go–not turning your head (and eyes) enough. I’ve had my bike a few years now and have managed to turn that baby around in one lane simply by “pretending” I’m an owl. That is, turning my head–really turning it, not just a glance. Give it a try in an empty lot and see if that makes a difference to you. All the best, everyone.
Thanks Jerry. Can never take safe maneuvers for granted. They take practice, and you gave us the tools.
Great article! At our motorcycle school (On the Road Again), we work on right hand turns from a stop a lot. It’s one of the most challenging things to do, and as Jerry said, not only for new riders! Experienced riders who can do it well usually can’t help new riders with it because they have been riding so long, it just comes naturally; they can’t explain what they are doing. An instructor or MSF RiderCoach can break down the steps and articulate the action needed, just as the Motorman did. Once you know what to do, it’s a matter of practice.
Thanks so much Jerry. Being confident and safe with your motorbike is 99.99 percent of riding.
During the winter months I spend a lot of time reading articles on safety and proficient motorcycling. Skills get rusty and we can never know too much about the safe and correct way to handle our bikes. Excellent article. Thanks as always!
Great article, sitting at my desk practicing. I always love to read these articles; you can always learn something new. I will be practicing this one in an empty parking lot soon. Would like to have an article on starting on a hill, I always look to turn just so I don’t stop on a steep hill because of past problems, so a little help with that would help me.
Here’s our article in the Riding Right section on starting out on a hill. You should get some good tips there.
Thank you for the article. I never get tired of reading about safety – you can never get enough tips on riding. Jerry Palladino’s “Ride Like A Pro” video helped me tremendously with driving slow as in town and making slow turns with the friction and feathering the back brake techniques. Everyone should try this technique. They would not have any problems with making tight turns.
The Ride like a Pro DVD has been a god send for me, particularly turning right from a dead stop. I have a right turn at a stop sign that’s on a hill and it took a lot of practice in order for me to feel confident enough to maneuver it successfully. I can’t emphasize how important the regular practice in the school parking lot near my home has been for me. I watch the video often…and continue to practice going slow and making those tight turns. I am 5 feet 1 inch and ride a 750 right now, but I hope to progress to a larger bike in the future. The techniques in the video will help me accomplish that goal.
Thank you so much for sharing this article. I have a lot of respect for Jerry and Donna (his wife). The DVD Ride Like a Pro has helped me a lot. It is also a good DVD to watch during the winter months when you can’t ride. Keeps you from getting rusty.
Great! Very helpful info. One never has enough information and practice to do on their motorcycle no matter how long one has been riding.
I always start with two words… “Rider’s Course,” and if they tell me they have been riding awhile I tell them three words…”Experienced Riders Course.” I took the Rider’s Course in 2006, and I know I could take it again and learn something new. Experience is fine, but we can all use a little “fine tuning” now and then.
I’m glad to see this article. Up until about four years ago, I rode as a passenger with my husband and decided I wanted to ride my own. I started riding at 44 on a Heritage Softail and now have a 2010 Street Glide. Me and my husband enjoy riding together. The one thing that bothers me, is the turns from a stop. I too get nervous about turning too wide and hesitate before turning into traffic, even going the opposite direction. My husband says I’m thinking about it too much.Now we have both watched the video Ride like a Pro and it does demonstrate the steps on the friction zone. My husband started doing this after watching the video and he says it’s really helped him. He’s ridden about 20 years and until watching video and learning this technique, he says it’s helped him a lot. I guess I just need to go to a vacant parking lot and practice this. I do want to get over this fear.
This is really good. I’ve seen so many riders make wide right hand turns onto the oncoming lane of traffic. I took Ride Like a Pro April 2010 and it is such a good class. I took it with some ladies from the Women On Wheels Capital Cruisers Chapter. One lady had ridden about one or two summers on a Yamaha Virago 250cc. Even though she struggled in the riding exercises she learned a lot of good riding techniques and so did I. Awesome class Motorman!