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Counter Steering - When to Use?

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Counter Steering - When to Use?

Old 04-30-17, 05:51 PM
  #176  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
+1

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.
I don't fully agree. For one thing, I had personally experienced improvement of basic running skills - with training. You seem to be missing an important point in your reasoning (IMO) - learning consciously and properly is needed first, before the moves become automatic. You can do it OK even without training, but proper and conscious training can help one improve - THEN training it until the improved technique becomes automatic.

This goes for any sport and skill, including cycling.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:03 PM
  #177  
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This is an interesting concept, and my disclaimer is that I did not read the old posts and did a quick read on the new ones.
My background is semi pro motorcycle racer, and counter steering a bike around turns comes so natural to me that I instinctively do it on my bicycle too, but only at high speed turns.
Some facts, from my experience: a slow turn needs the bars turned in the direction of the turn. On an average speed turn, you can simply just lean the bike over and never turn the bars but on questionable surfaces with grit, sand, gravel, etc you might need to slightly turn the bars in. On a fast sweeping turn at speed, counter steering (turning in the opposite direction of your turn by fractions of an inch at the bars) is an advanced technique to carry more speed through a turn, allowing later braking into the turn, higher speeds through the turn and ultimately, faster speeds exiting the turn.
Something to be aware of, while counter steering is an advanced technique, if done incorrectly, it could induce the rear wheel to excessively track outside the front wheel and cause you to slide out. Some might call this drifting and on two wheels, you'd better have more force pushing forward than you will encounter sideways. A trick is to exaggerate your weight on the outside pedal, more weight for more speed and tighter turns.
When done correctly, it will appear to someone behind you that you are drifting slightly. A word of caution, advanced tire wear, esp cupping of the front tire.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:22 PM
  #178  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
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.
You cannot change the center of gravity without turning the bars.

Lets start with some basic accepted facts.

First: you cannot turn while being upright, 90 deg exactly, perpendicular to the earrh. You'd just fall down to the outside, correct?

2nd: The only thing capable of changing the direction and lean of the bike is the front wheel.

When you accept those two as being true (and they are), you realize that the only thing truly impacting the direction of the bike is its lean angle. This is controlled by the handlebars. Turning to the outside of a turn increases angle, and therefore tightens the turn radius.

An easy way to conceptualize it is steering the bottom of the bike out from underneath you.

Last edited by Abe_Froman; 04-30-17 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:32 PM
  #179  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
+1


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.
You are confusing counter-steering and self-stability. While the mechanisms are identical, they are very different things.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:40 PM
  #180  
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
You cannot change the center of gravity without turning the bars.
Grab your water bottle and fling it off to the side.

But I agree that normally we all steer our bikes using 'counter steering' whether we think we do or not. It's so intuitive that we don't have to consciously think about it. Presumably because it's so similar to what we do to keep our balance when walking or running where we also initiate a slight lean into any turn.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:41 PM
  #181  
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
I don't fully agree. For one thing, I had personally experienced improvement of basic running skills - with training. You seem to be missing an important point in your reasoning (IMO) - learning consciously and properly is needed first, before the moves become automatic. You can do it OK even without training, but proper and conscious training can help one improve - THEN training it until the improved technique becomes automatic.

This goes for any sport and skill, including cycling.
Yes, and I don't disagree. Some things have better or worse ways to do them, and one "learns" the right or best way then drills to make it automatic.
A good examples are musicians tasked with playing difficult passages. They learn specific fingering sequences to avoid the trap of getting caught at an impossible transition.

But counter steering a bicycle becomes automatic on it's own, because it's part of the natural process of keeping a bike upright. The expression that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget is true. The skill can get rusty through lack of practice, but the process is burned into the brain for life.

This is why we cannot ride a bicycle with reverse steering inputs. Someone who's never ridden learns very quickly, but anybody who's ever ridden a bicycle, even 50 years ago cannot unlearn without great effort and time. And once you've learned to ride a backward bike, you won't be able to ride a normal one. Apparently the autopilot system cannot store two systems and switch back and forth. This makes bike riding (which is controlled in the cerebellum) very different from being multi lingual (which is controlled in the cerebrum).
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Old 04-30-17, 06:42 PM
  #182  
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
You cannot change the center of gravity without turning the bars.
There are several ways to do so, but generally in bicycling we do turn the bars (else we'd fall).\


Surely you've experienced shifting your center of gravity forward and back, without turning the bars. You shift it up or down by standing up or crouching down. You may shift your center of gravity left by pushing on the right pedal, without turning the bar. Then turn the bar left, and you will have turned left without counter-steering.

