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Linkmeister Supreme
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Discussion Starter #1
I am still amazed that I had never heard of counter-steering until I was almost 54 years old, even though I got my first taste of riding as a teenager on friends and cousins 100 cc bikes, riding out on the farms.

I was also surprised at the admission of a friend who has been riding most of his life. He told me when he first read about counter-steering in his wife`s training manual when she took the riding course about 12 years ago. He said, "BS, I don`t do that", then grabbed his helmet, fired up the Goldwing and went for a ride. He came home a half hour later muttering to himself, "Damn, I do, do that". The technique is so subtle that he had not even realized he was doing it.

My brother-in- law, who is just a year or so younger than I am, had a few motorcycles through the years, but sold his Magna fifteen or twenty years ago when his family was young, and was bikeless for some time. He bought another Magna a few years ago, but his 17 year old son is the usual rider now. I was talking to him and his son about my wreck and how lack of me counter-steering the bike had been a major contributor to the crash. Well he almost came unglued. He didn`t want me confusing my nephew with this talk about counter-steering. He didn`t think the riding course should even tell new riders anything about it.

Here is a link that anyone who is still trying to wrap their head around this concept of counter-steering, may find interesting and informative.
http://www.msgroup.org/Tip.aspx?Num=189
 

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Simple Solutions
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I read about countersteering a week after i got my first bike being a self taught rider of about 600miles i gave it a try OMG what a diffrence it allowed the bike to completly controll thr corners and all i had to do was hang on ... in addition with a assenger it took way more strain off the turning.... Ok i admidt i wasnt an honest safe rider when i first got a motorcycle in fact just got my endorsement after 100K miles.... I think countersteering is the key to operating a motorcycle... and its such a subtle opperation... infact if someone was riding for the first time they could while attempting to steer away from something and instinctively (from bycle riding) turn the bars and hit the very thing they were avoiding....

If my loved ones were to operate a motorcycle i would want them to know how to completely control the vehicle first and foremost...
 

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Lots of physics, engineering and mechanics are involved in motorcycling and many are counter intuitive, like counter-steering. Here are a few more relating to turning a motorcycle;

  • The front tire is responsible for leaning the bike, but the rear tire does most of the work during the actual turn (it “pushes” the bike through the turn).
  • The ideal front/rear suspension load during a turn is 40/60, achieve by proper throttle control (i.e., smooth acceleration to the apex of the turn).
  • Motorcycles are automatically set to counter a skid in a turn, thanks to counter-steering.
  • Best thing to due if the bike skids during a turn (i.e., hitting a patch of gravel) is to hold the throttle steady (no increase, no decrease). The previous bullets all come into play at that point.
  • Entering a turn causes engine RPMs to increase, due to lean and the smaller inside diameter of the tire, but overall speed decreases due to centrifugal force, wind and other turning forces.
  • Proper throttle control during a turn (i.e., continued increase from start to apex) will make the bike track a true line through the turn. Go off-throtlle before the apex and the bike will drift to the outside (forcing corrective action like more counter-steering).
 

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Super Moderator
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....... I think countersteering is the key to operating a motorcycle...

... infact if someone was riding for the first time they could while attempting to steer away from something and instinctively (from bycle riding) turn the bars and hit the very thing they were avoiding........

And it is the only "key" that fits. The fact is anyone that rides a bike around turn has , even if they are not aware they did it, used countersteering to initiate the turn. Some insist it is "body movement" that they they moved their weight to left to get the bike to "fall over" for the left turn...but high speed cameras would show them leaning to the left and pushing on the handlebar.

So realisticly anyone that rides a bike is countersteering. And I should point out that this is true for any two wheeler. Countersteering works the same on a bicycle as it does a motorcycle.

To prove folks are doing it even if they say they ain't , and to show that countersteering is the only way to one can turn a bike, Keith Code made the No BS bike...simply a normal bike with an extra set of handlebars that were solidly fixed to the frame. He challanged anyone to take the bike down the track and get it to go around a turn holding the extra non movable bars.
Some got a good wobble , or even a very shallow veer, but no one could do it.

There is a video here of the bike:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nRUeEkS644


and a longer video showing countersteering at work:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C848R9xWrjc



KM
 

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By riding different kind of bikes, I've actually learned to feel it. It happens quick that's for sure but the mean streak is longer, lower, and heavier so its more noticable when starting a turn. Riders of all ages on any 2 wheeled machine always countersteer, its just so sublte that if you're relaxed, you don't realize you're doing it. I've never ridden a chopper but I imagine the rake on them would make getting anywhere almost impossible without some serious countersteering.

