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View Full Version : Counter Steering... My Input


willprevale
25th November 2005, 22:38
I've been silent during that thread, preferring instead to see what everyone thinks. Here's my opinion and it's strictly that... an opinion based on many many years of riding.

With all due respect to my friend Dar, MSF and other programs are placing altogether too much emphasis on what I consider to be an intermediate or advanced technique. I'm aware that a certain number of us are fairly experienced when we take that course but what about the newbie? Take all that info they give and add counter steering to the mix and you have one mentally :censored up rider. It's just too much to digest in one weekend and IMO dangerous and unneeded information. I suspect that was part of Bonnie's problem.

Here's my advice to the less experienced rider... Don't concern yourself with counter steering. If you've already managed to safely negotiate through a corner and you're heading in the intended direction, you've already counter steered albeit sub conciously. You had no choice. It's a physics thing. The mere act of shifting your weight did it. As you learn to ride, these skills will improve on their own. For now, you have no business learning about "foot peg steering", scraping pegs or experiencing extreme leans. Without a thorough knowledge of high side dynamics, proper braking technique and the various types of curves you may encounter, you may be treading on some risky ground.

For now, concentrate on the above mentioned skills. Practice keeping your head up, practice your braking techniques until it's second nature, learn first to manuever your bike at slow speeds (you'd be surprised how hard that can be) and later, when you feel the need for adrenalin, you can either take the advanced course or start practicing things like counter steering on your own but ONLY after you've mastered the basics. IMO, learning advanced technique before you master the basics can be dangerous and foolhardy. I know many so called "experienced" riders that are totally incapable of a lock to lock, low speed, figure eight and are out there burning up the pavement with their new found high speed "skills" and I worry about them. They are statistics waiting to happen. We see it all the time.

Respect for your machine and knowing your own limitations will do much to preserve your riding career and overall health. Learn first to be smooth. Speed will come on its own.

csaintg
26th November 2005, 00:56
Here's my advice to the less experienced rider... Don't concern yourself with counter steering. If you've already managed to safely negotiate through a corner and you're heading in the intended direction, you've already counter steered albeit sub conciously. [/SIZE]
I have to disagree with you here. The reason someone who doesn't understand countersteering can negotiate a corner is because they are letting the bike drive them. But as soon as the pressure is on, and they have to do something out of instinct, the bike takes over, and there is a crash. I have heard too many stories of a newbie taking a corner too fast, and as soon as they realize they can't muscle the bike, they freak out and nail the gas. Straight off the corner and into the trees.

I don't think the MSF course is trying to ingrain countersteering, but to just make the newbie aware of it, so they understand that there is a certain amount of finesse required.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 01:12
The reason someone who doesn't understand countersteering can negotiate a corner is because they are letting the bike drive them.
My opinion is based on over 40 yrs of riding and teaching others to ride. You're going to have to provide definitive imperical evidence to convince me otherwise.

On the other hand, there are far too many wrecks among those that try these techniques long before they were ready. It's like running before you learn to walk. I maintain my position. Teachng counter steering is an intermediate/advanced endeavor.

Thank you for your input.

carl2124
26th November 2005, 01:18
Good input will.....hope that knee is feeling better

CntryFun
26th November 2005, 01:20
I haven't taken the course, but after reading what folks on here have been talking about related to counter-steering, I've gotta agree w/ WP. I had NEVER heard of it before, and was confused as hell when folks started talking about it. I've done some dirtbike riding when I was young, but my last 4 yrs. have been quads, and I spent a year on a street bike before that. I'm not an advanced rider, but I hold my own in the risky situations. I can't carve the corners like allot of folks, but I've had to make several evasive manuvers and have done pretty good. You need to know how your bike feels, and how to make it turn, but you don't need to consciously be able to counter steer until you know how to do all the basics. If you don't understand the feel of your bike, what amount of lean you can handle COMFORTABLY, proper breaking, and when the gas is good or bad, then you don't need to THINK about counter steering.

I could be wrong, but that's my opinion.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 01:20
Let me take this one step further. It's ok to teach it as a fundemental as concerns weight shift, pressure on bars etc. Call it what you will, in essence, it's still countersteering. My point is that too much emphasis is placed on it for a new rider.

