The May 2010 issue of Sport Rider had a fantastic article about throttle control titled “How and when to get on the gas” written by Andrew Trevitt. I loved the article so much I wanted to share with all of you.
“Most riders look at the throttle simply as the ‘go-fast’ control: open it to go faster, close it to slow down. But in fact the throttle is much more than that. Because the engine affects the motorcycle’s dynamics so much — especially in the middle of the corner — the throttle can be used as a tool to help your bike’s chassis work better. When the motorcycle is under power, there are several factors that work in your favor. The chassis is more stable as the engine’s spinning internals add more gyroscopic effect to the mix. There is less load on the front end, allowing the suspension and tire to work better as well as reducing the risk of a front-end crash. And opening the throttle brings the rear-end squat characteristics into play as well, improving the suspension action and tire grip at the rear end as well. If you’ve ever found a false neutral in a turn or experimented with coasting down a twisty hillside, you’ll know how much the engine can influence the chassis. With no power applied, both the steering and suspension work differently and can cause some tense moments mid-corner. (And no, we aren’t recommending you coast down a twisty road to try this)
It’s important to know that the act of opening the throttle doesn’t necessarily mean you will speed up. The initial application of power is usually not enough to overcome the friction and aerodynamics involved, and the motorcycle will continue to lose speed. In faster corners, data shows that the throttle needs to be as much as 20% percent open before the bike will begin to speed up. Expert-level riders know this and have the throttle open well before the apex of a turn, while the motorcycle is still slowing down. This is one aspect you can experiment with: On a straight stretch of deserted road, practice closing the throttle and then smoothly opening it enough so that you are still slowing down but you can feel the slack taken out of the drivetrain.
When you are braking, you should be gripping the tank with your knees to tank the weight off your arms; keep your elbows bent, and this will give you better control of the brake-to-throttle transition. Release the brake gradually as you lean into the turn and the cornering forces take over. Once you’ve completely released the brake lever but before you are coasting with no brake or throttle applied to a minimum, and how you open the throttle initially is just as important as when. In Reg Pridmore’s book ‘Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way’ and at his CLASS riding schools, Pridmore advises leaving the index and second fingers on the brake lever and using just the third and fourth fingers to apply the throttle. This is an advanced technique, but can significantly reduce the downtime between braking and throttle application.
In a long sweeping corner, hold the throttle open just enough so that you maintain a constant speed, and avoid the temptation to grab a handful of gas if you think you are going too slow. It’s better to smoothly and gradually apply the throttle for two reasons: One, you won’t have to abruptly close the throttle when you end up gaining too much speed, wasting all the hard work up to that point. And two, this is the area where the chance of a highside crash is greatest. Be smooth with corrections, and avoid closing the throttle completely if possible.
The smoother you can apply the throttle at this point, the better. Ideally, you want just enough power applied to take up the slack in the drivetrain and unload some of the weight from the wheel, while still reducing speed as you near the apex of the turn. Another benefit of having the power on at this point is that you unsettle the chassis less at the apex if your bike has notchy throttle response — the abruptness will have occurred while the bike was a bit more upright and not as affected. Smoothly roll the throttle on so that you reach your minimum speed right at the apex of the turn and can add speed from there. Note that this is easier practiced on longer, faster turns, where you have more time available and quite a bit of power is necessary to overcome the aerodynamics before acceleration can actually begin.
With the throttle already open at the apex, the slack taken out of the drivetrain and the suspension settled and ready for acceleration, you will get a much better drive out of the corner than you would otherwise. This pays dividends all the way down the next straight with more speed. With practice, you’ll find that getting on the gas smoothy and early pays off in many aspects allowing you to to ride quicker on the racetrack and more safely on the street.”