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How To Understand Available Motorcycle Traction

A refined traction sense is as important as smell, hearing, touch, sight.

© Provided by Bonnier Corporation   Motorcyclist

By Ken Condon, Motorcyclist

Traction allows your motorcycle to stop, corner, and accelerate. Without it, expect the sickening sound of plastic, chrome, and aluminum bits contacting pavement. The best riders develop a traction sense built upon knowledge and an innate awareness of spatial position, force, movement, and balance, all signaled by receptors in joints and soft tissue. This proprioceptive sixth sense makes it possible for you to feel subtle changes happening between the tires and the road, and how much tire grip you have to work with. A sharp traction sense starts with understanding the factors that affect traction quality and quantity. With a little awareness of those sensory inputs, you'll develop a traction sense that is as transparent and effective as your sense of smell, hearing, touch, or sight.

Got Load?

The amount of traction available is related to how much weight is pressing the tires onto the surface. More pressure means more grip. Braking pitches the bike forward, increasing front tire grip but reducing traction at the rear.

Smooth Inputs

Load the tires gradually to avoid abrupt spikes in force. Avoid abrupt, panic-induced brake, throttle, or handlebar inputs. Progressively apply the brakes to set the load before demanding more brake force. Squeeze the front brake lever, and then squeeze harder.

Read the Road

Tire load only goes so far. Traction-robbing surfaces can easily lead to calamity. Look well ahead for variations in surface texture, color, and camber indicating possible changes in available traction. Avoid braking, leaning, and accelerating over sketchy surfaces.

Pay Attention

Proprioceptive senses communicate imminent traction loss through subtle sensations. Slight vibrations, or a vague feeling at the bars or in your seat and footpegs, can indicate diminishing traction. These indicators are the first sign of imbalance as your tires begin to slip.


A tight grip and stiff arms impede your ability to feel what the bike is doing. Relax your arms and hands by supporting most of your weight with your legs and torso. Relaxation allows you to sense imbalance and make fluid inputs.

Keep a Reserve

Always keep some traction in reserve for managing surprise hazards. With no reserve, abrupt or sudden braking, turning, or acceleration can send the tires over the tipping point. The amount of traction is limited, so reduce lean before braking or accelerating hard.


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Autos News: How To Understand Available Motorcycle Traction
How To Understand Available Motorcycle Traction
A refined traction sense is as important as smell, hearing, touch, sight.
Autos News
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