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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 04-30-17, 01:44 PM
  #151  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Nope.
But... yes. Bike can be leaned without countersteering. Though it would resemble veering off a perfectly straight line, more than steering, but it would lean.

A bike with welded handlebars will lean without problems. I've tried it!
It can not keep the leaned angle, but fall, since the bars can't be pointed into the turn, but it does lean without any countersteering - no problems. Keeping it from leaning is the problem.

If you had an on-off steering lockout switch, you could test it. Lock the bars, lean the bike, then quickly unlock the bars to be able to turn the front wheel into the turn and prevent the bike from falling. So that would be leaning and turning without countersteering.

However, like I've said, leaning without countersteering is very slow even at lower speeds.
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Old 04-30-17, 01:54 PM
  #152  
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
A bike with welded handlebars will lean without problems. I've tried it!
It can not keep the leaned angle, but fall, since the bars can't be pointed into the turn, but it does lean without any countersteering - no problems. Keeping it from leaning is the problem.
This is sort of what I mean when I say you can't lean a bike without countersteering (or just steering). Yes, you could get it to start tipping over, but you need to be able to steer to hold the lean angle. It seems to be a common misperception that, once you get the bike leaned, it'll be in static balance from the force vectors (gravity, friction, centrifugal force), but no - it'll just fall over. You supply the balance in a turn, to keep the bike balanced against all the various forces acting on it. I think we're just agreeing, pretty much.
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Old 04-30-17, 02:11 PM
  #153  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Nope.
I'm pretty sure of it


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. ...
This wouldn't tell you anything about steering without counter-steering.
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Old 04-30-17, 02:11 PM
  #154  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
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.
Exactly. I was unaware of countersteering until I was c. 50 years old...yet I'd been doing it all of my life. And as you said, even the term countersteering is misleading. It's just essentially learning how to balance a bicycle. Once you accept that you won't fall over, and that you have to shift your weight to control the bike, the rest is automatic.

O-K, now as for the part about countersteering at any speed above zero: I need a refresher on that! I'm going to get out a bike and experiment. I am STILL under the impression that I've steered by turning the bars in the direction that I wanted to go, when going very slow.

I'm sure that if I ride around in a small circle at c. 4MPH, the wheel will be turned in the direction that i am going. Maybe not. Off to the "physics lab"! [It was recently mowed! ]
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Old 04-30-17, 02:31 PM
  #155  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
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.
+1

Steering a bicycle is identical at all speeds, except for the timing and amount of steering inputs.

While most people think they balance a bicycle, that's a fallacy. The truth is that the bicycle is constantly falling to one side or the other and we unconsciously steer to bring the wheels below the center of gravity and recover. Turning is the same, except change cnter of gravity to center of forces.

The key here is that it's brain controlled, but not consciously so. It's controlled by the same motion control pathways in the cerebellum that we use for walking, dancing, playing the piano, and so on. These pathways are set and improved through repetition,, and once that's done, conscious control no longer wanted or neeeded.

So, how many who are consciously counter steering or not (or think they are or aren't) think the same way about walking or running. If we want to make a turn while running, we take a step to the outside of the planned turn and push off into the turn. Except, maybe for athletes being coached early in their careers, nobody thinks about this, we just do it because we learned long ago that if we didn't we'd fall on our faces. Some may be doing the same and not knowing they do. Likewise with bicycling, we swing the front wheel to the outside of the turn to drive is into it.

Think about running a ship for a moment. If the captain wants to execute a course change, he issues a command, and the crew executes it seamlessly. Now imagine if the captain decides to take charge and control every step of what's needed to turn a ship. The odds are against him and the turn won't be nearly as smooth or precise as when the crew that did it time and again were left alone.

That's what walking and riding a bike are like. All the necessary is preprogramed through repetition, after which thinking about will only mess things up.

Here's an experiment. Walk down a flight of stairs, now run down. When you get to the bottom think back and you'll see that you didn't think about it, you just did it. Now do the same carrying a box that partly obscures your view. Now, you get nervous, especially as you near the landing, "is there one more step, or is this the last one?" and suddenly what worked fine on autopilot, suddenly gets clumsy on manual.

So, my advice to all those trying to improve your skills is stop thinking about, and trust the autopilot. Improve the autopilot through practice and repetition, then let it do it's job because it's infinitely better at it that you could ever be.

