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Amazing how many people don't know about countersteering...

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Amazing how many people don't know about countersteering...

Old 04-24-08, 10:10 AM
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fprintf
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Amazing how many people don't know about countersteering...

I was talking with a group of riders with significant riding experience before a group ride a few weeks ago. Somehow the topic of steering around a sharp corner came up, and I mentioned that in order to steer a bicycle going faster than a 2 or 3 mph you need to countersteer. They all looked at me with wonder.

After I explained, I asked them to ride in a straight line in the parking lot and turn the handlebars toward where they wanted to go. Everyone was amazed that they weren't turning in the desired direction and the bike was tipping in the wrong direction.

I think riding a bicycle is so intuitive that when you really need to turn *now*, many, if not most, riders are unable to... and consequently run off the road, lose the line ("hold your line!") or hit the object of avoidance.
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Old 04-24-08, 10:13 AM
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Maybe this is just semantics, but when you describe it as countersteering it just invites overthinking. Lean hard. That's it. The bike will go where you want it to.
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Old 04-24-08, 10:14 AM
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I have heard the term but not sure if I know exactly what you mean/how to do it. Care to enlighten us?
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Old 04-24-08, 10:15 AM
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countersteering

Countersteering is the name given to the counter-intuitive technique used by cyclists and motorcyclists to turn corners. It is the only way a rider can cause the lean that a single-track vehicle must have in order to negotiate a turn successfully.

It is important to distinguish between countersteering as a physical phenomenon and countersteering as a rider technique for initiating a lean (the usual interpretation of the term). The physical phenomenon always occurs, because there is no other way to cause the bike and rider to lean short of some outside influence such as an opportune side wind, although at low speeds it can be lost or hidden in the minute corrections made to maintain balance.

At the same time, the rider technique of applying pressure to the handlebars to initiate a lean is not always necessary, since, on a sufficiently light bike (especially a bicycle), the rider can initiate a lean and so a turn by shifting body weight.[1] Documented physical experimentation shows that on heavy bikes (many motorcycles) shifting body weight is ineffective at initiating leans and so turns.[2]

It is also important to distinguish the momentary steering torque and steering angle necessary to initiate the lean required for a given turn from the sustained steering torque and steering angle necessary to maintain a constant radius and lean angle until it is time to exit the turn. The initial, momentary steer torque and angle are both opposite the desired turn direction. The sustained steer angle is in the same direction as the turn. The sustained steer torque required to maintain that steer angle is either with or opposite the turn direction depending on forward speed, bike geometry, and combined bike and rider mass distribution.
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Old 04-24-08, 10:52 AM
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I think people just do it without realizing they're doing it and what it's called.

That's why your riding buddies didn't know.

They were probably doing it though.
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Old 04-24-08, 10:57 AM
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countersteering.

Last edited by botto; 04-24-08 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 04-24-08, 11:00 AM
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It has been probably 40 years since I have even thought about how to steer... is this really so hard to learn? Most people learn it after the first time they go off the road.

But then again, how afraid people seem to be to ride, perhaps this explains it all. For me, the bike feels like it is welded on and it goes where ever I think.
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Old 04-24-08, 11:04 AM
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Great video, botto
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Old 04-24-08, 11:12 AM
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I explain it in terms of straightening your inside arm since the idea of turning the "wrong" way blows peoples' mind.
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Old 04-24-08, 11:27 AM
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We used to talk about "setting up" the turn. It is pretty much the same thing.
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Old 04-24-08, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by crtreedude View Post
.. is this really so hard to learn?.
Yes and no. Anybody that's ridden a bike above 5mph intuitively knows it.

However, not understanding it hampers a lot of people in understanding how to corner at speed, particularly descending.
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Old 04-24-08, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by botto View Post
Thank you. Very informative. Although, I really think I already do that, but I am going to go try it today anyway, just to make sure.
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Old 04-24-08, 12:59 PM
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Leaning the bike will not turn it without countersteering. If the fork is fixed in position you can ony ride in a straight line regardless of how much you lean.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Yes and no. Anybody that's ridden a bike above 5mph intuitively knows it.

However, not understanding it hampers a lot of people in understanding how to corner at speed, particularly descending.
When I took off my son's training wheels I told him he would have to lean to make the bike turn. He leaned, the bike turned, he got it.

If it's a concept that a 3-year old can grasp, I wonder if we adults are overthinking this a bit.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bdcheung View Post
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countersteering

Countersteering is the name given to the counter-intuitive technique used by cyclists and motorcyclists to turn corners. It is the only way a rider can cause the lean that a single-track vehicle must have in order to negotiate a turn successfully.

It is important to distinguish between countersteering as a physical phenomenon and countersteering as a rider technique for initiating a lean (the usual interpretation of the term). The physical phenomenon always occurs, because there is no other way to cause the bike and rider to lean short of some outside influence such as an opportune side wind, although at low speeds it can be lost or hidden in the minute corrections made to maintain balance.

