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Turning - a bike analogy

post #1 of 77
Thread Starter 
OK, so I was out for a ride tonight, and as I was going along I was looking at the 2 main things that are done to turn a bike...

1. Tip it
2. Turn the handlebars.

So, I couldn't think of any other ways that didn't involve locking up a wheel and skidding at unnatural angles.

Next thing was to do a few experiments.
Tipping alone: Doesn't work at slow speeds (you fall over). Works at higher speeds, as long as you have plenty of room and it's safe.
Turning alone: Works at low speeds. Doesn't work at higher speeds, as you fall over.

OK, fairly simple so far.
Let's crank it up a bit...
Find somewhere safe to do this! Take your hands off the handlebars and tip the bike over slightly. The front wheel will automatically start to turn into the turn. If you tip too far when trying this, you may end up on the ground!
That's what I'd call "passive steering". You are not doing anything at all to steer, the bike does it all.
Next, try it again, but this time hold on to the handlebars to prevent them from turning too far, but don't try to turn them yourself. You are actively resisting the steering. Certainly not passive, but equally you are not adding to it.
Now try tipping the bike into a turn, and steering. When you're on the bike, going at a reasonable speed, it's a lot easier to use steering to fine tune the turn than it is to tweak your tilt one way and another (although if you were on a perfectly prepared track, adjusting your tilt might not be as difficult or risky)

So, what makes a perfect bike turn, and how is it taught?
Well, it's not taught!
It's about finding the right mixture that works for you on each turn. You decide based on your speed, the road conditions, the amount of space, safety... And you blend the two techniques - tipping and steering - and you make a turn. And most of the time you don't think too much about it.


Are there any similarities to skiing?
post #2 of 77
Interesting set of thoughts, Fox. It's also interesting that most people are not taught how to turn on a bike; they figure it out. Perhaps because concrete is hard on the body...

Question for those who have had coaching on riding a bike: does Fox's insight here make sense? How are you coached to improve your ability to turn a bike?
post #3 of 77
Try this. Tip the bike and then turn it... the other way! No, really. Don't turn it so much as apply pressure in the other direction, watch what happens.
post #4 of 77

Countersteering

While riding along, push the right handle bar forward. Your front wheel will turn left, causing the bottom of the bike to move to the left while inertia keeps the rest of the bike mostly where it is. The result is a lean to the right, and a right turn.

The tire in a lean acts like a cone, affecting a turn.

At slow speeds you have to counter balance: lean your body one way while the bike leans the other way.
post #5 of 77
Great idea, Fox--I'm going for a bike ride. I'll be back!

Best regards,
Bob
post #6 of 77
I have become an avid road cyclist and racer in the past 3 years, and have responded accodingly. I have had some coaching, and have learned alot with regards to technique in the past 18 months. Something that truly surprised me was the techniques used in turning and cornering, especially with criterium style racing. PLEASE don't take me too seriously, I am just answering the questions as they are presented. I follow the logic, and agree to a certain point with the points and observations being made.


Take your hands off the handlebars and tip the bike over slightly. The front wheel will automatically start to turn into the turn. If you tip too far when trying this, you may end up on the ground! That's what I'd call passive steering".

Not exactly, you tipped the bike causing it to turn- tipping is an action, so the turn is a reaction (to the tipping) therefore this is not truly passive steering- correct?

So, what makes a perfect bike turn, and how is it taught?

Devils advocate- Depends, are we talking BMX, Roadie, Mountain, Cyclocross? Each has it's respective "perfect turn" and all disciplines can be taught or learned. There are small nuances in each that can be learned such as safety, speed, efficiency, acceleration, etc.


Well, it's not taught! It's about finding the right mixture that works for you on each turn. You decide based on your speed, the road conditions, the amount of space, safety... And you blend the two techniques - tipping and steering - and you make a turn. And most of the time you don't think too much about it.

On a basic level, yes- but like skiing when you get past a certain point and seek to improve you can be taught a better, cleaner, faster, safer, more efficient way to turn on a bicycle. The sport- again like skiing, is a constant evolution. With new and improved materials (tires, wheels) new techniques are developed.

Now, care to share what spurred this experiment on?


post #7 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
While riding along, push the right handle bar forward. Your front wheel will turn left, causing the bottom of the bike to move to the left while inertia keeps the rest of the bike mostly where it is. The result is a lean to the right, and a right turn.

The tire in a lean acts like a cone, affecting a turn.

At slow speeds you have to counter balance: lean your body one way while the bike leans the other way.
This is exactly true. The thing about countersteering is that even if you don't feel it, it's what makes it happen. And countersteering is just as much of what causes the bike to tip as leaning is.

