New Rider...refuses to countersteer

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by CutterBill, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. CutterBill

    CutterBill I hate motorcycles

    Aug 28, 2014
    Rosamond, CA
    Guys, I need some help here… I’m trying to teach a lady friend to ride but she absolutely refuses to counter-steer. She says that doesn’t make sense and she just won’t do it… with the predictable results: the road curves gently to the left, she steers to the left and gracefully runs off the road to the right. And falls over. And yet she won’t even try to counter-steer.

    I tried an exercise where she is seated on the bike (not running) and I am straddling the front wheel, facing her. We both have our hands on the bars, I say “Turn right” then I turn the bars to her left while simultaneously leaning the bike to her right. Then I do it again in the other direction, back and forth, left, right, left, right. Over and over. I’m trying to develop some counter-steering muscle memory.

    Then I sit behind her and we do the same exercise… left, right, left, right… for 10 minutes at a time. To make it easy to remember, I tell her, “To go right, push right, lean right.” (meaning push on the right grip.) And of course “To go left, push left, lean left.” Over and over… left, right, left, right…

    Then we started the engine and rode it that way: me on the back, my arms around her holding the bars and her hands on top of mine. (I’m tall and she is short.) Then off we go… (I should explain that I live on a private airport so we have a lot of smooth pavement to play on, with no worries about traffic.) Up and down the runway, weaving between the center-line dashes, counter-steering all the way… left, right, left, right…

    Then I get off… “Ok, you try it…” Nope. She comes to the first dash, she needs to go left so she dutifully turns the bars to the left and shoots off the runway to the right. Into the dirt. And falls over.

    I thought that perhaps she needed some actual roads to practice on. I loaded up the bikes (Hers: Yamaha XT250. Mine: Suzuki V-Strom 650.) and took her to Death Valley. Let me explain that DV is perfect for this… long stretches of open roads, very gentle curves, almost no traffic, no blind corners, etc. And off we go. We have intercoms in our helmets so I can coach her…

    “Ok, there’s a curve to the left so push left.” I’m behind her so I can see what she is doing. She turns the bars to the left, then forces the bike to go left by leaning, wobbling all the way thru the curve. “Ok, a gentle curve to the right. Push right, lean right.” Nope. I can see that she is fighting it all the way thru the curve. Another turn comes up… “Ok, a curve to the left. PUSH on the LEFT bar…” Again, nope. She twists the bars to the left, the bike goes right, onto the gravel shoulder and down she goes. By this time she is bruised and battered, and quietly crying in her helmet.

    Sorry for the long story but guys (or ladies), I don’t know what to do. How do I get her to counter-steer? She won’t even try it. Any suggestions?
    CROSSBOLT and Mambo Dave like this.
  2. Yanka Lisiy

    Yanka Lisiy DAMNrider

    Jan 28, 2016
    Washington DC
    Has she ridden a bicycle?
    I don't think there's a quick way to teach her. Just repeat and repeat. Either she will learn one day or not. If not then she has to forget about riding..
    If she's determined to learn it then it will be fine.

    May be you can alter the double riding exercise - let her put the hands on the bars and put your's over or grip the ends or smth. Probably that will let her to feel that she's doing it and remember.
  3. BCBelstaff

    BCBelstaff Been here awhile

    Aug 31, 2012
    anyone who knows to to ride a bicycle will naturally counter steer. You've told her what she needs to do to make the bike turn. now its up to her brain to make the connections between actions and outcome. Maybe give her some more time as a pillion to get a feel for leaning and turning.
  4. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Been here awhile

    May 18, 2014
    Mountain View, CA
    Some people take time. It took me months to learn to countersteer. I'd get on my favorite twisty, use my weight to lean the bike so I could turn the handlebars just like your friend may be doing, and have every bit as big a struggle as you'd imagine. Then one day, as I was wrestling my decrepit KZ550 around somre anonymous corner in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I happned to push the inside handlebar and it all clicked. "Oh! " I thought. "So that's what those instructors in the MSF class were talking about!"

