Monthly Archives: November 2007

Moto-Myths 2: How to Steer a Bike

Conventional (non-biker) wisdom says if you turn the wheels left you will turn left, if you turn the wheels right, you will turn right. With motorcycles, however, you turn left to go right: this is called counter-steering.

Physics 101

The theory of this is actually pretty simple: 2-wheeled vehicles turn by leaning in the direction of the turn. Lean a bike left, it turns left; lean right, turn right. The problem is a motorcycle has too much mass to be easily leaned over once it’s moving. This is where counter-steering comes in…

Q: If you were riding a bicycle and some bully were to run along side and turn your handlebars violently to the left which way would you fall?

If you said “to the right”, then you’re correct. A sharp left would drive the wheels to the left forcing you and the upper part of the bicycle to fall to the right. This is the key to how you steer a motorcycle. By turning the bars to the left the front wheel pulls to the left leaning the motorcycle to the right, allowing you to turn right. Because 2-wheeled vehicles turn by leaning in the direction of the turn.

How come some experienced motorcyclists disagree?!?!

This is what I find so interesting! There’s a lot to be said for instinct. People can counter-steer (to an extent) instinctively without realizing what they are doing. Bicyclists often counter-steer without realizing it, and so do some motorcyclists (usually Harley-type riders). What they will tell you is that they simply “lean in the direction of the turn to get the bike to turn…”

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