Instant Turns

by Susie Jones

The Instant Turn is an effective measure to take when having to take evasive action to suddenly avoid an object (such as a rock) that appears in your path (see Rock Dodging).

Picture yourself riding along the right hand side of the roadway approaching an intersection. You plan to continue straight through and are occupying the correct position for this action. Just as you enter the intersection a car passes you and makes a right turn in front of you. You have three choices: hit the car; execute a panic stop; or turn to the right onto the cross street.

Preparing for and executing a normal right turn takes too long and would cause a collision in this situation, so an Instant Turn is necessary. For the technique to make sense, however you have to first understand what happens in a turn. Many people still think that a turn is produced simply by turning the front wheel, but you actually lean first and turn second. Because they happen so fast, the two moves appear simultaneous.

For a planned turn, you start by leaning in the direction of the turn. Instead of immediately steering to get the bike back under you, you wait until you are leaning more and more.

The bike then steers itself around the corner while you adjust the handlebars so it feels as if they are directly under you. By steering sharper into the turn you start to fall out of it, which lets you straighten up.

In the situation described above, this type of turn would take too long, because you are not already in a lean position, and you would end up hitting the car. To force the lean quickly you have to perform a maneuver that feels unnatural (and sounds even more unlikely)!

"Turn your front wheel left-the wrong way, toward the car. By doing this you've forced the a right lean, and you'll start to fall right. The moment you've got a good lean started, after a tenth of a second or so, turn your front wheel right and you'll find yourself in a tight right turn. This is what you've done.. To make a right turn you must lean right, so to hurry up the leaning process you make the bike track to the left a few inches. Then you are leaning over properly and can steer a right turn. This doesn't ever feel natural, and you must train yourself to do it. It is a jerk in the wrong direction at the start of the instant turn when you deliberately unbalance yourself by steering in the whole bike out from under you." The Instant Turn will take some time to learn and must be practiced regularly. Set a sponge down in an abandoned parking lot and start by Rock Dodging it, slowly progressing to the Instant Turn.

Reprinted from "Effective CyclingTM Notebook" from the League of American Bicyclists.
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