Posts Tagged ‘rider skills’

Eyes and Horizons

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

An article written by John Fitzwater from Thunderbikes in Nelson

Body Mechanics

Judging by the number of requests for more information, our past few articles on Countersteering and Body Mechanics in Twin Eagle Magazine have been read with interest by quite a few riders. This time we’re going to continue on the Body Mechanics subject, and talk about your eyes and horizons.

Have you ever watched bike racing on TV where they’ve had a camera mounted in the fairing of the bike to give you a riders perspective? The angles of lean they reach seem to be exaggerated and you wonder “how the hell can they lean that far without getting disoriented?”. It sure is hard to watch on TV, never mind, actually doing it on the track!

Well, there’s a trick to all this
The camera is not exaggerating the lean angle – the picture you’re seeing is just how it looks to me when I’m racing my bike. Try this! Go and grab your favourite racing video with a “bike-cam” scene in it (if you haven’t got a video available, go and rent Joey Dunlop’s lap of the Isle of Man from the video store.) Press play, and as the bike begins an apparent lean to the left try leaning your head to the left also.

What happened?
It should have looked even worse and you nearly fell off the couch – right? Now try leaning your head in the opposite direction to the way the bike is leaning – so if you imagine that you’re on the bike, your eyes are remaining level with the horizon. As the bike banks to the left, lean your head to the right, and as it stands up and banks to the right, pick your head up and lean it to the left. Aha! Things just got dramatically better! Notice how the apparent lean angle and the cornering speed seems to slow down?

By now the dog is probably barking at you and wife is more convinced than ever you’ve got a hippo loose in the top paddock (if you really want to have fun with her, go and put your helmet and gloves on!).

Try it on the road
What worked for you in the living room, will also work for you on your bike on the road. Try it. Next time you’re carving up the twisties on your favourite bit of road, keep your eyes level with the horizon by leaning your head in the opposite direction to the way the bike is leaning. Your eyes can now do their job of transmitting balance and speed information to the brain without having to cope with the lean angle. The result is the whole scene will slow down and your cornering speed won’t feel so high, giving you a more relaxed ride, or the ability to go even quicker.

Another tip is to look well ahead of the bike, not at the road just in from of your wheel. Have a look at that race video again and observe how far ahead the racers are looking – they are constantly looking ahead to the next corner. This will also dramatically slow things down – a trap when travelling with a group of bikes is to watch the taillight of the bike in front of you . If you do this, your brain just wont have time to assimilate all the information in time – concentrate on the road beyond the bike in front of you and it’s amazing how much more time you seem to have.

Amaze your friends. Amaze yourself!
If you haven’t already been using this technique , you’ll wonder why someone never told you about it before.


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!