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What does countersteering best enable you to do? What does countersteering best enable you to do?

  • A. Maintain a straight line under braking

  • B. Swerve around an object

  • C. Control a front-wheel skid

    The correct answer is B
    Correct. Countersteering is a way of turning quickly on a motorcycle.

Countersteering explained

Countersteering helps you make quick turns on a motorbike.

When you have a single-track vehicle like a bicycle or motorbike it is steered mostly using balance. We don't have to think about how we steer them - we just do it automatically like how we talk or walk. 

However, when there's an emergency situation we often get it wrong. On a motorbike, countersteering is counterintuitive and needs practice. Usually you'd think that to turn left you would pull back on the left handlebar - this should point the front wheel in the way we want to go. When riding at speed the turning is done by the change in radius of the wheel.

The problem is our momentum. Let's say you want to turn left. If we turn the wheel left that shifts our weight to the right and the bike tips over to the right and we steer right, which is the wrong way. We first must get our weight correct and that's what countersteering does. We initially give a quick nudge to the right which shifts our weight left, and then as our balance is going to the left we can make the turn.

The mechanics behind how the turn is made is quite complex - look up rake and trail and caster if you're really interested.

This is why it's called countersteering: you are steering counter to (opposite to) the direction you end up travelling.

This video explains countersteering in very simple terms.

Of course, when you are in a situation where you need to countersteer you should be aware of target fixation: when you look at an object, that's where you are most likely to go. Never look at the object you want to avoid, always look at where you want to go.