The whole concept of turning left to go right can be mind boggling and dangerous to someone that's just learning.

Please... do me a favor. Read the whole post and digest it before you decide to rebutt me. With all due respect, I have little desire to keep repeating myself.

XLFREAK
26th November 2005, 01:37
When I took the basic course, there were several people who absolutely could not grasp the concept of turning the bars the opposite way that you wanted to go. I mean with the instructor giving step-by-step verbal instructions with the bikes parked, people were still steering the wrong way!:doh It's not an intuitive thing that's easy to learn.

I read about countersteering in a bike magazine back in the 80's, and decided to try it out with the scoot I had at the time. "Hey, this crazy idea works!", is what I thought! I had been riding by the seat of my pants up until that point, but after that revelation I decided that there was more to riding than just balancing on two wheels. I have been learning and observing my riding habits ever since in an effort to improve them.

I think countersteering is absolutely necessary to learn at some point in order to master motorcycling.....for the novice/beginner though, I'm not sure when that time is...

willprevale
26th November 2005, 01:50
I had a helluva time grasping the concept myself and to be quite frank, it still sounds crazy when I try explaining it to new riders.

XLFREAK
26th November 2005, 01:54
Will,

I know ya got a lot of riding time under your belt.

How many years did you ride before ya discovered countersteering? I know ya had to be using it the entire time, but when did you start conciously using it?

xllent01
26th November 2005, 01:54
Really good counter steering thread (http://www.msgroup.org/TIP048.html)for those who still don't
understand it's full fundamentals. It really clarify's it a whole lot
better and once you read it, you will hopefully understand it alot better.

IamVince
26th November 2005, 02:02
When I first got my bike a frend was explaining that theory.I didn't have the guts to push my bars the wrong way.After I put poly bushings on my riser's then I could feel it and I started to notice that I was pushing oppisite when I turned.hmm:rolleyes:

willprevale
26th November 2005, 02:09
I could feel it and I started to notice that I was pushing oppisite when I turned.hmm:rolleyes:
My point exactly.

DM-SC
26th November 2005, 02:13
I sort of agree with ya Will...and, I think the instructors I've been around have a good approach. We did a few drills after they explained the concept of countersteering that allowed all of us to at least see and feel what it's all about.

After that, it was just a few times where they brought it up in the form of "pushing" the bar in the direction you want to turn. Even in this intermediate level class, they didn't harp on it constantly.

Like has already been stated, IF you've been making the corners while you've been out riding already, you've been countersteering. It does need to be explained a bit...perhaps, like you've said, at the intermediate level.

xllent01
26th November 2005, 02:27
If you read the thread countersteering and leaning are done
everytime you saddle up and go for a ride. Everyone who rides
at some point will understand and relize they perform this task
each and everytime they go for a ride. Once you understand it,
it starts to make sense and people relize it actually works.:clap

Explain it to a newbie and you will get the deer in the headlights look :wonderlan

willprevale
26th November 2005, 02:31
The action of pushing down on the bar... on the side you want to go accomplishes the same thing. and that's as far as I'll take a novice. He/she doesnt need to know about high speed cornering.

It wasn't too long ago that some woman was killed on an interstate ramp. She was a novice that had recently completed her MSF training.. I've no way of proving it but Is suspect she may have had more information than she was perpared to use and got overconfident.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 02:32
Explain it to a newbie and you will get the deer in the headlights look :wonderlan
Thank you.

xlhflh
26th November 2005, 03:04
I agree that there is alot to teach a new rider and you have to be careful not to overload them with info. Braking is certainly high on the list of things to learn first but I feel that incorrect braking is less of a threat than riding head on into an on coming vehicle or kissing a tree. My personal early experience, pre counter-steering, was that when I did what I thought I had to do to negociate a turn, and the bike did not seem to respond the way I expected, was to freeze - WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?! Not good!
Counter-steering is a life saver which commands instant response from the bike, especially in case of an emergency.
Usually when I see a speed limit set for a curve I take the curve at 10-15 over the limit with no problem. One day, the wife and I were riding in a neiboring state were I came upon a 20 MPH curve. Apparently when this state say 20 MPH they mean 20 MPH. I knew I was in trouble and was going to swing wide until a saw a car just entering the curve from the other direction. If I hadn't pushed for all it's worth and scrapped half my muffler
off, I wouldn't be writing this now.
Counter-steering is high on my list of things to learn early.
Ride Safe
Bob

