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Section Six - Roadway Management

Situations change constantly on the road. As a responsible rider, you know how important it is to be in full control of the motorcycle. A responsible rider knows that good road management starts with knowledge and practice of SIPDE.

Cornering and Curves

Riding a motorcycle with traffic on a curve
Many crash-involved riders enter curves too fast and are unable to complete the curve. Although every curve is different, the basic cornering procedure – slow, look, roll, press – applies to all curves.
Your best path in a curve depends on traffic, road conditions and curve of the road. If traffic is present:
  • Move to the center of your lane before entering a curve – and stay there until you exit. Look all the way through the turn.
  • This permits you to spot approaching traffic, adjust for traffic “crowding” the centerline and adjust for debris blocking part of your lane.
If no traffic is present:Riding a motorcycle with no traffic on a curve
  • Start at the outside of a curve to increase your line of sight. Look all the way through the turn to the exit.
  • As you turn, move toward the inside of the curve, and as you pass the center, move to the outside to exit. This will create a straighter line through the curve.
Be alert to whether a curve remains constant, gradually widens, gets tighter or involves multiple curves. Ride within your skill level and posted speed limits. Choose a path of travel that creates a straighter line through the curve as long as traffic permits.

Crash Avoidance

No matter how careful you are, there will be times when you find yourself in a difficult spot. Your chances of avoiding a crash and possible injury will depend on your ability to respond quickly and properly. Two critical crash avoidance skills you will need to learn and practice are stopping quickly and swerving.

Stopping Quickly

Stopping a motorcycle quickly and safely is a skill that requires a lot of practice.

This is accomplished by applying controlled pressure to both the front and rear brakes at the same time without locking either wheel.

To do this:
  • Squeeze the front brake lever and apply pressure to the rear brake pedal smoothly at the same time. Do not apply maximum pressure to the front brake lever and rear brake pedal all at once. Gradually increase pressure to the front brake lever as weight is transferred forward to the front tire.
  • Keep your knees firmly against the tank and your eyes up, looking well ahead. Good riding posture will help you stop the motorcycle in a straight line and keep your weight from shifting forward.
  • If a wheel locks and skids, release pressure on that brake to get the tire rolling, then immediately reapply the brake with controlled gradual pressure.

Stopping Quickly in a Curve

If you must stop quickly while turning or riding in a curve, one technique is to straighten the motorcycle, square the handlebars and then stop. There may be conditions that do not allow straightening first, such as running off the road in a left-hand curve or dealing with oncoming traffic in a right-hand curve. In such situations, it is preferable to apply the brakes smoothly and gradually. As you slow, you can reduce your lean angle and apply more brake pressure until the motorcycle is straight and maximum brake pressure is possible. You should “straighten” or “square” the handlebars in the last few feet of stopping; the motorcycle should then be straight up.
image of proper braking on a motorcycle

Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

Some motorcycles use this technology to prevent wheel lock-up. If your motorcycle is equipped with anti-lock brakes apply maximum pressure on both the front and rear brakes as quickly and firmly as you can. You may feel a pulsation in the brakes; continue to hold brake pressure until you have completely stopped.

Proper braking - Neither wheel is locked and motorcycle is in alignment.

Excessive rear brake pressure locks rear wheel. Motorcycle is out of alignment and control.

Handling Skids

Here’s what to do when a skid cannot be avoided:
  • Front-Wheel Skids – If the front wheel locks, release the front brake immediately to get the wheel rolling again, then reapply the front brake smoothly, with increasing pressure. Front-wheel skids result in immediate loss of steering control and balance. Failure to fully release the brake lever immediately will result in a crash.
  • Rear-Wheel Skids – A skidding rear wheel is a dangerous condition, caused by too much rear brake pressure, which can also result in a crash. If the rear wheel locks, you lose the ability to change direction. If the rear wheel begins to skid, release the rear brake immediately and reapply the rear brake smoothly.


If braking is required, separate it from swerving. Brake before or after – never while swerving.