There is no cut-off speed for this by the way. Counter-steering "works" primarily by steering the bike over, beneath your body. That's all it is, literally. It's easier to shift the bike because it has less mass (ie, less momentum).
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Old 04-30-17, 06:44 PM
  #183  
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Hrmm. I just had a thought.

Riding with no hands. When you lean your body to the left, you're forcing the bike to lean right. The handlebars then turn right as well, which initiates countersteering.

The physics of a bike are really pretty astounding.
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Old 04-30-17, 06:57 PM
  #184  
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
Hrmm. I just had a thought.

Riding with no hands. When you lean your body to the left, you're forcing the bike to lean right. The handlebars then turn right as well, which initiates countersteering.

The physics of a bike are really pretty astounding.
Good thought, and what I was alluding to here

Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Well, counter-steering by pushing the bars uses the steering to shift balance, while counter-steering no-hands uses balance to shift the steering, so it's kind of interesting that the seemingly opposite actions have the same effect.
Back on track, and if I've offended anyone with the 2-scotch posts let me extend preemptive apologies. Evidently the argument rages in motorcycle forums as well, so I doubt that we'll settle anything here. I never paid much attention to it riding motorcycle street or motocross - I just turned - but cycling I find myself doing it deliberately to "flick" the bike right or left.
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Old 04-30-17, 07:12 PM
  #185  
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Originally Posted by NYMXer View Post
My background is semi pro motorcycle racer, and counter steering a bike around turns comes so natural to me that I instinctively do it on my bicycle too, but only at high speed turns.
Some facts, from my experience: a slow turn needs the bars turned in the direction of the turn.
As others have mentioned, once you've leaned to one side or the other the turn is continued with the wheels turned in the direction of the lean. The lean, however, is always initiated with a countersteering motion. On a motorcycle, because or the weight, countersteering requires much higher force so the action is exaggerated relative to a bicycle.

A thought experiment for all those who think they can initiate a turn without turning: If you're following a rider and your front wheel touches their rear wheel which way to you turn to avoid crashing? Most riders will instinctively turn the wheel away from the wheel in front. This will ensure you go down quickly. You have to turn into the tire until you can shift your weight and CG to the opposite side of the touch.
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Old 04-30-17, 07:19 PM
  #186  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Good thought, and what I was alluding to here



Back on track, and if I've offended anyone with the 2-scotch posts let me extend preemptive apologies. Evidently the argument rages in motorcycle forums as well, so I doubt that we'll settle anything here. I never paid much attention to it riding motorcycle street or motocross - I just turned - but cycling I find myself doing it deliberately to "flick" the bike right or left.

This is so true. Even among motorcyclists there are varying opinions advanced between the relative benefits of counter-steering vs using body weight to affect steering (btw, Reg Pridmore, who has lived for a long time in the small town where I was born and raised, is a strong proponent of depending on the latter technique, predominantly, as opposed to relying solely on counter-steering and I agree with his approach).

All cyclists counter-steer whether they realize it or not, albeit the effects are not nearly as pronounced as they are on a motorcycle. A nice way to demonstrate this for yourself is during a ride, in which you are being broadsided by strong winds from one side. Notice the effect that counter-steering has against them (e.g., if you are being broadsided from the right-hand side, try steering into them by pushing towards your left-hand side using only your right hand--that is, totally remove your left hand from the bars. When I do this, I'm always amazed by how straight the bike rides even in the strongest winds).

Last edited by Scarbo; 04-30-17 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 04-30-17, 07:53 PM
  #187  
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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.
You are offering only two choices: counter-steering, or locked handlebars. This is an error in, I guess, your assumptions.

