HAND'S-ON TRAINING:
VISIT YOUR LOCAL BIKER SCHOOL--OR MAYBE NOT

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.
—President Thomas Jefferson

The techniques involved in countersteering a motorcycle are not unlike the scientific "theories" that govern flight by aircraft. They are also initially confusing, but work like a champ. Like motorcycles, airplanes also tilt (bank) when turning. To bank (lean sideways), the pilot steers the control wheel in the direction he wishes to turn. This tilts the wings so that they may produce "anti-gravity" lift in the direction he wishes to go. Once he has attained the desired angle of bank, he centers the control wheel, even though he is still turning. When he finishes the turn, he turns the control wheel in the opposite direction to level the wings. The actual turning (yaw) control is provided by the rudder, which the pilot operates by pressing on the foot pedals, at least in aerobatic aircraft. To further complicate things, in order to maintain altitude while turning, the pilot must pull back on the control wheel (yoke or stick) to move the elevators (pitch control). The pilot must operate the controls in harmony to achieve the desired result. Although this is difficult for a novice to learn, he perseveres until these skills are subconsciously memorized and become second nature. Pilots are also required by the government to obtain an intimate knowledge of the scientific "theories" of gyroscopic forces, as used in the required navigation equipment on virtually all aircraft. It is interesting to note that when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier at over 600 miles per hour, the elevator control suddenly becomes reversed, requiring the pilot to push down on the yoke or stick in order to go up—that's why such aircraft use computers to actually bypass the pilot's brain for these complicated control inputs at high speed. Vehicles can certainly behave in odd ways, and accurate education is required to control them.

The government's Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to become thouroughly proficient in these basic skills, as well as in skills concerning emergency procedures such as "controlled crash" landings. The government is intimately knowledgeable about these complicated subjects, and does an excellent job of making sure that all citizens who fly aircraft are fully educated on these subjects. Thousands of authors are proficient at explaining these technical procedures to the enthusiastic general public. Aviation magazines always include true stories of survivable and unsurvivable predicaments, with expert analysis of what went wrong—not to find fault, but to instruct readers how to avoid similar trouble. It is my opinion that the government ought to take an equally intelligent approach to instructing citizens who travel by motorcycles, so that everyone can become as safe as possible—not only motorcyclists, but also the other citizens who must share the road with them.

Until recently, countersteering was not taught in the MSF Basic rider course. It was feard that the term would be 'confusing' to the new rider. The concept of "push left, lean left, turn left" and "push right, lean right, turn right" was taught, but that was confusing because there was no clarity on what "push left" or "push right" meant. Push left on what? For whatever reason, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has recently chosen to include the term "countersteering" in their instruction.

Virgins to conscious countersteering can easily practice its use every moment they ride a bike or motorcycle, gaining immediate experience and acceptance. Riding down a straightaway provides opportunity to practice a series of "swerve" maneuvers (alternating countersteers), moving left-right-left-etc. Sometimes motorists see a rider practicing this while approaching head-on (maybe the rider is conscious of countersteering or maybe not). This can also be an excellent method for a rider to gain the attention of "comatose" motorists—you know, the ones that say they never saw the vehicle they just turned in front of. Swerving can also work on tailgaters (when it's not convenient to pull over out of their way).

Reading about riding techniques can give a citizen something to practice on the next time he rides his bike. Attending a riding school(s) can speed up the process of learning tremendously.

Keith Code and his contributing professional experts offer hundreds of additional riding tips in his four books and videotape. Although initially marketed to students of motorsport, applying the techniques to the highway is just as useful as amateur athletes taking the advice of the professional champions. Even if a rider only gets a couple of useful tips from them, it has proven to be time and money well-spent. By reading the book(s), then practicing the skills, then reading the book(s) again and again, a rider can gradually improve his expertise. Finding a curvy stretch of road and riding the same segment for many hours on a regular basis can give a rider the opportunity to practice in a safe and predictable environment. The first run is always taken slowly to check road conditions, and a sudden rainstorm may have dumped water since the last pass, or a truck may have spilled loose gravel on the road.. Code's concepts work on every type of motorcycle, not just sport and race bikes, and are useful at all highway speeds. His instructors teach "cornering," not racing. He thoroughly explains the right way to hang off while cornering. Code's instructors also teach how to control a sliding motorcycle with complete safety, useful in preventing emergency situations. Classes are held in a dozen states and two foreign countries.

