Is there Life after Countersteering?

Posted: May 24, 2010 by BlogMaster in Bike/Rider Safety
Tags: , ,

An article written by John Fitzwater from Thunderbikes in Nelson

Body Mechanics

In our previous articles on Body Mechanics (Countersteering) we’ve leaned pretty heavily on Countersteering as a way in which to get your bike to respond quickly when you want to change direction quickly ( remember Herbert the Intelligent Sheep?). Just in case you’ve just walked in, Countersteering is when you turn the handlebar away from the direction you’d like the bike to turn. In simple terms, the bike becomes unbalanced and falls away from the direction in which the wheel is pointing eg turn the bars to the right and the bike falls to the left – you counter-steer.

But there’s a trap in Countersteering
Imagine our budding young Aaron Slight (waddyamean you’ve never heard of him? Whereyabin?) decides he’s gonna try this countersteer technique on that tricky corner that tightens up and always catches him out. He hurtles up to said corner 10mph faster than normal, tweaks the bars sharply to the right and the bike drops like a stone to the left. Perfect! – our young hero feels like a real Grand Prix rider as the bike dives in toward the apex like a guided missile.

Hang on a minute, something’s not quite right
The bike turned in nicely but now it’s starting to run a little wide. Just before outright panic sets in, our young taxdodger remembers the Countersteering Principle, and pushes out with his left hand sharply to tweak to bars to the right again, and the bike makes another course correction, coming back into the apex. Briefly. Our hero relaxes again, but wait…. now the corner is really tightening up and the bike is running wide again, worse there’s a logging truck looming up in the other lane. With eyes bulging, knuckles popping , lungs bursting and the seat cover sucked fair up his sphincter, our young temporary hero applies one final desperate countersteer course correction and narrowly avoids joining the blowflies on the grille of the logging truck. With now permanently enlarged eyeballs, our deflated young hero decides to push his bike around the next corner. Does all this sound vaguely familiar? You betcha!

What went wrong?
Well simply put, our rider misunderstood the use of Countersteering. What he did was to try to get the bike around the corner using Countersteering alone, and thus turned the corner into a series of short, abrupt lines (like an old thruppeny bit coin) rather than a nice smooth arc. Countersteering is a tool for you to use, an entree if you like, but it is not The Main Course!

Back to basics
If you don’t countersteer, but just lean your bodyweight to one side the bike will slowly fall in that direction. If you were to let go of the bars, you would see them turn slightly in the direction in which the bike was turning. This is the normal steering action of the bike, and the one we use most often when riding on gently curving roads.

What our test pilot did wrong was to prevent the bars turning in the normal steering direction after countersteering in the opposite direction ( I think that makes sense…).

In our scenario, our rider had his left arm stiffened and tense so he could apply the next countersteer thrust. Because his arms and shoulders were not relaxed, he was physically preventing the bike from responding in the proper manner. Having countersteered into the corner nicely ,the bike wants to respond by turning in on a nice arc, but our muscle-bound plonker is not letting it happen that way. If he is a bit more intelligent than Herbert, he’ll try it again, this time relaxing his arms and shoulders after the initial countersteering thrust, allowing the bars to turn in the normal direction – he’ll pass Doohan on the inside , and the bike will go round the corner like it’s on rails!

Riding Tip:
Next time you find yourself running a little wide on a corner, if you have time, check to see in your arms are bent, and both shoulders and arms relaxed. The bike may not feel like it wants to lean any further, but it may be you that’s the cause. Relax, unclench your buttocks, and lean!

PS Bars like drag bars, Wide FLs, or poorly positioned clip ons are a major source of bound up arms and shoulders – you should be able to turn lock to lock without dislocating a shoulder or punching yourself in the guts! Fix it now, before you become a mascot on the grille of a Mack truck!


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