I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, and as the weather is (supposedly) improving and more bikes are getting back out on the road, the times come. Written from the perspective of a super sports rider.
Steering a bike is easy – you either lean into the turn, or turn the bar right to go right, and left to go left, thats what people think, right?
Wrong. Once you’re moving, shifting your bodyweight to try and lean into a turn has almost no effect. If you don’t believe me, try riding along with no hands (if you fall off its not my fault!) and leaning your weight one way or the other – you can initiate a gentle curve, but tighter turns are impossible unless you flick the whole bike violently… in which case you’re indirectly turning the bars anyway and you’re likely to end up shiny side up!
You have to use the handlebars but not the way you might think – you need to turn them the opposite way to the way you want to go, I know it sounds counter intuitive if you’re a new sports rider.
This is called counter steering and here’s how you do it.
Before the corner.
Get your bike settled, make sure your entry speed is right and you’re not riding the brakes. Get your braking and gear changes out of the way BEFORE you reach the point where you want to turn in. I’m going to assume its a right turn in this example.
Turning into the corner.
At the turning point, either pull gently and BRIEFLY on the left bar, or you can push gently on the right bar. Depending on the road camber, whats coming up ahead, and what my hands are going, sometimes I pull, something I push; not going to cover the why of that in this post. For now, do what feels comfortable.
When you do this, you send the front wheel in the wrong direction, so the bike starts to steer the “wrong” way (in this case left), but the bike will lean the other way (ie: to the right). If you keep doing this you’ll crash, which is why I stressed BRIEFLY above. This is one of the most common causes of people near siding – you see this lots on rnickeymouse’s Mulholland highway videos.
The gyroscopic effect of the spinning front wheel and the effect of the front suspension geometry (don’t lock your elbows!) will make the front wheel want to correct itself and pull back in the direction the rest of the bike is pointing, so the rest of the bike will ‘fall’ in the opposite direction to the way you first pointed the handlebars – so now you have the bike leaning nicely to the right.
The turn itself.
Now you’ve got the bike ‘falling’ to the right, you need to balance it out, otherwise you’ll crash. Use the throttle to pick the bike back up and get everything back in balance. As soon as you’re committed to the turn, get back on the throttle GENTLY. You’ll notice an immediate improvement in the feedback you get from the front tyre. As you get pass the apex and start to get the bike more upright again, apply the throttle in a progressive way, and you’ll drive harder out of the corner… and feel like a badass doing so 🙂
After a while you’ll feel confident enough with the post apex throttle points to just pin it open to the right point in one sharp movement. In all likelihood this will pick up the front wheel, so you’ll look like even more of a badass. Just don’t crash, and usual disclaimer, I don’t condone pulling wheelies on the road, and obviously I never do such things 😉
Enjoy and ride safe! I’ll post a couple more of these “how to ride” posts based on stuff i’ve learnt over the last few years. I am NOT an expert, and don’t claim to be, I’m still eagerly learning, and the point of these posts is to share that knowledge and help better solidify it for myself.
As always, i’m @hamlesh on twitter 🙂