While the muse of Science Fiction has temporarily deserted me, I thought I’d write about something dear to my heart; driving. Car or motorcycle, doesn’t matter, the principles and sensations are the same. I’m a petrolhead at heart who simply enjoys the sensations afforded by motorised transport. Specifically the art of the corner.
Now this might sound odd to the uninitiated, but there is an art to driving around a corner that is seemingly unlearned by many drivers. They lack the ability or motivation to do it properly, they wander, swerve and clip. Lines are taken too fast, too narrow or too timorously. They never seek the optimum, explore the limits or push the envelope.
Yet but cornering’s simple isn’t it? Decelerate to apex, steer into the curve, then hammer down and out? Steer outside to centre, or centre to kerb, depending upon whether you’re covering a right or left hander. Easy. Yet each corner is different, with a pitch and camber, and even a character all of its own which alters throughout the day. Depending upon weather, angle of sunlight, spilled material and even roadkill. At best cornering’s an art form; one of fine balance and perfect judgement. Man and machine poised on the razors edge of a disaster curve. No tyre squeal, no flashy and wasteful Clarksonian tyre smoking power slides, just the singular pleasure of a simple task performed to a finesse. Forever seeking the optimum.
What I’m not going to do in this little piece is witter on about the technical process of making a vehicle change direction of travel along a stretch of road. There’s always the temptation to wax lyrical about ceramic brakes, of counter steering and tyre compounds, then miss the point entirely.
If anyone reads my bio or Facebook timeline, they’ll see pictures of me astride a couple of motorcycles, and in each image there is a big fat boyish grin on my face. I am and always will be a biker at heart. My soul, if that is what drives me, has two wheels. What they won’t see is my four wheeled vehicle history, which is not as salubrious. Overall I’ve driven many vehicles with a wheel at each corner and a faulty nut behind the steering wheel, from Morris 1000’s and Reliant Regals and Robins, to high end SUV’s and medium goods vehicles. I’ve owned Volkswagens, Rovers, Fords and even a Saab Turbo 900 for my sins. During a spell as a delivery driver in the mid 1990’s I even got to shuttle almost Ford and Vauxhalls entire UK range of saloons. Stick shift, automatic, whatever. I’ve driven Mercedes and Ford vans throughout fourteen, and even seventeen and a half hour working days, then gone on to do evening classes three nights a week. During the Eighties and nineties I regularly topped over fifty thousand miles a year. Highways, Motorways, Autobahns and side roads. Those weren’t the days. Yet to me the actual driving didn’t feel like work.
Each vehicle I’ve driven had their own little foibles, and some I really enjoyed, others detested, but all were tried and pitched into corners for the simple joy of it. Motorcycle, truck or car it didn’t matter. The dynamic sensations were everything. The deceleration, visual seeking of precise line and curve, a little sidewards G at the apex, then a mild sensation of drift and roll as I almost pushed my vehicle into the bend before powering smoothly out. All have shown me the pale edge of driving Nirvana. From an exhilarating sunny sidestand scraper up Fish Hill on the Evesham to Stratford road on my old Triumph 900, to a heart stopping close encounter with a late night Moose on the Ontario Trans Canada driving a Ford Windstar van. Corners have provided drama, adventure, and an adrenalin rush to lighten the dull samey greyness of getting from A to B.
So, what’s the secret of the corner? Well actually there isn’t one. It isn’t rocket science, dragon magic or anything remotely difficult. It’s like any simple task, not easy for the initiate or novice, but one that can be readily mastered. Although not as simple as turning the steering wheel, or leaning into it, cornering is an art anyone can become competent in. All it requires is a little thought and practice.