Mastering the Move: The Comprehensive Guide to Motorcycle Counter-Steering

What is Counter-steering? The Complete Guide

Whether called a turn, corner, or curve, changing direction requires special attention. The counter-steering helps you manage it in a simple manner.

You can determine any rider’s basic skill level by how well he can change directions. There is a scale of rider ability and nowhere is it more obvious than in this action of riding.

When riding a motorcycle at very low speed (like walking speed), change direction by leaning the motorcycle and turning the handlebars in the direction you want to go. At higher speeds, you initiate a change of direction by first pressing (forward or down) the handgrip on the same side of the intended turn. This is called countersteering because the handlebars are initially moved opposite the direction of the turn.


During an international conference on motorcycle safety held in San Francisco, Dr. Harry Hurt and a group of Honda researchers presented technical papers documenting how counter-steering worked and how its conscious use could benefit motorcycle riders by making it easier to avoid collisions.

The counter-steering researches had opened the door to riding improvement for everyone. 

Pratically everyone learns how to ride without any understanding of counter-steering, but the moment it is fully comprehended and applied, it opens the door to vast amounts of improvement in every possible situation that requires steering the bike.

The purpose of steering is to control the motorcycle direction of travel. In racing or in any riding situation, you must feel that the steering and the direction of the bike are under your control.

The faster you go, the more you want to be certain that the machine will do what you want it to.

Everyone tips over (crashes) their bicycle when they first learn to ride. Do you remember? After the training wheels were removed, (if you had them), you crashed, if you never had training wheels, you still crashed. Of course you did; there wasn’t anyone around who unsterdood counter steering and even if they did, it’s hard to communicate it to someone who has never before ridden a single-track, tandem-wheeled vehicle.

The Counter-Steering

Counter steering: Two magic words.

  • Counter: In an opposing manner or direction.
  • Steering: To guide. It means to guide in an opposing manner.

Simple enough. You have the bars in your hands and you’re going straight, but you would like the bike to turn, let’s say, to the right. “To guide in an opposing manner”, you then apply some pressure, at the handlebars, to the left. The bike goes right.

How it works?

Steering is simple enough – you push the bars to the opposite direction of the direction you wish to travel. 

Counter steering is the only way you can direct a motorcycle to steer accurately.

To make things clear, lets suppose you are counter-steering to turn left. The following is performed:

  • A torque on the handlebars to the right is applied.
  • The front wheel will then rotate about the steering axis to the right and the tire will generate forces in the contact patch to the right.
  • The machine as a whole steers to the right
  • Because the forces in the contact patch are at ground level, this pulls the wheels “out from under” the bike to the right and causes it to lean to the left.
  • The rider, or in most cases the inherent stability of the bike, provides the steering torque necessary to rotate the front wheel back to the left and in the direction of the desired turn.
  • The bike beings a turn to the left.

In summary, counter steering is basic steering technology: Turn it one way and it goes the other. This, in fact, is how you’ve been steering your motorcycle all the time, whether you knew it or not. You cannot steer a motorcycle simple by leaning it.


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