Swerving to avoid a crash may be appropriate if stopping isn’t a solution. A swerve is two consecutive countersteers to execute a sudden change in path or direction. Be sure you have enough time and space to swerve. To swerve:
  • Apply firm forward pressure to the handgrip located on the side you want to go. In other words, to swerve to the right, press the right handgrip. This will cause the motorcycle to lean quickly. The sharper the swerve, the more the motorcycle must lean.
  • Press on the opposite handgrip once you clear the obstacle to return to your original direction of travel.
  • Keep your body upright and allow the motorcycle to lean in the direction of the turn while keeping your knees against the tank and your feet solidly on the footrests.

    image of swerve then brake when on a motorcycle

Handling Hazardous Surfaces

Slippery Surfaces

On slippery surfaces, you should use added caution. Motorcycles handle better when ridden on surfaces with good traction. Maintaining balance and control is difficult on slippery surfaces.

To reduce your risk you can take certain preventative measures:
  • Reduce Speed – Slow down before you get to a slippery surface to lessen your chances of skidding and increase your following distance. Your motorcycle needs more distance to stop. And, it is particularly important to reduce speed before entering wet curves.
  • Avoid Sudden Moves – Any sudden changes in speed or direction can cause a skid. Be as smooth as possible if you speed up, shift gears, turn or brake.
  • Use Both Brakes – The front brake is still effective, even on a slippery surface. Squeeze the brake lever gradually to avoid locking the front wheel. Remember, use gentle pressure on the rear brake.
Surfaces that provide less traction include:image of how to ride a motorcycle on wet surfaces
  • Wet Surfaces – When it starts to rain, ride in the tire tracks left by cars and avoid pooled water and highway ruts. Often, the left tire track will be the best position, depending on traffic and other road conditions.
  • Snow- or Ice-Covered Surfaces – Snow melts faster on some sections of a road than on others. Patches of ice can occur in low or shaded areas and on bridges and overpasses. It is recommended you avoid snow- and ice-covered surfaces.
  • Shiny Surfaces – Metal covers, steel plates, bridge gratings, train tracks, lane markings, leaves and wooden surfaces can be very treacherous when wet.
  • Dirt, Sand and Gravel – On curves and ramps leading to and from highways, dirt, sand and gravel can collect along the sides of the road. Avoid sudden changes in speed and direction and choose a lane position that minimizes the risk of injury.
  • Oil Spots – Watch for these when you put your foot down to stop or park. You may slip and fall. Securing the proper footing will help you from losing your balance or falling.

Railroad Tracks, Trolley Tracks and Pavement Seams

Usually it is safer to ride straight within your lane to cross tracks. Turning to cross tracks at a 90 degree angle or parallel path can be more dangerous – your path may carry you into another lane of traffic. (See Diagram A.)

For track and road seams that run parallel to your path of travel, move far enough away from tracks, ruts or pavement seams to cross at a 45 to 90 degree angle. Then, make a quick, sharp turn. Edging across could catch your tires and throw you off balance. (See Diagram B.)

image of how to cross over train tracks on a motorcycle

Grooves and Gratings

Riding over rain grooves or metal bridge gratings may cause your motorcycle to weave. Maintain a steady speed and ride straight across.
images of riding a motorcycle on grooves and gratings

Uneven Surfaces or Obstacles
Watch out for uneven surfaces such as bumps, broken pavement, potholes or debris on the road.

Try to avoid obstacles by slowing or going around them. If you must go over the obstacle, first determine if it is possible. Approach it as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. Look where you want to go to control your path of travel. If you have to ride over the obstacle, you should:
  • Slow down as much as possible before contact.
  • Make sure the motorcycle is fully upright.
  • Rise slightly off the seat with your weight on the footrest to absorb the shock with your knees and elbows. This will help keep you from being thrown off the motorcycle.
  • Just before contact, roll on the throttle slightly to lighten the front end.
If you ride over an object on the street, pull off the road and check for damage before riding any farther.


Test Your Knowledge

1. How should you keep your body position when stopping quickly?
    A. Knees against the tank and eyes up.
    B. Knees away from the tank and eyes up.
    C. Knees against the tank and wrists up.
2. If you must stop quickly while turning, a good technique is to:
    A. Straighten the motorcycle, square the handlebars and then stop.
    B. Apply the front brake and increase your lean angle.
    C. Apply brakes first and lean away from the turn.
3. When swerving, it is important to:
    A. Brake and swerve at the same time.
    B. Swerve in the direction the hazard is traveling.
    C. Separate braking from swerving.