There are quite a few among us who wish to debunk the very theory of countersteering as they don’t think any such thing exists. Unfortunately, rules of physics don’t bend themselves even for the obstinate ones amongst us. Whether our friends like it or not, countersteering does exist. Moreover, it’s not just one of the ways to make a bike turn; it is the only way to make a bike turn.
Truth is, all of us practice countersteering while riding, all the time. It’s just that it’s so intuitive for a rider with some experience, that it doesn’t ever make itself apparent. However, if one observes closely and consciously tries to examine how exactly it works, he would decidedly turn into a better rider over time.
So what exactly is countersteering, and how does it affect you as a rider? Let us try to understand in a very simple way:
For a layman, countersteering is best described with this simple sentence – Push the handlebar right to turn right, push left to turn left. Now, this might sound confusing, but that shows it really works. When you push the left handlebar, you make the bike bend ever so slightly towards the right for a very small moment. From this point onward, centrifugal force takes over, makes the bike dip to its left and lean to induce a left-hand turn.
Being consciously aware of it makes you a more in-control rider. You can make your motorcycle take tighter turns at relatively higher speed, which in effect makes you go faster around a bend. From a safety perspective, pushing the inner bars to make an evasive manoeuvre can highly increase your chances of actually evading an obstacle which otherwise looked unavoidable. At a subconscious level, this works closely in conjunction with looking where you wish to go, as your body naturally adjusts and manipulates the forces at work to drive the machine towards the spot you are looking at.
Once you start practising countersteering around a set of bends and learn how to use it to maximum effect around corners, you would realize that you can actually modulate pressure on the inner handlebars to control the trajectory of your curve while attacking a corner. Observing it consciously as it happens would open your eyes to the dramatic difference it makes to your control over the machine, your speed and your safety.
Experience countersteering at work
You don’t necessarily need to go to a racetrack or venture out of the city to find a serpentine road through the canyons. You’ll need an empty piece of straight road, and it doesn’t even need to be too long. Accelerate to a speed of about 30-35 km/h while keeping the bike straight and gently push the right or left part handlebar. Try to observe which direction the bike moves in. You’d observe that after a very momentary twitch in a direction opposite to that of the side of the handlebar you pushed, the bike starts turning in the same direction.
Once you have acquainted yourself with the phenomenon at the very basic level, you can start consciously pushing the inner handlebars while out on your weekend rides to experience it in action at higher speeds. If you keep practising it you will realize that you are able to do things which you were not able to when you were not aware of the technique.
So next time you go out for that Sunday morning ride, try observing countersteering at work as you take those sweeping corners. You’ll see that you are able to take a tighter line without much effort.
Just so you understand even better how it helps riding faster and safer, we asked some questions to TVS Racing team racer Jagan Kumar about some finer intricacies of counter steering
When do you actively, consciously countersteer during races?
When we need to ride fast through tough corners, we countersteer. However, the intensity with which we put pressure on the handlebar is subjective as it depends on the asphalt, corners and the bike.
Are there any specific techniques which I can use to countersteer better?
It is generally used to ride through the corners as fast as possible. When you pass in the right corner push the right handlebar towards outside and push in your left thigh to the tank. The same process is applied when have to ride through the left corner; you push the left handlebar outside and push your right thigh to the tank.
Does leaning off the bike enhance countersteering effect?
No, leaning off the bike is only 10 percent of the total work done and as I mentioned before, the rest depends on the pressure the rider puts on the handlebar.
How can I experience countersteering while riding hard?
It depends on what speed you enter the corner with- a high entry speed will give you a better result.
What kind of a real-world environment is best to learn and master countersteering?
You can learn it well on a flat track (Autocross) and supermoto.