Countersteering question

Forums ChampU ChampU General Discussion Countersteering question

  • This topic has 7 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 1 week ago by Waylon Bennett.
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  • #530714
    Razvan Calin

    Hello,

    Right now i always put bar pressure in the direction i want to go, and keep my hands relaxed while doing so, i do this consciously. My question is:
    Is this the proper way of turning at slow speeds as well?

    I feel quite intimidated to do this when i’m filtering traffic at the stop light. That’s why i don’t do it that much, i feel i am lacking some control.

    While searching on youtube i found that you should always countersteer and also found videos saying you should turn handlebars at slow speed and after 14-15mph to begin with countersteering. It is quite confusing, so i would appreciate some light here.

    Thank you in advance!
    I want to improve 🙂

    #530797
    Nick Ienatsch

    Hello Razvan…This is a great subject…and like many questions about riding technique, you can do a few minutes of experimentation to find the point between counter-steering and direct steering. We don’t have an exact speed at which your bike will steer best with each technique, but don’t worry, you’re already doing it.

    With a little “pointed practice”, your awareness of how your bike steers best at different speeds will become second nature. You’ll see that at parking lot speeds you will be turning the bars a lot…watch how that changes as your speed increases. You might find some speeds where you’re doing a combo of both.

    Final thought: Don’t get too worried about this particular subject. You are naturally steering your bike using both methods…one of the joys of riding is the awareness of our inputs and steering is a particularly fun to experiment with and master. Let us know how this experimentation goes for you. -Nick I.

    #530798
    Nick Ienatsch

    Hello Razvan…This is a great subject…and like many questions about riding technique, you can do a few minutes of experimentation to find the point between counter-steering and direct steering. We don’t have an exact speed at which your bike will steer best with each technique, but don’t worry, you’re already doing it.

    With a little “pointed practice”, your awareness of how your bike steers best at different speeds will become second nature. You’ll see that at parking lot speeds you will be turning the bars a lot…watch how that changes as your speed increases. You might find some speeds where you’re doing a combo of both.

    Final thought: Don’t get too worried about this particular subject. You are naturally steering your bike using both methods…one of the joys of riding is the awareness of our inputs and steering is a particularly fun to experiment with and master. Let us know how this experimentation goes for you. -Nick I.

    #532092
    mark van Hoeij

    Counter steering works at any speed. There is no cut-off speed where it suddenly stops working. Just try it, even if you are going only 5 mph, if you gently press the right handlebar, the bike will go right, just like it would at any speed.

    After a brief delay, the handlebar turns in the opposite direction that you pushed it. This is true at any speed but its noticeable at low speed. We counter-steer, and shortly after, the bike turns the handlebar in the opposite direction.

    #532118
    Nick Ienatsch

    Mark, we are direct steering at extremely low speeds, like a u-turn, pulling out of a parking space, pushing your bike, making a right turn from a stop. You write “Counter steering works at any speed” and this question deals with low speeds, like if filtering slowly between cars.

    If you are an instructor, be careful of blanket statements like “Counter steering works at any speed”…because “speed” includes 1 mph. Take two minutes on a bicycle, scooter or motorcycle to get this understanding right. Thanks, Nick I.

    #532174
    mark van Hoeij

    The direct steering observed at low speeds is done by the bike itself, all the rider has to do is to not prevent it.

    If we take a U-turn to the left, the hands are on the handlebars, and the handlebars turn left. The natural conclusion is that the rider turned the handlebars to the left.

    However, if there were no rider on the bike, and we lean the bike left, then the bike itself turns the handlebars to the left. There is a YouTube video that demonstrates this. This means that in a left U-turn, we do not need to turn the handlebars left, the bike will automatically do that for us, all we have to do is to not prevent it.

    Even in a U-turn, we only need to counter-steer, we do not need to direct-steer because the bike does that on its own.

    In the video, the person walks behind the bike, leaning it left or right, and the bike itself steers into the turn:


    It’s quite compelling.

    #532229
    Nick Ienatsch

    Mark, if you have found a way that works for you, that’s great. We teach it differently for clarity, simplicity and correctness in our opinion and given our experience.

    I’ve said it before: I’m not a fan of debating riding technique without a bike and a parking lot/road/track. Find things that work to give you joy and safety at the pace you choose. Thanks, Nick I.

    #532757
    Waylon Bennett

    Who am I to weigh in on this? Not really anybody special, being a rider with only a year of experience – but as someone who frequently made the mistake in life of letting the facts get in the way of trusting the experts, and then studying the material only to discover that the practical and useful knowledge the experts had was perfectly delivered and extremely beneficial – I want to say this.

    Steering is a balancing act of forces acting on the bike, and one of those forces is inertia, and one is gravity. Steering the bike is always – ALWAYS going to be a force that differs from inertia, because we use gravity to generate friction on the pavement to move the front tire one way or another. Standing the bike up means steering the front tire under the bike – and steering a left leaning bike further left stands us up. Steering left while traveling straight on aims the tire left of our center of balance and we begin to fall to the right, but then immediately correct by turning the bars to the right just enough to balance the falling and our inertia in the direction we want to go – steering.

    Perception and understanding things matters, but an incomplete perception can still be useful despite the facts of the events perceived because of practicality. At any speed a quick steering input will result in the bike noticeably turning opposite the input – a countersteer, but that is an intentionally and intuitively understood input by the onboard engineer. A rider wanting to turn left at low speed may quickly input a right turn on the bars, lean and look to the left, and will have effectively countersteered, turning the bike to the left. The same rider may instead decide to make that same left turn by looking and leaning first, and the front tire continues straight on as the bike falls over, correcting to the left as it goes to aim the tire back in line with travel direction – leading to what is perceived as a direct steer when in fact the tire pointed to the right of the intended travel direction to facilitate the turn. The physics and close examination argue that a bike ALWAYS steers via countersteering – it is the action of falling over, and then steering back under itself to upright that allows motorcycles and bicycles to turn at all in the first place.

    For example, if you take a bike (with or without a motor) and lock its steering such that it only allows the bars to turn from neutral position in only one direction, but not the other, it will ONLY be capable of turning the opposite direction, and won’t be capable of getting back upright. It becomes unrideable. (See Veritasium’s video on YouTube for a visual demonstration). This is nice to understand conceptually, but the practical knowledge of this entire situation is ALREADY understood by you at a subconscious level, proven by the fact that you can remain upright on two wheels as you travel forward without falling over. You can do that, right?

    It is not wrong to teach this complex phenomenon to riders, but it is not necessarily a useful way to spend valuable instruction time as it gets in the way of gaining the actionable level of understanding. It’s far more practical to allow the natural instincts of a student to take place at lower speeds where slow-motion cameras are needed just to prove you’re countersteering every time you turn (even when you don’t realize it) and instead TRAIN students to be intentional, deliberate and informed in their inputs at speed, when mistakes like failing to understand countersteering can be fatal. Try this experiment at very slow to moderate and then faster speeds. While sitting BOLT UPRIGHT on the bike, no lean, see which direction the bike wants to go when you input a slow or quick steering input, and allow yourself to do what is then necessary to not fall down or crash in the parking lot – steer the bike naturally. I bet you did a counter steer – perhaps a very small or very brief one, but still, not a direct steer. Then do the same experiment while allowing yourself to lean over, and see what, if anything, changes at all those speeds. In conclusion, don’t worry about it so much because you already understand it – just be intentional and practice. And trust the experts to give you advice that won’t lead you astray; they know what they’re doing, they know what information is valuable to a student, they are very good at what they do, and they’ve delivered extremely valuable content to us. Cheers!

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