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Am I the only person around here who keeps hearing all this talk about ‘counter-steering’?
It seems to me that this buzz-phrase has grown in notoriety in recent months in certain 2-wheeler communities, which is hardly surprising given the direct reference it pays to the entire steering-on-two-wheels debate.
It’s no secret that theory behind what it takes for us to turn effectively on our respective scooters/motorcycles is very complicated. After all, it hardly takes the mind of a prodigy to figure out that it extends far beyond the style and weight of our chosen jackets and motorcycle helmets.
Whether or not you’re a rider who has been just as perplexed with the arrival of this term, or one who has, up until now at least, been enjoying life just fine without knowledge of it- it is the intention of this post to get us all to grips with exactly what it means.
Before we delve into the finer details of things however, let’s clear one thing up right now: counter-steering is not a myth! If you’re turning your 2-wheeled automobile at any speed which surpasses a snail’s pace, then you are counter-steering.
Image Credit : http://www.wikihow.com/Countersteer-(Motorcycle)
To get into the mind frame for this next part I have a rather specific request for you all. Try to imagine, if you will, a cone. Yes, a typical, unexciting cone. If you were to push the cone as it lay flat on the ground, it would go round and round in circles, yes?
This is the same as when you lean your weight from one side to another when atop your scooter or motorcycle, the direction of the tyre moves from circular and therefore perpetually straight- to cone shaped and angled. My loose grasp on disciplines of this ilk may not make it sound so, but this is rather basic physics!
While ‘in’ the turn, we don’t fall as a result of the gravity pulling us downwards being counteracted by the deviating force being produced by the very turn we’re partaking in- which is acting to push us outwards.
During this motion, it is the balance between the two forces (gravity and the centrifugal repercussions of the turn) that keep us balanced and upright- not to mention our leather jackets largely un-scuffed. If speed is increased, the aforementioned ‘deviating force’ (that’s a pretty cool term, isn’t it?) would ensure the vehicle continues its journey forwards and increasingly upright, though if it is decreased- gravity will see we soon meet the surface of the road!
This ‘cone effect’ is what allows us to steer by increasing or decreasing throttle pressure. If we find a curve in the road is tightening, we can ease off the gas and the scooter will lean. On the contrary, if the road is straightening out, more gas will widen the trajectory of the vehicle.
Most of us will have at some point been met with the immense challenge of biting our tongues as a newbie scooter or motorcycle rider comes out with: “when you turn left, you actually need to turn the handlebars right”, or a statement to similar effect.
While this may be a vivid generalization of the actual case, it is also technically far from being an untrue statement.
In relation to our centre of gravity as we ride up-right, our wheels are to the opposite side of the direction we are riding in. This makes sense due to the fact, as previously covered, that a scooter or motorcycle turns a certain direction by leaning in that direction. But when we think about how it is we are able to make a two-wheeled vehicle lean in the first place- things change. Those newbies in their untouched patch-less vests and dirt-free heeled motorcycle boots speak the truth, kind of.
Yes, it’s painful to admit it, but in order to lean right- one must momentarily and ever so slightly steer left. Making sense? I hope so, as I’m about to tie things up and suggest why the essence of the last 600 words matter to us all as scooter riders…
Image Credit: http://www.wikihow.com/Countersteer-(Motorcycle)
Counter-steering, above anything else, is by far the best way to make an unexpected and lightning fast turn in the event of an emergency situation on the road. Putting this theory into practice is blissfully simple- you’ll undoubtedly be pleased to know after all of that mildly complex talk!
Next time you’re out for a ride, get yourself as straight as possible and gently (I can’t stress how important the term ‘gently’ is within all of this!) put some forward pressure on the right side of your handlebars. Unless you’re rocking some pretty far out hard saddlebags then you should find that you’ll lean left and start to turn left too.
Of course, this how you have always been turning regardless of any previous obliviousness to the fact- though paying attention to counter-steering, and furthermore becoming acutely sensitive to it will enable you to make the quick alterations to your direction necessary for accident avoidance in the future- and ultimately help you to become a more capable rider!