Counter intuitive steering

Understanding the principals behind counter steering is as easy as removing the front wheel of a bicycle. Grab the axle and roll the tire across the ground fast enough to keep the wheel spinning. Raise the spinning wheel up and down and the weight of the wheel is the only resistance you’ll encounter. Now turn the wheel to the left and watch as the wheel turns right, the opposite way you wanted the wheel to turn. Whether you know it or not you’ve been counter steering every motorcycle and bicycle you’ve ever ridden since you were old enough to go over seven miles per hour.

As your wheels turn faster rpms they begin acting like gyroscopes that want to keep the wheel moving in the same direction so you’ll have to trick the wheels into deviating from their trajectory. This is accomplished through counter steering. Temporarily deflecting the wheel in the opposite direction of a turn caused the wheel to try centering itself only to overcompensate and continue past the center point and turn in the direction you originally intended. The common phrase is “push left, go left. Push right, go right” A rider can initiate a turn solely by the shifting their weight to the inside but the rider makes up only a fraction of the total weight of the motorcycle and rider. A motorcyclist cannot initiate a turn at high speeds using only a shift in weight because this alone will not overcome the gyroscopic effects of the wheels, flywheel, crankshaft and alternator. The easiest way to coax a motorcycle into changing directions at speed is to steer in the opposite direction of your intended turn.

While the physics behind counter steering are far from intuitive all it takes is a bicycle and an empty street to see that countersteering is a simple, cause-and-effect phenomenon. Ride a bicycle straight at a speed fast enough to take your hands off the handlebars. If you can’t do this remove one hand and use the other to hold the handlebars over top the bicycle's goose neck. Take the free hand and push the left handlebar forward and release. The bike will veer to the right followed by a quick left turn, relative to your speed and the force with which you hit the handlebar. Experiment at faster speeds and pushing the handlebar harder until you get a grasp of the phenomenon and feel comfortable applying this to your motorcycle riding. Counter steering is relevant to motorcycling because it allows rider to steer a motorcycle with greater efficiency and in less time than any other steering input. Whether you are pitched over in a turn when you spot a hazard that needs to be avoided or turning down the street you live on, counter steering will get you there safer and turning in less time than it takes to say “push left, go left.”