IronMick
26th November 2005, 03:07
Two things:

1. <<learning advanced technique before you master the basics can be dangerous and foolhardy.>>

I have been a teacher of computer programming, photography, and martial arts. This is absolutely true in all of those fields. Often i saw new teachers who thought they were doing something good by introducing advanced material to their new students. It was usually a sign that they were not doing a good job [yet], and were trying to make it interesting, and were not succeeding.

2. I think the problem with many teachers teaching "counter-steering" is that, while they understand it themselves, they simply have not developed a technique to TEACH it to those who do not understand it yet. And as long as they go about thinking it is hard, and that everyone is not going to get it, and it is the students fault for not understanding, they will never succeed in really teaching.

Learning how to REALLY TEACH a topic is not easy. You give it an abstract, difficult-sounding, counter-intuitive name like "counter-steering", you act like they are going to have a hard time with it, you tell them it is CRITICAL, you over-explain it, make sure they are worried, and you have killed it. This is what they do, in my experience. And not just in motorcycle training.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 03:07
Will, How many years did you ride before ya discovered countersteering?
I think I rode for about 20 years years before I even heard the term. That would be sometime in the late 70s.

DM-SC
26th November 2005, 03:12
2. I think the problem with many teachers teaching "counter-steering" is that, while they understand it themselves, they simply have not developed a technique to TEACH it to those who do not understand it yet. And as long as they go about thinking it is hard, and that everyone is not going to get it, and it is the students fault for not understanding, they will never succeed in really teaching.

Learning how to REALLY TEACH a topic is not easy. You give it an abstract, difficult-sounding, counter-intuitive name like "counter-steering", you act like they are going to have a hard time with it, you tell them it is CRITICAL, you over-explain it, make sure they are worried, and you have killed it. This is what they do, in my experience. And not just in motorcycle training.

True Dat! :iagree

cantolina
26th November 2005, 03:13
It is my belief that this technique is taught by instructors who have very little time to REALLY show what it means...

Like may techniques we learned....some have a bit of a ....."OHH! THAT'S WHAT THEY MEANT"...kinda flavor...

Just as Will had pointed out....no sense teaching high-speed cornering to someone like this....teach the basics, and the rest we really have to learn on our own....

GOTWA
26th November 2005, 03:31
Will my friend, this going to be one of those rare times we disagree. But hey, that's cool. That's what we do here. :)

I think counter-steering is one of the best things you can teach a new rider. Especially a new rider. Teach it to them before they set bad habits.

First, I don't think it is even possible to navigate a motorcycle without counter steering, whether you know you are doing it or not. You have to apply some degree of it. It's a matter of physics.

Now, my own experience...I couldn't get into the MSF course because of my work schedule. But, the primary instructor gives private lessons and I was able to hookk up with him.

He asked what I wanted the focus of the lesson to be and I said cornering. So when we met up we spent an hour and a half working on turning. From slow speed take off turns to at-speed cornering. First thing he does is start talking to me about counter-steering. We'd already talked on the phone and he asked if I had experience with it. Nope. So they we are and he starts going to how it works and why it works.

Has me stand with the bike between my legs, ass off the seat legs straight but letting the bike have a little play so it bounced ever so slightly between my legs. Hold the bike upright and center and just push with one hand and see which way the bike falls. Push with the left and holly crap the bike starts to fall left! ANd so on. Pretty cool, even if it did seem contradictory.

He himself admits that he NEVER believed in it. He was a self-taught rider that after 20 some odd years became an MSF instructor. He said even for the first 10 years or so that he was actually teaching it he didn't really buy into it. He taught it but he didn't really even practice it. And he said one day he decided to really put his mind to it while out on a joy ride. Said he'd played with it lots before and never really got anything from but this day he was really going to relax, open his mind and try. And he said all of a sudden he just got it. It just happened and he said he scared himself with how tight he suddenly found himself turning. ANd he also said, that 10 years or so after that discovery, he still find himself having to sometimes consciously think about because of all those years of bad riding habits.