So, I guess, yes and no, Fox. However, I really get your point.
post #8 of 77

In Dry Dock?

Hey Fox.......

You off the bottle? This is pretty deep!

Sounds like that French Beer (Fischer Labelle) isn't treating you right....
post #9 of 77
My take is that WTFH is nipping at the Absinthe again...
post #10 of 77
Quote:
So, what makes a perfect bike turn, and how is it taught?
Well, it's not taught!
It's about finding the right mixture that works for you on each turn. You decide based on your speed, the road conditions, the amount of space, safety... And you blend the two techniques - tipping and steering - and you make a turn. And most of the time you don't think too much about it.
Try making a turn on a steep switchback? Better yet where the surface is sloping away? Sprinkle a few rocks at the apex of the turn?

You bet 50% of the riders fall off!

There's quite a bit to learn. You can "figure it out" by trial-and-error. Or you can have someone else explain to you how to do it and then show you how it's done. Some people can get there by the former. Quite a lot of people would appreciate the "help" in the later form. If that's not "taught", I don't know what is.
post #11 of 77
I think WTFH's analogy is better used with nordic skiing, many people shuffle around in the woods saying "I've never had a lesson in my life..." what they don't realize is that what 'seems' to come naturally could easily be improved upon. You may not need lessons to improve your enjoyment of biking but there are plenty of skills to learn in order to be 'good' at biking.

there is a lot that goes into turning a bicycle, it can be just as disected as a ski turn. Things like pressure balance between contact points (hands, feet, butt) pedal position, body weight distribution (both side to side and fore/aft) lean angle of the bike, lean angle of your body, how you move that weight and pressure during the turn (just like moving pressure on a ski) etc., etc., etc.

It can be complicated, it just doesn't have to be. You can have fun skiing with very little skill, bikings the same.
post #12 of 77
If you want the final word on how to ride a bike, Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack's Mastering Mtn Bike Skills is it.
post #13 of 77
Dirt and Steve Jones produced an excellent video called Fundamentals, it is also excellent. Lee's book is great.
post #14 of 77
Good stuff WTFH!

I like bicycle and m/c analogies to skiing! I like comparing and contrasting them from dirt or gravel to pavement where the availability of grip changes the mechanics a bit!

Watch the Moto GP guys and their body positions on the bikes and then watch the flat trackers on dirt. Observe a road biker when they unexpectedly loose grip and see the quick changes in body and bike positions. There are alot of similarities!

Now let's see what happens when you are riding with a pint in one hand?


b
post #15 of 77
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SJB View Post
Take your hands off the handlebars and tip the bike over slightly. The front wheel will automatically start to turn into the turn. If you tip too far when trying this, you may end up on the ground! That's what I'd call passive steering".

Not exactly, you tipped the bike causing it to turn- tipping is an action, so the turn is a reaction (to the tipping) therefore this is not truly passive steering- correct?
OK, what I mean by "Passive steering" was that since I didn't have my hands on the handlebars, then I had no direct physical input to the steering (so I was being "passive"), but the steering that occurred was a result of the tipping (and perhaps loads of other things).
...oh and by "steering", I mean the front wheel pointing in a different direction to the rest of the bike.

Does that make more sense?
post #16 of 77
Thread Starter 
What spurred the experiment on, and a bit more info...

I was on a reasonable flat cycle path between Offenburg and Kehl in Germany. The surface was mainly tarmac, although some of it was a firm base with sandy gravel on top.
So, basically, it was flat, smooth, with reasonable grip. (although braking hard on the gravel would cause a skid)
The path was about 6ft wide, and I was on a basic mountain bike (no suspension, ordinary brakes, cheapest thing I could buy to leave at a hotel)

...but what brought it on was that my back was a little sore, so I took my hands off the handlebars so I could sit up and stretch a little. As I was doing that, I thought about how I was turning the bike slightly this way or that, and then started to think about what I was doing, rather than letting it be purely subconscious.

OK, I know some will tell me that I can't ride a bike, others may say that I don't have a clue, and that it's really complicated, but hey, I don't want to win the Tour de France. I want to have some exercise and enjoy myself doing it, and it appeared to me that the two key things for me to turn a bike were to blend the skills of tipping and steering, but to try to ignore/deny either of these was foolishness on my part.

(and it all started off with a sore back!)
post #17 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
OK, so I was out for a ride tonight, and as I was going along I was looking at the 2 main things that are done to turn a bike...

1. Tip it
2. Turn the handlebars.

So, I couldn't think of any other ways that didn't involve locking up a wheel and skidding at unnatural angles.

