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Whenever I try to start doing a U-turn on my bike in the roads of my town (the width of around 2 cars) I feel like I'm about to fall and I stop and just full-stop then turn around with my feet. Any tips on getting better at this?

  • Should I stop or keep pedaling while attempting a U-Turn?
  • Are tight u-turns possible?

Right now I'm practicing on a road with a width of 2 cars. I assume it is possible on here but what if it was slightly less?

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    Practice in a parking lot. But don't be ashamed to stop rather than complete a tight turn. Sep 12 at 0:06
  • I agree with the suggestion of practice, but there's also no shame in making a different type of turn if that works better for the street and traffic conditions. You can always pull to the right, cross the street as a pedestrian, and turn your bike around and start riding. Or start to make a box-style left turn and then turn left. Or if you're sure there's no traffic nearby, take control of the whole intersection and go around it like there's a traffic circle. Sep 12 at 0:21
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    Then there are those traffic circles in the US Midwest. The best approach is to stop and mail your bike across. Sep 12 at 1:22
  • Have a watch of this MTB switchback video. bing.com/videos/… The technique for a u turn on the road is similar. Drop the outside pedal.
    – mattnz
    Sep 12 at 3:48
  • A slow u-turn is ackerman-steering which means that there is no tire drift. A normal 90-degree turn has both front and rear tire drift and is more natural. Now consider the possibility of a fast u-turn and that has tire drift. kbhscape.com/downhill.htm .
    – S Spring
    Sep 12 at 8:02
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Practice, practice, practice.

For simple U-turns I don’t think there is a special trick or technique you have to be aware of (unlike switchback technique for MTBs where you have to lift the rear wheel).

Find a grass field where you are allowed to ride on, place your bottle on the ground and start making tight turns around it. Try different speeds. You can also place two or more bottles and try figure eights. Try to keep it nice and smooth.

Be aware that at higher speeds the low friction of grass can be a problem, but at least the fall will be soft ;)

At low speeds you’ll have to keep pedaling or you’ll slow down further and lose balance. Try to avoid hitting the front wheel with your toes. At higher speeds and tight turns where you really have to lean into it: Don’t pedal! Keep the inside pedal up or it can strike the ground.

On roads you’ll want to start your U-turn from the very edge of the road, so you have the full width available. Make sure to look over your shoulder and give hand signals before you turn.

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  • What is the hand signal for a U-turn? Same as for a left turn (or right if riding on the left)?
    – Willeke
    Sep 12 at 10:05
  • There is a special trick (in fact there are many special tricks but this one helped me conquer my fear of U-turns and fast cornering the most): the outside leg should be the straight leg and the inside leg's knee should be held open and away from the crossbar. There's lots of cycling technique designed to make cornering safer and tighter. Sep 12 at 10:21
  • @Willeke: Yes, that’s what I’d use.
    – Michael
    Sep 12 at 11:35
  • @theonlygusti: I’ve read some articles that all the “technique” stuff about leaning the bike into the turn, leaning yourself into the turn, putting the knee into the turn etc. is pretty much nonsense. In the end you (your+your bike’s center of gravity) simply have to lean into a turn to counter the torque created by the centrifugal force (i.e. inertia) and tyre friction which keeps you on the road. Centrifugal force increases with velocity squared and decreases linearly with radius.
    – Michael
    Sep 12 at 11:41
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    @Michael: If you think too much about about turning you'll end up with your face on the road. It needs practice, lots of. You're right there. Nothing else until it becomes natural.
    – Carel
    Sep 12 at 14:09
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As other contributors correctly pointed out, skill at low-speed maneuvering comes with practice. I noticed I became considerably more confident with low-speed maneuvers on my bicycle after getting a motorcycle license and chalking up some miles.

That may be partly because my body got better at balancing, but I also noticed I subconsciously started applying some classic low-speed motorcycle techniques to the bicycle that you might also find useful:

  1. Dragging the rear brake (as in engaging it only very mildly) has a substantial balancing effect during U-turns. The bike (powered or not) just feels a lot more under control. I catch myself dragging the brake on my bicycle in all sorts of low-speed conditions and it makes a big difference.
  2. The more you lean the bike into the U-turn, the smaller the radius is going to be. Of course, the more terrifying it will feel!

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