I'd told my bro in law about this counter steering thing from my phone conversations with the instructor, before my lesson. He had heard of it and was skeptical to say the least. So after the lesson I went straight to his house. Had him sit on my bike and do that standing exercise thing. Now my BIL is an old biker with more than 30 years ride time. And he ain't one for showing much in terms of emotion. JUst rolls with stuff. But he started doing that and his face at first scrunched all up. Then as he did it more and pushed harder and felt the bike falling, his face lit up and he was pretty damned excited.

He don't like to let me think I've taught him lessons. When I have, say with shooting techniques, he's generally very subtle about it and if you didn't know him you wouldn't even know he'd put it to use. But with this counter steering deal, he's made no bones about it. Like the instructor, he said he was still skeptical but played with it, then one day it all fell together and he realized it worked. That's high praise, believe me.

I am HUGE believer in counter-steering. I could not ride hard into corners like I enjoy if I was trying to muscle the wheel. No way. And dodge objects? Man you can flick that bike around by counter steering.

Try it with man hole covers. Don't focus on the cover obviously or you'll run right into it. Wheel goes where nose goes. But you can see it in your peripheral vision. And just before you get there, tap out and then back. Takes some practice but man that bike will react.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 04:16
Iron Mick said it really well. I hope I didn't miscommunicate my message. In no way do it downplay the value of counter steering. My point is it's a little much for the novice to digest in a short period of time.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 04:21
Will my friend, this going to be one of those rare times we disagree. But hey, that's cool. That's what we do here. :)
Erik my friend. Is it possible that you didn't get my point? Let me repeat it... I hope I didn't miscommunicate my message.

In no way do I downplay the value of counter steering. My point is it's a little much for the novice to digest in a short period of time.

That wonderful post of yours didn't come from a green horn. Gimmie a break here. and I don't need lessons on counter steering. Trust me on this one...:D

willprevale
26th November 2005, 04:30
, and the rest we really have to learn on our own....
It is what it is. Not many of us will take the time or expense for a second intermediate course. We do in fact learn most of it by the seat of oum pants and from forums such as this. That's a helluva lot more than we had back in the day.

FWIW... I'm planning to go to Washington State to particiapate in the Police course. Why? So I can be the very best I can be. My goal is to be a nationally certified instructor.

GOTWA
26th November 2005, 04:39
Could be we're not touching bases Will.

I know you aren't discounting the technique and didn't mean to imply that. But, I do believe it is an extremely valuable tool for the novice. And one not too hard or too complicated for a person with a clean slate. The trouble comes with us old folks with set riding habits. In my case it was years of dirt. Man what a difference.

A brand new rider though, they are open and ready with no pre-conceived ideas. So they may take to the idea well and it may set a solid platform for riding.

It is an unnatural concept. So to my way of thinking, best to get it instilled early. Pissing in a toilet is an unnatural concept, so we teach it early, and then it becomes natural. Poor analogy but seems to fit.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 04:47
Pissing in toilets...:p Only you could come up with that analogy. :D

I suggest you attend an MSF class and try to approach it from the perspective of a newcomer. It's waaaaay different from that of 4 year dirt bike rider. You guys are nuts anyway.. :laugh You'll see what I mean.

This is one of those times I'm gonna stick to my guns. :gun

Darhawk
26th November 2005, 22:27
..................................Respect for your machine and knowing your own limitations will do much to preserve your riding career and overall health. Learn first to be smooth. Speed will come on its own.

The best advice one can receive..............

I posted the thread after following BonRu one recent weekend while she and her boyfriend toured me around the Houston area...........and I must say that following her and watching her on the bike was a pleasure in and of itself........but back to the subject at hand.

As she cornered, I noted that she braked long and late into the corner, and that she was fighting the bike rather than letting it corner naturally. In other words, she was taking the corner but the bike wasn't. I approached her carefully about the problem, as I don't always know how someone will react when riding skills are brought to bear and I seldom give advice, and found her receptive to the conversation. We talked for a bit about braking, counter steering, downshifts, powering into the curve, gyroscopes, and such. As we rode further into the night, I noticed she was seemingly more at ease with the bike, and was letting the bike work through the corners, rather than she working through the corners. She was consciously thinking of her moves.