Next thing was to do a few experiments.
Tipping alone: Doesn't work at slow speeds (you fall over). Works at higher speeds, as long as you have plenty of room and it's safe.
Turning alone: Works at low speeds. Doesn't work at higher speeds, as you fall over.

OK, fairly simple so far.
Let's crank it up a bit...
Find somewhere safe to do this! Take your hands off the handlebars and tip the bike over slightly. The front wheel will automatically start to turn into the turn. If you tip too far when trying this, you may end up on the ground!
That's what I'd call "passive steering". You are not doing anything at all to steer, the bike does it all.
Next, try it again, but this time hold on to the handlebars to prevent them from turning too far, but don't try to turn them yourself. You are actively resisting the steering. Certainly not passive, but equally you are not adding to it.
Now try tipping the bike into a turn, and steering. When you're on the bike, going at a reasonable speed, it's a lot easier to use steering to fine tune the turn than it is to tweak your tilt one way and another (although if you were on a perfectly prepared track, adjusting your tilt might not be as difficult or risky)

So, what makes a perfect bike turn, and how is it taught?
Well, it's not taught!
It's about finding the right mixture that works for you on each turn. You decide based on your speed, the road conditions, the amount of space, safety... And you blend the two techniques - tipping and steering - and you make a turn. And most of the time you don't think too much about it.


Are there any similarities to skiing?
Good post.
post #18 of 77
I ride both MB's and MB's, on the mountain, where the bike is lighter I can influence the steering by shifting the body weight, at high speeds on the road or track, you need muscle and countersteering.

Due to the higher mass and gyroscopic forces of a Motor Bike, it will not respond to body weight shifts.

See the book a Twist of the Wrist by Kieth Code, the definitive book on riding motor bikes, where he explains that if you remove the steering ability of a bike it cannot turn, therefore even if you think your body is turning the bike, it is in effect a subconscious action that you use, taught or not. (I know I nearly wiped out due to not fully understanding the power needed to countersteer at high speed)

I have had lessons in riding on track and skiing, I recommend both if you want to get good fast.

Sean
post #19 of 77
Thread Starter 
Ghost/Weems - regarding the countersteering to create the tip, I never thought about that one - I'll play around with it tonight.
When I was playing with turning last night, at most speeds it was tip closely followed by steer, but here you're talking about steer (even if it is counter) followed by tip.

If I have a few falls tonight, I know who to blame!
post #20 of 77
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
So, what makes a perfect bike turn, and how is it taught?
Well, it's not taught!
It's about finding the right mixture that works for you on each turn. You decide based on your speed, the road conditions, the amount of space, safety... And you blend the two techniques - tipping and steering - and you make a turn. And most of the time you don't think too much about it.
OK, I wrote the post last night after the bike ride (and perhaps a glass or two of red wine), but I want to make a comment on this last bit...

Firstly, I don't think there is one perfect way to turn a bike. There may be a perfect way to turn it in certain circumstances/conditions/speed... But it's not the same turn used for all.
I think it is about blending skills. And I also doubt that there are many cyclists on the road who go into a turn thinking "I need to tip by 25 degrees and steer by 10 degrees". I think that physics and experience tell you what/how much to do without a lot of thinking.


BTW, thanks to everyone for entering into the rambling thoughts of my slightly warped mind.
post #21 of 77
Turning a bicycle is intuitive, as the bike is so light compared to the rider.
Steering a motorcycle is not. As others has already pointed it, the basic technique is countersteering (push the bar the side you want to turn) that will tip the bike and turn it. It's all about the gyroscopic effect of the wheels. On racing bikes, you also frequently need to work with body movements and pressuring the pegs to turn efficiently. (Some sport bikes really need more than counter steering).
And it's not intuitive IMO. The first 2 things they teach you during the mandatory training for a rider license in France is 1- Where to look (hint : not where you're afraid to crash, but where you want to go...just like on skis) 2- Counter steering.
Very low speed turning involves actual steering and weight shifting, but that's very peculiar.
post #22 of 77
Thread Starter 
philippe, I agree, a motorcycle is a completely different beast.
post #23 of 77
WTFH,
Be careful out there!

Pushing the right bar forward is only the 1st step. It will result in the bike leaning to the right. This is as far as most people go in their explanation, but there is more. The next step is that you do, even though most people don't even realize it, steer back the other way. The alternative is falling in as the front tire continues to roll to the outside. Also, when you lean your bike to turn with no hands on the bars, it naturally turns in. Don't attempt to keep counter-steering unless you want to go on increasing your lean angle until you are one with the tarmac.

