TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: Learn to Countersteer Your Motorcycle the Right Way
At TEAM Arizona, we’ve been in the business of teaching riders to take on the road with ease, precision, and confidence since 1989. With over 135,000 motorcyclists having taken our courses so far, we continue to maintain that nailing down the basics is a must for anyone looking to truly enjoy what the open road has to offer. Motorcycle countersteering is one of those basic maneuvers that our experts believe is one of the most important to navigating the road ahead, which is precisely why we’re here to offer some tips and tricks for pulling it off the right way.
Riders who attend the Basic RiderCourse are introduced, often for the very first time, the understanding that there are two different types of techniques for turning a motorcycle. Which technique gets used depends upon several variables; however, to simplify matters, we can break it down to this:
- To Turn a Motorcycle below roughly 12 mph, use COUNTERWEIGHTING
- To Turn a Motorcycle above roughly 12 mph, use COUNTERSTEERING
This month we’re going to explore a high-speed turning technique more formally known as countersteering.
What Is Countersteering?
This is a technique you’ve certainly seen on the road, even if you’ve never used it yourself. Simply, countersteering is pressing FORWARD on the handlebar in the direction you want to go above roughly 12mph. If you want to go right, press forward on the right handlebar to go right. We press on the handlebar to cause the motorcycle to lean in the direction we want to go.
In general, we say countersteering is best used above 12mph. Actually, a motorcycle can be countersteered at any speed, but the effects of countersteering begin to be more noticeable and more advantageous to us as a rider around 12mph. Different types of motorcycles have different factors that may change the actual “transition” speed (ie, weight, geometry, tire size, etc), but in general we can say roughly 12 mph. We say 12 mph because the bike is becoming vastly more stable.
Why is Countersteering More Stable at 12 MPH?
Countersteering relies on the self-stability of the bike to complete a turn without slowing down significantly and without toppling over. This stability is due to a physics phenomenon called eigenvalues, which measures the scaling of a linear factor – aka, the trajectory of your tires. These values are imperative when it comes to working with engines and bikes of all varieties and takes into account a wide range of variables involved in cornering a bike, including:
- Lean angle
- Lean rate
- Steer rate
- Steer angle
Each of these details is used alongside more information such as a bike’s weight and shape and the angle of the turn itself to determine whether or not a bike will remain stable and upright on a certain trajectory at a given speed. For most street bikes, the most stable speed stands between 12 miles per hour and 18 miles per hour, making these the best speeds to implement countersteering.
How Does Countersteering Work?
For many riders, countersteering is something they simply do without much thought. It feels right and gets turns done safely, and so it’s rarely ever questioned. However, when you stop to look at it, countersteering seems completely contrary to your goals. You’re essentially steering your handlebars left to turn right or vice versa. So, how does it work?
Any single-track vehicle has to use countersteering as a means of turning at high speeds. This is because the two wheels do not follow the same exact path during a turn. The front wheel’s path tends to fall outside the path of the rear wheel during a turn due to something called out-tracking. When you countersteer your motorcycle, you’re setting your rear wheel on the right track to keep yourself on the trajectory you want.
It is the most efficient, effective way to corner a motorcycle above 12mph. We countersteer to create instability. By pressing forward on the handgrip, the front wheel out-tracks away from the corner, creates instability and causes the bike to lean in the direction we are pressing. Take a look at the diagrams below:
Simply put, you need to know how to countersteer properly if you’re going to be on the road because it’s the safest, most efficient way to make any turn at high speeds. While it might be possible to slow down and turn your bike, countersteering is a must for performing avoidance maneuvers such as swerving. It also allows you to change your trajectory as needed if you’re approaching a turn too quickly, or the turn is a bit sharper than you thought it would be. It’s a matter of safety for both yourself and everyone else on the road or track.
Practice Makes Proficient
How can you be better at countersteering? Practice! First, try the countersteering technique in a straight line at roughly 20mph. CAUTION: An aggressive press forward on the handle bar may result in an IMMEDIATE change of direction. We recommend starting with a gentle press in a straight line. After getting a feel for how the bike handles with each subsequent press, try pressing harder and harder at a steady speed. Next, try elevating your speed in small increments of say, five miles per hour. Find a corner on a road less traveled and implement your new countersteering technique. Of course, to be most safe, a local track may be the best alternative. Either way, wash, rinse, and repeat; reads like hours of fun to us!
Learn to Countersteer with the Pros
At TEAM Arizona, we have the space, experience, and time to teach anyone to master countersteering before they ever hit the open road. This technique is introduced in our Basic Rider Course alongside other must-know lessons to get riders on the road with everything they need for success. Whether you’re a new rider looking to get the most training possible before taking your brand new bike out for a spin or you’re an old pro simply looking for a refresher or two to give you a true mastery of the road ahead, we’re here to ensure you’re receiving the right information and the right practice opportunities. Contact us to get more information on our course schedule and sign up for a class of your own.
Tell us your thoughts about this article and practicing these techniques on the TEAM Arizona Facebook Page.
Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011. He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee. Have questions or comments about the article? Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com
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