When I learned to ride, it was an effort under taken on an old Indian.......a bear of a bike to start with. All I had to ride were dirt roads, creek beds and cow paths. I learned to shift body weight, boot down, and hopefully make it through the corner with the bike still on two wheels. As I progressed to riding on paved roads, it took another year or so to ride and corner with confidence. However, my real understanding of riding came under the hard hand of a biker and his club as he taught me what control of the bike was really about. While Mouse didn't call it counter steering, it was the concept that he demonstrated, and it really put man to machine. After 40 years, the concept is ingrained in my body.

Jump ahead to 2004, when I decided to take a MSF course. There were 5 of us in the class, I a seasoned rider and four 20+ year olds who had never been on a bike. During our opening discussion, the instructor, a man of 35 years riding experience with ten of those as an instructor, noted that the four novices would pass the class but that I probably wouldn't. When I asked why, he said because he was going to start them out on the proper way to corner..........by counter steering.........and not allow them to learn the wrong way, the way he assumed I would be following. He noted that in his experience, 8 out of 10 long term riders, though good riders, still found a way to fight the bike into a corner, rather than allow the bike to use it's own advantage through the counter steer technique. Though I surprised him, and passed, he still said he prefered taking the kid off the street with no experience as opposed to trying to teach an old dog a new trick. His point being that the time to learn it right is in the beginning, not further down the road. When my 17 year old son took the course, he learned counter steering from day one.........and watching him corner makes me proud.

I understand your point, and don't have a quibble about it, because it's the way I learned. I just believe all the info should be laid out there to read, digest and practice.............and that those ingesting it apply it as they see fit.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 22:43
While Mouse didn't call it counter steering, [
Back in the day, we didn't have a name for it. We learned by our britches and guys like Mouse that would share their hard learned lessons. I'm forever grateful to those riders that took us under their wings. I try to do the same with novices... if they'll listen (like Boinnie).

I understand your point, and don't have a quibble about it, because it's the way I learned. I just believe all the info should be laid out there to read, digest and practice.............and that those ingesting it apply it as they see fit.
We agree.... We ultimaely always do. Too many years, too many miles. :tour

Gone
26th November 2005, 23:21
Once the basics are learned (in the MSF course) it is imperative that the rider practice countersteering. There is little skill involved in riding in a straight line. Having the confidence to lean the bike over to its maximim angle, for fun, as well as avoiding hazards, is a skill that many riders simply do not have.

Ken Man Do
26th November 2005, 23:42
I don't think swerving exercises using manhole covers is such a good idea. Screw up and you could lose it. Slippery manhole covers give me the willies.

willprevale
26th November 2005, 23:53
With all due respect, I'm tired of being redundant. A close perusal of this thread will make my point clear to those that missed it.

edman
1st December 2005, 09:30
It is all second nature it just takes time. If you have to think about it you will probably crash. For the newbe it’s weird. In a parking lot moving at 3 mph you push with the right hand and turn left. When moving at speed you push with the right hand you turn right, lean right, and will be putting pressure/weight on your left foot. Your brain will learn to turn the motorcycle. I believe it is best not to think about it (some people can’t) just react, and go slow at first until it is second nature.

jaxs1984
1st December 2005, 10:36
I'm a newbe and all I know is that no matter what I'm doing if I look where I want to go the bike will follow :) [I learned really fast that it works when your driving to make a left hand turn at the intersection] .. and when little animals cross your path you don't freak out; you just slow down and then close your eyes and gun it :) :tour :roflblack :clap

DM-SC
1st December 2005, 18:09
I'm a newbe and all I know is that no matter what I'm doing if I look where I want to go the bike will follow :) [I learned really fast that it works when your driving to make a left hand turn at the intersection] .. and when little animals cross your path you don't freak out; you just slow down and then close your eyes and gun it :) :tour :roflblack :clap

Well, since you go where you look (very true and a point well taught at my MSF class)...my question is, where do ya go with your eyes CLOSED? :D

Moved On / My Own Choice
1st December 2005, 18:42
I THINK I understand you Will... IF you're saying that it's too much to try and teach the physics... don't over explain, just teach new riders HOW to turn the bike.

