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Welcome to Prohibition Times Prohibition Times


by John Lee
Pirate News TV

"Excellence is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, determined effort, and skilled execution. The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."
–Chinese proverb

JOHN LEE: "Does the current government emphasis on waging a drunk-driving and a 'drink-driving' war divert attention from the real causes of injury and death, such as uncrashworthy vehicles" [and driver/rider skid-recovery skills]?
RALPH NADER ON DRUNK DRIVING: "Well, if the emphasis is on the driver and not the vehicle, and that's a fight we've been having for years, they shouldn't be against one another, they should be both, a focus on both."

–from an interview with John Lee for The Southerner

  • Myth: Alcohol is a serious problem.
    Fact: Over 85% of motorcycle crashes do not involve alcohol. Only one-percent of crashes are fatal due to alcohol, according to government statistics.

  • Myth: Speed is a serious problem.
    Fact: The average motorcycle's pre-crash speed is under 30 miles per hour. Most collisions occur at 21 miles per hour, according to government statistics. In England, where speed limits are much higher and cars are even flimsier, a recent government report shows speed as a factor in only 3% of crashes. In Montana, home of the speedlimitless American Autobahn, when speed limits were reintroduced recently, crashes doubled.

  • Myth: A motorcycle is steered like a car.
    Fact: A motorcycle is countersteered in the opposite direction compared to a car, according to government research.

  • Myth: Police prosecutions are the best method for improving motor vehicle safety.
    Fact: Free rider training can cut crashes by nearly 100%, without the need for expensive police, courts and prisons, according to government research and statistics.

FREE VIDEO DOWNLOAD: American Autobahn
As seen on History Channel TV at a LEGAL 212mph on a public highway. Discussion of the Montana Autobahn in USA. Interview with Mark Rask, author of American Autobahn at Legal commentary on voluntary driver license contracts. Soundtrack includes Kraftwork's "Autobahn", Michael Schumacher's "Techno" and Bottle Rockets' "R.A.D.A.R. Gun". Produced by Pirate News TV. View and Save file with Windows Media Player

zen of motorcycle driving


Zen is the Buddhist religion of attaining peace of mind through meditation, especially on paradoxes. The word is used here as a metaphor for becoming at one with a motorcycle and the roads that one rides on. In sports, this is called being "in the zone." This is not to be confused with "zoning out"—daydreaming—which is the exact opposite, and combined with ignorance, is the cause of most crashes. Driving a car (a "steel cage"--or, more appropriately, a "tin coffin") is like watching the world pass by on television, while riding a motorcycle (an "iron horse") is a sensory-intensive rush of reality. Reality is good. So is 70 miles per gallon in a $1,000 Ferrari.


Millions of Americans love motorcycling, and over 300,000 new motorbikes are purchased every year, at an investment of up to $40,000 each—a lot of money for a "mood" vehicle. Women as well as men love to ride, and women (who compose 52% of the population) are expected to eventually command 50% of the bike market. Used motorbikes can be rescued for as little as $100, and with the help of a repair manual and basic tools, can make this sport accessible to almost everyone (find an ex-rider who has scared himself silly after looking into the abyss of ignorance one time too many). A 1998 exhibition at New York's Guggenheim Museum, titled "The Art of the Motorcycle," was the single most popular exhibition in the museum's 61-year history. What other category of American motorist is willing to wave at every fellow traveler he passes on the highway? (Is this friendliness or loneliness?)

Only 1% of bikers are outlaws. 90% are Rich Urban Bikers.
copyright Easyrider

Out of ignorance and jealousy, motorcyclists are often stereotyped as "outlaws" by government and media bureaucrats. (Of course, many bikers love this cliché.) Some brainless government agencies actually tear up perfectly good highways and replace them with surprise sections of bumpy ("grooved") road surfaces that are intentionally unsafe for citizens who travel by motorcycle (and are also unsafe for four-wheel transportation as well). Other government bureaucrats propose making it illegal for taxpayers to park their motorcycles in their cities (even though it would cure the parking shortage if more commuters rode motorbikes). Many downtown parking areas are controlled by corporations that charge a fee for daily or monthly parking, and automatically ban all citizens who ride motorcycles. A snooty reporter for The New York Observer whinged about the "noisy, nasty nuisance of motorcycles on the road" when critiquing the Guggenheim art exhibit. Ever since Peter Fonda and Jack Nicolson acted in the Hollywood fantasy film Easy Rider thirty years ago, "bikers" have gotten a bum rap (among those who have not yet seen the movie). Never mind that only wealthy people can afford to purchase Harley-Davidsons these days, such as Peter Fonda and Jack Nicolson—and such celebrities have raised millions of dollars for charities with their participation in bike runs). It's like the old cliché that nobody likes a showoff, i.e., a motorcyclist, especially when the nobodies can't do it themselves.

Just because a weekend biker wears sunglasses and black leather doesn't mean he (or she) doesn't wear business attire and carry a briefcase to work on Monday. This misperception (allegedly) trickles down to the general public (although most people I know aspire to someday get their hands on a 'bike if they don't have one already). A byproduct of this slander is a presumption that motorcycle crash victims deserve whatever they get. It's like when a race driver gets injured or killed: "No big deal. Serves him right. That's what he gets for playing with fire." Police routinely hold such opinions, which tends to handicap police from bothering to rescue victims of crashes, or impairs them from filling out a crash report--or testifying in a trial--in a competent manner.

For example, one motorcyclist was run off the road by a spaced-out driver, causing $500 damage to his bike. The crash was observed by a female cop, who berated the injured rider for attempting to notify the female driver of her liability. The cop refused to fill out an accident report, absurdly alleging the woman's rental car insurance would never pay a claim.

In a similar crash, a rider was run off the road by a carload of drunks. When the rider got irate (signifying his "number 1 status" to the offending driver), the drunks exited their car and identified themselves as Ft. Lauderdale police officers, and threatened the rider with retaliation if he attempted to file an accident report.


A third example of discrimination occurred when local doctor was arrested while responding to an emergency call to the hospital while riding the Dragon. His "crime" was to wearing safety leathers, and he was stopped by police illegally using profiling to arrest bikers using safety gear. The elderly, leather-clad doc was locked in the back seat of a police car, in which a Blount County cop had intentionally turned on the heater (apparently a common cop tactic). Since it was a boiling-hot summer day, one can only presume this was intended as physical torture. The two emergency room patients were forced to go into surgery without the specialty that only this doctor could perform. After investing $1,000 in an attorney to prove the cop had made an illegal traffic stop, the doctor had a clear arrest record. Had the two hospital patients died—or if the doctor had died—as a result of the unlawful police intervention, the corrupt cops would have certainly faced civil and/or criminal prosecution. This doctor owned over a dozen motorcycles, so he was fortunate to be able easily produce a nonrefundable insurance bond and hire competent legal representation, something few American citizens can afford. His "speeding ticket" was eventually deemed by the court to have been issued illegally.


Just to drive the point home, another large-scale incident occurred in Fontana, North Carolina at a 1997 rally for owners of BMW motorcycles. This is also a Dragon tale. Most people with common sense will realize that BMW afficianados tend to be conservative, sedate and elderly. They are certainly not bikers in the same vein as Harley Davidson party goers at Speedweek in Daytona Beach. One citizen who attended this BMW event described the overwhelming police presence as something he hadn't seen since his military tour of Vietnam, with a hundred cops wearing camoflaged uniforms and brandishing man-killing automatic weapons. While tourists slept in their tents and cabins, police helicopters hovered overhead broadcasting the theme to the T.V. propaganda show Cops: "Bad boys, bad boys. What'cha gonna do when they come for you?" Illegal road blocks were enforced against motorcyclists only, stopping all bikers entering or leaving the public campground. Many of the tourists who had their bikes seized were later able to win their cases in court, but only after purchasing expensive legal representation.

This ignorant and discriminatory attitude, typical of people who have never ridden a motorcycle, may influence society (and government) to ignore scientific advances in motorcycle safety. The government is too busy harassing and taxing citizens to care about saving lives. In 1997, a pair of police roadblocks in Connecticut stopped more than 1,200 motorcyclists attending a hobbyist convention, while ignoring all other motorists (an illegal act). Nearly 100 motorcycles were stolen by the government, leaving out-of-state citizens to find their own way home. Isn't there a better way for a government to behave? Fortunately, thanks to the legal and political efforts of thousands of wealthy motorcyclists, new laws are being passed and court decisions are being issued that outlaw discrimination against citizens who travel via two wheels. There is still much work to be done in this area of civil rights.

Pattern jury instructions for product liability cases require warning labels from manufacturers. CLICK TO ORDER STICKER. Visit The Dragon on US 129 at

According to a government study, virtually 100% of motorcycle crashes involve riders who are not aware that two-wheeled vehicles must be steered in the opposite direction from an intended turn. This same government study found that only 12% of crashes "involved" alcohol. Allowing for false estimates of BAC at the time of a crash, perhaps only 1% of these non-fatal crashes truly involved alcohol as a major contributor to the loss of control. Even government statistics admit that only one percent of crashes that are fatal have anything to do with (alleged) alcohol use. Yet the government focuses practically 100% of its (law enforcement) attention on "solving" 1% of this public safety (medical) problem, while censoring the rider training that would cure virtually 100% of crashes, injuries and fatalities -- as well as literally outlawing workable medical treatments for alcoholism.

One of the hardest things I noticed about learning how to drive a racing car was that a driver must break down and analyze many parts of his performance. Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply drive around enjoying oneself, unless of course a driver enjoys losing and crashing. In fact, it quickly becomes apparent to an aspiring racer that it is not very fun to be less educated than his rivals. Learning the "boring" technical details can improve a driver's performance so that he can go out and play with the big boys. This is "real" fun. It's like an aspiring artist who must first study the technical details of drawing and painting before he graduates to creating art. Paradoxically, self-discipline leads to freedom.

Many curious people fear motorcycles because they have never been given the opportunity to learn about them. Their minds are limited by their lack of education, perhaps squelching their desire to possess a motorbike of their very own. Experienced riders are often of the opinion that "real men" don't need schoolin', especially when it comes to the testosterone-pumping thrill of straddling a hurtlin' hunk of machinery (note that women have plenty of testosterone, too). These guys spend infinitely more time "detailing" their bike's paint and polish than they invest in discovering new riding skills. Learning how to avoid becoming a crash victim is one of the best ways to avoid being prosecuted by the government for DWI—one study revealed 12% of motorcycle crashes resulted in DWI arrests. It is certainly desirable to avoid unnecessary suffering and expense.

Less than 50% of fatal motorcycle crashes allegedly involve riders who had consumed alcohol, according to government estimates (another 5% allegedly involved prohibited drugs). Only a third of these fatalities allegedly involved riders over the legal limit for blood alcohol. Only 3.5% of (reportable) crashes are fatal. Thus only one-percent of crashes are fatal due to (alleged) alcohol, according to government statistics. (3,500 divided by 100,000 times 100 equals 3.5%. 3.5% divided by 2 equals 1.75%.) The government chooses to use the number 50% instead of 1% when it describes the alleged danger of alcohol and the need for Prohibition — I wonder why? This is the government's official justification for its War on Drink Driving, propagated to the public through the corporate media. Even these numbers are disputable, as explained in the chapter on "Crash Statistics."

Since the government has given itself authority to regulate motorcycle riders through its licensing program, taking the riders' money through fees and taxes, the government bears the blame for any defects in rider instruction. This one-sided spin control—by a government under the influence of the insurance industry, and a media under the influence of advertising profits—defeats efforts to improve public safety through improving rider (and driver) training. There is no government War on Ignorance (although it does use censorship to wage War on Knowledge).