Think about running a ship. On a well run ship
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Old 04-30-17, 02:44 PM
  #156  
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I can ride around a turn no-handed.
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Old 04-30-17, 02:57 PM
  #157  
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I can ride around a turn no-handed.
Same process as with hands, except you're doing it by the seat of your pants (literally ---(properly used)).
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Old 04-30-17, 03:06 PM
  #158  
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Question: When suddenly confronted by something blocking your current path with the only escape route to the right, will you instinctively turn the handlebars to the left toward the the obstruction to execute the required immediate right hand turn to the clear area or do it backwards and turn the handlebars to the right toward the clear area?
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Old 04-30-17, 03:13 PM
  #159  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
This wouldn't tell you anything about steering without counter-steering.
Of course it does. The only way to control a bike with locked handlebars would be by leaning. And it can't be done.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:16 PM
  #160  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Of course it does. The only way to control a bike with locked handlebars would be by leaning. And it can't be done.
Counter steering is not leaning.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:19 PM
  #161  
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Originally Posted by f4rrest View Post
Counter steering is not leaning.
Counter steering causes leaning.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:20 PM
  #162  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
+1

Steering a bicycle is identical at all speeds, except for the timing and amount of steering inputs.

While most people think they balance a bicycle, that's a fallacy. The truth is that the bicycle is constantly falling to one side or the other and we unconsciously steer to bring the wheels below the center of gravity and recover. Turning is the same, except change cnter of gravity to center of forces.

The key here is that it's brain controlled, but not consciously so. It's controlled by the same motion control pathways in the cerebellum that we use for walking, dancing, playing the piano, and so on. These pathways are set and improved through repetition,, and once that's done, conscious control no longer wanted or neeeded.

So, how many who are consciously counter steering or not (or think they are or aren't) think the same way about walking or running. If we want to make a turn while running, we take a step to the outside of the planned turn and push off into the turn. Except, maybe for athletes being coached early in their careers, nobody thinks about this, we just do it because we learned long ago that if we didn't we'd fall on our faces. Some may be doing the same and not knowing they do. Likewise with bicycling, we swing the front wheel to the outside of the turn to drive is into it.

Think about running a ship for a moment. If the captain wants to execute a course change, he issues a command, and the crew executes it seamlessly. Now imagine if the captain decides to take charge and control every step of what's needed to turn a ship. The odds are against him and the turn won't be nearly as smooth or precise as when the crew that did it time and again were left alone.

That's what walking and riding a bike are like. All the necessary is preprogramed through repetition, after which thinking about will only mess things up.

Here's an experiment. Walk down a flight of stairs, now run down. When you get to the bottom think back and you'll see that you didn't think about it, you just did it. Now do the same carrying a box that partly obscures your view. Now, you get nervous, especially as you near the landing, "is there one more step, or is this the last one?" and suddenly what worked fine on autopilot, suddenly gets clumsy on manual.

So, my advice to all those trying to improve your skills is stop thinking about, and trust the autopilot. Improve the autopilot through practice and repetition, then let it do it's job because it's infinitely better at it that you could ever be.

Think about running a ship. On a well run ship
Good analogy with planting your foot.

I believe the front tire follows an arc of slightly larger radius than does the rear tire, as the bike leans into the corner and front tire is pushing against the fall from the outside of the bike's center of mass.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:21 PM
  #163  
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Originally Posted by adamhenry View Post
Counter steering causes leaning.
Yes, and counteracts to balance the fall inward.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:23 PM
  #164  
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Originally Posted by adamhenry View Post
Question: When suddenly confronted by something blocking your current path with the only escape route to the right, will you instinctively turn the handlebars to the left toward the the obstruction to execute the required immediate right hand turn to the clear area or do it backwards and turn the handlebars to the right toward the clear area?
If you're riding a bike, and you need to turn right, you're going to make the necessary movements to turn right. You don't ride a bicycle by thinking about which way to turn the handlebars. We've covered this already.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:27 PM
  #165  
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Originally Posted by f4rrest View Post
Counter steering is not leaning.
Ay ay ay. It's a distinction without difference when it comes to two-wheel vehicle dynamics. Countersteering is how you balance, how you control the amount of lean, how you initiate a lean, everything. You can wiggle around and do things by shifting your body weight (trials riders are experts at this, MTBers need to make use of it, too, and it doesn't hurt you as a roadie to have some ability there) but fundamentally bike control comes down to steering.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:40 PM
  #166  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
If you're riding a bike, and you need to turn right, you're going to make the necessary movements to turn right. You don't ride a bicycle by thinking about which way to turn the handlebars. We've covered this already.
You have to make a split second decision. Will it it be right or wrong. Saying you do don't think about which way to turn the handlebars is just avoiding the question. Most people will do the wrong thing in a panic situation and steer the bike into the obstruction.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:45 PM
  #167  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Ay ay ay. It's a distinction without difference when it comes to two-wheel vehicle dynamics. Countersteering is how you balance, how you control the amount of lean, how you initiate a lean, everything. You can wiggle around and do things by shifting your body weight (trials riders are experts at this, MTBers need to make use of it, too, and it doesn't hurt you as a roadie to have some ability there) but fundamentally bike control comes down to steering.
I didn't disagree with this.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:48 PM
  #168  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
O-K, now as for the part about countersteering at any speed above zero: I need a refresher on that! I'm going to get out a bike and experiment. I am STILL under the impression that I've steered by turning the bars in the direction that I wanted to go, when going very slow.

