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Counter Steering - When to Use?

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Counter Steering - When to Use?

Old 04-28-17, 11:04 AM
  #126  
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Also riding since I can remember - about 4 as well. Used CS, but, as a kid, explained it to myself as if bicycle needs a bit of a “running start” in order to turn more quickly, just like I needed to crunch down a bit in order to jump further. However, learning about it did help me use it just a little bit better. Though we're not all the same, of course.
HAhaha! That reminds me of the old-timer who taught me to ride a two-wheeler when i was a kid! Watching him get on a bike was amusing: He'd hold the bike and run along side of it, and then hop on when it had enough momentum to coast a bit. But he'd do this in a rather hurried all-in-one motion, and it looked quite funny! Personally, I could never master the technique, though i wanted to, as it would set me apart from all the other kids if I could mount my bike that way!
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Old 04-28-17, 05:07 PM
  #127  
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As someone with a lot of motorcycle experience and minimal bicycling experience, I'm surprised to see all the controversy about counter steering. If you are on two wheels inline with each other and you turn, you do it. You may think you don't but you do. Even at very low speed when you are turning the bars in the same direction as the turn, what you do subconsciously is nudge them ever so slightly the opposite direction first, which initiates the lean that is required to turn.

If you don't believe it try it out next time you ride. Unless you're just really stubborn or somehow you can overcome the laws of physics, you'll realize it's correct.

For most riding, you really don't need to think about it much but if you ride or race in close proximity to other vehicles or do fast descents on winding roads, you would be smart to understand what is going on and practice using it to speed up maneuvering, alter your line in a curve, etc. It will do wonders for your ability to ride with more confidence.
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Old 04-28-17, 05:40 PM
  #128  
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
Wait 'til we get to "target fixation" and hitting the apex of a turn. Oh, boy.
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Old 04-28-17, 06:42 PM
  #129  
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Personally, whenever I am driving a counter ...

lately I have been working on armoire steering ... more continental and spacious too.
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Old 04-28-17, 06:59 PM
  #130  
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True story here. Back in the mid 90's I was returning to running after a multi-year layoff. Things went well until I started to get my speed back and the ankle sprains got out of hand. I found myself (yet again) trying to keep my conditioning up on an indoor bike while waiting for my ankle to heal. This was like the 5th or 6th time in about that many months. So I said "screw it - I might as well become a cyclist". I had not been on a bike since maybe age 15 (late 40's at the time). And I ended up at an LBS and bought a pretty darn nice Bianchi (that I am still riding after some non-trivial upgrades).

The LBS guy took me out for a short ride just to show me how to shift and stuff (I had never been on anything except no-shift, coaster brake bikes) and that was in the early 60's. That was fine and the next day I went out for a 20 mile ride (my cycling conditioning was actually not bad given all the ankle sprains).

I went up a moderate climb in the San Jose, Ca area and was flying back down, having a great time. I got to a bend that was a bit sharp for my speed, braked a bit, turned a bit right and started to drift LEFT. I couldn't believe it and had no idea WTF just happened other than had a car been coming I would have been dead.

So I went a bit more cautiously back to the car, did some research, and as many others have said it 'just happens naturally' (but maybe not after 30-some years off a bike).

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Old 04-28-17, 07:20 PM
  #131  
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Similar story...first time i rode a motorcycle was the time I bought a used one for $1400 at a guys house. Took off, immediately hopped a curb and rode across the neighbors grass lol.

Had NO idea what countersteering....figured it would be exactly like riding a bike. Not so much. With weights 10,20, 30, or 40 times that of a bike...unconciously countersteering doesnt cut it. You need to put some effort into it.

You notice the same effect on fast or sharp turns with a bicycle. You do have to put some real pressure on the inside bar to keep the bike leaning over.
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Old 04-28-17, 09:46 PM
  #132  
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I love the title of this thread- "When to use"- as if we have a choice!
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Old 04-29-17, 08:07 AM
  #133  
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What real countersteering looks like:

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Old 04-29-17, 11:30 AM
  #134  
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To demystify it a hair more, counter-steering initiates a bike lean and that's just about all. There is nothing magical, nor in the laws of physics, that forces us to counter-steer n order to turn a bike. We can also lean a bike by, well, leaning. Shift your body to the left of your bike, lean the bike left and turn the wheels left, and your bike will turn left, with no counter-steering at all.

Counter-steering is often more useful because it's easier to quickly shift our balance using counter-steering than by moving our bodies.
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Old 04-29-17, 01:07 PM
  #135  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
To demystify it a hair more, counter-steering initiates a bike lean and that's just about all. There is nothing magical, nor in the laws of physics, that forces us to counter-steer n order to turn a bike. We can also lean a bike by, well, leaning. Shift your body to the left of your bike, lean the bike left and turn the wheels left, and your bike will turn left, with no counter-steering at all.