The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. --Proverbs 27:12 [Recovery Devotional Bible]

The government has utterly failed at rider education. It is thus a citizen's responsibility to himself to learn whatever he can on his own—or else risk imprisonment, injury or death. Many useful activities can prove potentially dangerous. "Risk management," fortunately, allows an intelligent citizen to analyze the dangers and to then devise coping strategies to minimize those dangers to an acceptable level. Nothing is completely safe. Most accidents occur in the home, and even white-water rafting trips, a popular family pastime, killed a dozen people one month in California in 1998. Despite media hype of all the dangers inherent to living, to hide in the bushes and watch while other people live their lives would be a boring way to survive, wouldn't it? Isn't it much better to learn how to live?

Motorcycles (and bicycles) behave in a manner that mystifies people. Engineers can dazzle (or put one to sleep) with jargon like "dynamical characteristics" and "geometrical and inertial parameters." It is human nature to fear the unknown. Where does the mystery end and the reality begin? Although many people fear science (and schooling), science does provide the explanation.

Physics is the mathematical study of the interaction of matter and energy (i.e., motorcycles in motion). The following is a brief explanation of just a few of the scientific principles that affect these vehicles. Don't worry, the discussion won't exceed grade school intelligence levels. Anyone old enough to ride a bicycle is obviously mentally capable of comprehending these simple facts. Even in this "scientifically challenged" nation, every citizen can still learn how to think for himself. Sometimes, his survival depends on it.


Riding a motorcycle requires even more skill than driving a car, and requires much more skill than riding a bicycle, due to all the extra controls to operate and the faster speeds involved. This is part of the appeal, that a motorcycle demands absolute attention from its rider. Over 90% of riders have never received professional training in how to do it correctly. This situation would be like sending prospective pilots up into the wild blue yonder without the benefit of training (as many older-generation pilots were forced to learn to fly. My father owned his first plane—and crashed it—before getting a license. Now he has more experience than most airline pilots, including jet time, though no one voluntarily flies with him.) Perhaps that is why (official) motorcycle crash statistics are twenty times higher per mile traveled than for automobile drivers. Perhaps that's also why motorcycles are so "exciting." It's like teenage sex between two people who are uneducated, unprepared and unskilled—exciting but dangerous (emotionally, financially, legally and health-wise). There is no risk of reducing that excitement once the mysteries are revealed, since a whole new universe can be opened up—like sex between people who are educated, prepared and competently skilled (although the government still outlaws most sexual relations, even between married couples). Just as a prophylactic is cheaper than a baby, knowledge is cheaper than a crash.

Most riding occurs in urban and suburban areas on sunny days, and this is where 90% of crashes occur. If cars were driven exclusively under these risk-intensive circumstances, their accident rates would also apparently skyrocket. When a rider does not really understand how his machine works, he is only playing Russian Roulette with highway obstacles, and the more miles he rides the greater the odds stack up against him. By this I mean that the rider needs to know how the motorcycle functions as a moving object on an asphalt surface. Knowing how an internal combustion engine or hydraulic system works does not do a rider the slightest bit of good once he leaves the repair facility and pulls out onto the open road. It is not an assault on one's ego to learn how his engine works, nor need it bruise his ego to become expert in riding skills.

Besides the fact that most riders are not trained, motorcycles are rarely used for commuting to work or for long trips. This fact influences crash statistics. Most riders are part-time riders who don't get much practice. Motorcycles can become extremely uncomfortable when riders are exposed to gusty wind, heat, cold, wind-chill (-30 degrees) and rain-chill (hypothermia), wind-dehydration, sunburn and high-speed raindrops, rocks, bug-strikes and flaming cigarettes. Bikes are not as comfortable as cars, and it is difficult to remain in the saddle for long (unless one develops an "iron butt"). Cleaning and rust prevention must be performed on a motorcycle after almost every ride, and is about as exciting as detailing a greasy car engine. And you don't have to worry about your car tipping over in a parking lot ("capsize mode," as the mechanical engineers call it). Motorcycle riding is more sport than transport. You have to love it to do it (love is blind, isn't it?). Fortunately, riding a motorcycle, at least in good weather, is infinitely more interesting than driving a car. The sexual metaphor is useful once again: riding is like sex, since most people reserve it for special occasions. A lack of practice can lead to a crash, especially for uneducated riders.

Only 2% of crashes occur on wet roads, probably since 98% of riders steer clear of rainy days. Although wet asphalt has only 1/3 the grip of dry asphalt, there is still plenty of tire grip available to the rider who understands how his machine works. Unfortunately, this wet grip is lowered to 1/3 for motorcycles compared to cars, since bikes turn using "camber thrust" (described below). Conversely, wet riding can be excessively risky for any rider who is clueless. For a clued-in rider, wet asphalt teaches smoothness and an appreciation for the grip provided by dry pavement. Wet-weather safety can be improved by riding in the tire tracks of preceeding vehicles (this will also keep him out of the center grease strip) and staying off the painted lines. Visor (and eyeglasses') fogging can be prevented by washing with liquid soap (an old racers' trick), and the soap can also help raindrops to bead-up on the exterior as well. Turning one's helmet left/right can make use of the wind as a windshield wiper. Creative use of duct tape can help redirect airflow to fight fogging, cold and wind noise. Low-cost accessories are also available, as are affordable helmets with heated visors.

Body armor, leather and education saves thousands of lives.

Unlike a car crash, where the driver is somewhat protected, 98% of motorcycle riders are injured (half of them severely). However, unlike car crashes, I suspect at least half of motorcycle crashes go unreported, skewing the government's data—perhaps only 25% of riders are severely injured. Most American riders do not invest in racing-thickness leather suits with Kevlar reinforcing and carbon-fiber armor (available from supplers in motorcycle magazines and from local motorcycle dealers). The ventilated leather suits are cooler than one might think (30 degree wind-chill factor), and are the only hope for preventing "road rash" during a body-slide on gritty pavement. Maybe one-in-a-hundred riders truly takes his safety seriously. (Europe is a different story, where racing competiton has never been discouraged by government—in fact, governments there own many race tracks and race teams, and allow races on public roads.) It is best to purchase a less expensive bike, reserving funds for expensive safety apparel (which can also be financed by the banks), which is still cheaper than hospital expenses and/or insurance deductibles. A leather suit for motorcyclists serves an equivalent purpose to automobile drivers and passengers using crash belts. Leathers are not a luxury item; they are a safety item, every bit as important as crash belts are for automobile drivers. For government police to arrest riders for wearing safety gear is insanity.

Full-face helmets with extra-thickness eye shields offer maximum impact protection for a pretty face. Once I hit a pigeon at Interstate speed—it exploded, but my head didn't. An investment in ultrasonic animal whistles is perhaps a wise move. It is best to point your eyes where you want to go—as required in stick-and-ball sports—rather than staring at what you want to miss. "Target fixation" can make one hit what he wishes to avoid. That's a great habit for playing stick-and-ball sports, but can prove deadly in motorsports. Potholes and sewer covers are common hazards: practice the skill of avoidance by forcing yourself to look 12 inches to the side so that your brain can steer you towards safety. For those riders who exercise their right to not wear protective gear (especially helmets), in the interest of looking and feeling cool, expert riding skill becomes even more critical.

The popular myth is that most of these crashes occur because automobile drivers don't see itsy-bitsy 1,000 lb. motorcycles with their headlights on and thus pull out in front of them. Never mind that a narrow motorcycle has a more concentrated crash-impact than a wide car, and can easily cut a car nearly in half and kill all its passengers. Much effort is expended trying to improve the "visibility" of motorcycles—such as the NHTSA's 1979 study on comparing drivers' decisions to go or no-go when turning: "Effects of Motorcycle and Motorcyclists' Conspicuity on Driver Behavior." This government study suggested a rider flash his headlight's high/low beam so that drivers will not turn in front of the motorcycle. However, this is a universal signal used by drivers to encourage an oncoming driver to go ahead and turn in front of him, so flashing headlights ought to be used only for that purpose. (Simply leaving the daytime headlight(s) on high-beam would be a safer solution to this problem.) "Swerving" (described later)--even when not needed for avoidance—can help an oncoming driver pick a motorcycle out of the visual clutter, and will give him a stereoscopic idea of the bike's distance. Using other vehicles as "blockers" when approaching busy intersections can ensure visibility from inattentive drivers (i.e., if a car pulls out it will be hit by the blocker instead of the bike). The government recommends a rider pump his brakes to flash the brake light to drivers behind (which is impossible to do in an emergency situation). An electronically pulsed brake light is a better idea that the government says is illegal in many states. (Brake-light flasher relays may be ordered from J.C. Whitney Co., 1-312-431-6102. Extra-bright headlight and tail-light bulbs can be purchased from both Whitney and Dennis Kirk for about $10--such headlights are not just for $50,000 luxury cars.)

Electronics can also improve rider safety, just as with drivers of other vehicles. Radar detectors not only protect against illegal speed traps but help keep a rider alert, and anything that keeps a rider alert improves his safety. Radar detectors with Safety Warning System (SWS) technology also warns riders of 100 impending types of road hazards. A scientific test by Motorcyclist magazine proved that police radar, on a straight and deserted desert highway, gives motorcyclists an 1/8th-mile to ¼-mile more time to slow down than for car and minivan owners. Maximum detection range (without a radar scrambler) was 800 feet, using a four-cylinder bike. A V-twin might be half that. Detectors also warn of road hazards through the Safety Warning System intelligent-highway program. Few detectors offer ear-jack connections, but these can be easily invented with $15-worth of supplies at Radio Shack. Likewise, C.B. radios and weather station receivers are helpful. All of these devices are proven to increase a driver's safety and reduce his risk of a crash. Rig wiring harnesses to easily disconnect at the waist in the event of a crash.

It is true that 3/4ths of motorcycle crashes involve collisions with cars, yet cars also routinely pull out in front of not-so-invisible cars, trucks and trains (30% of all crashes), probably because car drivers generally do not get competent training from the government, either. Yet a properly ridden motorcycle is extremely maneuverable—experts say it is even more maneuverable than a car—and ought to be capable of squeezing past most any vehicle that might pull in front of it. A properly ridden modern motorcycle has 20% superior braking performance compared to any car. Slowing just 10 miles per hour when approaching cars at busy intersections can cut decelleration distance almost in half, and resting a hand on the brake lever can reduce reaction time. Staying alert is critical. Rapid visual scanning of potential intersections can prevent surprises.

The government does a poor job of instructing motorcycle riders in the skills needed for safe operation of their vehicles. In fact, the government actually censors critical information from the public. Over 100,000 reportable crashes and 2,000 deaths are the annual result (fortunately, these numbers are falling due to superior education). In a California study, where rider instruction was taken seriously by the government for the first time in history, crashes and deaths were cut by 88%. This is an incredible improvement in public safety, especially considering that 20% of riders did not participate in the schooling. Perhaps success at crash elimination would have approached 100% had 100% of citizens participated in the training. No cops, no tickets, no DWI arrests, no prisons required. Millions of tax dollars saved. Actually, responsibility for training was taken away from the government and turned over to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a non-profit corporation created by Japanese and European motorcycle manufacturers. This experiment occurred nearly twenty years ago. Why his its lesson not been learned by the government? Why does the corporate media not pounce on such a news story? Why are riders being denied this life-saving information?

These manufacturers are intimately involved in world class motorsports competition, and train their senior engineers at the racetrack. They realized that the quality and quantity of knowledge that can be passed down to the general public from the experts needed to become more than a mere trickle. The safer riders are, the less fear is generated in potential customers, the better "image" that their industry attains, and the more motorcycles can be produced and sold. It's just good business. Everybody wins, even the government, since more sales taxes are generated and more licenses and registrations are sold—and the police have more targets for their illegal government quotas.