And how is simple, at any speed over about walking speed, a bike doesn't turn so much by STEERING but by leaning. and the MOST affective way to initiate a turn/lean is to PUSH on the bars very gently in the direction you want to go.

That's probably ALL a novice needs to know.. they can explore the concept of counter-steering and the theories about how it works after they've mastered actually doing it.

Now that said, a lot of replies in this thread come off a little skewed to me (Gotwa, I'm not picking on you, it's just the last example I saw before I wanted to reply).... but here's an example




I am HUGE believer in counter-steering. I could not ride hard into corners like I enjoy if I was trying to muscle the wheel. No way. And dodge objects? Man you can flick that bike around by counter steering.




Isn't that a lot like saying, I'm a huge believer in gravity or oxygen or ????

One of the superbike type riding schools developed a bike that came to be known as the NO-BS bike... (originally had something do with with calling it the body shifting bike)... anyway, it has 2 sets of handlebars and throttles... one attached to the steering head, one to the frame. They take new students and make them try to turn the bike by shifting their body and trying to initiate a lean while holding the FRAME mounted bars. Students from the class will tell you that it's EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to get the bike to turn at all.

Then they let them use the bars and wow, they say the difference is immediately noticeable (I have an acquaintance that went through the class, and others who've tried replicating the experience by locking their throttle and holding the fairing of a bike while trying to shift weight to steer).

Anyway, the bottom line is you don't HAVE TO know about or understand countersteering (as has been proven by decades of riders who rode before the term was coined and used by the masses). BUT that doesn't negative the fact that indeed, that's how we make most of our turns at speed.

Kev

GOTWA
1st December 2005, 19:00
I think you just confused me Kev.

The point I was trying to make is that subtle counter-sterring vs. yanking on the bars is what allows me to have so much control when cornering.

Moved On / My Own Choice
1st December 2005, 19:07
I think you just confused me Kev.

The point I was trying to make is that subtle counter-sterring vs. yanking on the bars is what allows me to have so much control when cornering.

Oh, then no, you just confused me :doh (I think I was reading something into that and some of the other posts that the posters were not intending to be there)

Nevermind... carryon...

(I think when I finished reading the rest of the thread past that post I saw we were on the same page, but I was too lazy to go back and edit, since I figured we pretty much agreed anyway)...

edman
1st December 2005, 20:20
I already regret looking at this thread. I don’t mean to confuse even more but… It’s not the lean that turns the bike.

<snip>
And how is simple, at any speed over about walking speed, a bike doesn't turn so much by STEERING but by leaning. and the MOST affective way to initiate a turn/lean is to PUSH on the bars very gently in the direction you want to go.
</snip>

Moved On / My Own Choice
1st December 2005, 20:24
I already regret looking at this thread. I don’t mean to confuse even more but… It’s not the lean that turns the bike.

Just when you think you've got a grip on the physics...

no, but without a lean to counteract the centripital force that wants to flip the bike to the outside of the arc you cannot make the turn at speed.

The steering inputs are much more subtle... the front tire never diverging as far from true center as a 4-wheeled vehicle would... and this is only possible because of the lean.

SportsterBart
2nd December 2005, 01:11
I'm just glad we're not talking about firearm safety here.

In my opinion, one should learn riding skills correctly and completely the first time around, and not be expected to pick up the rest somewhere down the road. They might not be afforded that opportunity.


Bart

release
8th December 2005, 18:11
The most confusing thing about counter-steering is the term itself. As I understand it, it relates not to the bars/what have you, but to the tire's contact area. Like others have said, just do it. If you need to think about it, it might be a problem.

willprevale
8th December 2005, 18:31
As I understand it, it relates not to the bars/what have you, but to the tire's contact area. Like others have said, just do it. If you need to think about it, it might be a problem.
How is it every time I wax eloquent and ad nauseum, some wise guy like you shows up and sez it all in a few short sentences?

Very well put... :clap

DM-SC
8th December 2005, 19:05
How is it every time I wax eloquent and ad nauseum, some wise guy like you shows up and sez it all in a few short sentences?


Maybe you're just long fingered? :D