Why Do You Need To Countersteer on a Motorcycle?

Safe motorcycling requires more than just the right equipment. Yes, you need a good helmet and armor. But just like with cars, you have to learn to drive. And knowing how to drive a motorcycle is part of that.

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MotoGP riders Bradley Smith (front) and Johann Zarco ride their bikes into a corner against | Sadiq Asyraf/Getty Images

The opposition appears under several other names. Some call it forced control, others call it active control, MCN reports. It also doesn’t help that the terminology used to explain it is sometimes confusing and even contradictory. Just like the fact that you have to counter-steer when you drift a car, it’s not quite the same thing. But when you’re on a bike, you’re already an opponent without even realizing it, reports RevZilla.

Simply put, counter-steering is turning the bike’s handlebars in the opposite direction, Motorcycle.com explains. The saying is: Push left, push left, Peace Cycle reports. Some sources call it pushing on the handlebars, report motorcyclists. But the bottom line is that when you want to turn left, you push the left handlebar/handle forward and pull the right handlebar/handle back, RideApart explains. The opposite is true for right turns.

It’s called counter-steering because it works against the way you steer the car. To turn left in a car, pull down the left side of the steering wheel and push up the right side.

Why is the reverse direction necessary?

APPROPRIATE: The Michelin patent can give any motorcycle a reverse gear.

According to Cycle World, counter-steering is not required for all turns on a motorcycle. Just like a bicycle, at very low speed, you just turn the handlebars in the desired direction. Only above 10 mph where a reverse direction becomes necessary.

Motorcyclists steer against it precisely because they have to lean into a turn, Bennetts says. This is due to a combination of Newton’s laws of motion and the frictional forces between the tire and the road, Wide and Physics Central explains. A full explanation is beyond the scope of this article. But essentially, the tilt moves the mass of the bike and allows it to turn safely without falling off. And it needs countersteering, Cycle World explains.

APPROPRIATE: There’s a very good reason why you don’t see three-wheeled ATVs anymore.

Interestingly, some cyclists think they can turn their bikes just by leaning on the footpegs, reports RidingInTheZone. This is called body control, and it has its place in riding, reports the cycling world. It affects your tilt angle, but it’s not meant to rotate, explains LifeAtLean. That’s what the meter gauge is for.

Other management advice and accessories

MotoGP rider Marc Marquez steers his motorcycle through a turn | Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto via Getty Images

APPROPRIATE: Is it worth changing the handles on a bike?

First: As with any riding or piloting technique, practice makes perfect. You can practice counter-steering in an empty parking lot or on a quiet, empty stretch of road, reports MotorWriter. Start slowly, then increase the pace as you become more familiar with pushing and pulling. Once you do, you can feel how much grip the front tire has left, reports Cycle World.

The proper treatment of a motorcycle is a necessity. But also knowing how to turn a corner safely, Bennetts says. This means looking up and far ahead toward the exit of the turn. This avoids goal setting and makes the reverse direction more natural, Bennetts said. Also, brake hard before you reach the corner, report The Drive, and gently back off the throttle. Use as much of the road as possible and drive slowly at first to be sure of your abilities.

APPROPRIATE: Does your motorcycle need a Quicksilver?

If you’re feeling good, spending a day on the track with a qualified instructor is very helpful, reports Cycle World. Various books on anti-slip and other riding techniques, cycling magazines all over the world. And installing a steering damper, also known as a steering stabilizer, makes the bike more stable and resistant to mid-corner bumps, according to RevZilla and Motorcyclist.

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frequently asked questions

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