Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS


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Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby WingAdmin » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:31 pm



I saw this topic come up the other day, and I can't believe it is still being debated. The topic: how do we steer our motorcycles?

You would think that being that we ride motorcycles, we are intimately familiar with how we steer them. However, it seems that a large number of people still think that they steer their bike by leaning. It's actually correct: leaning your body weight can, very slightly, change the direction of your bike. But how you, I, and everyone else actually steers their bike, whether or not you know (or believe) it, is through a technique called countersteering.

What is countersteering?

All motorcycles turn by leaning. However, with the immense gyroscopic force of two large, heavy spinning wheels, it takes a massive displacement of weight in order to overcome this gyroscopic force, making the bike turn. We need a simple way of making the bike lean over so that it will start to turn. This is where countersteering comes in.



We want the bike to turn right, so we actually turn the handlebars LEFT - counter to the way we actually want to steer. The simplest way of doing this is to push on the grip in the direction you want to go. This has the effect of pushing the bottom of the bike out to the left, for two reasons:

- Gyroscopic precession means that torque is exerted at a 90 degree angle to the force applied. When we rotate the front wheel to the left, it is being rotated on the axis of the steering stem. The wheel is turning forward, so 90 degrees forward of the steering stem axis is an axis running longitudinally (front to back) through the center front wheel, through the axle. The torque of the gyroscope (the front wheel) is exerted in the same direction as it is applied, only 90 degrees later - which means it is going to attempt to rotate the bike longitudinally - which means it is forcing it to lean to the RIGHT.

- As the bike is displaced slightly to the left by your force on the handlebars, the bottom of the bike (where the wheels touch the ground) is steered to the left. This pulls the bottom of the bike to the left. The bike will attempt to rotate along its longitudinal center of gravity, which means the bike leans to the RIGHT. If you were to violently shove the handlebars in one direction, the bike would rotate along this center of gravity until it crashed onto its side!

As both of these things occur, causing longitudinal rotational force, the bike leans right, the steering stabilizes, and the right turn occurs. Depending on the steering geometry (primarily the amount of caster), the bike will either stay in this turn on its own, or will straighten out when you remove steering force. Our Goldwings will straighten out nicely on their own. Racing bikes - not so much.


So...physics aside, why do some people still insist that countersteering is a myth, and that leaning is what actually makes a bike turn? Good question. But it is just that: a myth.

The folks at California Superbike School created a motorcycle that they call the No BS (Body Steer) bike. It has two sets of handlebars - one set of handlebars is the normal set, attached to the front wheel. The second set is fixed in place, mounted directly to the frame of the bike:



They use this demonstrator bike to show that leaning (body steering) is in fact the myth, and that people who insist they steer their bike are in fact countersteering without even realizing it. To prove this, they have someone ride the bike using the upper handlebars, the ones welded directly to the frame. If body steering (leaning) is in fact the way bikes steer, you should be able to steer the bike normally by using these handlebars and simply leaning your body. The results speak for themselves:





So why is this important? If you can already steer your bike, why should you care about HOW you steer your bike? The reason is emergencies. When you are in a situation where you need to swerve, perhaps violently, in order to avoid an impact, pothole, ditch, whatever - you need the bike to move NOW. Leaning and unconsciously countersteering in hope that the bike will steer in the direction you want it to go is not going to do it - you will not swerve enough. You need to consciously SHOVE that handlebar - push the grip away from you in the direction you want to go. Try it next time you're out on your bike, give your grip a good shove and feel the bike swerve. It may save your life one day!



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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby dingdong » Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:34 am

Years ago as a beginning rider before I knew what countersteering was I thought that leaning was how you turned a bike. That made for some scary riding in the curves. Learning about countersteering and then "consiously" using countersteering made for a much safer and enjoyable riding experience. I would guess that the non-believers would enjoy riding much more if they practiced countersteering.
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby wilmo » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:14 pm

Actually, I think countersteering is unconsciously applied. I found this out earlier this year. When coming to a turn, I just completed it without giving it a second thought. One day, as I was approaching a turn, I noticed I naturally pulled the bike left prior to beginning the right turn by leaning. Kind of a revelation, I just never thought of it before. So, on the next turn, I purposely countersteered just to see the results and that's when I found out that I just naturally do this anyway. Knowing this now, i pay attention to turns and I do this every time. I think everyone else does this, too, without giving any thought to it-it just comes natural. Try turning without it-not very effective, especially at high speeds. If someone argues that this doesn't happen, they aren't paying attention to themselves. It caught me off guard when I realized it but that's what's happening.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby jdavidsmit » Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:54 pm