Great thread by the way Hoss, thanks for posting this. You don't get much talk about counter steering probably because its so subtle...
 

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Premium Member
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It's funny how some riders talk about counter-steering as if it was something they one day decided to try.;) Maybe you can one day decide to be conscious of it, but you don't try it. It's how you ride a motorcycle. Period. You can definitely perfect the skill, and you obviously need to know the repercussions of braking and such during counter-steering, which is why I like the tip Old Hoss posted a link to. This is why they work with beginning riders in the course with stopping in a curve, by straightening, going upright, then emergency braking... Important stuff! I love the term he used "falling UP"! Good stuff!
Sorry but some of the comments struck me funny!
 

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Be one with the bike, let it flow through you, and don't steer into the corner, come to mind when I ride my top heavy GL500. If you steer that bike into a corner, bad things will happen. When I ride my VN for a few trips then jump on my GL, I tell myself before the corner "let the bike take you, don't steer it" and that tall beast glides round the s curves.

I sat on a Concours 14 last week, can't imagine what that's like...

DT
 

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I took the safety course and they keep telling us about push on the right to turn right. Just couldn’t get it though my head with the bikes we were using. But when I got the vn750 a short time after the class and took it home, I almost took it back because it shimmied so badly. Then I realized just what they were talking about. All of a sudden the shimmy just went away.:motorcycl
 

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......... When I ride my VN for a few trips then jump on my GL, I tell myself before the corner "let the bike take you, don't steer it" and that tall beast glides round the s curves.

I sat on a Concours 14 last week, can't imagine what that's like.....


When I got my FJR I really expected it to take some effort to turn compared to the Vulcan. Well weight has little to do with it, nor does height...it all seems to be steering geometry. The FJR almost seems to go into turns on it's own, as very little effort is used by the rider.

This is because there are differences in bikes with "sportbike" geometry as opposed to "crusier" geometry. Sport bikes have "quicker" steering as they say, and some bikes like many crusiers have "slow steering" ...speed iteself not really being the issue, but rider "imput" is.

For all its exta mass, the Concours feels like a big sport bike and goes through turns with very little thought or effort from the rider....compared to say a crusier of equal weight. Once moving you never notice the heft of the bike and it feels like it actualy just reads your mind ...taking turns as you "think" them.

Granted, there are other factors like tires, and suspension that effect how a bike handles, or feels, but in general , bikes with quicker "sport bike" like steering feel completely different than most crusiers.


KM
 

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Old Truck Junkie
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KM makes a very good piont. There is a very big difference in handling between my vn and the maxim.
The vn has been lowered from the rear and a little from the front. It is a cruiser. The maxim is more of a sports bike and totally stock.
The maxim handles a whole lot better than the vn. imo.
 

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Simple Solutions
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It's funny how some riders talk about counter-steering as if it was something they one day decided to try.;) Maybe you can one day decide to be conscious of it, but you don't try it. It's how you ride a motorcycle. Period. You can definitely perfect the skill, and you obviously need to know the repercussions of braking and such during counter-steering, which is why I like the tip Old Hoss posted a link to. This is why they work with beginning riders in the course with stopping in a curve, by straightening, going upright, then emergency braking... Important stuff! I love the term he used "falling UP"! Good stuff!
Sorry but some of the comments struck me funny!
I agree 99 percent... i remember when i was a brand new rider and have riddin with a lot of new riders... i understand the geometry of counter steering and use it to my advantage today but learning it (becoming conscious of it ) was a need me and many others at the beginning fight the act of counter steering making an unsafe unstable ride... the "knowledge" of this act or applying it to your advantage makes all the difference in the world ... being comfortable on the motorcycle is the only safe way of ridding... weather the experts show the science of it or the novices do it instinctively... its a must know to put these practices in full force!
 

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Recovering Dirtbiker
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Countersteering is great and all but it is a loaded term. It can refer to both the physical act of how a motorcycle turns *AND* a concious act on behalf of the ride to make a motorcyle lean in a turn. In the book, "Proficient Motorcycling" the author uses the term almost exclusively in reference to the former. I started riding bikes as a kid and so I "counter-steered" for years before having an offical name for it. These days it's just something I feel - part of the natural feedback of operating a motorcycle and I rarely think about it (directly at least, I still think about lean angles and cornering lines, etc). The MSF course also uses a term called "counterweighting" which is something completely different and refers to counter-balancing your bike during slow speed manuvers where the lack of momentum makes it more apt to tip over in a lean.
 

