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Riding Right: Making the Perfect U-Turn, Updated with Video!

How to practice to get it right on your motorcycle every time!

By Jerry “Motorman” Palladino

One of the most common questions asked by riders is how to properly make a U-turn on a motorcycle. The best way to learn how to make a U-turn is to practice in a parking lot using these instructions—the same ones I use in my classes and in my book, "Ride Like A Pro." The following guidelines are for making a U-turn to the left.

To set up your U-turn practice area, mark off a U-shaped area approximately 34 feet long and 24 feet wide. You can use chalk, cones, or tennis balls as markers. Put one marker in each corner of the U-turn and no more than two or three markers down each side. Keep in mind that you can set up the U-turn as wide as you care to. However, 24 feet is the size of your average side street.

making perfect u-turn
Donna Palladino, Jerry's wife, makes a U-turn in a coned-off practice area.

The trick to the U-turn is to use a dip. Mark a pivot point about 12 feet from the end of your U-turn space. (See diagram below.) Hug the right side of your marked-off area, then just before you approach your pivot point, turn the bars quickly to the left, away from the pivot point, then to the right toward the pivot point. Once your front tire is heading toward the pivot point, quickly snap your head and eyes as far to the left as you possibly can. In other words, you’re looking over your left shoulder.

making perfect u turn practice diagram
This exercise from Jerry's book illustrates how to properly set up and maneuver through a U-turn practice area.

The entire time you’re performing the U-turn you need to be in the friction zone and have a little pressure on the rear brake. Your speed should be about 5 mph. Allow the motorcycle to lean as you turn the handlebars. You need only lean about as far as the bike leans when it’s sitting on the kickstand. Don’t ever look at the opposite side of the U-turn area. Even a split-second glance in that direction will cause you to steer the motorcycle toward the left side of the turn—doing that will make your turn considerably wider than 24 feet. Most full-size cruisers can turn in 18 feet, meaning you have 6 feet of error. 

making perfect u turn ride like a pro book
Read WRN's review of Jerry's book, "Ride Like a Pro," from which this article is excerpted.

Common Mistakes
1. The most common mistake riders make during this exercise is looking at the opposite side of the U-turn instead of immediately turning their head and eyes as far to the left as possible.

2. The second most common mistake is going too slowly and then attempting to turn with the bike straight up—you must have a little momentum in order to lean the bike.

3. Mistake number three is pulling the clutch in or releasing the throttle right in the middle of the U-turn. Doing either one of those two things will cause the bike to tip over, as gravity will pull you to the ground when there's no power to the rear wheel.

4. Mistake number four is briefly straightening out the handlebars as the bike transitions to the left. Straightening out the handlebars, even for a split second, will cause the bike to go straight for two or three feet, which will cause you to lose space while making the U-turn.   

Watch this video as Jerry instructs riders trying to execute the above technique. It's very helpful to watch!

About the Author
Jerry Palladino is the founder of Ride Like A Pro, Inc., a company that produces motorcycle instructional DVDs and books. Jerry also teaches classes to experienced riders who want to enhance their motorcycle skills. Visit
Riding Right No More Wide Turns Ride Like A Pro banner
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Riding Right: No More Wide Turns

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