Another very practical application: while in a right turn, you can tighten up the turn by applying some forward pressure to the right bar. (right turns used as examples, but exchange left for right to do it the other way).

Re Kieth Code: I believe he actually constructed a motorcycle that had the steering welded straight to illustrate that body english alone was not very effective at turning a bike that couldn't be "steered".

P.S. The gyroscopic effect is really quite small compared to the other forces, even on a motorcycle.
post #24 of 77
Thread Starter 
Ghost, I played around with it last night, and yes, turn right, bike starts to tip, then turn left... and I didn't fall off once!

I took a photo last night to give an idea of the surface I was riding on, but because my phone was in SportsDo mode, the photo is only a thumbnail.
(also I was riding on concrete last night)

I was also thinking about how children learn to ride bikes with stabilisers, which limits tilting, and means turns are mainly done by steering the handlebars. You teach them that until they have mastered basic steering co-ordination, and then you take the stabilisers off, and let them tilt some more. But that could open up a can of worms, so I won't go down that route!
post #25 of 77
One thing not mentioned is that the wheels on your bike, while turning, act as gyroscopes and, due to angular momentum, assist in "holding the bike up" while banking into a turn...

http://230nsc1.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbas...s/bicycle.html

As for me, due to my stupidity, I don't think I'm riding on the road anytime soon....







post #26 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
WTFH,
...
Pushing the right bar forward is only the 1st step. It will result in the bike leaning to the right. This is as far as most people go in their explanation, but there is more. The next step is that you do, even though most people don't even realize it, steer back the other way. ...
I noticed the analogy between the move you describe and skiing years ago.

The way I see, when I'm in a turn, it's the last little bit of "steer" in the turn I'm in that helps me enter the next turn. That's the analogy to turn the handle bars left to go right. Then, once I'm in the next turn, I steer my skis in that direction.

Try this sometime, when you are in a left turn, at the end of the turn, instead of being lazy letting the radius fade away, tweak in just a touch of extra rotary to the left. Your CM should pass across your line of travel at which point your get on your other edges and go smoothly, and rather passively, into a right-hand turn.

I find when I do this, I get rid of the flat spot between turns. I actually get into a right turn quicker if I actively finish the left turn than if I don't. Makes for way more control.
post #27 of 77
Lonnie, that may affect your handling!

I was riding yesterday and thinking of an article by Davis Phinney that I read years ago in Winning (so you know it was while back). It was the first I'd heard of counter-steering. He also talked about another thing we talk about in skiing. Angulation/banking/counter-balancing, whatever you want to call it. Gotta go now, so will add more later.
post #28 of 77
Sorry... I needed to change a poopy diaper... I'm sure you wanted to know :

Anyway, Davis talked about how he'd rather be above the bike with the bike angled beneath him so hat if it skids, he is still with it. Some people corner with the bike up and the body leaning away while some will have thier bike and body closer to the same angle. This is where we need some Ron LeMaster stuff (we'll have to substitute Graham Watson). I'd like to see what Paolo Salvodelli does. How does it compare to Nicolas Vouilloz?

Compare to motorcycles - a road racer leans his body in farter than he can lean his bike. A motocross rider seems to go more the Davis Phinney route.
post #29 of 77
Thread Starter 
So, I guess the next big experiment will be to try this stuff out on my road bike (Trek 1500) rather than the Rockrider I have here.
post #30 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
WTFH,
Be careful out there!

Pushing the right bar forward is only the 1st step. It will result in the bike leaning to the right. This is as far as most people go in their explanation, but there is more. The next step is that you do, even though most people don't even realize it, steer back the other way. The alternative is falling in as the front tire continues to roll to the outside. Also, when you lean your bike to turn with no hands on the bars, it naturally turns in. Don't attempt to keep counter-steering unless you want to go on increasing your lean angle until you are one with the tarmac.

Another very practical application: while in a right turn, you can tighten up the turn by applying some forward pressure to the right bar. (right turns used as examples, but exchange left for right to do it the other way).

Re Kieth Code: I believe he actually constructed a motorcycle that had the steering welded straight to illustrate that body english alone was not very effective at turning a bike that couldn't be "steered".

P.S. The gyroscopic effect is really quite small compared to the other forces, even on a motorcycle.
Interesting. What I've empirically found is that it really depends on the motorbike. Some of them are really neutral : you initiate the turn with countersteering and it will keep turning with a constant radius without any further imput. Others will oversteer or understeer. It's really obvious on a roundabout for instance, with a steady throttle. Some bikes would just circle forever.
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