Counter-steering a motorcycle.

Counter-steering appears to be an issue with many of our riders.

We all counter-steer a motorcycle at speeds above 5-10 mph, as at higher speeds the bike goes in the opposite direction when you turn the bars, due to the centrifugal effect of the front wheel known as precession. The bike leans the opposite way to which you turn the bars as the front wheel acts as a gyroscope trying to steer itself back upright.

So you turn the bars to the right and the bike falls to the left and visa versa. You find this out when you learn to ride a push bike but it’s not obvious – it works without most riders realising.

Positive counter-steering, that is steering away from the corner apex, forces the bike to lean further, and allows you to tighten the radius of the turn. You push on the inside bar, or pull the outside bar, and then let the steering centralise with the bike now banked at a steeper angle and turning at a tighter radius. Racers do this all the time, often while trail braking into a corner, which requires some physical strength, but is also a useful tool if you need to tighten the turn on the road to avoid a hazard, or because you’ve misjudged your entry speed.

You can feel the effect if you push gently on one side or other of the bars when travelling straight, and feel for what is happening.

The best advice, if you do enter a corner at too high a speed, is simply to look where you want to go, not where you don’t, and you will probably counter-steer without thinking.

Motorcycle Riding – Beyond Advanced

Advanced training is mostly based on Police Motorcycle Roadcraft and Police Class 1 riding standards.

Roadcraft doesn’t cover in any detail modern advances in motorcycle design and dynamics, which present new problems and opportunities.

Cornering in particular is somewhat over simplified, no particular ‘lines’ are suggested (since the 1970’s version of Roadcraft) apart from riding around the outside of corners to get a better view ahead. The problem with this, is it puts you close to the scenery or oncoming traffic all the way around the corner.

There are techniques that are routinely used in road racing that can be employed in an emergency, particularly trail braking using the front brake into corners, when you misjudge your entry speed, or encounter a hazard before you enter.

Learning how to change body position to increase ground clearance when leant, can be vital on many bikes, and can be the difference to making it around a corner – or not.

Modern tyres have unbelievable levels of grip to most riders, who often lack the experience and confidence to lean a bike anywhere near as far as they safely could, again making them vulnerable if they need in an emergency to turn at a faster rate.

It is also important to be always in the correct gear, and not rely on ‘block shifting’ as you come to a halt. You can do this by employing a slipper clutch if you have one fitted, or blipping the throttle to match the engine speed to the lower gear on downshifts.

It helps if you are professionally coached in these techniques and others, and given an opportunity to practise in a safer environment than the road, if you are to be as safe as you can be.

How do I avoid having a motorcycle accident?

Pay full attention at all times, and realise you will be invisible to many other road users in the UK, as there are so few riders.

Get all the post-test training that you can. Getting a licence is the start, not the end.

There is BikeSafe, the DVSA Enhanced Rider Scheme, and Advanced riding courses by the IAM or RoSPA.

If you do any other courses, make sure your instructor is properly qualified – many aren’t.

There are also off road and on track courses to improve your bike control. Again, make sure the organisation is properly accredited for training.

Cornering and leaning a motorcycle with confidence.

Many riders struggle with having the confidence to achieve higher lean angles on a motorcycle, which is the major issue we have to address at The School.

Modern tyres, given a reasonable surface, provide an extraordinary level of grip even in the wet – as long as you are smooth. You can usually lean a modern motorcycle until something scrapes – which should be the foot pegs – which then start to fold upwards. This gives you prior warning of leaning too far.

Everyone seems to have their own ‘pre set’ maximum lean angle over which they find it difficult to go. If you’ve cycled a lot, you will have probably found the limit of leaning a cycle, which is a lot less than a motorcycle due to a far higher centre of gravity.

If you’ve been riding motorcycles for many years, you would have started on tyres that had far less grip, and also likely to have come a cropper in the past when they have let go.

Many riders have serious accidents failing to make corners, particularly on left hand bends, when they could have, had they the necessary confidence. However, it’s not sensible to habitually use high lean angles on the road – this should be your safety margin.

So how cornering ‘pre sets’ be altered?

  • Firstly we’ve found that looking into the distance helps – eyes on main beam – and looking as far down the track as you can see. Keeping your head up seems to help.
  • Secondly relaxing, with a light grip on the bars, letting the steering make small corrections.
  • Thirdly, riding smoothly, making sure you change down before the corner into a lower gear, and don’t accelerate hard until the corner starts to open out, then opening the throttle smoothly.