Counter-steering is often more useful because it's easier to quickly shift our balance using counter-steering than by moving our bodies.
(Counter) steering is a lot more effective (quicker) than trying to lean the bike using only body weight. Of course, both those things complement each other.
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Old 04-29-17, 01:17 PM
  #136  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
To demystify it a hair more, counter-steering initiates a bike lean and that's just about all. There is nothing magical, nor in the laws of physics, that forces us to counter-steer n order to turn a bike. We can also lean a bike by, well, leaning. Shift your body to the left of your bike, lean the bike left and turn the wheels left, and your bike will turn left, with no counter-steering at all.

Counter-steering is often more useful because it's easier to quickly shift our balance using counter-steering than by moving our bodies.
I think even in that situation you are counter steering.

If you lean your body left, I am virtually certain you are making the bike lean to the right. This will make the wheel flop to the right for a moment, swinging the right wheel to the right, initiating a full bike/body lean to the left.

I don't think it's possible to turn left without having the wheel go right of center for at least a moment.
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Old 04-29-17, 01:33 PM
  #137  
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
I think even in that situation you are counter steering.

If you lean your body left, I am virtually certain you are making the bike lean to the right. This will make the wheel flop to the right for a moment, swinging the right wheel to the right, initiating a full bike/body lean to the left.

I don't think it's possible to turn left without having the wheel go right of center for at least a moment.
Nope. Think about it this way for a moment.

Counter-steer: the bike moves right (because the wheel is turned that way). The body stays more left, because momentum. Body to the left side of the bike makes the bike lean left.

Moving your body to the left places your body to the left side of the bike, the exact same situation. Except that the bike moves in a slightly smoother curve. It doesn't require that your bike has to lean right first. Try it and see And even if there is a tiny amount of opposite lean, that's not the same as counter-steering to produce lean. For one, it's << smaller and secondly it's the opposite cause and effect.

Last edited by wphamilton; 04-29-17 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 04-29-17, 02:47 PM
  #138  
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Counter-steering is just a quick way to initiate the the leaning of the bike. When the bike is traveling along in a straight line, the front wheels contact patch is is in line with the center of gravity(COG). When you turn the wheel to the right, the contact patch is pulled to the right of the COG, the bike rotates vertically around the COG which causes the bike to lean left.
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Old 04-29-17, 05:08 PM
  #139  
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So are you actually proposing turning the bar left when you are leaning right in a right hand bend. Seems like a sure fire way to attract a road rash. I think i will stick to intuitive riding.
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Old 04-29-17, 05:21 PM
  #140  
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
So are you actually proposing turning the bar left when you are leaning right in a right hand bend. Seems like a sure fire way to attract a road rash. I think i will stick to intuitive riding.
You misunderstand as a lot of people do. You only turn left to initiate the right lean. As soon as you point the bars to the left slightly, the bike will lean itself to the right. As soon as the bike starts to lean right you let the bars return to their "neutral" attitude. You do not attempt to hold the bars in the left pointing attitude. I usually explain it to people on a motorcycle as just bumping the right bar, not really pushing it.
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Old 04-29-17, 06:10 PM
  #141  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Nope. Think about it this way for a moment.

Counter-steer: the bike moves right (because the wheel is turned that way). The body stays more left, because momentum. Body to the left side of the bike makes the bike lean left.

Moving your body to the left places your body to the left side of the bike, the exact same situation. Except that the bike moves in a slightly smoother curve. It doesn't require that your bike has to lean right first. Try it and see And even if there is a tiny amount of opposite lean, that's not the same as counter-steering to produce lean. For one, it's << smaller and secondly it's the opposite cause and effect.
Try it on a bike at very slow speed with someone watching from the front or back. It's not possible to initiate a body lean in one direction without the bike leaning the opposite way

Better yet, stand on the side of the bike with both feet on one pedal, get the bike to balance, and see which way it's leaning. Your body and bike form one unit with a shared center of gravity. You can't move the center of gravity outside the line of the tires without steering the tires away from the center of gravity.

Last edited by Abe_Froman; 04-29-17 at 06:16 PM.
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Old 04-29-17, 06:43 PM
  #142  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
There is nothing magical, nor in the laws of physics, that forces us to counter-steer n order to turn a bike. We can also lean a bike by, well, leaning. Shift your body to the left of your bike, lean the bike left and turn the wheels left, and your bike will turn left, with no counter-steering at all.
You can't instantaneously 'move' yourself to the left. You need to push against something. If you want to lean left you'll need to turn to the right at the same time. You don't have to do it consciously but it happens nevertheless.
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Old 04-29-17, 07:48 PM
  #143  
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
You can't instantaneously 'move' yourself to the left. You need to push against something. If you want to lean left you'll need to turn to the right at the same time. You don't have to do it consciously but it happens nevertheless.
You push against the pedal - just like moving forward
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Old 04-29-17, 07:52 PM
  #144  
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
Try it on a bike at very slow speed with someone watching from the front or back. It's not possible to initiate a body lean in one direction without the bike leaning the opposite way

