Controls: Countersteering & turning.

  • Comment(s)

Surprisingly, a lot of people don't actually think about how they steer - or even consider it as an area to improve. Going faster isn't just about accelerating quicker and braking harder - if anything that's the easy part. Corners are the tricky bit.

n.b. This is the 4th article in a comprehensive start to finish guide on how to get your knee down by riding faster, smoother and safer.

If you haven't read it already, the previous article was: 'Controls: Throttle & brake application.'

For the most part, how quickly you can enter a corner is limited by how fast you can get your bike from straight up to full lean. Countersteering is the technique use to do this - whether we know we're doing it, or not. However, knowledge is not understanding.

Understanding what countersteering is and how to use it effectively is the key. Make it a conscious effort again and practice - you'll not regret it.

Countersteering

Countersteering is the method we use to initiate a turn and generate the necessary lean angle towards a given direction. We do this by momentarily steering the opposite way to the desired direction - steer left to turn right.

I like to describe why and how this works with a simple broom analogy - I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of balancing a broom (or a long stick) on the end of your finger (A). If not, grab a broom and give it a go.

You initiate a lean by momentarily moving your finger in the opposite direction (B), before following it to maintain the given lean (C).

A motorbike behaves in the same way. However - unlike the finger which can move freely - the contact patch is moved by steering.

While it's moving forwards, the bike is self stabilising. It wants to travel upright and in a straight line (A).

Just like with the broom, we momentarily steer the opposite way to the desired direction to initiate the turn and generate the desired lean angle (B), before finally steering into the turn to maintain lean angle and continue in the desired direction (C).

Walk-through

In the transitions body position article, one of the steps of corner entry is committing to the corner with your body at tip in:

When you arrive at your tip in marker, simultaneously relax your arms and commit to the corner with your head and upper body - you should now be in your mid-corner body position.

Body position(s): Transitions and movement.

So, at your tip in marker, your head and upper body commit to the corner as they move from the center line to hanging off the inside of your bike - as you're doing this, push on the inside bar with the palm of your hand - it almost feels like you're leaning on it.

Continue to push on the bar until you've reached the desired lean angle - which is more than likely going to be when your knee touches the ground.

You don't have to push on the inside bar. Pulling on the outside bar is an option, as is a combination of both. I favour pushing the inside bar - push the left bar to turn left.

The speed at which you push the bar is proportional to your tip in rate. A quick, decisive push on the bar will make the bike tip in quicker than a slow, gentle push on the bar.

The amount of force required to push the bar also increases proportionally with speed. The faster you're going, the more the bike wants to stand upright and the more reluctant it is to lean - there's a reason MotoGP/WSBK/BSB riders are so hench.

Turning

Turning is the process of maintaining lean angle by pointing the front wheel towards the desired direction. Thanks to physics, this process is largely automatic. Providing you have good throttle control and body position, no steering inputs should be necessary to maintain your line and lean angle.

Throttle control will affect your turning in the following ways:

  • A constant throttle will maintain your line
  • Rolling on1 the throttle will widen your line
  • Rolling off1 the throttle will tighten your line

That being said, you should avoid making multiple throttle adjustments during the course of a turn. In a typical corner, once you crack the throttle, it should be rolled on smoothly, evenly and progressively throughout the remainder of the turn - inline with the rules of throttle application.

Body position alone, on a constant throttle without any steering input, will affect the turning of your bike. It will hold a tighter line with you hanging off, compared to sitting more upright and inline with the bike.

Walk-through

So, you've countersteered by pushing on the inside bar and reached your desired lean angle. You can now stop pushing on the bar and let the bike run through the corner.

Adjustments to lean angle while turning can be made by countersteering again - pushing on the outside bar will stand the bike up and widen your line, pushing on the inside bar will lean it further and tighten your line.

The aforementioned relationship between lean angle, body position and throttle control (and therefore speed) for optimal turning is a balancing act - and as such, any problems/areas to improve will be highlighted when they tip the scales.

Body position errors are the easiest to identify - scraping bike parts (i.e. pegs) before knee sliders is a sure sign that body position is off and lean angle is too high. Take a step back and reevaluate your body position.

Lack of speed usually manifests itself as difficulty holding a line. For example, having to make constant line corrections to stop yourself running onto the curb/grass on the inside of the corner. This is almost always technique lacking confidence - you can go faster and will more easily hold a line as a result.

Lack of lean angle is more often than not a result of not enough speed and/or confidence. An interesting confidence sapping feeling is when the inside bar starts pushing back - almost akin to a feeling of the front losing grip and tucking.

It's not, if anything it's doing the opposite. If you were to let go of the bars, the bike would stand up immediately. Have faith in yourself, and your tyres and push back.

If you enjoyed this article, consider starting from the 1st article in this series, and liking the Facebook page to get notified when the 5th article hits the shelves (very soon).

Footnotes
  1. "Rolling on" does not mean "pinning it" and "rolling off" does not mean "shutting off". The rules of throttle/brake application still apply - smooth, even and in most cases very slight changes should be made.