Every rider knows that you lean when you turn. Yet few understand a critical aspect of this—counter steering also known as “push steering”.
Counter steering is the technique you apply to initiate that lean. In short, you steer left to lean right, and vice versa. To fully understand the theory, you need to get your head around camber thrust, roll angle, and centripetal force. But to ride you only need to understand the practice. Simply put, push right, go right, push left, go left.
To really get a feel for it, get going down a straight piece of road at a moderate speed—fast enough where the bike feels stable about 15MPH or more. Now, still holding the handlebar, open both your hands so only your palms are in contact and your fingers point straight up—so you can only push the bar, not pull. Now push with your right hand, and see what happens.
You’ll experience a momentary dip to the left, and then the bike will bank slightly to the right. Combine counter steering with a quick weight shift to the inside footpeg, and your bike responds instantly and goes where you want.
Why is it so important to understand what’s happening? It can, quite literally, be a matter of life and death. After all, in a car, when we need to turn right to avoid an accident, we yank the wheel to the right. Doing that same thing on a bike does just the opposite, so that instinct can be deadly.
So, how do we make it work for us? Say to yourself “press right, go right” is a great way to commit the idea to memory, but the key is to practice consciously counter steering. Riding down the road you can dodge the dotted white line, manhole covers, spots in the road when it’s safe. If you want to go all out, set up a cone weave in an empty parking lot or go to cone camp.
Keep working on your counter steering until it becomes second nature. MotorMan on YouTube has a great video that walks you through how to use counter steering. I would highly recommend watching it.
*Credit goes to Motorman (YouTube), Cycleworld and Motorcycle.com