Counter-steering and Motorcycles
I was taught the technique of counter
whilst attending a Motorcycle Safety Foundation
training course. At first, it just doesn't make sense but then, once you try it, you'll realise how experienced biker
s are able to turn their machine
with relative ease.
How to use the counter-steering technique
At low speeds, the rider turns the front wheel in the direction they want the bike to turn, e.g. turning the wheel to the right to turn right.
At higher speeds, the opposite is true: The front wheel is turned away from the desired direction. So, for example, to turn to the right, steady application of pressure to the right handlebar will cause the front wheel to point to the left. The bike will lean to the right, and consequently, turn to the right.
Put simply, in the words of the MSF;
"Push right, lean right, go right. Push left, lean left, go left"
Here's the deal: Every motorcyclist who has operated their machine and negotiated a bend at a speed above, say, 20 mph, has used counter-steering, even if they don't realise it. It is the conscious application of pressure which is counter-intuitive. The fact is, there's no way to turn a motorcycle solely by leaning or "body-steering" - the handlebars must rotate too. I read about a motorcycle instructor in Popular Mechanics who had fitted a second pair of handlebars, (complete with a second throttle, directly to a demo bike's frame. Everyone who rode that bike found that they couldn't steer the bike while holding the fixed handlebars.
Why counter-steering works
Contrary to what you may have read, gyroscopic force
is not the main reason that counter
works. The technique works because of the effect of steering geometry
, (in particular: rake
). The geometry
of the front forks
of a motorcycle
dictate that turning the handlebar
in one direction will cause the bike
to lean in the other. Try it whilst stationary
: Sit astride
the bike with your feet on the ground and turn the handlebar
. See how the bike lean
However, gyroscopic force does play a part when counter-steering with the bike in motion. It provides the resistance that you feel as you push against the handlebar.