The Importance of Subtle Counter Steering

The internet is abundant with advice, including a particular suggestion I received that stressed the urgency of ‘counter twitches’ for improved speed.

The notion traces back to a training course where instructors emphasized the ability to rapidly countersteer, shifting the bike’s orientation and cornering swiftly as indicators of proficient riding. It was quite an intimidating ordeal.

What I find concerning is the longevity of this suggestion, circulating among both beginner and seasoned riders, as a seemingly valid technique to refine their riding skills.

The Essential Nature of Grip Management

Grip management is a fundamental aspect of riding. One needs to understand the rule of thumb; the grip is directly proportional to weight.

As we accelerate, the weight shifts towards the rear of the motorcycle. Under braking, it shifts forward. At neutral throttle, weight equates to load from cornering forces.

Data from skilled and swift riders reveal that the fork remains relatively compressed under the cornering load in a prolonged neutral throttle corner upon release of the front brake. If we’re merely cruising, the weight, or rather the grip, is not clearly defined.

Smoothness Over Abruptness: The Key to Better Grip

The Yamaha Champions Riding School presents an insightful video titled ‘100 Points of Grip’. This video accentuates the importance of smooth maneuvers over abrupt ones, helping riders understand how to effectively control and utilize the available grip.

Abrupt inputs easily exceed the available traction, while smooth ones allow us to approach our traction limit gradually. If there’s any loss of grip, we can retract a bit to regain it.

Tires can endure enormous loads, but not sudden ones. Abrupt or ‘popping’ counter-steering maneuvers aren’t feasible, let alone precise. Expert craftsmanship in any field emphasizes smooth and deliberate movements.

A prime example is Hannah Welton, Prince’s drummer, known for her intricate drumming style. One would assume drumming to be abrupt, but observing her shows that her moves are smooth, controlled, and purposeful.

Slow and Steady Riding: The Paradox of Speed

As speed amplifies, loads increase. This necessitates even more consistent and smooth actions, especially when the stakes get higher, and the grip decreases. The goal is not to surpass our ‘100 points of grip’.

The best riders in MotoGP showcase exceptional riding skills, maneuvering super-powered motorcycles at incredible speeds. They exhibit the ‘conservation of motion’ through practiced, decisive, and linear movements. There is a striking absence of abruptness in their riding style.

Smooth and Linear: The Mark of an Expert Rider

On-screen graphics of MotoGP riders depict how they control the throttle, brake pressure, and lean angle in a linear and controlled fashion.

As they round the corner, the throttle gradually increases as they reduce the lean angle. They don’t throttle against the front brake or add more lean angle and throttle simultaneously.

It’s all about the crucial first and last 5%. Once the weight has shifted and grip is established, riders aim for wide full open (WFO) as swiftly as they can.

Our language needs to reflect this understanding of riding. Words like ‘snap,’ ‘grab,’ ‘huck,’ ‘send,’ ‘whack,’ ‘pop’, ‘twitch’, and ‘flick’ aren’t terms that proficient riders should use.

Instead, we should concentrate on smooth, deliberate, linear, and precise actions such as ‘ease’, ‘squeeze’, ‘roll’, and ‘press’. Regardless of whether you ride an S1000RR, a Ninja 400, or a Honda Shadow, this principle remains constant.

Final Thoughts: The Goal for Summer Riding

Let this be your objective as you prepare for the summer riding season. Avoid ‘popping counter twitches’, don’t grab the brakes or ‘whack’ the throttle. Don’t plan to ‘send it’. Instead, focus on the ‘conservation of motion.’

Create practiced, precise, and linear inputs. Gently squeeze the brakes, gradually building linear brake pressure.

Then slowly ease off the brake. Smoothly rotate and move your chest to the inside to look through the corner. Carefully press on the handlebar. Gently roll on the throttle.

Remember, slow hands make fast riders. More importantly, slow hands make safe riders. Instead of ‘popping our counter twitches,’ let’s use more appropriate phrases that underline the value of counter steering as a tool for efficient direction change on a bike.

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