A few years ago i took a refresher riding course. and the instructor demonstrated the leaning and countersteering, up until then i really had not given it much thought, it just happened. I have also found when I look further into the curve to where i want to go, it's all happens so smoothly.
love that feeling whatever is forces are at work.
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:01 am

jdavidsmit wrote:A few years ago i took a refresher riding course. and the instructor demonstrated the leaning and countersteering, up until then i really had not given it much thought, it just happened. I have also found when I look further into the curve to where i want to go, it's all happens so smoothly.
love that feeling whatever is forces are at work.


Looking up into the curve is the best way to cleanly and smoothly execute a turn. Your bike will normally go wherever you look. That's why so often when people go into a curve too fast, realize they are going to run wide, then look (and fixate) on that tree/guardrail/mailbox/whatever on the other side of the road that they don't want to hit, that's exactly what they end up hitting. Instead they should be looking up the curve on the inside of the road, and the bike will naturally follow suit.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby tom84std » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:24 am

At some point years ago I also consciously noticed that I was counter steering. I experimented several times by applying a slight forward pressure on the grip in the direction I wanted the bike to go. I always just assumed it causes a slight lean of the bike and induces the turn. I haven't given it any thought past that. Maybe I should.

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Counter steering

Postby Freelancer » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:44 pm

In the MSF basic motorcycle safety class, the instructor tells students, "push right, go right."

I 'lean' into a turn in that I sit perpendicular to the angle of the lean.

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Re: Counter steering

Postby oilboy1162 » Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:00 pm

in road racing school(oh man,that was years ago!) we were taught to "pull" on the opposite grip as the corner we were entering as they said, and i believe, that you enter faster. now i'm not advocating "hanging off" a 900+lb g-wing, but i still find it prefferable to "puyshing. IMHO of course. let the debate begin!
:lol: I know people say we spend too much money on our rides, but I can't hear them when I'm 1000 miles away! :roll:

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Re: Counter steering

Postby Freelancer » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:21 pm

Actually, I do both depending on the situation. If I've been riding for a couple of hours, one hand gets a rest while the other stays on the handlebar. Depending on the hand, I'm pushing or pulling.

in tight turns - especially a series of twists - i push and pull all the time.

155lbs on a 900lb scoot...

Ride safe!

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby mcbrown » Mon Dec 01, 2014 11:51 pm

Hi Wingers,
Here is a video which I purchased as a DVD a couple of years ago about the science of riding a motorcycle. It has been uploaded by someone else on YouTube and runs for 1hr 34mins so make sure you have enough data allowance on your account. At 720P it is 1.52GB but is considerably smaller at the lower resolutions. I use Freemake Video Downloader which tells me the file size for each type of resolution. Freemake is available here; http://www.freemake.com/free_video_downloader/




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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby Dalydude » Tue Dec 02, 2014 12:16 am

Although I'm pretty sure I can make my bike turn by leaning, it just takes time for precession to do the job, and is fine for wide, gentle turns, but countersteering is much more sure and controllable. Also, If I want a crisp reaction, not only do I push on the appropriate handlebar, I also pull on the other one. The bike reacts super-quickly that way.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby brettchallenger » Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:00 am

Great video; but you know, I think I am just too far into my motorcycle career to countenance making huge changes to my riding style. Particularly as my 'Wing is not by any stretch of the imagination, a sports bike and I have no desire to scrape its footpegs . I did experiment a little on my bicycle - and promptly fell off, so that put me off. In any case, the best sticky tyres in the world and the greatest technique isn't going to prevent me from coming off next time I hit a patch of spilled diesel from an overfilled truck's fuel tank on a tightbend/roundabout .

The Steven Seagal character at 01':25" - "I guess I learned a few things in my days" - is such an irritating individual, I would have been tempted to shove his book into a very dark, uncomfortable place.
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby rachester67 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:34 am

Started riding at the ripe old of age of 6 or 7 rode bikes up to the time I joined the Army at the age of 21. 10 years later I decided it was time to ride again so I bought a bike and took a safety course. WOW what an eye opener that was! I was blown away with the countersteering effect as I had never realized it was just that simple. Work on your slow ride like you see at a police rodeo. Had one tell me a monkey can ride fast but only a true rider can ride slow. Riding slow takes skill and it is perishible so you have to practice it!