    That being said, trying something as tiny as possible, like a Grom, might make it (much!) easier to learn. That made all the difference for my wife, who has now put 5000 miles on her beloved Z125.
  5. TripleTriples

    TripleTriples Long timer

    Feb 6, 2019
    Wait a second here.

    She does a thing and instead of going left like she expects, she goes right and crashes? And still won't do it the other way?

    I think maybe she doesn't belong on a bike. Or needs to take the msf course.
  6. MattLikeyBikey

    MattLikeyBikey Been here awhile

    Nov 8, 2018
    So Cal
    Not to be trite but this isn't on you. MSF or nothing. And then practice. Take to a big parking lot and do big lazy 8's for 2 hours - after the msf course!
    Bababouhey, BadKarma, kwthom and 6 others like this.
  7. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Sep 6, 2011
    Try teaching her to Superman it. As in let her left fist lead her into a left turn, just like Superman does.

    Sounds silly, but I’ve seen it work.
  8. canoeguy

    canoeguy Long timer

    Jun 14, 2011
    SW Virginia
    Get her a hack. Problem solved.

    Well maybe a few more new problems but the steering will be addressed.
  9. CaseyJones

    CaseyJones Ridin' that train

    Aug 10, 2010
    Western Montana
    You might try a different attack.

    All young women love dancing, right? Tell her to move her hips in the direction she wants to turn. Basically it sets the bike leaning and then it will follow the curvature.

    Or, you could try to tell her to, not push forward (countersteer) but DOWN. Turn right, press DOWN on the right grip. It's how they used to teach it thirty years ago. I never came across the "countersteer" wording until after I got back on, eleven years ago.
  10. ZPK5

    ZPK5 n00b

    Nov 30, 2016
    This is the best video I've seen that shows the potential consequences of not understanding countersteering.
  11. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Long timer

    Jan 7, 2012
    Corrales, New Mexico
    Maybe she is not meant to ride. It is not for everyone. Two up may be her best option.
    I have tried to teach some people to fly a hot air balloon. They just could not get it. They didn't have the temperament to learn and understand the concepts involved.
    In a panic situation like the video above how would they react?
    novaks47, BadKarma, Bitingdog and 8 others like this.
  12. Roads and Trails

    Roads and Trails Just Ridin' Along Supporter

    Jul 31, 2006
    The 505
    Get her into an MSF Basic Rider course.
    If she is running off the road with you, you are only enabling her bad habits.
    The MSF course slowly drags people along until they find themselves counter steering without realizing it.
    When I do a class I only say the words "counter steering" once in class. After they are doing it on the riding range I point out to them how they made the bike turn with the "press". Ahhh! So that's counter steering!
  13. CaseyJones

    CaseyJones Ridin' that train

    Aug 10, 2010
    Western Montana
    This is good advice. The hardest persons to teach, are the ones who are important in your life.

    Someone who's a pro, who's taught others before, who can be unemotional about it and work with the student...might do it better.

    I'd stop the home lessons and do that. Before bad habits, bad mental associations and a personal dismissal of the idea of riding, get into her mind.
  14. CaseyJones

    CaseyJones Ridin' that train

    Aug 10, 2010
    Western Montana
    Chilling video.

    Calls to mind my own fumbles as a n00b. Yes, I did run off the road - and into a marshy plain that was in fact a former toxic-waste settling pond and an EPA Superfund site. Nice place to go offroad on a street bike at 40 mph, hey?

    I was lucky. I remain lucky. I taught myself, and if not well, I was never tested until I was ready.
  15. schmik

    schmik Been here awhile

    Oct 1, 2016
    I don’t think of it as steer left to turn right because my logical brain says that is stupid.

    I see it as using my right hand to push the bike into the corner.

    As I push the bike starts the lean. To turn more sharply, push and lean harder.

    It’s just the words she is not getting. Once you do it once you instantly go ‘aha!’.
  16. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore "You ain't black!"

