Honda CBR 250 Forum banner

1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Moderator
Joined
·
745 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Still waiting for others to step up, but I'm bored today so I thought I'd talk about turning...

If you've ridden more than five minutes, you know about counter-steering, so we'll ditch that topic. What we will discuss here is the basics of making a smooth,safe turn at speed.

The first step to turning (as well as doing anything else well on your bike) is body position - you should be in a relaxed seated position with your elbows slightly bent and arms relaxed. Most new riders (and some "veterans" - I occasionally find myself doing it) tend to support their upper body through the bars, evidenced by straight elbows and eventually numb fingers. This makes it harder to turn because you have to remove pressure from one side and apply it on the other. Support your upper body with your abdominal muscles - the 250 doesn't require much of an angle so this isn't difficult. This keeps you in a comfortable position, and will eventually result in a more "sporty" set of ab muscles.

It also helps with step two - not using the bar to anchor you to the bike. This is a job for your knees against the tank, your butt against the back of the seat, and your thighs against the seat edges. Keith Code will tell you to put all of your weight on the outside peg, and Rossi can probably do that - but I don't have his thigh muscles and I'm not dragging the other knee. The goal here is to relieve your arms of any duties associated with keeping your butt in place.

So you're cruising along with perfect posture and a nice sweeper comes up. You're doing the 12-second scan and the curve is clear. Most experienced riders will tell you that the best way to take the turn is:

  1. Brake to set your entry speed for the turn. Remember that braking destabilizes your bike, so get it done early. This doesn't mean you never brake in a turn: it just means you avoid it. Sometimes (animal, unexpected object, etc.) you may have to brake, just like sometimes (see list) you may have to break other rules.
  2. Set your lean angle by countersteering. Try to set the angle so you don't have to adjust it. This sounds difficult, and in turns where the radius changes it can't be done, but if you practice you'll find adjustments getting smaller and smaller - and in familiar turns your stance will not change.
  3. Get your eyes where they belong. A common mistake is to set up the turn and then keep your eyes focused on the line. You should be looking up: through the turn to your exit line, watching for anything that might cause you problems.
  4. Accelerate out of the turn. Adding throttle does a couple of things for you. As you lean, the effective diameter of your tires lessens - meaning that you are slowing down. Adding a bit of throttle will cancel that. Slight acceleration also lightens the front end, allowing it to focus on tracking alone. Third, the (slight) acceleration helps to anchor the rear wheel and stabilize the bike at whatever lean angle you have set.
Some other things to think about / try:

  • Avoid pavement markings: directional arrows, center lines, etc, are NOT your friends. They tend to stay slippery long after it's rained, and any oil or grease that's been dripped on them will stay there until its scrubbed or washed off - don't be a scrubber
  • Avoid pavement discoloration: the black spot in the apex could be nothing more than the remnants of a long-ago-squashed squirrel. It could also be oil, tar, or antifreeze, all of which are things you do not want to run through. Ditto for potholes - they may look like nothing more than a black spot from 100 feet away.
  • Save your advanced practice for familiar turns: You know that the nice curve down the street has no potholes, blind spots, gravel, bumps, etc. When you get the urge to grab a few more degrees of lean, do it there, at least initially.
  • Think about a late-apex turn, especially if you can't see all the way around. Several of the schools in California teach this to give you a better look into a turn. Look it up, but basically you move to the outside on entry, wait, and then turn in late. The pros do it to give them a higher exit speed, but you can use it to avoid the idiot on the cell phone that is drifting over the center line.
  • Watch the pros: watch how the forks get compressed from braking right before the turn, then rebound to full height on turn-in as the throttle is applied. Watch how the lean angle / body position is unchanged until they come out of the turn. No, I'm not advising you to ride like Valentino Rossi on the street. You'll never hit a tennis ball like Federer either, but if you play, I bet you watch to see how he does it.
  • Experiment with shifting your body position in turns. Once you divorce your upper body from your torso, you may find that loading the inside of the saddle (no, not crawling down to the pavement) moves your CG lower and makes the turn more confidence-inspiring.
  • Make it a goal to get better on every ride. Two of my favorite sayings come to mind: "The more you practice the luckier you get", and "The more thinking you do before things get exciting, the less exciting things are". I use these often in Fire and Rescue classes, but they're applicable to almost everything you do.
  • Finally, Ride: it's been hot the last couple of days in Carolina, and I confess that getting the gear on was not a lot of fun yesterday afternoon. However, once the wheels were turning all that was forgotten. I hope it's the same for you.
Luke
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
119 Posts
I second all these tips. Being from Canada with our 'real' winters', the point about road surface integrity is especially important i think. Our roads tend to deteriorate quicker, with more potholes, sand, grit, and other undesirables. The white paint at crosswalks/road markings, is particularly slick, and the freeze/thaw cycles also causes a lot more raised bits of pavement and manholes/sewers that seem to rise up or sink down. All things to pay particular attention to, rain or shine. Ride safe out there.
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
745 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Isnt counter steering the most important part of steering?
Absolutely. For all intents, counter-steering is steering on a motorcycle and any other two-wheeled vehicle that leans to turn (put that last part in there to discourage the Segway fans from hammering on me).

