The Swerve: A Lesson in Hazard Avoidance

Apr 17, 2014 View Comments by

The Swerve: A Lesson in Hazard Avoidance

An estimated 100,000 motorcyclists walked through the gates of the 2014 Arizona Bike Week event in Scottsdale earlier this month. Black leather, burnouts, and body art abounded throughout the expansive WestWorld venue. Thankfully, there were also ample opportunities for attendees to improve and enhance their skill and knowledge as riders. The majority of these learning experiences were offered by Team Arizona, a motorcyclist training and safety organization.

I attended several of the teaching demonstrations put on at the event. This first installment will focus on Team Arizona’s presentation on avoiding mid-road obstacles.

Hazard Avoidance / the Swerve:
Bill Seltzer, the “voice” of the exhibit, began this segment with a question. “What is the first thing most riders do when approaching a road hazard?” The choral response of the crowd was “brake.” While Seltzer agreed that braking was critical in many situations, he continued that an abrupt stop in the roadway makes a motorcyclist a sitting target for other vehicles approaching from the rear. He also contended that research shows that when traveling at over 18 mile per hour, a non-braking swerve may be more effective than braking to avoid a car-size road obstacle. The Team Arizona definition of swerve is, “Two consecutive turns or counter steers; one to evade an obstacle followed immediately by another to regain original direction.”

After Seltzer’s introduction was a discussion and demonstration of proper swerve technique. Here are the rules of the proper hazard avoidance swerve:

The Swerve: A Lesson in Hazard AvoidanceBody Positioning:
The first rule presented and shown was keeping the motorcycle lean independent of the rider’s body lean. The Team Arizona rider showcased keeping the torso as upright as possible when undertaking the swerve. Seltzer stressed that this allows the motorcycle to lean quickly and change direction rapidly.

The instructors preached not to apply the brakes unless there is ample time and space before the first counter steer. Braking while in the actual swerve maneuver is a recipe for total loss of control.

Throttle Control:
Keeping a smooth, steady throttle to prevent traction loss was another teaching point in the demonstration. Traction is pushed to the limit in a swerve and abrupt or choppy throttle actions increase the risk of tire slide and loss of grip.

Vision Considerations:
Focusing vision away from the hazard is a key element in the swerve technique. Moving the eyes away from the obstacle prevents target fixation and the tendency to steer where one is looking.

A key point of instruction in this presentation was that motorcyclists need to break habits we have formed as car drivers. While in a car, braking would be the primary response to an obstacle in the road. According to Team Arizona, a motorcyclist should think “swerve” first.

Watch for the second blog in this series, which will focus on more of what Team Arizona had to teach at Arizona Bike Week.

Team Arizona can be reached at

Text and photos by Tim Kessel


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