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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have been riding my Classic 1600 for a few weeks now. I've been/am a BMW flat twin rider of many decades and a MSF instructor of 25 years. The MSF U-turn box has always been easy for me on the MSF bikes and on my BMWs, so today I tried it on my Classic 1600.

The process to do a u-turn is so ingrained to me, my 1st attempt at a 24' wide u-turn was actually easy on the Classic. I did a bunch of them, and then tightened it up for the 20' wide u-turn, just went over the line a bit. Something to practice but soon I'll be dragging the floorboards and rubbing the last few chicken strips off the front tire. Proof though that the MSF spec u-turns are easily achieved on a Classic or Nomad with a bit of practice.

Feet on the boards, strong head turn to look back where the bike must go, steady throttle just off idle, drag the rear brake to control speed (no front brake) and let the bike lean in and it works. Now, I can say it was easy to do the 24' wide u-turn on my 1st attempt because I have been doing it, practicing it regularly every year for 25+ years. But the point is with the right technique it is easy to do and worthwhile practicing.

Besides it looks freakin cool to just ride in and do it like no big deal at a bike night event. Come rolling in, feet up on the boards at walking speed, do a tight u-turn, park the bike.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I did some more practice yesterday on the MSF range on my Classic. I can make the 24' wide U-turn with little issue, the 20' wide U-turn takes more lean than I can make right now, the floorboards drag a bunch. This winter I plan to raise the floorboards at least an inch. For years I have practiced the u-turns on my 94 and 07 BMW flat twins which are both a lot lighter than the Classic, with much more neutral steering. Some things I notice:
On my BMWs:
1. even with the steering all the way to full lock LH or RH there is no real tendency for the bike to "fall into" the turn. Both BMWs have a steep steering head angle which changes very little at full turn,
2. the small rear brake lever/foot peg combo makes tight RH turns a bit more difficult to use the rear brake effectively to control my smooth motion,
3. the standard style handlebar and easy reach (I'm only 5'-6") makes the handlebar turn and counterweighting easier.
4. Especially on my 94 BMW RS I have to get up almost onto the back of the fuel tank to counterweight my body.
On the VN1600 Classic;
1. the much greater steering head angle causes the front wheel to "fall into" the turn easily, think like the front tires on a road grader and how they flop over into a full turn,
2. the open chair like rider position of the Vulcan makes the full head turn easier, but I cannot apply any body english into the floorboards to balance my body against the bike, a knee into the fuel tank helps here,
3. the floorboard/brake pedal combo makes controlling the rear brake easier on the Vulcan than on the BMWs,
4. the cruiser style handlebar makes me reach a lot wider on the Vulcan when at full steer angle, so I'll probably change it to the Mean Streak handlebar (which is the same width/grip position as on my BMWs).

More practice coming. I want to hone my skills to be effective at it on both style of bikes, but to also understand better how to coach my MSF and Street Skills students who ride Vulcans, Harleys, and other cruiser style bikes. This Vulcan is really growing on me like I never expected a big cruiser would. Lots of mods coming this winter.
 

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Great post.

Very informative and helpful. :good:

(Hat tipped)
 

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My son just went thru the msf course. I mentioned that we had been working on maneuvers, me on my 1700 and he on my 900, the instructor laughed and told me that over 800 cc you get 22 ft for the U turn. I felt good that we were both able do 20 ft on the bigger bikes.
 

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I have a set of cones so that I can set up and practice maneuvers. Sometimes I go for rides and other times I go for practice sessions. The only way to become proficient at handling my bike is to practice and then practice some more!

Thanks for sharing! Threads like this one help to encourage riders to practice difficult handling techniques. The better we can handle our bike the better our chances of keeping wheels down and rider up.

I would love to read any post you might make in regards to bike handling.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
One reason I bought my Classic is to get practice and experience handling a large cruiser at slow speeds, versus my many years experiences on my much lighter easier handling BMWs. Yet, so many of my students ride cruiser style bikes, especially Harleys. This is really evident when I teach slow speeds skills during the Street Skills classes at Road America. My students say I make it look so easy when I demo it on my BMW R1200RT.

Come to find out now, that the same actions on my Classic VN1600 take a bit more skills than I had. So the practice on a much heavier, longer wheelbase Classic opens my eyes about what my students have to do. However, that practice and what is shown on this very good video (not me) proves that with the right skill sets it can be done:
KEY technique to doing most of these actions is confident clutch and throttle action, with rear brake application. Turn the volume up on the video and you can clearly hear the throttle is on and steady through all the actions. The bike HAS to be driven forward with momentum within a foot of rolling to feel confident. Practice smooth consistent clutch/throttle action combined with REAR brake application doing short straight ahead starts/stops. Once that feels consistent, do it again with the handlebar turned. I also practiced the MSF tight turns from a stop at the corners of the range, and found it is easily done with the right combo of controls. Again, practice. In my book, any MSF Rider Coach should be able to do any MSF exercises on any MSF bike, AND their own bike. Doing that proves to the students that the techniques taught do work. I like the picture grab from the video below: good upper body position, great head turn, note the brake light (REAR brake only).


All that said. On my 1st day riding my Classic on back roads south of Jordan MN I had to turn around on a gravel road and I caught myself slightly grabbing the front brake as I did a sloppy Y-Turn. It was, "C'mon Andy, get your crap together, you know how to do this." But the feeling while doing the turn made it very evident how quickly the bike and the weight can get away from the rider in a fraction of a second. Practice, practice, practice.
 

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Thanks for your post.
It was a good reminder for me to get out and practice.

I rode a KLR650 for about 6 years and was very comfortable and confident in that bike.
1 am 2 years into my first "big" bike (if a 900 classic is considered big) and am still not 100% confident on it.

It was a learning curve for me to go to the different style and weight. You are correct in one very important aspect .. confidence.
I know the bike will do what I want it to do, I just don't believe it yet. That's where the practice comes in.

....cheers :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
One technique I know many motorcops use to pull out from a stop with the handlebar at full lock, is to keep some rear brake on while easing out the clutch and applying throttle. The light rear brake application keeps the bike from lurching out and taking off too fast. But it also causes a torque reaction at the back of the bike that tends to cause the bike to stand up. That makes it a bit easier to lean the bike into the turn while moving out.

Of course, easiest done when turning left, just keep the right foot on the brake, lean the bike to the left, ease out the clutch and throttle. For a right hand turn, two options; hold the bike upright with the left foot and keep the right foot on the brake, then lean in as the bike moves out. Or, lean the bike to the right with the right foot on the ground, then as soon as the bike moves out apply slight rear brake while easing out the clutch and throttle.

Each turn requires practice to build the confidence in knowing the bike will make the turn and pull out confidently. AND it looks cool when you just do it. The video above shows the rider doing turns from a stop.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Figure eight is almost easier than a U-turn because the motion of moving the handlebar to achieve an effective figure eight requires steady applied throttle and rear brake at a set speed.

By next spring I'll also have the handlebar changed on my Classic to more of a police bike style handlebar which is much flatter across with less pullback/sweep-back. That makes the tight maneuvers easier because the stock handlebar pushes the "inside" bar into your side at a weird angle. That, and even on a big heavy cruiser you have to counterweight your upper body (from the butt up) to the outside of the bike during the turn.
 
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