Steer Left To Go Right
Countersteering. It’s the most often misunderstood, but most commonly practiced riding skill out there. If you ride a motorcycle or bicycle you already do it.
It’s way more simple than its counterintuitive nature sounds. Go out to your bike, sit on it with both legs firmly on the ground. Now, turn the bars to the left. Which way does the bike want to fall? Yes, to the right. Look at the front wheel, you’re creating a point, with it on one side and the bike’s main body on the other. The bike wants to fall towards that point.
Out on the road, if you’re successfully managing to not bounce off every tree, car and building, you’re already doing it, just subconsciously. Consciously practicing it will enhance your control over the bike and the speed at which you’re able to turn.
To do it, go practice in a big, empty parking lot. Ride along at 25mph hour or so and give the bar on the inside of the direction you want to turn a little nudge. You’ll turn. Next time, nudge it a little harder. Then go out on the road and start incorporating that into your riding. There you go, you’ve mastered the art of the countersteer.
Works on a bicycle too, so feel free to practice it there first.
Look Where You Want To Go
Car veering into your lane? Tight corner catch you out? Obstacle in the road? Lane splitting? Look at the gap, where you want to be, the spot on the track you want to reach, not at the hazard or car or obstruction. Your body and the bike will follow. Consciously think about this, force yourself to do it if necessary, it works. Practice doing it, this will save your life.
Save Your Balls, Use Your Knees
You’ve likely heard or read somewhere that, for better control, you should keep your weight off your hands while riding. But, when you’re braking heavily, it can be hard to keep that weight off your hands. The solution? Grip the tank firmly between your knees, then relax your upper body. Stomp Grip or a similar product that gives your legs better purchase on the tank can be a huge help here. Bonus: no more crushed testicles.
The front brake is the most powerful component on your motorcycle. It’s capable of altering your bike’s velocity far quicker than then engine. It’s a far sharper tool than that found in even the most expensive performance cars and, as such, is also more difficult to use. Name one Porsche or Ferrari that can loop itself over its front wheels with an accidental brush of the brake pedal.
The sheer power of the front brake on performance motorcycles is one of the main reasons we advise new riders to begin on something small and light; mastering a motorcycle’s brakes takes years of experience. Here’s a short cut:
1. Use two fingers only; your index and middle finger. Keep the others wrapped around the throttle.
2. Anytime you may need to brake in a hurry, such as riding through traffic, rest those two fingers on the lever, ready to go. This is called “covering” the brake. Doing so will help you actuate it smoothly and respond more quickly.
3. Load the front tire to increase grip. To give yourself the maximum possible braking ability, you need to maximize the front tire’s grip. Anytime you start braking, even in a panic situation, start by gently pulling in the lever, compressing the front suspension and pushing the front tire into the ground. Only once that tire’s had a chance to compress and spread out, increasing its contact patch and accepting the bike’s weight, can you begin to apply full braking force.
4. Progressively squeeze harder and harder, until you’ve achieved the desired level of deceleration. Once the rear wheel starts coming off the ground, or you feel the front tire beginning to lose traction, you’ve reached the maximum possible amount of braking for those conditions. Hold lever pressure steady or back off slightly to a level you’re comfortable with.
Above all, be smooth and progressive with your inputs. Grabbing a fist full of brake will just make you crash.
Rear brake? It’s great for low-speed control, but on non-chopper-style motorcycles, contributes little to outright braking power; under deceleration, the rear tire becomes unweighted.
The Best Performance Upgrade
Loud exhausts, flashy chrome, fancy tires and tacky paint jobs won’t make you fast, proficient or safe. Practice will. The best use of your time and money is putting miles under your wheels. Pick up a copy of Twist of the Wrist or Sport Riding Techniques, read them through, then pick out individual skills and go practice each until you’re an expert. Start combining them when you’re ready, never stop trying to get better and you’ll be an expert rider before you know it.