If you are anything like me you probably find yourself drifting between different forums and discussion boards on the internet. Most of these are probably bike related. Every three minutes (alright perhaps every week or so) someone will post a question to these forums along the lines of:
My tyres are wearing out too fast, is it because I'm not counter-steering?
Do i need to counter-steer?
What is counter-steering?
The answers you get to these questions vary greatly but you will almost always have someone come up and start speaking about gyroscopic forces. Frankly, as true as their explanations may be my brain just does a runner when someone starts using scientific language to explain something (I did physics at university so now my brain has had enough). So I have come up with a much simpler explanation.
First though I will answer some of the more frequently asked questions:
Do I need to counter-steer?
Every time you ride your bike you will counter-steer regardless of whether you realise it or not. A motorcycle will not turn quickly enough if you do not.
Does counter-steering wear out my tyres quicker?
No. As an integral part of everyone's riding technique counter-steering will not wear out your tyres.
The simple art of counter-steering.
To look at why we need counter-steering lets look at what needs to be done to get a bike to steer without it.
Imagine yourself on your bike coming up to your favorite roundabout. Now imagine that your bike has no handlebars and the only way to get the bike round the turn is through weight transfer. Do you think that it will be enough? The way i look at it is this: The bike weighs just over 200kg wet, the bike is moving and wants to stay in a straight line, I weigh 91kgs (alright I'm a bit of a bloater). So a fast moving 91kg mass moving in one direction is trying to get a fast moving 200kg mass moving in the same direction to lean and turn with no further input other than moving over to one side slightly. It's NOT going to happen.
Now we know that a bike cannot be turned with weight alone, lets look at the alternatives. One thing we must always remember is that a bike that is moving will do its utmost to continue moving in a straight line, the bike is not fussed whether it does this on it's wheels or on its side.
So we are going along on the bike in a straight line and we want to turn a corner. Let's say it is a 90 degree left hander and we are moving at 50 MPH.
|Lets try turning the
bars to the left:
If we turn the bars to the left, the contact patch of the tyre will move to the left. The bike will try to carry on in a straight line. What we have here (if we keep steering to the left) is a bike that is getting further and further away from the contact patch of the front tyre. Soon the mass of the bike is no longer above the contact patch so the bike will fall over on its right hand side, go straight on at the bend and end up in the right hand ditch.
Let's try turning to the right:
If we turn the bars to the right, the contact patch of the tyre will move to the right. The bike will try to carry on in a straight line. What we have here (if we keep steering to the right) is a bike that is getting further and further away from the contact patch of the front tyre. Soon the mass of the bike is no longer above the contact patch so the bike will fall over on its left hand side, go straight on at the bend and end up in the right hand ditch.
Have you noticed how the bike always ends up in the right hand ditch? That's because the bike will try to go straight.
Lets try something slightly different, steering BOTH ways.
Now we can see from the two examples above that steering to the right got the bike to fall over on its left side. We want to lean to the left so that is probably the best option to take first. So we steer right and the bike is now in the process of falling over on it's left side. Before it goes right over and we pay for more clutch and gear levers lets stop steering to the right and let the front tyre contact patch come back to us. If we steer positively to the left we will find ourselves completely upright but we will have turned part of the corner. If we steer just the right amount the bike will balance against the contact patch as the bike arcs round to take the corner. That is how to counter-steer.
How do i know how much to steer back?
That's the truly amazing thing about bikes, when they are turning their steering is virtually straight. If you find yourself heading for the inside of the turn then steer left more and the bike will stand up more and follow a straighter path. If you find the bike going to far to the right then steer left less and the bike will lean further and corner tighter. What you MUST remember is that the when you are cornering you must have a relaxed hold on the bars, the steering must be allowed to come back to the straight ahead of its own accord, only steer when you want to make adjustments to your direction or lean.
That is more or less it. Counter steering is simply moving the wheels of the bike to one side (the opposite side to the direction of the turn) so the bikes weight is no longer above the contact patch which causes the bike to lean a lot faster than moving the riders weight to one side. The faster and harder the counter steering is done, the faster the bike will lean