However, in this state, the government's editors of its Motorcycle Operator Manual treat citizens as if they are morons, by "editing"/censoring much critical information needed for safe use of their vehicles (less printing equals more profit for the government). Information that is volunteered to the government from the experts at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. (It ought to also be included in owner manuals and on vehicle warning labels, fulfilling the legal "duty to warn.") Censoring this lifesaving information from the public, allegedly because Americans are too stupid to figure it out, is about as intelligent as censoring contraceptive information to keep adults "safe" from sex (which a hypocritical Uncle Sam has also been doing for nearly 150 years). Just as learning the censored facts of life about contraception can improve the quality (and longevity—so to speak) of one's love life, learning the censored facts of motorcycle physics can improve the quality and longevity of one's life on the road.

The number one skill needed for safe riding is proper steering control. The number two skill required is proper braking control. Accident studies confirm that virtually all motorcycle crashes involve an absence of these skills, such as the NHTSA's 1981 project, "Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures," by Dr. Harry Hurt (the "Hurt Report"). Out of this state government's 50 page motorcycle license test booklet, which supplements the 95 page Driver Handbook, only a total of two small pages are allocated to "teaching" citizens these life-saving techniques. In America, over 25 million motorcycle riders are deficient in these necessary skills, even if they pass a license test by the government.

Most riders do not choose to purchase a motorcycle license from the government (many assume their four-wheeler license is all they "really" need), probably because they don't plan to ride every day, or perhaps because they do not feel they would get anything of value for their investment (the government's investment in each small copy of the Motorcycle Operator Manual is a mere 31 cents). An extra 5 cents worth of paper could provide a wealth of useful information, saving tens of thousands of lives. Perhaps citizens feel there couldn't possibly be anything else for them to learn, since they already "know" how to ride a bicycle, or how to shift a manual transmission. In America, "learning" is not as glamorous as "owning"; the former is discouraged by the government while the latter is endlessly propagandized in the corporate media—however, the reality is that learning is much more glamorous than surgery or prison life. Much of the so-called riding information in the two brief pages of the government's "training" guide is defective and/or incomplete, and these defects must be pointed out in order to prevent so-called accidents. If the government were to do a competent job in its licensing program, it could easily "sell" the use of such a book and test to the public.

But first, let's take a look at the correct way to ride a single-track, tandem-wheeled vehicle. For 100 years, this is how pedal- and motor-driven bicycles have mysteriously worked. Engineering experts have long enjoyed insight into this phenomenon. It's time for the American public to learn this valuable secret, too.


Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. —Bertand Russell


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. —Albert Einstein

As everyone knows, motorcycles lean into turns, using rounded-tread tires, while automobiles stay relatively flat in turns, with flat-treaded tires. (Contrary to some police officers' opinion, leaning a motorcycle is not against the law.) This obvious difference also means that two entirely different principles apply to their operations. "Camber thrust" is a side force due to the tire leaning against the asphalt, with the turning force compressing the tire into the ground. This simulates what happens when a vehicle is traveling through a positive camber curve, and explains why a motorcycle's suspension tends to compress while turning. In other words, any turning motorcycle is capable of generating a g-force in excess of 1.5 times the pull of gravity, while a typical passenger car is limited to a maximum of 1g while cornering.???? NOT!!!

(photos Kinkos, draw line to show imaginary camber angle, vertical and 45+ degrees = "camber thrust: notice suspension compression due to centrifugal force")

When turning, camber thrust is what produces the majority of the tires' sidewall friction against the roadway for two wheeled vehicles, while "slip angle" determines the majority of tire tread friction for automobiles. Camber thrust is like a pencil eraser that is tilted away from the direction it is being pushed on a flat surface—giving maximum resistance, while slip angle is like standing in tennis shoes on a flat surface while trying to do "the twist." Motorcycle tires operate at ultra-high negative camber angles ("good" camber), while most car tires have poor-quality suspensions that tip over and force the tires to work at positive camber angles ("bad" camber). On a motorcycle at highway speeds, maximum cornering force can be generated even when the front wheel is pointed virtually straight ahead, rather than when it is turned. Lean angle takes the place of steering effort, and since the inner edge of the tire is spinning at a lower RPM (revolutions per minute) than the center of the tire, the bike is pulled in the direction of lean. This is why the surface of a motorcycle tire feel can feel "powdery" after a series of turns, unlike a car tire which just heats up or shears the tread off completely in tiny "beach-like" patterns.

(eraser graphic or b/w photo = (2) rubber rolls under = downforce—camber thrust example) "camber thrust"

(slip angle = twist = gratuitous miniskirt, tennis shoes, legs!) "slip angle"

(camber thrust cycle tire = tire rolls under = downforce + slip angle car tire) "camber thrust" "slip angle"

A myth exists that leaning a motorcycle reduces the cornering force (grip) of the tires. Notice that the weight of the vehicle does not change—if it weighed 600 lbs. on a straightaway, it still weighs 600 lbs. in a curve. Gravity works in corners just as it does on straightaways, so the total grip does not get reduced (or increased). Camber thrust and total grip is also affected by centrifugal force as the motorcycle leans when going around a corner. Cornering causes centrifugal force to press the tires downward into the asphalt, compressing both the front and rear suspension springs, reducing ground clearance. Although reduced ground clearance can possibly cause the footpeg (or some other part) to scrape the ground. As long as there is tire tread touching the ground, without some other part of the bike disrupting tire contact, then the motorbike will still produce full cornering grip. The harder a rubber tire is squished into the ground, the more grip it produces. Camber thrust literally compresses the motorcycle tire as the rubber tries to roll under the wheel rim. Cars can't do this trick since the inside tires lose as much grip as the outside tires gain. (Four-wheel double-wishbone suspensions are the exception to this rule. Traditional car suspensions lose camber thrust completely in turns.) The faster a rider goes through the same turn, the more grip he has to work with (until the bike drags). NOT??? At a 45 degree lean angle, a motorcycle has nearly 50% more "weight" pressing the tires into the pavement, and thus benefits from nearly 50% more grip than it does when it is vertical, thanks to centrifugal force and camber thrust. NOT???

(tune 2 win = tire loading vs coefficient friction)

(tire loading diagrams) 3x (vertical, 20 degrees, 40 degrees) p18 experienced course book


CF=centrifugal force

TL=tire loading

zero degrees TL = W

20 degrees TL = W x ?

40 degrees TL = W x ??

Obviously, motorcycles do not behave in an identical manner when compared to an automobile. It is a myth that motorcycles are initially steered by turning "normally" (steer left to turn left) and shifting weight toward the turn (leaning the body) to get the bike to initially lean into a curve. How can a motorcycle be steered in the same direction as a car when it leans in the opposite direction compared to a car?


All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self evident. —Arthur Schopenhauer

The mysterious secret of how to gain control of a leaning motorcycle is called countersteering." As the name implies, a rider is required to steer in the opposite direction as might be presumed (at least part of the time during a typical cornering maneuver). This is needed in order to get the bike to perform the trick of leaning into the curve of the road. This is how a bike is "balanced." Although motorcycle racers are paid millions of dollars a year for their knowledge of countersteering, this same technique is also required for every street rider.

Steering left to turn left will only make the bike lean (tip over) to the right. It is impossible to steer a bike like a car. (While riding around a curve, try turning into the turn and see what happens. If you enjoy excitement, you're going to love this experiment, assuming you survive, of course.) Although it is possible to slowly follow most curves of the road without consciously countersteering (by performing what I call "pseudo-countersteering"), the ability to turn quickly will give a rider more options to work with and provide a greater margin of safety—he is in total control of his machine. Ignorance of countersteering is the root of all fear of motorcycles.

(diagram motorcycle with turning handlebars vs. lean—top view—countersteering)

(diagram motorcycle with turned front wheel—front view—countersteering) #2 (a) vertical (b) 10 degrees lean "countersteering produces centrifugal force which tips the bike over and forces it to lean"

Unfortunately for millions of citizens, reverse psychology is at work here: the motorcycle rider must steer towards danger—towards the outside of a curve, or towards a vehicle blocking the road—rather than away from it. Actually, he initially steers towards the obstacle to force the bike to lean, then rapidly steers (leans) away from the hazard. Obviously, an uneducated rider is not going to suddenly figure this out during his one second of panic.

All the more reason to make sure that people become aware of the facts. The government is apparently afraid of this little word, and like the "theory" of evolution, countersteering is treated like a bastard theory (or at least a bastard word), unworthy of instruction to those under the government's influence. (Geologists must use knowledge of evolution in order to find underground oceans of oil, and motorcyclists must use knowledge of countersteering to find their way out of emergency situations.) This government censorship has deadly consequences. There is no reason to be afraid of a simple word, and much to be gained by overcoming such fear of the English language. The purpose of teaching countersteering is not to prove anyone "wrong," but to give a rider the ammunition he requires to handle an emergency situation—and all normal situations—without crashing out-of-control.

Keith Code, who has trained thousands of motorcycle riders and racers all over the world through his California Superbike School, and author of A Twist of the Wrist and Twist of the Wrist II—the Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding, pioneered the formal teaching of the most effective riding techniques available today. His methods help his motorsports students cut an average of seven seconds off their lap times—that's the difference between last and first place. That cannot be done without proper instruction in vehicle control. Most of his techniques apply equally well to normal highway driving, and especially during emergency maneuvers. Rather than paraphrase, I'll let you "hear" an excellent explanation of countersteering from a coach of world champions. Regarding one of Code's techniques that applies to safe riding on the highway, in 1983 he wrote:

"Steering. . . happens backwards. Many riders have learned to steer a motorcycle without understanding the process. . . .

"Steering is simple enough—you push the bars in the opposite direction of the direction you wish to travel. That begins the turn, and the bike leans as it turns. Deliberately turning the bars in the opposite direction of travel is known as counter steering. . . . To go right you must turn the bars to the left—to go left, turn the bars to the right. Counter steering is the only way you can direct a motorcycle to steer accurately. . . . In essence, motorcycle steering is backwards from most other forms of transportation. An automobile goes in the direction you turn the wheel, as do most other forms of transportation.

". . . . One problem we have in learning to ride stems from a cruel trick played on us by our parents. They gave us a tricycle to pedal around. A tricycle turns in the direction you steer it. When we rode a bicycle for the first time, we fell down, and everyone said it was because we didn't have good balance. Actually, it was because bicycles also counter steer.

"Balance had nothing to do with it! The confusion is caused because the child expects the bike to go right when he turns to the right. Eventually, out of sheer survival instincts, he goes through the steering motions without understanding them and winds up on a motorcycle 15 years later not knowing what he has been doing to go around turns.

". . . . Most riders, in an emergency, try to turn the bike in the direction they want to go. . . . I have known people who who have ridden for 30 years without having to face an emergency situation. Then, one day a car pulls out in front of them. They try to avoid it but the bike won't do what they want it to. So they get scared and quit riding. They realize that the control they thought was there—wasn't."

(3 photos = c/s (1) straight (2) c/s down (3) lean

In Twist of the Wrist II, (1993) Code writes: "Practically everyone learns how to ride without any understanding of counter-steering, but the moment it is fully comprehended and applied, it opens the door to vast amounts of improvement in every possible situation that involves steering the bike."

On wet asphalt, only brake and accellerate in a straight line, and stay off the oil strip.
The perfect corner on dry pavement. © John Lee

Knowledge of countersteering has been around for a very long time. Mr. Code discovered it for himself literally before I was a twinkle in my father's eye. He was able to parlay his "secret" into an exciting and successful career. Once the engineers publically confirmed his observations, he became the first to start teaching it to the general public. I felt cheated that I had to experience 20 years of falls and close calls before I ever heard the word countersteering. (This antique word is not yet defined in Webster's dictionary.)

Almost a hundred years ago, two enterprising American bicycle manufacturers decided to invent the first engine-driven airplane. These two engineers were not only geniuses of aviation, but were equally insightful regarding their first love. In his book, The Wright Brothers, F.C. Kelly (Ballentine, 1966) writes about the discoverers of countersteering: ". . . Wilbur used for illustration what a man thinks happens when riding a bicycle. 'I have asked dozens of bicycle riders,' said Wilbur, 'how they turn a bicycle to the left. I have never found a single person who stated all the facts correctly when first asked. . . . I have never found a non-scientific bicycle rider who had particularly noticed it and spoke of it from his own conscious observation and initiative.'" Just ask any of your friends who own bicycles or motorbikes if they know what countersteering is. You will probably be just as disappointed as Wilbur—and your friends will give you funny looks (just give them a copy of this chapter to shut them up—what are friends for?).

