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Counter Steering - A great driving technique that is used in motorcycles

Updated on October 3, 2012
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On this Hub I'll present you Countersteering, a driving technique that most of you guys are probably already using and don't know it!

Countersteering is one of the techniques that you'll learn on a safety driving course (which I recommend every rider to take).

This technique is pretty useful not only to avoid some holes or obstacles in the road, but also to lean better and turn better. Sometimes we arrive too fast at a turn and using countersteering it's easier to lean the bike and make the turn safely!

Countersteering works by moving the wheels out from under the bike.

Try this experiment: Balance a broom upside down on your finger. With a few minutes' practice you can keep it upright pretty effectively. Once it's reasonably stable, try moving it to the left. You'll quickly find that for the broom to move to the left, it must be leaning to the left. You do this by moving your finger to the *right*, which moves the end of the broom handle out from under the center of mass of the broom. This is exactly the same mechanism as countersteering. Your bike has some inherent stability when it's moving, which will tend to keep it upright. When you want to turn, you must lean the bike.

Countersteering moves the wheels out from under the center of mass of the bike, causing it to lean in the opposite direction. Gyroscopic precession has little bearing on countersteering. It does have a significant effect on the feel of the bike, since it tends to keep the front wheel from being turned. However, consider this: If gyroscopic precession were the primary driving force in leaning the bike, one would expect that bikes with large front wheels would turn in very quickly. As it turns out, though, this is not the case, and in fact is just the opposite of what is seen in actual practice.

Once the bike is leaned over, the trail of the front end causes the front wheel to turn into the curve, and the round profile of the tires causes the bike to experience camber thrust steering (similar to rolling a cone, which travels in a curved path), which cause the bike to go around the curve. When it's time to straighten out, countersteering is again used, this time to move the wheels back underneath the center of mass of the bike and cause it to stand up.

Even more so than on a bicycle, mastering the technique of consciously countersteering is essential for safe motorcycle riding, and as a result is a part of the safe riding courses run by lots of motorcycle foundations. At the higher speeds that motorcycles commonly attain, it becomes increasingly impractical to steer by taking advantage of the minute and random corrections needed to maintain balance.

Much of the art of motorcycle cornering is learning how to effectively "push" the grips into corners and how to maintain proper lean angles through the turn. When the need for a quick swerve to one side suddenly arises in an emergency, it is essential to know, through prior practice, that the handlebars must be deliberately pressed away on that side instead of being pulled. Many accidents result when otherwise experienced riders who have never carefully developed this skill encounter an unexpected obstacle.

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A little more technical

At first sight and without having given it much though, the countersteering technique is surprising for a non-initiated. Nonetheless, many motorcyclists learn by themselves through thinking and/or reflex to apply it at speeds in the order of 100 Km/h. It's understandable since at such speeds, a slight push on one side of the handlebar, like to the right, makes the motorcycle start leaning and going in that direction.

In such a case, the front wheel generates counter-reactions that hold back the rider from pushing too hard on the handlebar and give him a feeling that there is some resistance and stability.

But at the same time, these gyroscopic counter-reactions are such that the handlebar orientation towards (3) generates a leaning torque of the front wheel towards (4). Also, the handlebar orientation towards (3) is such that the ground contact patch of the front wheel is oriented towards (5). So a centrifugal force leans the 2-Wheeler towards (4). It can also be reasoned that the tire contact points on the ground run away towards (5), so that the 2-Wheeler leans towards (4).

Thus around 100 Km/h, the countersteering technique explains that the gyroscopic reactions combine with the centrifugal forces to start turning.

Once turning has started, the rider stops pushing on the handlebar. Once again with the help of the gyroscopic reactions and the front fork geometry that both stabilize it, the 2-Wheeler remains stable in the curve engaged in. When time comes to bring the 2-Wheeler back up, the rider pushes on the handlebar in the opposite direction to bring it back to the vertical.

Around 100 Km/h, the countersteering technique thus explains how a 2-Wheeler starts going into a turn. But it’s the gyroscopic reactions and the front fork geometry that explain the stability in the curve once turning has started

Video Explanation of CounterSteering

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