These coaching aids are highly recommended for every motorcycle owner. Attending a racing school can make a great once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination, either for bikes or cars. The Superbike School even has a motorcycle fitted with hydraulic outriggers—oversized training wheels—for learning the braking, cornering and sliding limits of the machine in total safety. Riding safely at high speed on a racetrack translates into smoother and safer riding on the highway. (Code also requires students to start out practicing low-speed countersteering in a parking lot.) These schools are exciting and very strict on safety, due to financial constraints, and might just save your life someday—or the life of someone you love. Instructors are often full-time racers who have studied the tiniest details of riding and who love their sport. Be careful, you might even get the urge to join a local racing club and take up a new hobby.

There are many other racing-type schools, some of which offer individual coaching sessions.

The only problem with racing schools is the inconvenience and expense involved (although their books and videos are cheap). The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers local riding schools for less than $100 (the cost of a typical bike accessory). Some schools are even free in certain states, as they should be in all states. The riding is conducted at low speed in the parking lots at local high schools and college campuses. Since most crashes occur at only 21 miles per hour, with a pre-crash speed of less than 30 miles per hour (Hurt Report), learning how to perform countersteer maneuvers at low speed can be very important. The MSF also teaches hanging off for safety, just like the "racing" schools. The affordable price is possible due to sponsorship from the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, who (usually) provide the motorcycles and scientific training expertise. Instructors tend to be professionals from all walks of life, and usually enjoy their motorcycle riding.

The location of your nearest MSF training facility can be found by calling the MSF's national referral service at 1-800-446-9227.

The MSF does offer a comprehensive riding skills textbook titled "The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Guide to Motorcycle Excellence" (Whitehorse Press, first offered to the public in 1995), available in bookstores. The MSF book ought to be required reading for every aspiring owner of a two-wheeled vehicle, and a useful addition to one's library. Even though it is limited to slow-speed operations—in accordance with motorcycle manufacturer public relations requirements and government (illegal quota) propaganda—much street riding is conducted at lower speeds, so it is very useful information for the price of an oil change. The only problem with the MSF is that it's advice on braking procedures is out-of-date and possibly even dangerous. As explained previously, this erroneous information was taken from improperly collected data from "The Photographic Analysis of Motorcycle Operator Control Responses." It's time for the MSF to update its curriculum. The rest of its riding advice is on target. Its Prohibition propaganda is useless.

As mentioned previously, crashes are reduced 88% when riders receive mandatory training in countersteering and braking skills from the MSF. And this was with only 80% of riders attending the school. The state of California estimated that 2,374 crashes were prevented in one year, 117 lives were saved, and $117 million in annual savings was realized, a 10,000% return on investment. The only downside was that the government empowered itself to impound citizens' motorcycles if they were not licensed, requiring them to waste hundreds of dollars in fees and taxes. Most of the training cost was paid for with recycled driver's license renewal fees, with a one-time investment of less than the cost of a single speeding ticket. Not only were citizens spared an increase in their insurance premiums, but they received a mandatory 10% discount. (I bet the insurance companies didn't care for that.) Another downside is that government bureaucrats are infiltrating the MSF school system, diluting the talent that is required for proper instruction of complicated topics. As a result, less and less essential information is reaching the public, rather than improving upon a good thing. Although the school system is still competant, though its curriculum is relatively stagnant, bureaucrats are squeezing the MSF out of organization and management. The government editors of the motorcycle license text books are actually censoring more information on countersteering today than they did five years ago, instead of giving citizens additional clarification that is desperately needed.

In California, thousands of motorcycle crashes result in the victim being arrested for DWI, assuming he is still alive. Government figures place this statistic at approximately 12%. Avoiding crashes is one of the best methods of avoiding a DWI arrest and subsequent financial disaster. The more a citizen knows about the complexity of riding, as opposed to blissful ignorance of that complexity, the better his judgment will be when it comes time to choose whether he is fit to ride or not. And knowing the secrets makes riding a lot more fun.

Return to Home Page

Chapter 1. Let's Look at Some Data

Chapter 2. Risk Management

Chapter 3. Two Wheeled Physics

Chapter 4. Countersteering: Cornering Techniques

Chapter 5. Gravity Is a Good Thing

Chapter 6. Gyroscopic Precession: Nature's Power Steering

Chapter 7. Braking: Weight Transfer and Maximum Performance

Chapter 8. Controlling Slides and Tank Slappers: Mind Over Matter

Chapter 9. Group Riding

Chapter 10. Riding Etiquette

Chapter 11. MSF Courses- Editorial