The only riders I've met who recognized the word countersteering were either racers or had been required to attend an MSF school, such as military personnel who were forced to go to school in order to get a base permit. Even many motorcycle sales professionals have never heard of it, and do not recognize the need to attend a local MSF riding school to learn it. A rider does not need to understand countersteering to be a good rider—until he finds himself in a panic situation or desires to improve his performance.

Note that when a rider keeps his arms stiff under braking he finds it impossible to countersteer into a corner, leading to a sudden self-made emergency. He feels as if he has entered the turn "too fast," since the bike has suddenly "forgotten" how to turn. Entering a curve while applying the brakes is (almost) never a good idea anyway, since inertia makes the bike want to "highside," while the machine needs to lean. Car drivers commonly make this mistake, since what works on a "flat" car does not work on a leaning bike. "Stiff-arming" the handlebars literally prevents the bike from steering. A rider must keep his arms relaxed at all times, even when reaching for the "panic button." The handlebars are not for support, they are for making steering inputs and for operating the levers and switches. A rider's legs are stronger than his arms, and do not adversely affect the steering when used for support. The stationary gas tank is much more stable for holding onto than the movable handlebars.

In decreasing-radius turns, bad habits are especially tricky. In decreasing-radius turns, the rider must slow down continuously while in the turn. This decelleration means that centrifugal force wants to make the bike go vertical. To compensate, the rider must countersteer to keep the bike leaned over, and perhaps to increase his lean angle. However, the bike is already leaned over the majority of its lean angle, so the handlebars and front wheel never completely point in the opposite direction. This can confuse the unwary and uneducated rider. What this sensation feels like is a "counterforce" on the handlebars, resisting the natural tendency of the bike to want to stand up under decelleration. When a rider unexpectedly comes upon a decreasing-radius curve, ignorance of countersteering can lead to a fright at the very least. A similar sensation is experienced in an off-camber turn, since the bike is also decellerating.

(illustration c/s decreasing radius turn)

Attempting to steer a motorcycle "normally" using "common sense" is about as effective as jumping out of an airplane and flapping one's arms as a bird "normally" flaps its wings, instead of making intelligent use of a scientifically proven parachute. In reality, common sense ought to warn a rider that cars and bikes are significantly different. I guess that's why true common sense is less-than-common.


I do not know how I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

Webster's Dictionary defines "centripetal force" as: "a force tending to pull a thing toward the center of rotation when it is rotating around a center." Inertia wants the object to go straight, but some mechanical device keeps the object turning. Centripetal force is often confused with centrifugal force, which is the exact opposite. Webster's defines "centrifugal force" as: "an apparent force tending to pull a thing outward when it is rotating around a center." Many carnival rides make fun use of this invisible scientific force. In fact, centrifugal force is what makes a countersteering work, since it is the force that tips the bike over in anticipation of a turn. While centrifugal force does balance out centripetal force when a motorcycle is cornering, a mistake made by a rider can allow the centrifugal force to take over, sending the bike and rider crashing to the outside of the turn.

(photo centrifugal force = gratuitous miniskirt experiment = ball on string) "centrifugal force"???

Weight-shifting verses countersteering? That is the question. Many people require more than advice and photographs in order to expand their consciousness. They need expert scientific analysis from an engineering perspective.

The scientific "theory" of countersteering was reconfirmed as scientific fact by Dr. Hugh H. Hurt of the University of Southern California Traffic Safety Center, and a group of scientists from Honda Motor Company. They presented their findings at the Second International Congress on Automotive Safety held in San Francisco in 1973.

A quarter of a century ago, in "Motorcycle Handling and Collision Avoidance: Anatomy of a Turn," Dr. Hurt wrote: "The path between straight-line motion and free equilibrium turn requires an initial steering motion opposite that of the steady turn. To achieve the left turn, an initial steering displacement is made to the right causing the front wheel to track out to the right with the rear wheel following in track. As the desired angle of lean to the left is reached, the second steering displacement is made into the turn to match the true track of the equilibrium turn conditions. Figure 1 illustrates the vehicle tracks under such conditions."

Entering a turn.
Out track equals countersteering.  © John Lee

"This process of initial out-track to turn is peculiar to the single-track vehicle and describes the fundamental steering behavior of the motorcycle (or any bicycle). In order for the vehicle to recover to a straight path, the vehicle must in-track to reduce the lean angle and bring the vehicle upright. The recovery requires a steering input into the existing turn, causing the front wheel to track in with the rear wheel following in its track. As the vehicle reaches the upright condition, the second steering input is away from the previous turn towards the straight-ahead path. The vehicle tracks in recovery from a left turn are illustrated in Figure 2."

(fig 2 = copy MSF illustration) #add 2x "Second countersteer: in-track"

In other words, countersteering allows the rider to "scoot" the bike's wheels sideways out from under him, causing the bike to initially fall over into the curve thanks to centrifugal force. Since the bike is vertical, centrifugal force has a maximum effect. He does not have to throw himself over the side to lean the heavy bike, or to shift his weight in any way in an attempt to "balance." Since the bike is vertical, weight-shifting has a minimal effect. This basic component of countersteering works at all speeds on every type of motorcycle. This is the first of the two components that makes countersteering work.

Note that countersteering only begins the turn, by leaning the bike over to its correct lean angle. If the rider were to continue to countersteer, centrifugal force and gravity would tip the bike over until it hit the ground. Releasing the handlebars instantly stabilizes the lean angle. Once the bike has reached its maximum lean angle and has settled down in the turn, the handlebars automatically turn themselves to track the arc of the turn depending upon the lean angle and the speed, due to "steering trail" (the castor effect). Unlike a car, a motorcycle will actually steer itself around a curve (provided the rider does not interfere).

(diagram steering trail and castor effect) #

In the 1976 scientific study, "The Photographic Analysis of Motorcycle Operator Control Responses," performed by the National Public Services Research Institute, initial countersteering in "normal" turns was measured to last only 0.500 seconds. Gentle turns might require only 0.125 seconds of countersteer, while sharper turns might require 1.000 seconds. This is how long it takes for the bike to begin to lean. A rider may only need to apply 5 degrees of countersteer (2 degrees of lean) for a corner that requires 25 degrees of regular "steering" in the middle of the turn (35 degrees of lean). Obviously, this short duration of slight steering could easily be overlooked by a typical rider unfamiliar with countersteer.

This study, which only tested low-speed turning at a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour—simulating a typical intersection turn—found that only half of the turns produced an initial countersteer, but all turns required "reverse countersteer" to exit the turn (turn left to end a left-hand turn and start leaning back to the right). In the 50% of slow turns that the rider did not countersteer, he did hold the steering wheel straight ahead a fraction longer than "required," giving what I call a "pseudo-countersteer" input, allowing centrifugal force to tip the bike (but at a slower rate).

(illustration data acquisition chart = copy govt MSF)

None of the turns were made by initially steering towards the curve. All turns required "counter" steering inputs to "balance" the bike throughout the turn, rather than weightshifting. In fact, after the first half-second of leaning toward the turn, the rider always maintained about 1/3rd less lean angle than the bike, proving that weight-shifting was not a factor. A second countersteer was needed to raise the bike vertical.

Several movie cameras recorded the rider's performance in 1/18th-second photographs, and 14 different measurements were taken of control movements. The study concluded that: "The motorcycle operator's body lean was not a significant factor in leaning the motorcycle."

Ninety-five percent of riders presume that weightshifting is how a motorcycle is forced to lean into a curve (and they have never heard the term countersteering, nor figured out for themselves how it works). Yet these riders do not even comprehend what weight shifting really is. This is truly a sad reflection on the (wasted) analytic abilities that most people apply to intellectual understanding of "sport" (and a sad reflection on the government's ability to educate citizens).

When a (non-countersteering) rider wants to lean his motorcycle into a curve, he leans slightly in the same direction of the curve. This lasts approximately one-half second—coincidentally the same time that countersteering takes place. In the government's report on the photographic analysis of countersteering, this "weightshift" was discussed: "The role of this lean is difficult to determine. It is hard to believe that such a small lean angle [2.5 degrees] could have much effect upon the motorcycle. It may simply reflect the operator's anticipation of a [35 degree] lean to the left." After this initial half-second lean into the curve, the rider actually leans away from the motorcycle's lean angle. The report states: "Body lean lags behind that of the motorcycle and reaches a maximum of approximately two-thirds that of the motorcycle."

A motorcycle does not have the "benefit" of four wheels to "stabilize" it during weight-shifts by a rider. This means a rider is sitting on a "tightrope," and any movement he makes will cause the tightrope to move in the opposite direction. If he moves to the left, the tightrope moves to the right, and vice versa. A motorcycle works exactly the same way. A rider can prove this to himself by leaning to the side while traveling on a straight road. When he leans left, the bike leans to the right. When he leans to the right, the bike leans to the left. Whenever a bike leans, steering trail and castor effect kick in and force the bike to turn slowly in the direction of lean. In other words, when a (non-countersteering) rider initially leans into a corner, the bike initially leans away from the corner. This has exactly the same effect as countersteering, and the bike steers itself away from the curve (steering trail and castor effect). As the bike countersteers itself away from the curve, the rider's weight then has something to "lean against," and this pulls the bike over into the curve. One might call this phenomenon "counterweightshifting."

(diagram m/c "counterweightshifting") or photo

It is true that the front wheel must follow the arc of the road, due to steering trail, but the steering angle is reduced by the angle of lean. In other words, the greater the lean angle, the longer the effective turn radius (like an inverted cone), the less the handlebars will need to turn, and the more centered the handlebars will appear. A 45-degree lean angle can reduce steering angle by approximately 30%.

The motorcycle's arc through a particular curve in the road depends on its lean angle to offset the centrifugal force trying to tip it over, which requires more angle at higher speeds. Lean angle is changed by countersteering. If he had a cruise control, and enough open space, he could take his hands off the handlebars and circle round and round in the same arc until he ran out of gas.

????HERE??? When countersteering, the general rule is to sit upright relative to the bike and to lean with the bike's lean angle. Novice and insecure passengers who fear motorcycles usually violate this rule by trying to stay vertical, forcing the pilot to lean the machine even more to compensate. (Explaining to the passenger that you have to lean the machine even more to compensate for such behavior can help correct the problem.) A possible exception occurs with heavy, poor-handling bikes. Staying vertical during corner entry while countersteering and "pushing" the bike down first in "motocross style" can help reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, helping the bike to turn in quicker. (Although light weight, motocrossers have high C.G.s and large caster angles, which make them harder to turn.) Once it begins to lean, the rider can then "catch up" to it and lean with it for the remainder of the corner. This is merely a quick fix, and is not conducive when riding a modern sport bike.

When riding a pedal-driven bicycle without touching the handlebars, turning is accomplished by leaning the body (counterweightshifting). This is easier on a pedal bike since the rider's body weighs many times more than the bike, and speeds are so much lower. At cruising speed, the handlebars will initially countersteer all by themselves, then follow the arc in the middle of the curve once the bike is leaned over (thanks to steering trail and castor effect). Beginning riders will panic and grab the handlebars when it begins to countersteer. Experienced riders will ignore it without understanding it. Many riders experience difficulty when riding a "new" motorcycle for the first time. Different bikes have different steering geometries, which confuses the uneducated rider. It takes time for the subconscious mind to overrule the conscious mind. "I can't make it turn," is the common complaint made by a rider who attempts weightshifting and stiff-arming instead of countersteering. Bad riding habits are magnified by switching machines.


Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi von Nagyrapolt

The second component of countersteering is the gyroscopic effect of the rotating wheels. It comes into play mainly above 30 miles per hour on a heavy motorcycle in normal turns. This gyroscopic force is amplified by a motorcycle's requirement of leaning through a turn. Gyroscopes are inherently stable, so long as no other forces act upon them. "Gyroscopic precession" is the tendency of a rapidly spinning object to resist being tilted. Webster's New World Dictionary describes "precession" as: "mechanical—an effect exhibited by a spinning body, as a top, when an applied torque tends to change the direction of its rotational axis, causing the axis to . . . turn at right angles to the direction of the torque." Precession is far more powerful than gyroscopic stability, when a wheel is being steered towards a new direction.

In other words, a gyro is very stable when left alone, such as a motorcycle traveling down a straightaway, or gyroscopic navigation instruments used in aircraft, or the planet Earth spinning at 1,000 miles per hour for billions of years and maintaining its orientation to the sun without tumbling out of control. (Unless the Earth is hit by a bombardment of giant asteroids in which case it will precess. Such events often occurred early in the planet's history. Perhaps that is why the earth's axis is tilted 25 degrees giving us the four seasons.) The higher the speed, the more gyroscopically stable a motorcycle gets (so long as the handlebars are not turned).

Yet when a spinning gyro is tilted sideways, it reacts contrary to what so-called common sense would suggest—it doesn't just turn sideways and keep spinning. Nor does it only resist steering efforts by increasing steering effort (like springs that stiffen as speed increases). In a motorcycle at highway speeds, this means that turning the handlebars left will force the bike to lean to the right—as if pushed by an invisible force—due to gyroscopic precession of the rapidly spinning front wheel. The faster the wheels are spinning—or the quicker the handlebars are turned—the greater is this invisible force trying to push over the machine. This phenomenon actually helps a rider control his machine with less effort, provided he understands what is happening. Conversely, lack of comprehension can make his bike difficult to control. Gyroscopic precession adds to power of countersteering to lean the bike over quickly. Gyroscopic stability makes countersteering easier, since its stiffens the bike's steering (countersteering below 30 miles per hour is very sensitive, but just as necessary).

(diagram motorcycle gyro force with turning handlebar—looking from front view—vertical bike; turned wheel; gyro tilt force) # 4

Automobiles are also affected by gyroscopic precession while the front wheels are changing steering angle. However, this powerful force is effectively disguised by the fact that automobiles lean in the opposite direction of motorcycles. The further a bike leans over, the less effect that in-track/out-track steering has upon lean angle. This is because centrifugal force, which works in a sideways direction, cannot get as much leverage as when the bike was vertical. Fortunately, gyroscopic precession still works. Precession is not affected by gravity's extra leverage, since the bike's weight is balanced by an equal amount of centrifugal force. Paradoxically, weight-shifting can have a significant influence on steering at high lean angles, since gravity is then able to finally get leverage.

"Hanging off" is an impressive technique utilized by racers, and "leaning in" can also be used on the street to help steer the bike in high-lean-angle situations. It is especially useful when ground clearance is at a premium such when a rider needs to tighten his turn suddenly, but finds he cannot lean it any further since the footpeg (or some other part) is dragging. Note that when a footpeg suddenly drags the pavement, a rider must instantly lift his weight off that footpeg so that it may fold up. Otherwise, the bike can skate sideways as if on a metal skid, which is what the footpeg becomes if a rider does not know what to do.

Photos of hanging off (leaning in) in slow corner

Leaning in can prevent a crash in such an "emergency" situation (counter-weightshifting raises the bike towards the vertical). Using the legs to move off the seat keeps the rider in control, since any pulling on the handlebars can destabilize the bike. (Racers do all their positioning prior to entering a corner.) Hanging off is also a useful all-round safety technique for street riding on curvey roads, and is good aerobic exercise. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation teaches the safety benefits of hanging off for street riders. For government police to arrest riders simply for using a proven safety technique is insanity, especially when it is used in curves at speeds within the posted arbitrary limits.

The only exceptions to countersteering occur when pushing a vertical motorbike around a parking lot and when riding at a low speed when emergency avoidance is not required and before gyroscopic precession really kicks in. Slow (counter)weightshifting with slow turning does appear to work (sometimes)--trouble begins when the rider suddenly decides he needs to increase his turn rate and weightshifting alone is not powerful enough to quickly override the heavier weight of the machine. It is possible to ride around hands-free with a cruise control set, simply by weightshifting and making use of steering trail and castor effect—the bike will countersteer all by itself—but rapid emergency maneuvers are impossible. These exceptions make it more difficult to notice when countersteering becomes mandatory, especially at cruising speeds, and confuse the unwary rider.

The speed at which the transition occurs for gyroscopic precession to become noticable is a mathematical function of the size and weight of the wheel-tire assemblies and of the total mass in the rest of the machine. Basically, the spinning wheels must store up energy first. How quickly the rider needs to turn the handlebars and to make his maneuver tends to lower the speed at which gyroscopic precession kicks in. It is different for every type of two-wheeled vehicle, further complicating the mental equation for the rider. In other words, on a particular 500 pound motorcycle, below 30 miles per hour the rider could get away with weightshifting right to turn slowly right (the bike will momentarily countersteer all by itself in order to lean), but above 40 miles per hour gyroscopic precession will work against attempts at weight-shifting left. However, in an emergency situation at 30 miles per hour or less, requiring sudden steering input, firm countersteering would be required, in order to lean the bike as quickly as possible. Riding through a normal curve above 40 miles per hour, if a rider attempted to turn right by forcibly steering right, the gyroscopic precession (combined with centrifugal force) would try to tilt the bike to the left instead of the right, resisting any effort to turn right and causing a highside crash if the rider did not correct his mistake. This gyroscopic force can total XXX lbs. of force. Fighting this powerful force on a 500 lb. machine is a recipe for disaster, while the intelligent use of science can make 500 lbs. feel as light as a feather. On a pedal bike weighing only XX lbs., this transition speed for intentional counter steering might occur at only XX miles per hour, since there is less weight to be overcome (a rare speed???). Bizarre, isn't it? That's what makes science so fascinating. (Just be glad I'm not attempting to explain how a unicycle works.)

To repeat, once the bike has reached its maximum-desired lean angle, countersteering is no longer needed, and the rider steers straight ahead through the middle of the turn. In fact, if the motorcycle had cruise control, a rider could take his hands off the handlebars completely. Bicycle riders can easily do this since they can pedal or coast without needing to operate handlebar-mounted controls. When it is time to exit the corner and return the bike to a vertical position, the rider must countersteer in reverse. That is to say, steer in the direction of the turn so that gyroscopic precession will lift the heavy bike back to a verticle position (sort of like speed-sensitive "power steering").

By watching a motorcycle race on television or in person, one can witness the incredible maneuverability a competent rider can achieve, thanks to centrifugal force and gyroscopic precession at work. It looks unnatural. A racer can reach a lean angle of over 60 degrees in only 0.5 seconds. How could a feather-weight motorcycle jockey possibly weight-shift or "lift" 500 lbs. so incredibly fast? A rider can put his weight on the outer footpeg for support, instead of sliding around on the seat when "fighting" high-speed gyroscopic stability and resistance (he doesn't fight precession which works for him). For example, in a left turn, a rider would countersteer to the right by pushing the left handlebar (and/or pulling on the right) and supporting his weight on the right footpeg. Countersteering rates that fast can actually bend a handlebar when a rider knows how to support himself solidly on the bike. That's one reason why modern sport bikes have footpegs mounted high and to the rear—this allows the rider to get maximum countersteer leverage on the reinforced handlebars by pushing from the footpegs. Large gas tanks give a rider something to hold onto besides the handlebars. A rider who can learn to do this has graduated from the archaic "lean to turn" theory of steering. This is the same maneuverability a highway rider wishes he has when confronted by a sudden emergency.

(gyro bike wheel illustration—Euler's equations) # 5

German Euler (pronounced "oiler") was the founder of analytic geometry and was the world's most prolific mathematician, whose formulas comprise a twenty-foot-thick set of volumes. While visiting Russia, he once publically debated for proof of the existance of God, XXX years before America's Scopes' Monkey Trial. (As a joke he gave a phony equation for God—X=42--simply to confuse his athiestic and unscientific opponent.) His x-year-old equation for gyroscopic precession is relatively straightforward, just simple algebraic multiplication:

(photos discovery center bike experiment display) # 8-9

This experiment may be duplicated at home by lifting a bicycle with one hand, spinning the front wheel with the other, then experimenting with gyroscopic precession as the handlebars are turned. Turning the handlebars slowly produces only a little precession force. Turning the handlebars quickly makes the bicycle frame want to tip over in the opposite direction. (It would be a great idea for grade school teachers to make use of this experiment with their kids, so that everyone could have an opportunity to learn about the fascinating science of (safely) riding a bicycle. Thirty seconds of hands-on experimentation would make an impression that will last a lifetime.)

(bicycle precession equation examples = slow and fast steering) x2 (25 lb bike, 2.5 lb wheel, 150 lb rider)

(motorcycle precession equation example = slow and fast steering) x2 (500 lb bike, xx lb wheel, 150 lb rider)


They who have put out the peoples' eyes reproach them of their blindness.
--John Milton

Countersteering ought to be taught by the government to all grade school children before they get injured attempting to ride their first bicycle (assuming the government cared about public safety). What an excellent opportunity to instill interest in science and learning, by giving kids a practical example they can actually use. As the kids get older, this skill can be used to safely ride their motorcycles on the public highways. Millions of crashes could be avoided.

As an example of the danger to society of censoring simple information on countersteering from the public, an incident comes to mind regarding one little girl's first bicycle wreck. Back when I was in the military in Europe, my wife and I lived in a quiet neighborhood off-base. It was a dead-end street, safe from traffic. A neighbor's child was riding her bike up and down the level street, and appeared to be very proficient at it. While I was doing work in my back yard, I heard a loud thump in front of the house. When I walked up to investigate, the little girl was crying after crashing her bike into my parked car. My house was at the "T" of the street, where people have to turn right or left. The girl had been unable to make the simple turn, and had smashed her handlebar into my car, breaking off the mirror. Her arm was bleeding profusely from the broken glass. I wrapped her wound in a towel, and took her to her house. Her mother did not have a car, so I drove them at high speed to the base hospital. She must have cut an artery, and I had never seen so much blood in my life. By this time the girl was no longer crying—either she was being brave or was going into shock. I know that I was certainly shocked as I performed a stop-and-go through a red light (with headlights and flashers on). Upon safe arrival at the hospital, I was given the task of calling the father and inviting him to the hospital to check on his injured daughter. All in all, it was an unforgetable day. The little girl recovered okay after a few stitches, although I doubt she ever learned her lesson on countersteering (I didn't even know what it was back then).

Many otherwise intelligent people are either afraid of fulfilling their desires to own a motorcycle, or give up ownership of their dream machine, out of phobia of this "unknown" scientific effect. The (censored) name countersteering is most critical, since it is a word-picture that aids inexperienced riders by painting a mental image which improves memory of this lifesaving skill. Although Mr. Code wrote his books over 15 years ago, and Dr. Hurt wrote his countersteering report over 25 years ago, this critical information has not yet trickled down to either the government or to tens of millions of the riders themselves. Even the Motorcycle Safety Foundation censors the word countersteering from its beginner course, even when it teaches students how to do it. Only advanced course students are told the secret word.

This skill is so misunderstood that authors of motorcycle books do not even comprehend it. As a result of this miscomprehension, recently one author actually spent 14 pages telling his readers how to talk interested students out of learning how to ride, pages that could have been better spent teaching them how to ride safely. (Yes, riding is dangerous, but more people die of heart attack while getting out of bed or having a bowel movement.) He failed to understand the concept that negative reverse psychology has on desire, focusing instead on telling the reader how incompetent and unskilled most riders are, and always will be (a Freudian slip?). Despite having twenty years riding experience, this part-time author was unable to properly explain countersteering (although he used this buzzword throughout his book). He provided 59 illustrations and photos of various motorcycles, but none on countersteering.