Turning left without counter-steering, you are free to turn your handlebars left. You can turn them right as well, for purposes of stability, but that's not counter-steering. Counter-steering (in bicycles) is initiating the lean left by turning the bars right.
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Old 04-30-17, 07:54 PM
  #188  
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Originally Posted by Scarbo View Post
This is so true. Even among motorcyclists there are varying opinions advanced between the relative benefits of counter-steering vs using body weight to affect steering (btw, Reg Pridmore, who has lived for a long time in the small town where I was born and raised, is a strong proponent of depending on the latter technique, predominantly, as opposed to relying solely on counter-steering and I agree with his approach).
When you say using body weight, is that putting your body on the outside of the turn with the bike underneath? That is the way I have doing things since I was 3. Most of my riding doesn't include high speed turns, but when I do have some I'm too concentrated on riding to notice if I counter steer or just lean and keep the bars straight.
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Old 04-30-17, 08:00 PM
  #189  
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Originally Posted by San Pedro View Post
When you say using body weight, is that putting your body on the outside of the turn with the bike underneath? That is the way I have doing things since I was 3. Most of my riding doesn't include high speed turns, but when I do have some I'm too concentrated on riding to notice if I counter steer or just lean and keep the bars straight.
You're right. But, I'd also say that it also depends on the nature of the turn. There are times when I lean towards the inside of a turn as well. More often than not, I use my body as a counter weight when the road surface is less than ideal (i.e., sand, gravel, etc.).
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Old 04-30-17, 08:11 PM
  #190  
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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.
No. They won't. Don't be ridiculous.
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Old 04-30-17, 08:22 PM
  #191  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
You are offering only two choices: counter-steering, or locked handlebars. This is an error in, I guess, your assumptions.

Turning left without counter-steering, you are free to turn your handlebars left. You can turn them right as well, for purposes of stability, but that's not counter-steering. Counter-steering (in bicycles) is initiating the lean left by turning the bars right.
You're misunderstanding me. I am saying there is literally no way to control the lean on a bicycle other than countersteering. You seem to believe otherwise, but I assure you this is incorrect. You say "counter-steering... is initiating the lean left by turning the bars right." Yes, but the dynamics of what is going on in initiating a lean is not different from any other aspect of bike control. Saying counter-steering is initiating the lean but not maintaining stability in the lean is just nonsense. The dynamics of what is happening are exactly the same. Which is why I think the example of initiating the lean by simply shifting weight is non-responsive. Sure, you can initiate a lean that way. But I promise you, on the road, you aren't doing it. It's much slower and less precise than using the handlebars, and you're using steering to maintain balance while leaned over just as much as when riding upright.
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Old 04-30-17, 08:45 PM
  #192  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
This is why we cannot ride a bicycle with reverse steering inputs. Someone who's never ridden learns very quickly, but anybody who's ever ridden a bicycle, even 50 years ago cannot unlearn without great effort and time. And once you've learned to ride a backward bike, you won't be able to ride a normal one. Apparently the autopilot system cannot store two systems and switch back and forth. This makes bike riding (which is controlled in the cerebellum) very different from being multi lingual (which is controlled in the cerebrum).
Worth seeking out the "Smarter Every Day" video on YouTube where the guy has the bike rigged up for reverse steering. The effect becomes pretty obvious if you've ever crossed up your hands on the bars (note: DO NOT try this except on a soft surface at slow speed).

We should be clear that this doesn't mean there's no value to understanding the dynamics and no way to build technique. I agree that one can train to improve one's skills. Just like practice will make you better at walking a tightrope, or riding a unicycle, or just running smoothly. And having conscious understanding of the dynamics might make a big difference with a much heavier vehicle. I don't have motorcycle experience, so I can't compare them. The motorcycle people make a big deal about this, so it could be there's something to that on a motorcycle. On a bicycle, the control forces are so light, even at high speeds, that it's not too important.

But this idea that people need to know about counter-steering so they don't literally turn the bars in the wrong direction in an emergency is just laughable. People don't think about how they turn or balance a bike, as we've been saying. You can't, any more than you can think about how to stay balanced while walking. People aren't going to think "I need to turn the bars left!" What's going on at a subconscious level is, more or less, "make bike go left." And that's what will happen. If it worked any other way, you wouldn't be successfully ride a bike at all. Riding a bike too close to a curb, or touching wheels in a paceline, are dangerous situations precisely because they break the system. They make it difficult to react appropriately because the wheel is physically prevented from moving, or is pushed in the wrong direction. People don't fall when they touch wheels because they try to steer away from the wheel, they fall because the wheel gets physically pushed out from under the rider, and the correction doesn't work because the other wheel is physically preventing it. You can sometimes save it by leaning into it hard and hoping you push that back wheel over, but that's not counter-intuitive to the proper correction so much as it is counter-intuitive to how much force you need to apply .

