Let's talk about throttle control
Getting on the gas does a lot more than just pushing you forward
During your riding lessons, you learned about all the controls like the clutch, brakes, gear lever, steering, and throttle. You learned that throttle is used to apply acceleration or to slow down. Right, but that’s just half of the story. The throttle has a huge effect on the stability of your bike. If you master the throttle, you control the bike stability.
What happens when you apply the throttle?
When you twist the gas the engine gets more mixture increasing power and engine revolution transmitted to the gearbox then to the chain and finally to the wheel. Two things can affect your throttle response here. There shouldn’t be any gap or play and the chain should have the right tension. Now, this is just the beginning of what is happening.
When you accelerate the frame rocks backward, the rear shock is compressed and the fork is extended. Sometimes the front wheel even loses the contact with the ground while your smile gets bigger.
How does it work on a straight line
Imagine traveling on a straight line with the wheel perfectly perpendicular to the surface. The throttle is shut, the engine is losing rpm, and the bike is slowing down. Now open the throttle again. You might notice a jerk before the acceleration. This is caused by all the parts mentioned above gaining tension in the opposite direction. The second is the center of gravity shifting from the front to the back. The fork extends and the rear shock compresses. This is not a big deal in a straight line. But when you’re about to turn into a corner things might get a little tricky but don’t worry, follow me.
Understanding your front wheel under inertia
Even if you’re not braking steering into a corner puts significant pressure on the front wheel because you’re slowing down by turning. To understand this concept try to imagine your bike going in a straight line. 200 kg of metal rolling at 100 kph. Like a cannonball launched at that speed it just wants to continue its trajectory but now you want to steer it into a corner. You’re forcing it into another trajectory and the center of gravity moves to the front wheel. To shed some weight from the front you can apply the throttle. Doing so you will move the center of gravity back to a neutral position.
Apply the throttle doesn’t mean accelerating.
Cornering and throttle control
The entry of a corner is right there when you finish braking. Most of the weight is on your front wheel and because of the downshifting the drive chain, the swing arm, and all the parts are under tension in slowing down the bike. But now you want to turn them in the opposite direction and once your bike is leaned in the corner it will compromise the stability of your bike. Not only the weight transfer is a big problem but the geometry of the chassis works differently if the center of gravity is closer to the front or to the rear.
This means when reopening the throttle at the apex of the corner you lose the stability. To avoid this mistake you should open the throttle as soon as you finish the braking part. Don’t freak out here, I’m not talking about accelerating but just open it a bit and leave it there until you see the exit of the corner. This is where the drive begins. The difference is when you start to accelerate the bike is already stable on its rear wheel and it’ll feel like it’s on rails. Follow the corner will be the most natural thing in the world.
A tip from Jackie Stewart
I know, he was an F1 racer but he is a great race track instructor. He made a great point when someone asked him when is the right time to get on the throttle. His answer was simple: “Don’t get your foot on the gas pedal until you’re sure you’ll never have to take it off again”. You can apply the same rule for a motorcycle. Smoothness is the key. Your bike, like a horse with a bad temper, doesn’t like your uncertainty. So when you’re the corner open the throttle just a bit to keep the bike running and start to accelerate only when you see the exit. This is not just about speed it’s about safety.