But it's possible (easy in fact) to lean the bike without turning the wheel in the opposite way. The direction of the tires has no effect on the center of balance. (although the converse is true. changing the balance causes the bars to turn, absent other steering inputs)

I realize that most people think that you cannot turn without counter-steering, but most people are wrong about that.
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Old 04-29-17, 10:19 PM
  #145  
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I think I, like most people, never even gave counter-steering a thought; never realized it even was a thing, until we read about it- and yet we'd been doing it since we were children.....
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Old 04-29-17, 10:25 PM
  #146  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
I think I, like most people, never even gave counter-steering a thought; never realized it even was a thing, until we read about it- and yet we'd been doing it since we were children.....
Inadvertantly using it when you don't know what it is and intentionally using it when you need to switch lines ASAP are two entirely different things.
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Old 04-29-17, 10:54 PM
  #147  
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Originally Posted by adamhenry View Post
Inadvertantly using it when you don't know what it is and intentionally using it when you need to switch lines ASAP are two entirely different things.
+1

A simpler analogy would be running. Not sure about others, but I've played football for years as a kid and was among the quickest and best runners. However, after I had started training athletics as well, my running was further improved. Not by much, but it was "polished". Learning proper technique. Same can be said even for breathing - not all the people do it properly (when running). On the other hand, skills like long (and curved) shots and passes came naturally to me, instinctively, while some (better skilled players in other aspects) had asked me to show them how I do it...

There are two ways of learning and improving: experience with trial & error, and learning and thinking things through. Some people prefer one, some the other approach, but most of the time, for most of the people, both approaches complement each other.
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Old 04-30-17, 10:16 AM
  #148  
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Originally Posted by adamhenry View Post
Inadvertantly using it when you don't know what it is and intentionally using it when you need to switch lines ASAP are two entirely different things.
But the thing is: You don't have a choice. Above a certain speed, on two wheels (I think it's around 12MPH) you steer the bike by shifting the center of gravity, which forces countersteering. If you're going, say 20MPH and try to steer by turning the bars in the direction that you want the bike to go...it's not going to work. One doesn't have a choice, any more so than if one steps off of the roof of a ten-story building, and says "I think I'll use gravity to hurl my body to the sidewalk". You don't have a choice...you either abide by the rules of physics, or have an accident. The only thing is whether you realize what is happening, or just doing it instinctually.
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Old 04-30-17, 01:11 PM
  #149  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
We can also lean a bike by, well, leaning. Shift your body to the left of your bike, lean the bike left and turn the wheels left, and your bike will turn left, with no counter-steering at all.
Nope.

Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
I think even in that situation you are counter steering.
Yep.

A bike with completely locked handlebars would be a lot more illustrative than trying to do experiments with your own normal bike. A bike with a totally immobilized steering axis is essentially 100% unrideable. It's going to fall in whichever direction it's already leaning when you hop on. Maybe if you were able to start with it at precisely 90 degrees to the road, somehow, you could get it started in the direction you want, but then you'd just fall over.
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Old 04-30-17, 01:25 PM
  #150  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
But the thing is: You don't have a choice. Above a certain speed, on two wheels (I think it's around 12MPH) you steer the bike by shifting the center of gravity, which forces countersteering.
1.5 years after the first time you said this, the speed at which counter-steering "kicks in" is still not 15 mph, or 12 mph, it is ZERO miles per hour. Zero. There is no point whatsoever at which steering a bike requires a transition from steering the bars in the direction you wish to go to the opposite. The physics and mechanics of the bicycle don't change at any point.

It is true that essentially 100% of the population believes that you go left on a bike by turning the handebars to the left. It is also true that 100% of bicycle riders don't actually do this, because they wouldn't be bicycle riders if they did. Fortunately, understanding how it works isn't required. The process of learning to ride a bike isn't like reading a book or watching a video and then remembering and recalling that information. It's a process of training your autonomic system to build the connections between your vestibular system and the mechanics of what your arms and hands and body are doing on a bicycle.

There's no way to think fast enough to maintain balance, whether on a bike or on your own two feet. Conscious thought doesn't enter into it. Sure, it's plausible that some people might find it helpful to think about in a relatively stable situation, like holding a fast corner on a bike, or when planning an upcoming maneuver on a much heavier vehicle like a motorcycle. But even holding a stable leaning angle is an act of dynamic balance relying on tiny autonomic adjustments to maintain control. There's not a point when riding a bike at which you stop steering. If you did, you would fall over.

I agree with the crew back a ways in the thread history, by the way, who think "counter-steering" is sort of a redundant, nonsense phrase. It suggests that there's two different ways to steer a bike, and probably contributes to the misapprehension that you are switching between them at a certain speed. But as I just said, that doesn't happen. You're always steering a bike. For some people, understanding the dynamics intellectually may be helpful in some situations, but there's no need to call it "counter-steering." It's just how you change direction on a bike.

Last edited by grolby; 04-30-17 at 01:28 PM.
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