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Better riding: Light is right

Shubhabrata Marmar  | Published: September 23, 2013, 04:26 PM IST

Before we dive in, I'd like you to try two things. First, take a pen and piece of paper. Write down a random sentence in your best handwriting. Now do it again, but while holding the pen in the tightest, hardest grip you can muster. See the difference? The tighter grip damages your ability to finesse the pen and makes your handwriting look much worse.

Next get on your bike and see how much effort is required to operate the throttle, pull in the clutch, change gears and use both of the brakes.

The physical effort needed to open the throttle is a constant. Whether you're already going at 30kmph or 300kmph, opening the throttle requires the same amount of energy. This is also true of the clutch lever and of light braking. Full on panic braking requires both more force and more technique.

The tight grip on the handlebar corrupts your ability to steer precisely while the tight grip on the throttle side also reduces your precisionThe tight grip on the handlebar corrupts your ability to steer precisely while the tight grip on the throttle side also reduces your precision

The point of this is quite simple to understand, and as usual, a lot harder to practice, learn and internalise. The next time you're out riding, focus for a moment on how hard you're gripping the handlebars. The ideal is to hold them just tightly enough so a bump can't shake your hands off the bars, no tighter. What is more likely is that you're not using your lower body to hold on to the motorcycle and using the handlebar as a thing to hold. Which it isn't. It is a finely tuned instrument for steering, not holding on.

The tight grip on the handlebar corrupts your ability to steer precisely while the tight grip on the throttle side also reduces your precision as far as throttle control is concerned. If you use excessive pressure on the brake levers, similarly, modulation becomes harder as well. In effect, the harder you use your hands and feet, the less precise your riding becomes. Your handwriting, as it were, gets worse.

The solution is to sit right and grip light. Sitting right means using everything from the hip to the ankle to grip the bike as tightly as possible. Whatever your body touches in this area is a valid grip point. In our years of testing, we have used the tanks, side panels, heel plates, chassis tubes - all as places to grip the motorcycle tightly. This isn't a natural technique and requires conscious effort. A great reward for a good ride should be pain on the outside of your thighs from the effort of holding yourself firmly on the bike.

What this will do is take the pressure of having to carry your weight on the handlebars automatically loosening your grip and bringing to you more precise inputs. A light grip also allows the chassis and steering to respond to the road and absorb the road better giving you more grip and far greater confidence.

Want to ride smoother? This is perhaps the most important physical skill involved outside of throttle control.

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