However, if forum members didn't understand the basics of counter-steering, they wouldn't have made it out of the parking lot at the dealership, much less far enough to read this topic. I had to start somewhere, and I chose to focus on what happens when you get past that point.

What I'm trying to do, hopefully with the help of some of the other more-experienced riders on here, is pass along things I've learned and seen since my first mini-bike at the age of 8. That does not mean I have more experience and/or ride time than others, mainly because I took a loooong break in the middle. My last (knock on wood) motorcycle accident was over 30 years ago, and it was the result of ignoring most of what I wrote above. I was lucky enough to get away with a broken kneecap. (for the record, too much speed and too much lean angle, seasoned by a strategically located patch of gravel)

That having been said, if you get your riding tips solely from me you're doing yourself a great disservice. Most of the cycle mags have safe riding columns; Take the MSF class or if you don't have to, hit the 'Net and take the MSF tests; I also like and recommend the excellent "Twist of the Wrist" series by Keith Code (I like the books but they have DVDs as well). Most importantly, teach yourself: challenge yourself to learn something new every time you ride, even if it's just working on refining what you already know.

There have been four motorcycle accidents (that I heard of) in the last few weeks in my area. One was a guy doing over 100mph in a 35 mph zone (lost control, hit a curb), one was a guy running from the police (ditto), and one was a guy that looped a sportbike in a parking lot ("looping" is a wheelie that goes too far). Those folks can't be helped - you could argue that Darwin won. However, the fourth was a guy tooling along at the speed limit and some idiot turned in front of him. For his sake, I wonder if he was paying enough attention to traffic, and I remind myself of the times when I assumed someone was going to behave properly and turned my attention elsewhere. If every rider would stop and rethink his/her bad habits whenever we read about incidents like the above, there would be a lot less incidents like the above.

Some years back,I attended a lecture by a Fire Chief who was a legend in the business. One of the things he said that stuck with me was "If you're going to make a mistake, make a new one". If you make that your rule and work hard to find your and other's mistakes, you'll find yourself making a lot less new ones.

NOW GO RIDE!

Luke
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
928 Posts
Good posts.
I was under the impression that counter steering was when youre turning or leaning to the left youre also pushing the bars with your left arm turning the wheel slightly to the right. Same if youre going right, youre pushing the bars so the wheel is slightly to the left.

I always did this without thinking to a point. But it was after I learned about counter steering that I could get a bike thru the curves at a much faster speed with more control.

Luke please give me your thoughts on this and a clearer explanation as im sure im not explaining it clearly. Instructings never been my thing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,377 Posts
Good posts.
Instructings never been my thing.
You might be better at instructing than you realise.

As a teacher and an occasional assistant coach, I have learned to avoid baffling students with science and analysis. I just give a few pointers and then leave them to get on with it, giving guidance as required.

"Learning by doing" was the theme at one of the places I taught early in my career; that has stuck with me.

Not to belittle analysis and reasoning, but it is probably of more value to the teacher than the student.

A coach I have worked with likes to break things down into three points and a brief explanation.

I'm glad that Luke put "Get your eyes where they belong" in bold because it is the most important point in turning. Look where you want to go; the bike will follow your eyes.

To put cornering into three steps I would say this;

1 - Scan and decide your line through the corner.

2 - Check your speed and set the bike up for the corner.

3 - As you corner keep scanning, adjusting and anticipating ahead.

A corner is not unique; it is part of a flow of events on a ride. Note what you want to avoid, but don't focus on it. If you continually scan and anticipate where you want to go the bike will follow your eyes.



