Motorcycle Steering - Part I

It is often misleading to think that motorcycle steering involve shifting your body mass. If you really believe that shifting your body will make your bike turn do a simple experiment. Leave the handlebars alone, rest them for example on the tank and whilst you go straight, try to turn only by moving or leaning your body to one side. You'll see that your bike is still going straight ahead and your effort is for nothing as motorcycles are designed to go straight with no action on handlebars. If your bike turns on leaving the handlebars it means the wheel alignment has suffered which needs fixing.

Yes, shifting your body will play a role but once you've made your bike turn and lean in the corner.  However, we should start from the basics first on how to turn the motorcycle.

Motorcycle steering - Countersteering

Whether you aware of this or not, you do it anyway, otherwise you will not be able to make any kind of turns on you bike. This is the same as with any bicycles. In order to turn right you need to first turn your handlebars left which deflects the front wheel to the left which forces the bike to fall to the right. This maybe sounds complicated but is simple and natural thing that you many not yet realised.

When you start to use this technique more consciously and more intentionally you would want to gently push one or the other side of the handlebars. Simply, if you want to turn right, gently push the right hand side and if you want to turn left, push the left hand side. This would do the trick and it is a good starting point.

Since we do it anyway, why do we need to think about it? 

By being aware on  how things are done, you can use the techniques more efficiently. For example: out of nowhere a car appeared in front of you and you wanted to quickly turn to the right to avoid collision and your instinct made you turn the handlebars to the right which resulted your bike going to the left unfortunately. This is why it is important to wrap your mind around the basic countersteering principle which will become an automatic response in time, but not when you first start to learn it. Obviously, not only in situations of emergency the technique is useful but it is itself a secret to precise motorcycle steering.

When you begin experimenting, you will notice that the bike's willingness to turn is proportional to the force on the handlebars. To turn quickly you will need to be more abrupt with the push and if you push it lightly, the bike will slowly bend in the desired direction. At higher speeds it will be more difficult to turn and any steering would require more force on the handlebars than at lower speeds. This is caused by the fact that with increasing speed the gyroscopic effect of spinning wheels, brake discs, chain etc., creates increased stability.

At the design stage of any motorcycle chassis a great care is taken to ensure proper steering feel, balancing stability against turning ability. However, no matter what motorcycle you ride, on experimenting and perfecting your inputs at the handlebar you will discover new abilities of your bike. Make sure you've mastered the countersteering techniques before diving into more advanced steering techniques that will add further control and confidence to your riding.

Read more on the advanced motorcycle steering techniques in Motorcycle Steering - Part II

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