    Dec 24, 2001
    Jax, FL
    Your best bet is to send her to a training class. If you're not going to do that, you can try some different terminology to explain the same thing. She has to grasp that it's the lean that makes the bike turn, not steering the bike into the turn. Have her practice doing it with only her inside hand on the handlebars. Then with both hands. Make sure she's looking in the same direction (where she WANTS to go, not where she's going).

    You can call it 'Extending your inside arm to make the bike lean."

    You can tell her to "nudge the bike down into the turn with your inside hand."

    Again, your best bet is to send her to a class. Or hire someone to give her private lessons.
  17. MauiCowie

    MauiCowie Long timer

    Jun 28, 2014
    At the Huki-Huki-Huki-Huki-Hukilau
    Wow. That's hard to watch. The rider seemed to be handling turns OK until he saw the truck. Not exactly target fixation in the classic sense but it seems as though seeing the truck maybe made him think about turning too much so he had a major brain fart.

    Does this gal know how to ride a bicycle? If so then have her ride a bicycle and get her to realize that she's countersteering when she rides a bicycle.

    I never knew what countersteering was until I learned about it in physics class. It's a difficult concept to grasp at first since it's counterintuitive. Of course I'd been doing it ever since I got my first bicycle. I just didn't realize it until I learned about it in class and tried it on my bicycle on the way home that day.
    SmittyBlackstone and 03WrxRob like this.
  18. JETalmage

    JETalmage Been here awhile

    Oct 11, 2014
    Frankly, I think you should gracefully bow out and leave coaching this person to ride to someone who is not so hung up on what is, in practical terms, little more than a piece of physics arcana.

    The very concept of a two-inline-wheeled vehicle would have failed had it been necessary to understand "counter steering" in order to operate one.

    Whole generations of kids, men, and women have learned to ride bicycles and motorcycles without ever having heard of "counter steering."

    I and all my childhood friends learned to ride a bicycle without anyone ever mentioning "counter steering." No one ever said "push right to turn left" to me when I learned to ride a motorcycle.
    In the 50 years I've been riding, I've taught many people, including my own wife and two young sons, to ride motorcycles without ever mentioning "counter steering." Every day of the 4 years I worked at a Honda dealership in the '70s, entirely new riders were coached by their sales person on how to operate their brand-new bikes in the parking lot, and no one ever mentioned "counter steering."

    Self-accredited motorcycling pseudo-physicists are entirely too enamored over this esoteric buzzword. In the context of teaching people entirely new to riding on two wheels, "counter steering" needn't even come up until after they're able to comfortably operate the vehicle intuitively.

    Even then, it should start with a lead-in something along the lines of "Although it sounds counter-intuitive, once the bike is moving along at over a certain minimum speed, believe it or not, you are initiating a turn by...[blah, blah, blah]....Being aware of this automatic tactile reflex--and even consciously practicing it--can enhance safety when..."

    You can teach a kid how to cast a fishing lure without explaining centrifugal force.

    People use multi-meters without knowing that an electron is more a "probability wave" than a particle.

    I can get an absolute beginner started in isometric illustration without explaining that it works because it is actually based on orthographic projection. In fact, countless professional tech illustrators never learn that.

    Most off-road motorcyclists have never considered the fact that "balance" is not necessarily easier with a "low center of gravity."

  19. 03WrxRob

    03WrxRob Been here awhile

    Jun 24, 2018
    Camp hill PA
    Forget the motorcycle for now. Get her on a bicycle go out to a state park or something with some winding paths. Don’t focus on the terms or treat it as motorcycle training just get out and enjoy yourselves. After a little while when you’ve gone through some higher speed turns point out that she’s countersteering without knowing it.
    It’s sll about muscle memory people get hung up on the terms and physics and get confused
  20. SRG

    SRG Long timer

    Nov 18, 2004
    Central Va.
    ^^X infinity^^

    No one should be attempting to learn to ride a m/c without being first being proficient on a bicycle.