All the fine points of cornering technique have a place, and should be practiced. That is what training is all about. Once on the road, in traffic there are plenty of other things to be concerned with.
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
745 Posts
Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
madd, you're dead on the money about counter-steering - you don't need any help from me, but:

When moving, a motorcycle has two gyroscopes - the front and rear wheels. If you've ever played with a gyroscope, you know that they physically resist changing planes, meaning that effort has to be put in to make your bike change the "gyroscopes" from a vertical to an angled position.

The forks on a motorcycle "turn", just like the forks on a tricycle. However, the function of the forks is totally different. Let's say you want to turn left. On your trusty tricycle, you would pull on the left handlebar and push the right one, and the front wheel would pivot to the left. The vehicle would turn to the left with the rear tires dutifully following the front and you sitting upright.

If you try that on a motorcycle, the front wheel will still pivot to the left and go in that direction. However, we no longer have two wheels at the rear to keep the machine upright, so when the front wheel goes to the left, the motorcycle will lean to the right, away from the turn - much like a large ship will lean away toward the outside of a tight turn.

Now, keep in mind that you steer a motorcycle with the handlebars, but you turn it by leaning - the more you lean the tighter you turn. Thus, the goal in our left-hand turn above is to make the motorcycle lean to the left.

We still have those gyros spinning, so we have to add force to change the angle. We do that by counter-steering. if you want to lean to the left, you actually steer a little to the right - you push on the left handlebar and pull on the right one. As noted above, doing that will make the bike lean to the left, which is the direction you want to go in. Once you get the angle you want, bringing the bars back to a neutral position will "lock" the bike in at whatever angle you set. Note that if you keep the bars in a neutral position (and don't shift your weight), your motorcycle will stay at that lean angle until you run out of gas or get dizzy and fall off.

Once the turn is complete, you bring the bike upright by reversing the efforts you made to lean - in the case of our left turn you will pull left and push right. This steers the front tire "under you" and overcomes the two gyroscope's effects to bring the bike upright.

This sounds complicated even to me. The fact is that it is mostly intuitive, especially to anyone that grew up with a bicycle. After a couple of falls, your 4- or 5-year-old will automatically be counter-steering as he or she proudly demonstrates two-wheeler skills.

As you practice your two-wheeler skills, do take the time to note the one negative of counter-steering: namely that the initial actions (steering right) to make that left hand turn actually makes the bike move to the right of the intended path for a short distance. Find a straight line running down through a (empty) parking lot and get on top of it at, say 10 mph. Initiate a turn to the left, and if you look down you will notice that your front wheel goes to the right of the line before crossing it and going to the left. It won't be much, but you need to take it into consideration if you're riding close to something - another good reason to give that Jersey Barrier or road shoulder a few extra inches.

Sorry to be so long-winded, I'll shut up now and go work on my two-wheeler skills.

RIDE SAFE!

Luke
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
681 Posts
Counter steering kind of scared me when I first heard about it. It's sounds really complicated until you realize that you've been doing it without thinking. The main thing I need to learn is how to use it to make quick moves to avoid obstacles. There's some pretty good videos on YouTube about this.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
928 Posts
If ya watch GP or AMA racing pay attention to the close ups as theyre coming at you in the curves. They really push the wheel the opposite way of the turn. Pretty crazy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
206 Posts
"Now, keep in mind that you steer a motorcycle with the handlebars, but you turn it by leaning - the more you lean the tighter you turn. Thus, the goal in our left-hand turn above is to make the motorcycle lean to the left."

best def. I have seen so far.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
252 Posts
Great thread! I've definitely been getting my practicing in... just under 1k miles in a 30 day period.

There's a killer parking lot nearby me with islands, wide open spaces and different sections to practice all aspects of low to higher speed turns and weaving.

This weekend, I was just going through the drills doing some figure 8's between 2 light posts, trying to get the turns stable and tight... pressing, leaning, and rolling.... and i was getting into the groove, and then SCCKKKRRAAATTCCCHH! I scraped a footpeg on the ground exiting one of the turns!

It startled the mess outta me... but I was able to keep my head, bring the bike upright and come to a safe stop. I was really surprised as to how low to the ground I did NOT feel. I guess just getting into the groove and going through the drills I zoned out and just started riding with feel instead of mentally having to map it out....

It was pretty cool that I was able to lean the bike that far over controlled and tight, but it sure scared the **** outta me when it happened. haha
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top