Andrew Anderson © 2012 The Happy Biker All Rights Reserved
COUNTER STEERING - Why does it help us go round the bend?
Yeah right, you turn the bars to the left and the bike goes right!......... who are you kidding!
Well actually that is true. Counter steering, as the name suggests is in effect steering in the opposite direction to the way you want to turn…….. NOW I’M REALLY CONFUSED!
When I say steer, I don’t mean you actually turn the bars in the opposite direction, you just give them a little nudge, and that will tip the bike into the bend.
Don’t believe me? Well if you ride a bike, and go round a corner, you have to counter steer, otherwise the bike won’t turn, the thing is you don’t actually realise that you are doing it. Remember when your dad taught you to ride your first peddle cycle, if you were like me, you kept falling off every time you turned the bars, that’s because you had to learn to counter steer, when you had mastered the technique in your brain…. You stopped falling off… QED!
So counter steering is something we do automatically….. So why do I need to know about it? Well, if you can apply counter steering as part of your riding technique, you can get the bike to tip into the bends quicker, also if you find yourself running wide on a bend, heading for that tree, or oncoming vehicle, by applying counter steering, you can tighten your line and hopefully get round in one piece.
Like you, I had read tons about counter steering, and didn’t understand one word of it, I could not get my head around moving the bars one way to go the other. It was only after attending the Mick Boddice Road and Track Training School at Darley Moore that I mastered this technique. On my way home from the school, I had to ride my favourite bit of road, the Cat & Fiddle Pass in the Peak District, I applied what I had been taught earlier that day, and to my utter amazement, my cornering improved significantly, the bike just flicked into the bends!
So what do you do to counter steer?
Well as I have said, you move the bars in the opposite direction to the way you want to turn. For our example we will take a right hand bend. As you approach the bend, you would as normal scrubb off your speed by using the throttle or brakes, identify your line, turn in point, apex and exit, just as normal. You might hang off, shifting your weight onto the side of the bend, or sit bolt upright, it doesn’t mater, you use whichever you prefer.
Now just as you are about to tip the bike in, and remember you are on a right hand bend, just nudge the right bar away from you, not a violent push, just a gentle nudge. You have not actually moved the bars to the left, (remember pushing on the right bar will move the bars left… if you don’t believe me, go and sit on your bike now and see which way the bars move if you push the right bar away from you) but as a result you have started the gyroscopic movement of the bike, and the bike will tip to the right. You can either nudge the right bar away from you or pull the left bar towards you, it will have the same effect, it’s whatever is easiest for you to master and appropriate for the situation… you decide
Now you are in the bend and you have to tighten your line, being the sensible rider you are, you have left some lean angle in reserve, I assume that you are not decking the pegs, can and bodywork at this point. To tighten your line, again on a right hander, just nudge the right bar away from you, actually at this point, it might be easier to pull the left bar towards you, but the effect will be the same, the bike will tip further into the corner, tightening your line. Remember don’t use your brakes mid corner or chop the throttle…. That’s just asking for trouble.
Are you going to practice counter steering?…. Well if so, find an empty car park, on a dry day, ride slowly in a straight line and just see what happens if you nudge the right bar away from you. Be prepared for the bike to flick to the right. When you are confident, apply this to the road and decide for yourself if it makes your cornering safer.
Counter steering…. I never understood it… but thanks to Mick Boddice….. it has really improved my riding.