For me, bends are one of the most compelling reasons to ride a motorcycle. It is impossible to talk about bends without first discussing the limit point, that mystical point in space that we never reach, yet talks to us constantly.
If we are riding along a straight road, looking into the distance, the limit point is as far ahead as we can see. For every metre we travel, the limit point travels the same distance. The movement of the limit point in these situations is referred to as being “constant”.
In the diagram below, the green arrows along the top are the distance we have travelled, and importantly, they are all the same length. The four motorcycles shown have all travelled the same distance.
The purple (perhaps pink – some say mauve) lines indicate our line of sight as far around the bend as we can see, and the red vertical arrowheads on the right-hand side are the limit point.
The limit point is constantly moving, so the arrowheads are also points in time. When we use the limit point while riding it is the movement of the limit point that speaks to us.
Scanning the limit point as we ride towards the bend; for the distance, we have travelled, the limit point has moved very little. (Marked 1 on the diagram). This is often referred to as the limit point “coming towards you”. We are travelling further than the limit point is moving, that one-to-one relationship we had on the straight road has changed.
The limit point will still be moving as we approach the bend but at a much slower rate. The slower movement of the limit point is not only telling us that the road bends, but also how much. A slow-moving limit point indicates a tight bend. Where the limit point has started to move slower but not “that” slow, then the indications are of a shallower bend.
Every situation is different. Trust the limit point but it isn’t the only piece of information out there. Tree lines, hedgerows, street lights, other traffic and a host of other factors all provide information. Blind faith is not a good idea.
How slow is slow and how sharp is sharp? Using the limit point is how to develop that knowledge. No one can tell you that. You need to experience it.
Back to the motorcycles on the diagram and the sections marked 2. Having now travelled the second green line (remember we have travelled the same distance) the limit point has started to increase its speed away from us. Not by much, but while we travelled the same distance as before, the limit point moved a little further than it had previously.
As we know the bend is going to the right, we have also moved left to get a better view through the bend. The Information we have is telling us to change our Position, check out Speed and choose the right Gear.
The increased movement of the limit point is telling us that the bend is starting to open out. What we can see is ahead of us is (most likely) the whole bend, and beyond the limit point the road is straightening out.
Again though, double-check what the limit point is telling you. Faith in the limit point is a good thing. Absolute blind faith isn’t.
Looking at the third section of the diagram – not unsurprisingly marked 3 – we have still travelled the same distance as shown in 1 and 2. This time the limit point has moved away from us noticeably further. This is referred to as the limit point “moving away from you”, and as it does, we have a fairly good indication that we are looking at the whole bend.
Having already set our Speed and with the right Gear selected, we can enjoy the bend, and as the limit point disappears into the distance, we get to apply any necessary acceleration and chase after it.