Safety Articles


By Roy Hooper (motorcyclist fanatic) and Dave Kajiwara (CHP)

We all make u-turns so it is something that we should know how to do RIGHT. 

I recall years ago with about 5 years of riding experience, I went riding with my friend and his wife.   Midway into the ride we mistakenly past a turn-off so we pulled onto the right shoulder and after the traffic cleared I used the entire wide roadway to make a u-turn and then waited for the couple to make theirs.  Underneath my full face helmet I  was so damn proud of myself that I made a u-turn without setting my foot down, even though my handlebars shook a bit and it was not the prettiest u-turn.

So now it was the couples turn.  I watched him turn his head so he could see the road behind him as he checked for traffic.  Still looking behind him he cranked his handlebars  to the left and started their u-turn.  They took only about 8 feet to make a u-turn and it was such a smooth maneuver.   

What a big difference compared to mine!

At the next rest stop we talked about u-turns and I am glad we did.   Over the years I have learned the following about making u-turns:

1-LOOK where you want the bike to go and then go.   Many people look directly in front of the bike and that does not help.

2-Don't over think the u-turn.  Set the u-turn in your mind and then do it.   

3-PRACTICE.  You need to have confidence in yourself and you can do that by practicing.  The ideal way to practice is  with a group so you can watch, listen and do it.  But that's not always possible.  I practice all sorts of maneuvers in the local high school parking lot whenever it's vacant.  Practice u-turns from a dead stop and from a roll.  And practice u-turns in both directions so you know that you CAN DO IT.  Use your imagination to come up with real-life situations and then play those out in the parking lot.   

Try to make low speed, tight circles also.  One drill I like to do is to have a person stand in the lot, now ride your bike in tight circles around him as you look at him and have a conversation with him.  Talk about anything; the goal is to make a tight circle and have your mind and eyes on something other then the drill.   

Now change positions.  Try it, it is fun for both people.

Once you feel comfortable doing the drills solo, practice with your co-rider  so when these situations come up (and they will) you  will be able to do it and you will have confidence in yourself.   And whenever possible enter skill games at motorcycle rallies so you can get use to the feeling of making tight maneuvers in front of the public.  During the rallies events I blur out the audience and just turn my head in the direction I want to go.  And that's all  you have to remember: turn your head and do that smooth u-turn.  

You CAN do it.


I asked Dave Kajiwara for his input on u-turns since he is trained by the CHP and here is what he added:

I will usually go into a U turn by coming in a straight line.   I reduce my speed by utilizing combination braking.   I don’t use my brakes while turning.  I turn my head, lean looking over my shoulder in the direction of the turn.  I keep my eyes off the pavement on the horizon in the direction of the turn.   Keeping your head and eyes up are key.  I am a firm believer that if you're looking at the ground you'll be hitting the ground.  Start in first gear.  Depending what make of bike you're riding you can slip the clutch as necessary such as on a Gl 1500.   

However, with the hydraulic clutch on the 1800 that is not possible.  You want to keep jerky movement to a minimum.  This can be accomplished with clutch /throttle control. Learning to find the "gray" area on the 1500 and balancing with the throttle on the 1800.  

Always keep your feet on the pegs.  A foot down can result in a snapped ankle.  Key is to start with a loose U turn and work your way in tighter as you gain confidence.  Your peripheral vision will eventually pick out a smooth path which will permit an easy  turn once you've mastered clutch / throttle control.  


So now is a good time to find an empty parking lot and work on making smooth and consistent u-turns so when you need to make one out on the street you will   be ready.


Remember in high school when your Driver's Ed teacher talked about those blind spots and how dangerous they were?  Blind  spot mirrors will help reduce those blind spots.  They can be found at Wal-Mart and other retail stores and are definitely worth the $3 a pair will cost you.  I have them on my work truck, my Honda Prelude, Nighthawk and Gold Wing and  can't imagine doing without them. I believe in them.


You don't want to get mirrors that are so big that they cover half of your regular mirror and you don't want them so small that they're useless.  I find that the 2" mirrors work fine on my car and bikes.  Try to stay away from the tinted blind spot mirrors.


I have my blind spot mirrors placed towards the outer side of the regular mirrors as they will cover more of the blind spot.  If you place your them towards the inside you will see too much of you and your vehicle and not cover the blind spot as well.  Place them where you will feel the safest.


Now that the mirrors are installed you need to get used to them.  Find a STATIONERY car in a quiet parking lot, position your bike in front of and to the side of this vehicle.  Look in your REGULAR mirror and move your bike until you can't see the vehicle in your regular mirror.  Now look in your blind spot mirror and you should see the vehicle.  Adjust the mirrors so your blind spot is covered as much as possible.  It is normal to readjust your mirrors over a 2 week period as you get comfortable with them.


Drive around town in traffic and keep glancing at the blind spot mirrors and see what you've been missing!  The mirrors really help a lot when riding in a group as you can now see where that staggered bike is without wondering or turning your head every 10 seconds.  You also want to get in the habit of checking the blind spot mirrors FIRST instead of your main mirrors.  This way you will see your blind spot and know if it's clear in case you need to make an evasive maneuver.  In traffic keep checking your blind spot mirrors about every 5 seconds so you know what's there.  These mirrors are not for checking out details but are there so you can see if there is an object in your blind spot.

Please consider blind spot mirrors as they are a big safety device.

Don't you wish all cars had them?


Are you in the market for new riding gloves?  Instead of the buying the traditional black leather gloves you might want to consider tan deerskin gloves.  They have 2 major benefits, first being that deerskin is softer and more flexible than leather and second is the light color.  My hands have always sweat while wearing black leather glove but since switching to deerskin 4 years ago my hands have yet to sweat even in 100 degree temps.  I think this is a  great example of how black ABSORBS heat and tan REFLECTS it.

The same goes for boots.  Black boots are known to give many riders athletes feet but tanned boots was an easy remedy.  

So think "light colors" when it comes to riding apparel.  

Black may look cool but it's not the best choice.


Send any comments to      Back to the Chapter Educator page.


Copyright © (TM) All Rights Reserved.