At the same time, the rider technique of applying pressure to the handlebars to initiate a lean is not always necessary, since, on a sufficiently light bike (especially a bicycle), the rider can initiate a lean and so a turn by shifting body weight.[1] Documented physical experimentation shows that on heavy bikes (many motorcycles) shifting body weight is ineffective at initiating leans and so turns.[2]

It is also important to distinguish the momentary steering torque and steering angle necessary to initiate the lean required for a given turn from the sustained steering torque and steering angle necessary to maintain a constant radius and lean angle until it is time to exit the turn. The initial, momentary steer torque and angle are both opposite the desired turn direction. The sustained steer angle is in the same direction as the turn. The sustained steer torque required to maintain that steer angle is either with or opposite the turn direction depending on forward speed, bike geometry, and combined bike and rider mass distribution.
Although no equations are shown, I feel like I'm back at MIT.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
When I took off my son's training wheels I told him he would have to lean to make the bike turn. He leaned, the bike turned, he got it.

If it's a concept that a 3-year old can grasp, I wonder if we adults are overthinking this a bit.
Yup, we are. "Paralysis by analysis".

There's the story of the concert pianist who toured the world giving performances. He once started watching his fingers while practicing, marveling at their motions, feeling amazed by the complexity of actions as they danced across the keyboard.

Unfortunately, he started thinking about all that complexity. What was once subconscious suddenly became stuck in his conscious mind; what used to be muscle memory now required him to think about moving each finger.

He had to quit. He never performed again.

Anyway... what countersteering does on a bike is it basically kicks the wheels to the outside and away from beneath the rider's center of mass, so the rider leans -- or, really, falls -- inboard to begin the turn. It's more important to learn for motorcycling since the motorcycle is so much heavier and needs some assistance to lean & turn. On a bicycle, don't worry about it so much.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:38 PM
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Yawn. Counter steering is an intuitive part of riding. It is impossible to balance without it. I think that poor descenders don't need to learn counter steering. They lead to learn about cornering skills, like when to apex and when to brake. I've never known anyone to have a problem with cutting a turn of the smallest possible radius, to the point of sliding out. It's picking the right line that's a problem.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:45 PM
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Well, I disagree that it's overthinking and that it's what everyone does anyway. I corner much tighter when I consciously "steer the wrong way" into a corner. This was something I learned when I had a motorbike - never did it before as a cyclist.
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Old 04-25-08, 08:44 PM
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Nice video Botto, thanks. I enjoyed it.
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Old 04-26-08, 06:16 AM
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Thanks for the vid Botto....I get it now!
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Old 04-26-08, 06:24 AM
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Ride a big motorcycle. No way to turn the beasts without countersteering. No one is strong or heavy enough to lean a 700 lb motorcycle going 70 mph.

"Push right, go right. Push left, go left" is the mantra.
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Old 04-26-08, 06:28 AM
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I ride a road bicycle 12K+ miles annually and a 700lb motorcycle another 3K miles each year. What the F is 'countersteering', or do I do it intuitively because that's how you ride a bike?
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Old 04-26-08, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
I ride a road bicycle 12K+ miles annually and a 700lb motorcycle another 3K miles each year. What the F is 'countersteering', or do I do it intuitively because that's how you ride a bike?
On the motorcycle you have to be doing it intuitively. Try pulling a mc bar down on one side to turn at speed. Then try countersteering. Push the bar 1/2" ("Push right, go right. Push left, go left" is the mantra.). Magic. Or wheel gyroscope effect depending on your education.
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Old 04-26-08, 07:23 AM
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Counter steering is more pronounced if you ride a motorcycle....on a bicycle, I don't even realize I'm doing it unless I consciously do it.
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Old 04-26-08, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
I ride a road bicycle 12K+ miles annually and a 700lb motorcycle another 3K miles each year. What the F is 'countersteering', or do I do it intuitively because that's how you ride a bike?
Yes, you do it intuitively. On the bicycle I'll just +1 comments above - the mass of the bike is low enough that you don't really "need" to think about it, but understanding it will help with descending technique.

This becomes a whole lot more important to control a motorcycle at speed. All the track schools spend a lot of time on steering technique, from counter-steering to body steering (using the inside heel to initiate the lean). As noted above, it takes so much relative force to turn a motorcycle that understanding and applying the input is critical to effective riding.

Like any good BF topic, this isn't without its controversy. No less a rider/coach than Reg Pridmore advocates "body steering". His rationale boils down to 1) keeping inputs off the front end is good and 2) inputs closer to the center of gravity are better. On the other hand Keith Code completely disagrees and built a special bike to "prove" that countersteering is the only way to turn a motorcycle:

https://www.superbikeschool.com/machi...bs-machine.php

It is an interesting read. And track schools highly recommended!

Coming from both activities and being a pretty fair descender on the bike , I'd agree that what holds most bicycle riders back on descents are things like not looking through the corner, improper brake use and not picking a good line. However, I think it is naive to say "well I never had to think about it, so thinking about it now is (insert confusing, wrong, too much trouble)". Understanding the underlying mechanics and techniques is the path to being a more competent rider.
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