The technical term is “Countersteering”!
Now this might make sense to some of you other two-wheeled pilots, but I’m sure to anybody who has never ridden a motorbike, at least in the front seat, you may be thinking that the big D has finally lost the plot!
Let me explain….
As many of you know, I have for a long time been an “Advanced Motorcyclist”. By this I mean that I have completed the RoSPA Advanced Motorcyclist course and passed the assessment. Then subsequently I have regularly been assessed to ensure that the correct standard is maintained…and you think that this motorbike game is just about throwing your leg over the machine and off we go? Think again!!!
One of the mantras of the Advanced Riding approach is continuous improvement and revision. The other day the latest copy of the Harley Owners Group magazine dropped through my letterbox and near the back was a very interesting article about Counter-steering that got me thinking. OK, you are now saying; “Come on Dookes, what the hell are you on about?” Well to put it simply, it is about the principle that to go round a bend, you have to turn the handlebar in the opposite direction to the bend. Honestly, you do! Yeah, I know, it all sounds screwy and by now you are convinced that I have totally lost it….bear with me, whilst I explain. In fact, anyone who has ever ridden a motorbike or even a pedal bicycle has used counter-steering without even realising it.
It’s all about physics really. We all know that a bike, motor or otherwise, goes round a bend a whole lot better when it is leaning into the curve. To get the thing to lean, you actually do two things; one is you slightly and probably unconsciously, shift your weight to the inside of the bend and in addition you then counter-steer. To put it another way, you actually push the handlebars into the bend; turn right, push right; turn left, push left. For the vast majority of people on two wheels this is achieved without too much input, if any, from their brain. There are times however, when it all starts to go wrong, that it can be very helpful to have a clearer understanding of the principle, ‘cos it can get you out of trouble!
One of the most common causes of accidents people have on two wheels, excepting the “Sorry mate I didn’t see you” pillocks, is through not successfully making a turn. Sometimes this leads to an excursion into what the late great James Hunt used to describe as “Going Agricultural’ i.e. into the grass; or worse still drifting into oncoming traffic!
So, last Saturday morning, with the temperature at Zero degrees and a trip to the Plymouth Harley Dealership beckoning, Harley and I hit the road. As it was nice and quiet, I took the opportunity to practice my counter-steering technique. What I discovered about my own riding was quite interesting too! Firstly I rode as normal, but made a mental note of what I was doing. After about ten miles I stopped to turn the temperature down on my heated jacket and gloves, cos I was a bit too hot, at the same time I had a think about what I had been doing. I was surprised to discover that my counter-steering seemed to be less of push right, go right; more like pull left, go right! It all adds up to the same thing in the movement of the wheel after all… For the next 20 miles or so I tried a few different takes on the theme and soon I was in the groove.
It’s amazing really how just a small amount of thought and revision can assist your technique immensely, not to mention that with physics doing the work it’s a lot easier to negotiate the twists on a big bike like Harley!
One thing though….DO NOT try this in your car…it won’t work!!!
Harley amongst friends.
It’s all Counterintuitive really!
With thanks to Becky Tillman of Rider’s Edge for the inspiration to get out and revise!