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Linkmeister Supreme
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Discussion Starter #13
I started this thread and posted the link to counter-steering because it was my inexperience and lack of confidence in what I "knew" intelectually, that in great part caused me to crash into the guardrail on an exit ramp. I "knew" that I needed to push right to go right, but I was riding on dirty colored pavement that I feared was covered with sand and dirt.

I got fixated on the guardrail ahead, which was whizzing by 2 feet from my left leg. I feared to countersteer because I thought I would steer into the rail and/or slide to the left as the bike leaned to the right. I tried to "steer" the bike right at an estimated 30-40 mph, which all of you know counter-steered me left up against the guardrail for a 50 foot drag of my leg along it.

So if there are any of you newbies, or not so newbies, who are still trying to make your body do what your brain is telling it to do by "pushing right to go right", or "push left to go left", PRACTICE DOING THIS UNTIL IT BECOMES A REFLEX ACTION. It will build muscle memory stronger and stronger the more you do it. Start at lower speeds of 15 - 20 mph on an empty parking lot or a deserted road. As you gain confidence in the technique ( it is actually a law of physics as mentoned previously) and your abilitiy to use it, start riding some twisty roads without too much traffic. The way you ride everyday is the way you will react in an emergency. If you have too think about what to do, it is too late. You have to react instinctively to danger, by doing what you have learned to do in calmer situations. Don`t let yourself get bit like I did. READ, LEARN AND PRACTICE, then use what you learn on every ride.
 

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Ba dum dum, ching...
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OK, I read all the posts on this thread and watched the videos and said to myself (like a lot of you) "OK I've read the books. I've taken the MSF course. I understand what they're sayinig but I don't really do that." So this morning on my ride I decided to test it. Straight road, no other traffic. Sitting upright, (don't lean). Push left, lean left, go left. Push right, lean right, go right. I didn't have a choice to lean, when I pushed on the handlebar the bike leans over and turns. I know you've all done this already but it's a great demonstration of how physics works. The only drawback was that once I realized that this is what actually happens I started overthinking it on the turns. I had to tell myself "Don't overthink it just do it."


R
 

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Recovering Dirtbiker
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@OldHoss

The "180 degree turn" and "staggered cones" excercises that most MSF courses have you do is good practice for this. I would practice on my own though if I were new to motorcycles because "muscle memory" is the only thing that will save you in an emergency situation: there is simply not enough time to think about what you need to do before you have to do it. Personally I have a very sharp on-ramp that I have to use everyday on my commute and I use it for cornering practice, choosing different lines and playing around with speed and lean angles. Of course I'm really just "sharpening the saw" there and not trying to learn a skill from scratch outright. As your skills improve, you can also hit the local twisties and practice there. I highly suggest

a) starting off by taking corners slow (30-35mph) and "feeling the turn" instead of just doing a "steer and pray"
and
b) reading the book "Proficient Motorcycling" which has one of the easiest to understand descriptions of how to take corners/ramps and the actual physics behind the mysterious counter-steering phenomenon. It also has a description of rake and trail and how they impact lean angle and effect counter-steering.

This is maybe a little OT from the original post, but I'd also like to say to the complete "newbie" riders out there: I *highly* suggest learning (or at least practicing) on a dirt bike or dual-sport bike. The first year that my parents bought my dirt bike I fell down *A LOT* but I learned a lot about the limits of the machine and how to steer, etc. that I probably wouldn't have learned as well on a street bike for fear of dumping it. Dirtbikes are practically indestructible (don't ask me how I know this) and you can pretty much try all kinds of crazy stuff which builds confidence because you aren't freaking out about dropping the bike. Plus you have the added advantage of practicing in dirt before you hit the road which can be much more forgiving than asphalt or concrete (or guardrail).
 

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Old Twistie Sticks Rider
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Know what...??? There are a bunch of savvy riders in this forum, seems like the post turned into a very good rider instructional course, very good advise that I will beat into my pea brain...
I know my skills are not up to a lot of riders, but I still like being agressive up to or near my limits, but some times I cross over and get above my skill level, such being the case with the blind sharp hair pin right curves, I need to be more cautious and slow down to what I can handle, not do 25mph in a 15mph curve, you can't judge what you can't see...
Thanks folks for a very good refresher course, I needed that, as sometimes I just jump in too deep...
Thanks and have a good one...Old Dog...
 

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Usually I don't contribute to discussions on countersteering because often it is just an argument over a word: ie, how to explain what we all do instinctively anyway.

But for whatever it's worth, here is my personal take on the matter:

I don't think in terms of "push right to turn right....", etc. It seems to come to me more intuitively if I think in terms of which way do I want to lean.

