Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northern Illinois
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Some people make this more confusing than it needs to be. At anything above very slow speeds you cannot steer the bike by turning the handlebars. You may think you are steering but you are not. Whether you know the term or not, when turning at speed you are countersteering, because that is the only way to get the bike to make the turn. Most of us do this naturally if we ever rode a bicycle. Its only when it is described to the novice that it sounds so illogical.
As to keeping your body leaned with the bike or vertical, Dodsfall is totally right that the most effective way is to lean with the bike. In really extreme turns at high speed you will have to lean even MORE than the bike is leaning, which you can clearly see in any photos of racers taking a high speed tight turn. But for swerving around an obstacle, you should just countersteer first in one direction and then the opposite direction quickly, and without shifting your body weight. A quick swerve doesn't need your body to move, and there is usually not enough time for you to shift your body anyway. Its just a quick push-push and you are around the obstacle (this was a routine lesson in the basic riding course that the MSF taught, and maybe I am assuming too much in thinking it is still part of the curriculum).
When it comes to braking, I am amazed that there are still riders who fail to use their front brake. Maybe it made sense 40 years ago or so, but it no longer does. I recommend, for those of you not used to regularly using BOTH brakes routinely when slowing or stopping, that you practice the following. When you decide to slow the bike, consciously apply the rear brake first to transfer the weight of the bike and rider to the front wheel, then smoothly apply the front brake while continuing to use the rear brake. This is a basic skill every rider should have, and to not be able to use the front brake, or to be so unused to using it that you will fail to use it in an emergency is just very poor riding, to the point of being rider negligence.
Back to turning; when I was an MSF instructor I used to tell the students that there is a real difference between how much you are leaning the bike, and how much you feel you are leaning the bike. A novice rider who leans only a few degrees thinks that they are close to touching their knee to the ground. As you gain proficiency in turning you get more and more comfortable with leaning further and further over. Sooner or later you will have the not unpleasant, but possibly surprising experience of scraping your foot pegs, or actually having the heel of your boot scrape the ground. For most of us, that is about as far as you should ever lean the bike. Modern bike suspensions and the incredible quality of modern motorcycle tires allow a bike to lean at speed that would astonish riders of 100 or even 50 years ago. But the more you learn to lean, the better you are able to handle unexpectedly sharp, or decreasing radius turns without loosing control and crashing. What you DON'T want to do when you find yourself entering a curve too quickly is to grab the brakes while leaned over and losing the traction of the tires. Learning to lean in more will help you safely negotiate the sharp curve and be fun at the same time.
FWIW, just this past week I rode the Tail of the Dragon with my 900 pound plus Goldwing. I took the 310 curves rather modestly and yet I touched pegs to the ground several times. Leaning and safely turning on tight curves can be one of the most fun parts of motorcycling.
U.S. Army (Retired)
NRA Life Member
Former MSF Instructor
2016 Honda Goldwing
"Those that beat their guns into plows will be plowing for those who did not."
Last edited by vito; 09-13-2016 at 01:53 PM.