Last edited by grolby; 04-30-17 at 08:51 PM.
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Old 05-01-17, 12:25 AM
  #193  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Yes, and I don't disagree. Some things have better or worse ways to do them, and one "learns" the right or best way then drills to make it automatic.
A good examples are musicians tasked with playing difficult passages. They learn specific fingering sequences to avoid the trap of getting caught at an impossible transition.

But counter steering a bicycle becomes automatic on it's own, because it's part of the natural process of keeping a bike upright. The expression that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget is true. The skill can get rusty through lack of practice, but the process is burned into the brain for life.

This is why we cannot ride a bicycle with reverse steering inputs. Someone who's never ridden learns very quickly, but anybody who's ever ridden a bicycle, even 50 years ago cannot unlearn without great effort and time. And once you've learned to ride a backward bike, you won't be able to ride a normal one. Apparently the autopilot system cannot store two systems and switch back and forth. This makes bike riding (which is controlled in the cerebellum) very different from being multi lingual (which is controlled in the cerebrum).
Guess we mostly agree. My only argument is, just like with running - it can be improved if learning consciously how to do it properly. It is basic, but looking some, even quick footballers for example, coming from track&field, one can see the imperfect running techniques with room for improvement.

Se, at least for my riding, CS has helped me both on motorcycle and on bicycle - especially when riding fast, or trying quick direction changes.
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Old 05-01-17, 12:32 AM
  #194  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
You're misunderstanding me. I am saying there is literally no way to control the lean on a bicycle other than countersteering. You seem to believe otherwise, but I assure you this is incorrect. You say "counter-steering... is initiating the lean left by turning the bars right." Yes, but the dynamics of what is going on in initiating a lean is not different from any other aspect of bike control. Saying counter-steering is initiating the lean but not maintaining stability in the lean is just nonsense. The dynamics of what is happening are exactly the same. Which is why I think the example of initiating the lean by simply shifting weight is non-responsive. Sure, you can initiate a lean that way. But I promise you, on the road, you aren't doing it. It's much slower and less precise than using the handlebars, and you're using steering to maintain balance while leaned over just as much as when riding upright.
When I was in high school, a popular local CD store had a writing on the door, instead of the ordinary "Push", or "Pull": "It is EASIER to push" - and vice versa on the other side.

Same goes for counter steering - it is easier and quicker to lean the bike with counter steering. However, especially while the bike isn't leaned (a lot), it can be done without counter steering too. It's just a lot slower, and you have little control over the process.

The higher the speed, the higher the mass of the bike, the tighter a turn (i.e. fast downhill, or a heavily loaded bike, or a tight hairpin turn - or all of the noted), the less effect body weight transfer alone has on lean angle and the more countersteering matters.
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Old 05-01-17, 07:19 AM
  #195  
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
You're misunderstanding me. I am saying there is literally no way to control the lean on a bicycle other than countersteering. You seem to believe otherwise, but I assure you this is incorrect. You say "counter-steering... is initiating the lean left by turning the bars right." Yes, but the dynamics of what is going on in initiating a lean is not different from any other aspect of bike control. Saying counter-steering is initiating the lean but not maintaining stability in the lean is just nonsense. The dynamics of what is happening are exactly the same. Which is why I think the example of initiating the lean by simply shifting weight is non-responsive. Sure, you can initiate a lean that way. But I promise you, on the road, you aren't doing it. It's much slower and less precise than using the handlebars, and you're using steering to maintain balance while leaned over just as much as when riding upright.
We need to make a distinction between regular steering and counter-steering. The mechanism is similar, if not identical, but the dynamics are not. The context and results are opposite. To be explicit:

Regular steering: moves the bike underneath your center of gravity.

Counter steering: moves the bike away from your center of gravity.

Regular steering, as defined above, contributes to the bike's self-stability properties and is how you maintain your balance while riding. Counter-steering, as defined above, does not contribute to self-stability and unbalances you rather than restoring balance. I assure you, you can ride down the road without ever utilizing counter-steering to maintain balance.
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Old 05-01-17, 07:39 AM
  #196  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
We need to make a distinction between regular steering and counter-steering. The mechanism is similar, if not identical, but the dynamics are not. The context and results are opposite. To be explicit:

Regular steering: moves the bike underneath your center of gravity.