This self-professed expert only committed a tiny fraction of his time on riding skills, a significant part of which was inaccurate and dangerous. For example, he quoted the government's standard definition of turning for normal riding, "push right—lean right—go right." (This is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's definition of countersteering, but without the word "countersteering" and without any illustrations.) Then he alleged that countersteering is never to be used except on the race track:

"At normal highway speeds, the bike is maneuvered left or right by leaning the full weight of both the bike and the rider toward the direction desired. . . . Lean left. Go left. Lean right. Go right. . . . At very high (i.e., illegal) speeds, the rider leans the bike at an extreme attitude. The handlebars are turned away from the turn. This is known as countersteering. . . . An unskilled rider on an improperly equipped motorcycle attempting this is lucky if he does not lose control." The confused writer further advised: "If you quickly push the handlebar right . . . you will have changed the axis slightly. According to gyroscopic principles, the bike will lean and go right. . . . This is why you will often hear this statement on a motorcycle safety course, "Push left, go left. Push right, go right." (Beginner motorcycle safety courses are not conducted at gyroscopic speeds.) He added: "At moderate speeds gyroscopic forces are in full bloom. The bike is turned by leaning the motorcycle down toward the direction desired, rather than by turning the handlebars and pointing the front tire."

However, the author had apparently never seen an MSF publication (only one of which is well illustrated for countersteering), nor attended an MSF school (was he too "experienced"?), relying instead on a misleading government driver license manual (which also does without illustrations of countersteering). He apparently believed that this government-repeated phrase meant turning the handlebars in the direction of the turn, which is "anti-countersteering."

"Balancing" and weightshifting was how the backward author perceived riding is done, like walking a tightrope above a deadly abyss, failing to comprehend that countersteering makes controlling a bike as easy as driving a car. (If he did actually comprehend countersteering, he succeeded in confusing his customers.) Millions of other licensed riders probably make the same mistakes, thanks to the lack of effort the government makes to explain this clearly in its Motorcycle Operator Manuals. I asked over a dozen riders, and only two knew the answer (they had attended MSF school). Quoting the MSF's Participant's Handbook for its Experienced RiderCourse: "Two ideas that should be discouraged are (1) shifting the body weight is the best way to initiate a turn and (2) countersteering is for obstacle avoidance only." Weightshifting is the hard way to ride a motorcycle, while countersteering is the easy way.

That book's author also believed that applying the throttle makes a motorcycle go vertical at the end of a turn. Accelerating out of a turn does not raise the bike vertical (a popular misconception), any more than slowing down makes it tip over (a deadly misconception). Riders are perhaps confused by their corner-exit acceleration when they simultaneously increase their turn radius. If a rider notices his bike always goes vertical when he applies throttle, then he is waiting too late to get on the gas, increasing his risk of sliding the front tire in the middle of corners due to improper weight transfer (described later).

This author advised new riders to purchase his book in order to "learn" how to ride safely. In his defense, he did recommend that (only) rookie riders seek out more competent instruction, such as attending one of the (1,000) Motorcycle Safety Foundation schools around the country (many of which are free and are discussed at the end of this chapter). Learning how to ride an off-road bike before graduating to a street bike also protects riders, according to the Hurt Report (although some techniques, such as rear-wheel-only braking, are best left in the dirt). Mistakes off-road are less painful, expensive or deadly than falling in front of cars on asphalt. Crashing is just a part of learning.

This author recommended every rider read the Hurt Report (available from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia 22161). However, like the government, he misinterpreted the Hurt Report's findings, finding fault with "inexperience" and alcohol (no amount of experience—or sobriety—helps if the rider remains ignorant). My interpretation of the Report is that crashes are caused by ignorance of countersteering and braking skills. The Report's Findings state: "Most riders would overbrake and skid the rear wheel, and underbrake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deccelleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent." This means that 100% of "accident-prone" riders are deficient in these skills. Alcohol only (allegedly) accounted for 12% of "routine" crashes, and 50% of fatal crashes (less than 1% of total crashes). 100% is obviously larger than 12% or 50% (or 1%). It is fair to say that the general public has an equally erroneous perception of "countersteering" (anti-countersteering) as this published "expert." Perhaps 95% have never even heard the term before (at least that author knew the secret buzzword, even if he had apparently gotten it backward).

A local motorcyclist was in the news in 1998 after he "lost control" around a curve, due to similar ignorance of countersteering (although the newspapers did not report that possibility). It was a classic case of a rider being unable to complete a simple low-speed turn at night; he got closer and closer to the edge of the road until he was in the grass. Perhaps he panicked and tried to steer into the turn (highsiding due to anti-countersteering), cut his throttle and/or braked (highsiding due to centrifugal force and inertia), and stiffened his arms (preventing himself from pseudo-countersteering, and preventing the bike from steering itself with steering trail and castor effect). These mistakes conspired to force the bike to go vertical when what it really needed was to lean more. (Keith Code euphemistically calls these common errors "survival reactions." To me, they feel more like panic attacks.)

When the out-of-control rider stuck his leg out in panic, a government sign post chopped it off just below the calf muscle. There was no government guardrail, so the legless rider plunged down a 15-foot vertical drop into a creekbed of boulders, rusty metal and broken glass. Since the accident happened at midnight, the unconscious crash victim was invisible to passersby on the heavily traveled urban road. When morning came, the legless victim crawled up to the road seeking help. (As a police officer later noted: "I'm not sure how he got out of there. It's steep and covered with rocks and poison ivy. It was pure determination, I guess.") On the roadside, he encountered his severed leg, still wearing a tennis shoe. Luckily, the victim was not run over for his efforts. In fact, motorists ignored him completely as he crawled on his hands and knees.

Fortunately, one female driver took pity on him when she noticed he was missing a leg. "There were cars that had gone by before me, and no one stopped for him," the grandmother said. "I think the public should know that; no one even bothered. . . . Cars wouldn't even stop to let me cross the road. My heart just went out to him. If that was my son, I would want somebody to stop and help him." An unidentified man assisted by calling 911 on his cell phone.

Eventually, the motorcyclist did make it to the hospital and survived. However, his amputated leg had died and could not be reattached. The Gothyk City police officer who had responded to the crash declined to profit from a citation (the victim had not purchased a motorcycle license from the government—a $100 crime). "I figured losing a foot was enough. He won't be getting back on a bike anytime soon," the allegedly compassionate cop said. (The Knoxville Police Department had been in the news one month earlier for its illegal ticket quota of two citations plus one accident or arrest report per day. This accident report still helped the cop meet his illegal quota and thus keep his job.)

The local news media profited from gratuitous junk food news (vehicle crashes are standard fodder for the masses). THE REAL NEWS IS COUNTERSTEERING! Such a news flash could potentially aid millions of citizens within that particular media region, and prevent much pain and suffering. Police accident reports do not have a question block to ask a crash victim whether or not he understands countersteering, and the news media does not see fit to ask, either.

Hundreds of books have been written on the scientific principles of improving one's golf swing, written by famous professionals in the sport. Yet when it comes to riding and driving motor vehicles, rank amateurs are placed in charge of teaching life and death skills in a "gladiatorial sport" that most citizens participate in every day.


In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence
—Dr. Lawrence J. Peter

How can the government fumble its efforts at rider education so badly? The Peter Principle—Why Things Always Go Wrong, is a book written by Dr. Lawrence Peter, drawing upon his bureaucratic experiences working for the government in the teaching profession, and his scientific research into psychology. Writer Raymond Hull provided his marketing expertise. Initially, the book was censored by bureaucratic publishers who perhaps felt that it hit a little too close to home. After many years of marketing the concept of the Peter Principle via lectures and speeches, a publisher was found in 1969 (William Morrow & Company, Inc.). Elimination of inept bureaucracies was their idealistic goal. As Mr. Hull noticed during his career as a journalist, "Everywhere I see incompetence rampant, incompetence triumphant. . . . Education, often touted as a cure for all ills, is apparently no cure for incompetence. Incompetence runs riot in the halls of education." After hearing Dr. Peter's theories, he felt that mismanagement and quackery could finally be explained, and hopefully, eradicated.

The Peter Principle is the antithesis of Machiavellian principles. The former works for the forces of good, the latter for supporters of evil. Most citizens have never studied either—they presume "learning" is what they did in government school—and they fall prey to both dangers. Dr. Peter places his Principle ahead of Machiavelli's conspiracy techniques as the most likeliest of explanations, yet admits that when a violent government gets involved in subduing the citizens, anything is possible.

The authors explain: "In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties. . . . Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence." In any bureaucracy, employees do not rise to their most skilled position, they get promoted one step above it. No one wants to admit that this has occurred (nor do they desire a pay cut), so the newly impotent employee stays were he is. He is not demoted back to his level of expertise (where he would be happiest). His punishment is to be barred from further promotion, or perhaps to be "kicked upstairs" into a non-existent job where he can practice his mismanagement in private (and in personal misery). Even when disaster befalls the organization (the spacecraft explodes, the corporation goes bankrupt (53% of businesses fail due to managerial incompetence), the war is lost, the government is overthrown, riders are not warned about countersteering, etc.), the growing army of bungling employees continue their busywork.

Ordinary incompetence does not result in dismissal, since the employee is on time, fills in the paperwork "properly" (perhaps recommending that more forms ought to be required), doesn't make any waves, etc. Only grossly incompetent employees are weeded out. A competent employee will be promoted until he becomes incompetent (unless he is smart enough to recognize his limits and have the guts to decline that final promotion to purgatory. Dr. Peter advises must strive to "just say no" to the rat race—and to the diseases that go with such high-pressure "success"—and to simply start living life.) In a bureaucracy, super-competence disrupts the hierarchy. Brilliant initiative results in an employee being terminated for alleged insubordination, regardless of getting outstanding results or profits. (His customers and/or subordinates may be thrilled, but his coworkers and "superiors" are humiliated.) The super-competents do tend to get the last laugh, however, since they often find an enterprising way to bypass lesser mortals.

Peter and Hull write:

"Why the confusion?

  1. Many of the experts have actually reached their level of incompetence: their advice is nonsical or irrelevant.

  2. Some of them have sound theories, but are unable to put them in effect.

  3. In any event, neither sound nor unsound proposals can be carried out efficiently, because the machinery of government is a vast series of interlocking hierarchies, riddled through and through with incompetence."

Dr. Peter understands first-hand how government education systems promote most students to their own level of incompetence. This is accomplished by holding a student at his "failing" grade level, rather than returning him to his competent grade level (the same as employees who are not demoted). Since this system does not work, failing students are merely passed on up through the school system, often enduring incompetent teachers. Tens of millions graduate without the ability to read, write or do arithmetic. "Graduates" of the government's Motorcycle Rider Education Program who receive a motorcycle operator license risk a similar fate.

The government, through its Motorcycle Rider Education Program, apparently has little or no concept of countersteering, and makes no attempt to explain to citizens about centrifugal force or gyroscopic precession and how they influence leaning of the machine. In words, this state's 1996 Motorcycle Operator Manual (valued by the government at 31 cents) apparently teaches riders how to crash every single time they attempt to change lanes or negotiate a curve: "To lean the motorcycle, push on the handgrip in the direction of the turn. Push left—lean left—go left. Push right—lean right—go right." (Push what handgrip left—push what handgrip right?) This is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's definition for "countersteering." However, a picture paints a thousand words, and unlike the MSF's publications, the government's artist-rendered examples of a motorcyclist in action are absolutely dead wrong. Instead of illustrating countersteering, the government artist shows a rider steering as if riding a tricycle or driving a car: steering in the same direction of the turn (anti-countersteering).