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby rachester67 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:21 am

A Goldwing is a sports bike with extra tupperware added! Can't do this without countersteering!

[youtube]

[/YouTube]

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby brettchallenger » Tue Dec 02, 2014 10:16 am

Well that is impressive and truly beyond my skill level. Was that the footpegs I could hear scraping there? I still won't be attempting anything like that this next summer, I doubt I could afford the laundry bill for my underwear for a start.
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby rachester67 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 12:12 pm

Yes that is footpegs scraping. Still makes me pucker when I do it cause that put me on the ground once with my old Harley doing slow speed turns on a not so level pavement (blacktop to concrete) 1/4 inch lip caught the flat steel member on the underside of the floorboard. At least the Goldwing has the "turtle back" style nut at the end of the peg that will slide easily on the pavement.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby FM-USA » Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:53 pm

I employ a combination of three inputs.
Counter steer, weight shift (not leaning) and 'tush' pressure.

Don't tell wex, he's P.O'd enough for loosing the slow-rides.
The sore looser claimed I had a gyroscope on the bike.
To me leaning in a turn helps keep the bike a bit more upright and helps thwart peg scraping.

Since I now DarkSide with the largest possible Battlax on the front, the bike was a little sluggish in counter steering, had something to do with that tires extra centrifugal force. By throwing my weight just before I counter steer makes the bike feel like I have power steering. 8-)
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby wallybee43 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:18 pm

I agree that pointing your nose where you want to go works well in mild corners or at slower speeds. But for tighter corners and/or higher speeds, the counter steering or push steering method is an essential technique. The way to learn counter steering is to find a curvy road. Practice your push steering and as you become more comfortable with it, increase your speeds going into similar sharpness of corners. As the corners get sharper and/or the speed increases you will have to push even harder. Avoiding obstacles is just one of the benefits of counter steering. To me the other huge benefit is that should you go into a corner too fast, if you are counter steering, all that is necessary is to push harder to correct for the too high speed. This is especially important when you are making a right hand corner. You do not want to stray across the yellow line into the oncoming lane, especially if you are in a blind corner where you cannot see oncoming traffic. Then too, on a left hand corner the same thing can apply to keeping you out of the ditch. In my many thousands of miles of riding I have seen too many M/C crashes where the rider simply was wide and ended up in the ditch. Another point is that it is almost impossible to push too hard. Your machine will lean only so far and it may surprise you just how much of an angle you can get the bike into, and the harder you push the tighter and quicker around that corner you will go!

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby Dalydude » Wed Dec 03, 2014 10:55 am

brettchallenger wrote:Well that is impressive and truly beyond my skill level. Was that the footpegs I could hear scraping there? I still won't be attempting anything like that this next summer, I doubt I could afford the laundry bill for my underwear for a start.

And you miss a lot of beautiful scenery hot-doggin' it like that, hoping the road is clear and there ain't a deer around the next corner.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby mcbrown » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:42 am

Hi wallybee43,
If you are countersteering and you still find you are running wide in the corner due to excessive speed, gently apply the rear brake and you will find that it will pull you into the corner. This has saved my skin several times when I have gone in too fast.

Murray

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby Pam » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:41 am

I can see countersteering in my head and in theory but am not aware that I am doing it. I manage to get around corners and curves so I must be doing it. Going to have to pay more attention in the spring

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby HeyBerg1 » Thu Dec 18, 2014 10:16 pm

Thanks, WingAdmin, for posting this article. I'm an avid believer in countersteering. I use it all the time and try to explain it to other riders that say they don't know what it is. I appreciate all you do for this forum. Merry Christmas to you and yours and all the forum readers.

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby FM-USA » Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:48 am

Counter-steering is counter-intuitive since it's counter to you're cognizance.
In other words, you steer the wrong way to come out right.
I think.... therefore I thought.
:shock:
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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby dingdong » Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:08 am

FM-USA wrote:Counter-steering is counter-intuitive since it's counter to you're cognizance.
In other words, you steer the wrong way to come out right.
I think.... therefore I thought.
:shock:


Yeah! And if you steer the other way you come out wrong, I mean left.
Tom

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Re: Leaning vs Countersteering: No BS

Postby brettchallenger » Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:52 am

dingdong wrote:
FM-USA wrote:Counter-steering is counter-intuitive since it's counter to you're cognizance.
In other words, you steer the wrong way to come out right.
I think.... therefore I thought.
:shock:


Yeah! And if you steer the other way you come out wrong, I mean left.



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