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By Riders, For Riders, 250 Million readers for over 16 years.

You are here: Index --- Beginner's Guide to Motorcycling --- Section 5.5 : Counter Steering/Push Steering

Beginner's Guide to Motorcycling
Section Five 1/2: Counter Steering, Push Steering the Easy way.

     

 

One of the most important new skills a rider learns is how to Counter Steer or Push Steer correctly with confidence. Some have problems with the technique, some are timid and others just were never taught properly.

I like using the work "Push Steering" rather than "Counter Steering" because it is easier to visualize and imagine.

Push Steering is when you want to turn (lean) the bike at speeds over 20km/h. While you can do all sorts of things to turn the motorcycle rather than push steer, push steering works the best of all. It should be practiced until done with confidence and correctly because it is very important skill to have. Once you have read this article I believe it will bring your confidence right up!

Counter/Push Steering the Easy Way
- Learning to Ride

It is best to practice in a parking lot or in an area without other cars and on clean pavement. Setting up cans or cones to make a turn is a good idea that will help you out.

- The MOST IMPORTANT THING about building confidence in counter-steering (push steering) is...

- Review

- Websites

If you have any questions, just write me.

 

The MOST IMPORTANT THING about building confidence in counter-steering (push steering) is...

Motorcycles always want and are the happiest being straight up from the ground when the front tire is rotating (when you are moving). This is true because of the gyroscopic effect of the front wheel spinning around. Remember playing with a gyroscope when you were little and how hard it was to upset its balance from spinning straight up? Well that is same with a motorcycle as well! (Technical: How a gyroscope works)

Basic Explanation: As the gyroscope spins, the force of the spinning causes the gyroscope to want to stay upright and be stable.

As with the motorcycle tire: As the front motorcycle tire spins, the force of the spinning causes the motorcycle body to want to stay upright and be stable.

 

What happens when you push steer (counter-steer) is you only temporarily (as long as you are pushing on the bar) leaning the motorcycle to the left or right while looking where you want to go. It requires MORE force to lean the motorcycle to the left or right than it does to bring it straight back up because of the gyroscopic effect. Thus the motorcycle always wants to be stable and will bring itself back up right and therefore the motorcycle won't fall down.

By looking as far into the turn (where you want to go) as you can, you assure yourself of making the whole push-steering job easier on yourself! You will always go where you look (or look at), so why not look into the turn rather than stare at the ground or a few feet ahead? Why make it more difficult on yourself!

So will the motorcycle ever fall completely over push steering? If by "fall" you are meaning skidding it sideways (off the tires) so you do not have any tire grip anymore than yes. BUT it would require quite an extreme lean angle that you would have to do this on purpose before it would happen. And thanks to other things getting in the way (pegs, exhaust, side/canter stand) that these things would touch the ground long before you ran out of tire traction! Even if these things scrape the ground you still have good control and it is a breeze to bring the back back straight up! These are turns motorcycle racers do around track corners and if you are starting to scope things on the ground in a turn, then you mastered push steering beyond the scope of this article!

Now, that is an Extreme lean and the motorcycle still has not fallen over! Note that they are looking into the turn, not directly in front of them.

 

So let's Review:

- Motorcycles are extremely stable machines that highly prefer to travel straight up from the ground thanks to the rotating front wheel causes a highly stable gyroscopic effect.

- To push steer, push on the bar the way to want to turn. Push right to go right, push left to go left.

- It requires more force to temporarily lean (turn) the motorcycle than it does to bring it back up. In fact, the motorcycle will do it almost 100% on its own!

- To push steer you need to be going 20km/h or greater.

- It is extremely difficult (0.001% chance) to have the bike fall down without doing it on purpose.

- Always Look as far down the turn where you want to go to make push steering easier on yourself.

 

Steering - Rake and Trail

What makes one motorcycle turn better than another one? What is heavy steering? What is rake and trail any ways?

Rake is the angle between the headset tube and a vertical line. Increasing the rake will move the front tire farther from the bike. Rake is measured in degrees, and is a frame specification. To visualize trail, draw an imaginary line along the path of the headset tube to the ground. Measure from this point to the center of the tire patch. This is trail, and is measured in inches.

The amount of rake is significant in determining a motorcycle's handling characteristics. In general, more rake provides greater straight line stability, less rake makes the bike more responsive. Larger values of trail also create more straight line stability. This is why the forks on a sportbike are more vertical than those of a cruiser.

 

Typical Cruiser Dimensions (2003 Honda VTX1800)

Rake 32.0 degrees
Trail 152.0mm (6.0 inches)
Wheelbase 67.5 inches

Therefore: With a rake of 32 degrees and a trail of 152mm (6 inches) this motorcycle will be better and more stable in a straight line than turning a tight corner. The long wheelbase of 67.5 inches also assists this motorcycle again in straight line performance but will hinder it in cornering. So this motorcycle has been properly designed for it's intended purpose (touring, cruising, and highway use).

 

Typical Sport Bike Dimensions (2003 Honda CBR600RR)

Rake 24.0 degrees
Trail 95.0mm (3.7 inches)
Wheelbase 54.7 inches

Therefore: With a rake of 24 degrees and a trail of 95mm (3.7 inches) this motorcycle will turn much quicker and sharper than the Cruiser, but will not be as good or as stable in a straight line. The short wheelbase of 54.7 inches also assists this motorcycle again in cornering but hinders straight line stability. So this motorcycle has been properly designed for it's intended purpose (going in and out of corners at high speeds and taking twisty roads).

 

Visualize the wheels of a shopping cart for an illustration of a machine with zero rake and a lot of trail. Exciting handling, but zero straight line stability.


Related Websites:

TrackDoD Novice Group Orientation - Go Fast. Safely. EXCELLENT READ.

Motorcycle Skills Test - Practice Guide Motorcycle Safety Foundation Exercises: Quick Stop on a Curve, Turning and Cornering, Normal Stop on a Curve, Sharp Turns, Quick Stop, Straight, Weaves, Normal Stop, Straight Obstacle Swerve, Higher Speed Turns.

The Florida Motorcycle Handbook - Four Excellent chapters on learning how to ride.

Motorcycle Operator Manual - Courtesy of Motorcycle Safety Foundation. - 17 Chapters (the whole book).

Ride Within Your Abilities

BALANCING ACT

MOTORCYCLE RIDING SKILLS - COUNTER STEERING

Counter Steering