Sunday 18 November 2018

Lean Angle and Capturing the Dynamics of Riding a Motorcycle

Since starting the 360° camera-on-a-motorcycle experiment last year I've tried dozens of different locations and angles.  My favourite shots to date are ones that emphasize the speed and feeling of exhilaration I get while riding.  A bike in a straight line is a lovely thing with the wind and feeling of openness all around you, but when you lean into a corner the magic is suddenly amplified.  That thrill of leaning into a corner is something most people never get to experience.

The first weekend I ever rode a bike on tarmac (at the training course at Conestoga College in Kitchener) way back in 2013 I discovered this magic while working through a beginner's gymkhana style obstacle course.  After shooting through the cones a few times at faster and faster speeds I said to the instructor, "I could do that all day!"  He just laughed.  I wasn't kidding, I could happily spend all day leaning a motorbike into corners.  Each time I do it the complexity of what's going on is fascinating as hundreds of pounds of machine and me lean out into space, all suspended on two tiny tire contact patches.  It's when I'm most likely to forget where I end and the bike begins.

Lean angle in corners is an artform that many motorcyclists (but not bikers so much) practice.  Being able to use your tire effectively means you aren't the proud owner of chicken strips.  Underused tires tend to show a lack of experience and an unwillingness to explore lean.  There are exceptions (knobblies on off road focused tires, anything made in North America) that aren't about lean angle on tarmac, but it is a way to analyze your cornering comfort level.

Mounting the 360° camera on the bike is one of the only ways I've been able to catch the feeling of this complex dynamic in an intimate way.  MotoGP makes extensive use of 360 camera technology for on-bike photography and video, but they tend to be rear mounted.  Using a front mount means you get to see the rider's face in the shot.  It would be fascinating to watch the rider/machine interface from a 360 camera mounted out front of the bike while various riders do their thing on track.

I've got good road tires (Michelin Pilots) and a tall adventure bike, so it's not exactly ideal for exploring lean, though I think I do OK considering the weight and shape of the bike - the Tiger is surprisingly frisky in the corners.  But I'd love to get my hands on a sports bike and see just how more dynamic and exciting the on-bike 360° photography could be on a machine built solely for tarmac.