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Deadly MSF drawing as used in Tennessessee Motorcycle Handbook

Nowhere is the term countersteering used—although Prohibition is promoted for seven full pages—nine pages in the Driver Handbook—for example: "Strictly speaking, a driver can register a BAC of 0.00% and still be convicted of DUI." Out of the 50 pages of the Motorcycle Operator's Manual, only one full page is devoted to steering the machine, as if this life-saving concept is too complicated for stupid citizens. (Or is it too complicated for stupid government employees?) Educational diagrams are completely lacking, although 34 illustrations are given on other topics, supplementing the 90 illustrations in the Driver Handbook for reading the government's self-explanatory roadsigns. Tens of thousands more lives would be saved by focusing on critical riding skills for however long it took to explain them properly. At least it would give people a chance to survive. It certainly deserves just as much explanation as Prohibition, and would definitely save thousands more lives every year. Actually, Prohibition can be condensed into one sentence in order to save printing costs: "If you have had any alcohol, illegal drugs or medications in a 24 hour period, the government will arrest you and prosecute you for the crime of DWI, with a 99% chance that you will be convicted, since the government has seen to it that all your civil rights have been taken away. Besides, you probably cannot afford American justice. Welcome to Prohibition. We are a corrupt bureaucracy declaring war on its own citizens, and don't you ever forget it." The government censors the word "Prohibition" just as it censors the word "countersteering." Although the government's handbooks are useful reading, an intelligent citizen must learn to read between the lines.

This vague anti-countersteering technique, taught by the government, will kill every single citizen who unwittingly chooses to use it. All motorcycle and bicycle riders must subconsciously learn the reality of countersteering—indeed, they will find it impossible to get from point A to point B if they don't. If a rider does not have an intellectual grasp of this concept, in an emergency situation, he will probably turn the handlebars in the direction he wants to go, losing control. This government misinformation is guaranteed to result in a very serious crash. The government perpetuates yet another deadly myth to the trusting public. Correct methods of riding ought to be hammered into the public's consciousness, not buried in oblivion. The typical crash is preceded by two seconds of avoidance options, but this is obviously too short a period to suddenly learn the facts of countersteering. Many situations give a rider less time. Traveling at 60 miles per hour with a forty-foot gap to the car in front only gives a rider half a second to take avoiding action if road debris suddenly appears from under that vehicle. A shredded retread off a tractor-trailer rig is difficult to avoid for a napping motorist, unskilled in his craft.

A couple of times I have taken avoiding action to miss animals in the road, while having to watch in my mirrors the car behind take no such action and run over the hapless creatures (once while other motorists had stopped and were trying to reach the frightened animal). Animals aren't the only victims. Deer kill more people than any "man-eating" predator. One motorcyclist hit a deer, which merely served to incite the animal to road rage, impaling the rider on his antlers (retold by an anonymous police officer in "Police on Patrol," by Linda Kleinschmidt). This is one more reason to wear leathers. Drivers who cannot avoid animals lack the same skills required for avoiding children and adult pedestrians.

Paradoxically, the government does give an esoteric briefing on "swerving," which is its "lip service" tribute to the MSF's explanation of "two consecutive countersteers." Five sentences are dedicated to this life-saving subject, although it is allegedly not intended for normal riding (it is not in the same section of the booklet). The government says: "Apply a small amount of hand pressure to the handgrip located on the side of your intended direction of escape. This will get the motorcycle to lean quickly. . . . Press on the opposite handgrip to return you to your original direction of travel. To swerve to the left, push the left handgrip, then push the right to recover. To swerve to the right, push right, then left." No diagrams are given. No explanation of in-track/out-track steering, centrifugal force or gyroscopic precession is given. The terms countersteering and double-countersteering are not used. In the Knowledge Test at the conclusion of the Motorcycle Operator Manual, question number 3 reads: "To swerve correctly—push the handgrip in the direction of the turn." This does not sound like countersteering. The "wrong" answer reads: "push the handgrip in the opposite direction of the turn." Which handgrip? What if the citizen confused "handgrip" with "handlebar," a common mistake? This question is identical to what was required on the government's motorcycle license test. No illustration was given to clarify the test question, either. When it comes to rider-driver training, ambiguity can kill.

Actually, the subconscious method most untrained people use is to "pull" the opposite handgrip, since the body is stronger and more stable this way, rather than attempt to "push" one's self off the back of the rapidly moving, wind-swept machine. Without realizing what they are doing, uneducated riders instinctively pull the opposite bar to hold themselves up when they lean into a turn—the danger comes when they attempt to think about it in an emergency situation. Pushing the left handgrip away from you in order to turn left does work. A combination of pushing the right handgrip away and pulling the left handgrip towards you can give maximum strength and feeling of control. Whatever works for the individual is what's best for him, so long as he understands the concept of countersteering.

When the government's deadly riding technique does not work, it blames the citizen. The Operator Manual reads: "Riders often try to take curves too fast. When they can't hold the turn, they end up crossing into another lane of traffic or going off the road." Without knowledge of countersteering, riders don't stand a chance, and the government's admonition becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

If the rider notices that the curve in the highway is tightening up, that is to say a decreasing radius curve, or if it is off-camber, he must countersteer again to lean the machine over even further. If the foot peg drags, hanging off can increase turn rate without increasing lean angle.

Slowing down makes the bike want to go vertical (highside) due to inertia and centrifugal force (like a pole vaulter), which is the opposite response required. Paradoxically, accellerating helps, even when the rider wishes he were going slower, since this extends the front and rear suspensions, giving maximum ground clearance and increasing the lean angle before the foot peg drags the asphalt. Slowing down compresses the suspension springs and reduces needed ground clearance. Accellerating also improves the grip of the rear tire, and prevents overloading the smaller front tire, thanks to weight transfer. The first rule of cornering is that once the throttle is opened up, speed must continue to build. Although street riders can often get away with coasting through a turn, the bike is actually slowing down due to tire friction (unless it is downhill), which forces the bike to try to stand up vertical. This is not good. Never back off a throttle in a turn. You never know when this bad habit might come back to haunt you. Using engine compression for rear-wheel braking also makes the bike want to go vertical, and wears out tires, engines and drivetrains prematurely. (It is best to hold in the clutch lever instead.)

This is one more reason to learn how to countersteer as quickly as possible, since that gives a rider more options to work with through the rest of the corner. Actually, the quicker a rider can get leaned over, the less total lean angle he requires for the remainder of the turn (he has more time at maximum lean angle). He has:

  1. more ground clearance

  2. more spare lean angle

  3. more safety cushion for accelleration

  4. more concentration leftover, since the hard part is finished, and most importantly

  5. more fun.

The less confidence a rider has in his ability to lean the motorcycle, the earlier he will try to begin turning into a corner. This "creates" a dangerous decreasing radius corner out of a normal corner.

(diagram quick c/s = reduced lean angle in 90 degree curve (a) 45 degree c/s = 40 degree lean for 10 degrees [40+40+10=90] (b) 30 degree c/s = 30 degree lean for 30 degrees [30+30+30=90] (c) 20 degree c/s = 20 degree lean for 50 degrees [20+20+50=90] "Quick countersteering reduces maximum lean angle"

Maximum lean angle ought to be achieved within the first third of the corner. Once maximum lean angle is achieved, the throttle ought to be opened slightly, and increased slowly throughout the remainder of the curve. Motorcycle tires are engineered to provide maximum cornering grip when the bike's weight is proportional to the size of each tire. It's just common sense. The rear tire is larger than the front tire, so it ought to carry the majority of the load. The ideal weight distribution is 40% on the front tire, and 60% on the rear tire. This cannot occur unless the bike is accellerating, since the weight distribution of a cruising bike is 50/50. A steady throttle means the bike is slowing down in the turn, due to tire friction. Also, when a bike is leaned over, the tire is running on its sidewall and the gear ratio is effectively changed, giving a speedometer error (and engine sound) that fools the rider into believing he is maintaining speed. One more reason to add throttle throughout the turn.

(illustration--50/50 static wt distribution=300lb/300lb + 40/60 in corner 240/360)

A final word about cornering: relax. Holding onto the handlebars with stiff arms:

  1. ruins the rider's ability to countersteer

  2. ruins the bike's ability to self-steer due to steering trail and caster effect

  3. amplifies bumps and wobbles

  4. reduces braking performance and makes the wheels more likely to lock up.

    (That's why a sport bike has a tall gas tank for the rider to lean on instead of the handlebars.)

      Panicking in a cornering situation is a major cause of wrecks, since the uneducated rider attempts to:

      1. steer without countersteering

      2. brake and/or reduce throttle

      3. tenses his arms, resulting in either a "highside" launch over the top of the bike or running out of road.

      If the government would teach people the correct riding methods, riders would be in greater control and be much less inclined to crash. Lives would be saved.

      Another potentially deadly bit of hypocritically stupid advice the government dishes out: "Remember, passes must be completed within posted speed limits." This behavior would succeed at exposing a citizen to greater risk of a head-on collision due to the increased time spent in the oncoming traffic lane, if he chose to obey the bureaucrats. Except for passing tractors moving at 15 miles per hour, this advice/law is ludicrous and dangerous.

      The government's handbook declares: "The Department of Safety developed this manual to help you become a better motorcycle rider. . . . Motorcycling is a wonderful way to enjoy our beautiful Arcania highways and byways. Just remember, take responsibility for your own safety. We hope you will become the best rider you can be while always obeying Arcania's traffic laws." This introductory letter was autographed by both Governor Don Sundquist and the safety commissioner. Apparently, these government employees hold the opinion that their bureaucratic laws override the laws of physics.

    1. BRAKING:

      Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision as the limits of the world.
      —Arthur Schopenhauer

      Virtually all crashes are preceded by the rider using his brakes to reduce his speed or to attempt to stop. He must do this before, during or after his (failed) attempts to countersteer, lean and turn. Unlike an automobile, motorcycles have separate controls for the front and rear brakes, further complicating the decision-making process. Riders with off-road experience can be confused by the grip available on smooth, comparatively level asphalt. Learning how to slow down in the shortest possible distance will give a rider maximum protection from injury—and possible DWI arrest.

      According to the Hurt Report, incompetent braking is a contributing factor in almost all motorcycle crashes. Like its explanations of countersteering, the government's attempts at teaching braking control appear to be under the influence of amateurs. Beware outdated advice from unaccountable bureaucrats.

      The spinning rear wheel is critically important due to it providing the majority of gyroscopic stability, preventing the moving machine from falling over. Locking the rear brake can destroy this stability, therefore the stronger front brake should be used exclusively for 99% of straightline braking situations on asphalt. Most of the bike's weight is pitched forward onto the front tire under braking, practically ramming the rubber into the road which can protect it from lockup. This increasing the probability of rear wheel lockup, especially if it hits a bump.

      (illustration 50/50 = 300/300, 90/10 dry = 540/60) "cruising weight distribution" + "hard braking on dry pavement"

      Wet weather riding is a rare exception to rear brake useage, since there is 2/3rds less weight transfer due to 2/3rds less decelleration on the wet asphalt. This means there is 2/3rds more weight pressing down on the rear wheel to keep it from locking. (Unlike cornering under acceleration, the larger rear tire does not give greater wet-weather traction while braking, since it has a larger contact patch than the smaller font tire. This means the rear tire contact patch has less weight per square inch, and thus has even less weight available to "squeegee" water out from under the tire.)

      (illustration 70/30 wet = 420/180)

      According to "The Photographic Analysis of Motorcycle Operator Control Responses," even experienced riders do not realize these facts, and their test riders had exactly the same stopping distances on a wet road as on a dry road, due to underuse of the front brake and overuse of the rear brake on dry pavement. These riders actually had 25% shorter stopping distances with the rear brake locked (which reduces stopping grip) than when using the rear brake "normally," since they could then focus exclusively on the front brake (using more front brake). Had they used the front brake only, dry pavement stopping distances would have been even shorter.