I'm sure that if I ride around in a small circle at c. 4MPH, the wheel will be turned in the direction that i am going. Maybe not. Off to the "physics lab"! [It was recently mowed! ]
Countersteering doesn't mean that the bike isn't steered into the turn while it's turning. Steering away from the turn direction is to initiate the lean; once the leaning is underway, a bicycle's geometric trail causes it to steer into the lean, aka into the turn.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:49 PM
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If you've ever ridden in the gutter too close to the curb, at some point it feels like it's impossible to steer away from it, because initiating the movement requires a slight steering into the curb you're trying to avoid.
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Old 04-30-17, 03:56 PM
  #170  
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Originally Posted by f4rrest View Post
If you've ever ridden in the gutter too close to the curb, at some point it feels like it's impossible to steer away from it, because initiating the movement requires a slight steering into the curb you're trying to avoid.
Excellent point. This causes many motorcyclists to run off the road in unexpected situations when their instinct to turn the motorcycle to the center of the road actually steers the motorcycle off of the road.
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Old 04-30-17, 04:10 PM
  #171  
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Originally Posted by adamhenry View Post
You have to make a split second decision. Will it it be right or wrong. Saying you do don't think about which way to turn the handlebars is just avoiding the question. Most people will do the wrong thing in a panic situation and steer the bike into the obstruction.
If you have to think, it's too late. You make the decision which way to steer and let your highly trained auto-pilot do it's job. Consciously thinking about how to execute a maneuver is too slow and leads to errors. The reason that people like police, pilots, military, etc. practice and drill is that thinking is too slow. Drilling programs the auto-pilot, which can take over and implement the solution before the conscious mind even starts thinking about it.

BTW - one of the reasons that people run into things when panicking is that they have target fixation. The autopilot is programmed to follow the eyes, so if you look at the target (obstacle) you'll hit it, but if you look at the desired escape path, that's where the bike will go.
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Old 04-30-17, 04:20 PM
  #172  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
If you have to think, it's too late. You make the decision which way to steer and let your highly trained auto-pilot do it's job. Consciously thinking about how to execute a maneuver is too slow and leads to errors.

BTW - one of the reasons that people run into things when panicking is that they have target fixation. The autopilot is programmed to follow the eyes, so if you look at the target (obstacle) you'll hit it, but if you look at the desired escape path, that's where the bike will go.
You are absolutely right. I played with counter steering my motorcycle constantly to increase my odds of instinctively doing the correct thing when in a panic. Veering between two specific letters of words painted on the pavement at the last second was a common drill.
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Old 04-30-17, 04:44 PM
  #173  
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O-K guys, did my little experiment: Rode around in a c. 20' counterclockwise circle at low speed, and: Had to keep the front wheel turned to the left the whole time. My thesis is that at low speeds, you are just trying to balance the bike upright, and don't have enough momentum to allow for leaning in turns; so you must steer with wheel.

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Old 04-30-17, 05:10 PM
  #174  
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Just a side note about a major difference between bicycle and motorcycle steering.

The basics are the same, you use autopilot to keep the wheels under the body, or outside it in a turn. But the large difference in weight is a factor. First of all there's a big difference in relative weights of you and the machine. On a bike, you're close to 10 times the weight of the machine, and can toss it around under you at will. On the motorcycle machine outewieighs you and it gets to toss you around.

Then there's the gyroscopic precession factor. When you lean the spinning front wheel to the right, it tuns to the right, so all is right with the world. But if you steer the wheel to the right, it wants to lean to the left, essentially throwing you to the outside of the turn which can be a disaster. See this for yourself by turning or tilting a front wheel while spinning it in front of you.

This doesn't matter on bicycles because our wheels are light, and spin slowly. But on a motorcycle at high speed, the presession torque generated by the front wheel can be significant, and affect your control over the machine. The need to establish lean before turning becomes much more critical because if you initiate a turn by steering, the machine will want to react by leaning then turning in the opposite direction.

So, I can understand why folks who were motorcyclists first consider counter-steering so important. However, as I've said a number of times, it's a learned part of the brain's firmware, and once learned doesn't need conscious effort.
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Old 04-30-17, 05:16 PM
  #175  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
O-K guys, did my little experiment: Rode around in a c. 20' counterclockwise circle at low speed, and: Had to keep the front wheel turned to the left the whole time. My thesis is that at low speeds, you are just trying to balance the bike upright, and don't have enough momentum to allow for leaning in turns; so you must steer with wheel.
...
Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Countersteering doesn't mean that the bike isn't steered into the turn while it's turning. Steering away from the turn direction is to initiate the lean; once the leaning is underway, a bicycle's geometric trail causes it to steer into the lean, aka into the turn.
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