We’ve also found that as riders increase their lean angles they then confuse the suspension compressing with the bike sliding, so need to get comfortable with this. It just takes some time and practise. This gives a false impression of the limit being reached. Once you get used to the bike dipping, it’s not a problem.

Riding on the road, you need to have completed your braking before you turn, unlike on a track where you trail the brakes deep into the corner. Again, this can provide some more safety margin on the road in an emergency, but again takes time and practise to master.

Tyre grip – the trade off between cornering and braking/accelerating

You can see from the drawing above, you can still have up to 45% of cornering grip available at 45 degrees of lean (dark green area) – but it dimishes rapidly after that – and still some some more grip available with care for accelerating or braking even at this angle (light green area). This is Mohr’s Circle of grip and assumes 60 degrees is the maximum lean angle.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using flat handlebars on a motorcycle

Flat bars are probably the best compromise.

Clipons allow you to lie flat on the tank, making you more aerodynamic which is why they are fitted to most race bikes.

Higher bars are more comfortable as the rider stays upright in the saddle. They also allow the rider to move his weight backwards and forwards more, which is why they are fitted to off road bikes.

Ape hangers are mainly for show, and can be painful without a back rest.

Is the new Yamaha R7 a good first large capacity bike?

Yes, having ridden a Press bike last November at Blyton Park.

It can be restricted so can be ridden on an A2 licence in the UK.

It handled really well, the engine has good mid range power making it easy to ride, and the brakes are very good.

You can adjust the suspension, so we dialled in some more preload on the front forks, which significantly improved the handling on the track, but might be a bit harsh on our poor potholed roads.

A really great good looking mid range comfortable sportsbike.

You can hire one on our track training days if you want to put one through its paces before you buy.

Should I use premium fuel in my motorcycle?

Modern motorcycles are designed to run on low octane fuel, so there is probably little benefit and more cost using premium gas.

You might get a little more performance and mileage, but probably not significant.

However, some older motorcycles can be damaged by using the new standard E10 fuel which has 10% biofuel which can attack plastic parts in the fuel system.

Check with the manufacturer.

Premium fuel would overcome this.

Classic motorcycles tend to need premium gas to stop detonation which damages the engine, and may also need an additive to prevent valve wear.

Will using car oil ruin my motorcycle engine?

The main problem is if your motorcycle has a wet clutch which is lubricated by engine oil, as modern low friction oils will probably make it slip.

Motorcycle oils are different and more expensive than car oils, so many riders use car oil in their bikes. I’ve never had any issues using car oil in road bikes, but I would suggest using proper competition motorcycle oil in racing and trackday bikes.

Semi synthetic oils won’t affect the clutch, nor will normal fully synthetic oils.

It’s important to use the correct viscosity, and change regularly it to the manufacturers instructions.

How do I know if my motorcycle needs valve clearance or adjustment?

You can sometimes hear the tappets rattling at the top of the engine due to excessive clearance caused by wear, but some particularly old design engines rattle anyway when the clearances are correct.

However, the real danger is the valve clearance closing due to valve seat wear, which you cannot hear, and only becomes noticable when performance drops off and the engine can be dificult to start.

By then its too late and the sealing faces on the valves will be burnt and no longer sealing properly, requiring a major strip down and rebuild.

So it’s important to check valve clearances regularly according to your workshop manual, which involves removing the top engine cover and checking with a feeler gauge. It’s an expensive job to have done due to the skill and time it takes, as many engines require re-shimming rather than adjustment, but you can do it yourself with care.

All the old carbureted 2-strokes I’ve used tended to run very rich at low rpms, some to the point where if you didn’t rev them often, the plugs would foul. Was this common/necessary on some/all carbureted 2-strokes, and why?

Plug fouling was a common problem with two strokes. They always needed to be changed more often.

Old racing two stroke engines fouled very easily at low revs, as they were set rich to enable them to start and run at low revs, below the designed power band at high revs where they ran efficiently.

It depends on the design, reed valve engines tended to have less problems than piston ported or rotary valve engines.

Modern synthetic oils at a higher mix ratio often helps to reduce soot and fouling. Please note you can’t mix vegetable oil (Castrol R etc) with synthetic oil.

The other problem is worn or badly setup carburettors, particularly worn slide needles and jets which produce a richer mixture.

FI/DI was tried in the past without mainstream success, and development largely stopped due to the difficulty of meeting emission regulations.

However, KTM make fuel injected off road two stroke bikes, so it can be done.