It's not strictly true that you always have to countersteer to turn. You turn by leaning. Countersteering is a quick way to create a lean without altering your body position, by moving your line to the left or right of your combined centre of mass. But you can also turn simply by shifting your weight to create the lean - it just takes longer that way.

There are times when you can't countersteer to turn because you don't have the room to track the wheels to the side. For example, one time I found myself slowly converging with a guard rail (while going straight) but couldn't countersteer to get away from it because doing so would have brought the lower parts of the bike into contact with the rail. Instead, I leaned my body the opposite way and let its weight pull me back into my lane.

Another time I dozed off while riding through Kentucky (my fault - I was doing a nonstop from Marshall, Missouri to Harman W. Va.) and woke up just as the bike approached the edge of the pavement. It was too late to avoid the edge by countersteering because doing so would have tracked my wheels over onto the grass in a lean and I would likely have slid out (that was my snap judgment). So I let the bike cross over the edge of the pavement and rode it out straight on the grass until I slowed down enough to "lean" my way back onto the asphalt. Fortunately this was one of the few places along that Kentucky highway where I could get away with doing that.
 

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Columbus, Ohio
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I learned about counter steering accidently, when I was a kid. I saw a magazine cover showing about four dirt track racers rounding a corner and they all were doing an exaggerated counter steer, probably because they were slipping out of the turn in the loose dirt. I don't remember if I asked and was told, or if somebody's letter to the editor got the explanation.

When I took the safety course by ODOT in Ohio, a guy asked the instructor why they were not discussing it, and the instructor, said it was because it is easier to just do it than to understand it.

The main reason a sport bike is quicker in a turn than a cruiser is the angle of the fork and the caster of the wheel. The angle is much sharper than the extended forks of cruisers.
 

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Usually I don't contribute to discussions on countersteering because often it is just an argument over a word: ie, how to explain what we all do instinctively anyway.

But for whatever it's worth, here is my personal take on the matter:

I don't think in terms of "push right to turn right....", etc. It seems to come to me more intuitively if I think in terms of which way do I want to lean.

It's not strictly true that you always have to countersteer to turn. You turn by leaning. Countersteering is a quick way to create a lean without altering your body position, by moving your line to the left or right of your combined centre of mass. But you can also turn simply by shifting your weight to create the lean - it just takes longer that way.

There are times when you can't countersteer to turn because you don't have the room to track the wheels to the side. For example, one time I found myself slowly converging with a guard rail (while going straight) but couldn't countersteer to get away from it because doing so would have brought the lower parts of the bike into contact with the rail. Instead, I leaned my body the opposite way and let its weight pull me back into my lane.

Another time I dozed off while riding through Kentucky (my fault - I was doing a nonstop from Marshall, Missouri to Harman W. Va.) and woke up just as the bike approached the edge of the pavement. It was too late to avoid the edge by countersteering because doing so would have tracked my wheels over onto the grass in a lean and I would likely have slid out (that was my snap judgment). So I let the bike cross over the edge of the pavement and rode it out straight on the grass until I slowed down enough to "lean" my way back onto the asphalt. Fortunately this was one of the few places along that Kentucky highway where I could get away with doing that.
If my assumption that countersteering a bicycle is exactly the same as countersteering a motorcycle, then I would have to disagree about being able to steer a motorcycle solely by leaning. Took the bicycle out for an experiment (slower speed, less chance for injury to me or the ride) and discovered that holding the handlebars firmly and leaning only caused the bike to want to tip over. It would not turn without countersteering. The countersteering inputs were so minimal that they were almost imperceptable, but without them the bicycle maintained a straight path.
 

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If my assumption that countersteering a bicycle is exactly the same as countersteering a motorcycle, then I would have to disagree about being able to steer a motorcycle solely by leaning. Took the bicycle out for an experiment (slower speed, less chance for injury to me or the ride) and discovered that holding the handlebars firmly and leaning only caused the bike to want to tip over. It would not turn without countersteering. The countersteering inputs were so minimal that they were almost imperceptable, but without them the bicycle maintained a straight path.
I think that you guys are talking normal operations (Flitecontrol) and unusual circumstances (Haithabu). So, you are both correct. Under normal circumstances, countersteering is the best way to turn both bicycles and motorcycles. However, under certain circumstances, leaning/weight shift/center of gravity shifting/pushing the bike down/whatever-it-takes, may be the only option to change direction. I will defer the pros on this, but I've noticed (on my road bicycle and motorcycle) that these maneuver are best kept as short as possible in duration, only to get you out of harms way. Returning to normal coutnersteering when possible.

Thanks for posting experiment results Flitecontol! You were wearing a helmet while riding the bicycle, correct?
 
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