Counter steering: moves the bike away from your center of gravity.

Regular steering, as defined above, contributes to the bike's self-stability properties and is how you maintain your balance while riding. Counter-steering, as defined above, does not contribute to self-stability and unbalances you rather than restoring balance. I assure you, you can ride down the road without ever utilizing counter-steering to maintain balance.
All true, and yet misses the key point that it is impossible to initiate a turn without counter steering.

So all steering is still about keeping the wheel track in line with the center of forces. The only difference is that we intentionally destabilize the bike momentarily to initiate a turn the same way we plant a foot to the side to do so when running.

The debate here isn't about what counter steering is, it's about whether it's something different or a normal part of steering a bicycle to change direction. You can ride a bike all day without counter steering, if you're willing to go wherever the bike takes you, but you have to counter steer to be in charge.
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Old 05-01-17, 07:50 AM
  #197  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
All true, and yet misses the key point that it is impossible to initiate a turn without counter steering.
I emphatically disagree with that key point

The debate here isn't about what counter steering is, it's about whether it's something different or a normal part of steering a bicycle to change direction. You can ride a bike all day without counter steering, if you're willing to go wherever the bike takes you, but you have to counter steer to be in charge.
The misconceptions I see appear to hinge on a misunderstanding of what counter-steering is. For example, one person cited any steering, and said that it is impossible to ride a bike without steering, as if that meant you couldn't do so without counter-steering.

You seem to make that connection even here. You do not have to counter-steer to ride a bike in a mostly straight line. You do have to steer to move in a mostly straight line. You are confusing the two control inputs.
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Old 05-01-17, 07:58 AM
  #198  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
I emphatically disagree with that key point ....
Yes, that is the crux of the issue. Whether it's possible to turn without counter steering or not.

And yes, we disagree, and I suppose that neither you nor I will change our opinion. So let's leave it there and let those who care decide for themselves.

As far as I'm concerned, the rest is nothing but semantics. I don't separate steering for balance from steering to control direction, but I suppose others might.
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Old 05-01-17, 08:03 AM
  #199  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Yes, that is the crux of the issue. And yes, we disagree, and I suppose that neither you nor I will move, so let's leave it there and let those who care decide for themselves.

As far as I'm concerned, the rest is nothing but semantics. I don't separate steering for balance from steering to control direction, but I suppose others might.
Steering for balance IS steering to control direction, so I agree with you there. Steering for balance is the opposite of counter-steering, which steers to UNbalance you. In the opposite direction.

Otherwise what is the point of calling it "counter"-steering?
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Old 05-01-17, 08:09 AM
  #200  
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I gotta admit that I'm blown away by this general understanding of "countersteering" that's being discussed here! I mean, what's "counter" about it??

I grew up in a minibike/MTB/automotive world where countersteering mean turning against (i.e. counter) the direction of rotation in a slide. As in, if your rear wheel(s) slides towards the outside of a right hand turn initiating a clockwise rotation, you steer counter-clockwise. That's what I've always called countersteering.

Weighting the bar in the direction you want to turn is just how steer. At speeds and arcs where leaning the bike can describe the line you want, that's all you do. At low speeds and tight arcs, you throw in turning the bar. I've always found it simple like that.

I even had a motorcycle for a few years in the mid-'90s and rode with a group of older, experienced bikers who taught me how to run the back roads at speed and handle the throttle roll-off induced jacking of a Laverda v-twin when slowing for a turn, and I don't recall anyone ever calling pressing on the bar countersteering.

Clearly I'm in some kind of a minority here, but I'm curious as to what y'all call countersteering as I know it? Maybe I mixed up terms in my youth and just never got straightened out?
Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Steering for balance IS steering to control direction, so I agree with you there. Steering for balance is the opposite of counter-steering, which steers to UNbalance you. In the opposite direction.

Otherwise what is the point of calling it "counter"-steering?
OMG, has it really taken 175 posts to get back to the issue I first raised in post #26?!?

All the babble, and I'm still of the opinion that there is absolutely no point in calling what you guys are talking about, "countersteering."
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