      In fact, locking of the front brake in a straight line could only occur at 5 to 10 miles per hour (resulting in a relatively safe "low-side" crash), since there was too much grip at higher speeds due to weight transfer. Front brakes generally are not strong enough to lock due to weight transfer, effectively giving a rider the benefit of "passive ABS." Locking the front brake is often due to a rider's mistake of not using the same amount of braking from start to finish—using less at higher speeds while increasing the braking force as the bike slows down. Applying the front brake smoothly instead of suddenly will prevent the suspension from bottoming out—hitting a bump at that point could bounce the front tire off the road and result in a locked wheel and skid. Turning into a corner with too much front brake can lead to a skid and possible low-side crash—it is best to let off the brake and trust countersteering to do its job.

      (stoppie photo) "The rear brake is not required for maximum braking performance."

      This report also found that overuse of the rear brake during an emergency swerve maneuver (double countersteer) frequently resulted in a skid. This often resulted in either "laying it down," or if the rider released the brake while sideways, the bike whipped back into "highside" crash. (It is best to not brake hard while countersteering hard. Do the braking before or after countersteering when possible, or be gentler on both and only use the front brake.) This report was conducted over 20 years ago, when some motorcycles had relatively weak brakes (at least one of the test bikes did not have a front disc brake), and it is the source of the government's current bad advice to use the rear brake. Back then, many fearful novices still believed the rear brake should do most (or all) of the braking, so any use of the front brake was an improvement. (However, I did witness a rider in 1998 use only his rear brake to slow down for a traffic jam on a busy Interstate highway.) It is now time to take rider skill to the next level. Using engine compression for rear-wheel braking can have similar repercussions. Note that racers make use of the rear brake to slide the rear tire out from under them while entering a turn ("backing it in"), which is probably not a useful habit for the street.

      Emergency braking while in the middle of a corner is another exception—dividing the braking action between two wheels reduces the likelyhood that the front tire will exceed its friction circle limits (described in the chapter on automobiles), resulting in the front tire sliding (not the end of the world—just let up on the brakes a little—but definitely heart-stopping). However, when braking while cornering, inertia and centrifugal force will lift the bike into a vertical position—not a good idea while trying to lean. Riders can get away with cheating during non-emergency cornering (although they may be reinforcing bad habits). Emergency braking in a corner is best performed by straightening the handlebars and allowing the bike to go straight, then let off the brakes and countersteer again (assuming there is room to do so. Otherwise, you had better have worn your leathers).

      Locking the front brake is not nearly as likely as locking the rear brake, since most—if not all—of the weight is shifted onto the front tire due to decelleration forces. It is very difficult to lock the front brake in a straight line on dry asphalt. ("Stoppies" are the opposite of "wheelies"—front tire on the ground and the rear tire vertically in the air—and are possible on modern sportbikes by rapid braking. Fortunately, they cannot happen by accident on a street bike, since they require skillfully bouncing the rear suspension spring(s) to launch the back of the bike upward.) Paradoxically, it is best to never use the rear brake except in the rain (three times more weight on the rear wheel), since many crashes occur from its overuse. (Autoracing drivers adjust their brake bias to the rear for wet races). Knowledge of these technicalities and techniques can certainly place a rider in greater control of his vehicle and vastly improve his "chances" of avoiding danger on the road.

      Braking performance is also affected by whether the road is uphill or downhill. Going up a steep hill can reduce stopping distance by 25%. Going down a steep hill can increase stopping distance 25%. It is also important for a rider to keep his arms relaxed while braking. This significantly improves braking performance, allowing shorter braking distances with less chance of locking the rear wheel or losing control. Stiff arms transfer the rider's body weight onto the front wheel, while relaxed arms keep his weight over the seat. This gives the front suspension more travel to absorb bumps, and gives more weight to the rear wheel for cornering grip (or braking, if a rider wanted to use the rear brake).

      (illustration 99/1 = 594/6) "braking with stiff arms can reduce braking performance"

      None of these motorcycle skills are taught by this state's government when it tests drivers' license applicants. In the case of emergency braking, once again the government gives defective advice: "To stop quickly, apply both brakes. Don't be shy about using the front brake. . . . At the same time press down on the rear brake. If you accidentally lock the rear brake, keep it locked. . . . . . . [E]ven with a locked rear wheel, you can still control the cycle on a straightaway as long as your motorcycle is upright and going in a straight line." [Emphasis in original.] Of course, it is impossible to keep a heavy street bike upright without the gyroscopic effect of the rotating rear wheel, which is why the government inserted a disclaimer in their advice in case it doesn't work. (Rather than disclaimers, shouldn't the government teach something that actually works?). A government chart alleges maximum braking is achieved using both brakes, when the reality is that when the front brake is at maximum stopping power, there is little or no weight on the rear wheel making the rear brake useless and dangerous. Maximum stopping can only be achieved by using the front brake alone.

      An exception would be an old type of machine with an underpowered front brake. Twenty-five years ago, brakes were weaker than they are today, yet the government information has not been updated. Assuming a rider owns a modern machine, why risk using the rear brake? It's just one more thing to worry about in an emergency.

      Smooth downshifts while braking can be achieved by using only the first two (stronger) fingers on the brake lever, allowing the rider to blip the throttle between shifts. Practice until the front end does not rise between shifts. Relying upon engine compression to do the braking, especially when entering curves, is a bad habit that can cause the rear tire to slide suddenly as lean angle increases. Although this "technique" can be temporarily useful for learning how to lean without being distracted by rapid braking, it has the same effect as using only the rear brake—not a good habit while turning. "Cupping" of the rear tire is an indication a rider needs practice on braking and turning correctly. Holding in the clutch lever while braking, releasing it only when ready to accellerate, can eliminate this risk. Racers use this technique on both cars and 'bikes, although a street rider must hold the clutch lever for longer periods of time due to the slower speeds involved.

      (illustration cupped rear tire—rough/rear, smooth front) "Cupping reveals poor braking skills"

      When using the brakes to reduce speed prior to and during the beginning of the turn, practice a smooth transition into the turn without letting the front suspension bounce back up when finished braking. This requires reducing the braking force at the same time lean angle is increasing. Countersteer to reach a rapid lean angle, then let steering trail take over (arms must be relaxed). Let the centrifugal force compress the suspension an equal amount. This allows maximum braking and maximum cornering grip (and maximum ground clearance). Continue to accellerate slightly throughout the turn, to allow the rear tire to provide its share of the cornering grip. As the turn ends, countersteer again to bring the bike vertical, increasing the accelleration as lean angle decreases. Accellerate harder once the turn is over, and look forward to the next curve of the road. When a rider practices these skills everytime he rides, he will eventually reprogram his brain so that they become effortless. (Riding in the rain still requires straight-line-only braking.) Cornering (correctly) is what riding a motorcycle is all about.

      The perfect corner on dry asphalt. © John Lee


      Things are not always as they seem.

      Occasionally, a rider may find himself deviating from the standard advice of the experts. Perhaps he is on a learning curve and is "pushing the edge of his riding envelope," or maybe an unusual hazard situation has presented itself. As they say about every type of motoring, riding is composed of hours of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror. There is not much that is more "exciting" than having one's motorcycle unexpectedly pointed sideways while traveling down a road at cruising speed. Especially when there is oncoming traffic and/or the edge of the road is rapidly approaching.

      What do you do in such a situation? Panic and make the situation even worse? Accept your fate and "go into the light?" Follow the advice of government bureaucrats—bureaucrats who will profit from your crash by writing you a ticket or arresting you and throwing you in jail? The same bureaucrats who censored countersteering from you?

      Or will you trust your brain's own genius for learning and billions of years of accumulated survival instinct? The human brain can process 12 trillion bits of information per second—millions of times faster than a Pentium computer chip. Trusting the government's (mis)information is like installing a computer virus—even the best computer will fail. Garbage in, garbage out. Feed your brain accurate knowledge, and it will reward you with accurate reactions if and when you ever need them.

      The government advises riders to always obey its ridiculous (and usually illegal and dangerously low) speed limits, and predicts that this is the cure for all crashes. However, it is still possible to instantly lose control when driving under any government speed limit, especially when riding in rainy conditions. When a rider disobeys expert advice, and reverts back to novice bad habits when under pressure, he has placed himself in jeopardy of experiencing an unusual handling dynamic—or given himself an opportunity to discover the wonders of motorcycle physics, depending upon how one wants to look at it.

      Once again, never use the rear brake when stopping in a straight line on dry pavement. This will give a rider maximum stopping performance with maximum stability. As the front tire approaches its traction limit, tire squeal ought to be easily heard (indicating maximum braking performance), with no loss of stability. If the front tire locks completely, the rear wheel's gyro force will hold the bike vertical long enough for the rider to release the front brake just enough to get the tire spinning again. This is how computerized ABS systems work, but an educated human can do it better and more accurately—that's why thoroughbred race vehicles don't use ABS.

      On wet pavement, both brakes will need to be used if medium straight-line braking is required (heavy braking is impossible). If either tire locks up, just ease up pressure on that particular brake until the tire is spinning again.

      When cornering, things can get very interesting when a tire locks up under braking. Perhaps a rider who usually avoids riding in the rain finds himself riding his favorite road on wet pavement. An entirely different riding style is required, and all cornering and braking speeds are lowered. Even his line is different, since the center oil strip offers little or no grip for sudden braking or cornering. Since the speed at which a particular tire begins to aquaplane on a wet road is directly related to the weight of the vehicle, motorcycles are at a slight disadvantage due to their lighter weight. Perhaps you have noticed how professional tractor trailer drivers appear to have more confidence in the rain than amateur four-wheeler drivers. This is not necessarily due to higher skill level, since a fully loaded trailer provides maximum squeegee action for its tires, and the forward tires sweep the water off the road for the rearward tires. At any rate, a motorcycle rider must be aware that his two-wheeled vehicle might not have as much traction reserve in the wet as do other vehicles on the highway—he is operating closer to his traction limit.

      Locking a rear brake while cornering gives a rider the "thrill" of the rear tire trying to slide out from under him. Perhaps a rider decides he has miscalculated his speed entering a wet corner, and chooses to violate the rule requiring increasing throttle while cornering. The unloaded rear tire cannot maintain cornering traction while braking, too. No need to panic—release pressure on the brake slightly—regain traction—look forward to the next corner. Learn from it and go on.

      Locking a front brake while cornering gives a rider even more of a "thrill." What happens next can scare an unwary rider into a brain-locking panic. The government calls this problem a "wobble" in its license test booklet, and blames it on mechanical defects, ignoring the fact that this phenomenon is a normal function of motorcycle physics. Experienced riders and racers refer to it as "head shake," or the more extreme version of "tank-slapper," since the handlebars (and front wheel) is rapidly turning back-and-forth at cruising speed. It's just like a castor wheel of a grocery store shopping cart that can't find its grip and oscillates in an annoying manner. Sooner or later a high-mileage rider may eventually get to experience head shake, even if he never exceeds a speed limit. Either he can learn from it or he can quit riding. The government does not allow for "wobble" while braking, advising riders it can only occur under accelleration.

      If and when a tank-slapper happens, don't let go of the handlebars (good luck), release the front brake lever (maybe the bike is trying to tell you something), and try to keep your feet on the pegs (good luck)--or at least your butt on the seat. The spinning rear tire should keep the bike at a constant lean angle while all this is going on, and the shaking should stop almost immediately, returning you to peaceful motoring as if nothing had happened at all. Gather it up and get ready for the next curve. One more reason to give yourself extra distance when following another vehicle.

      Braking-while-cornering is more likely to produce a violent tank-slapper, since the forks are more compressed and cannot handle any large bumps without overloading the tire, while acceleration-while-cornering produces a milder version of head shake, due to underloading of the tire. Either keep an eye on it and continue to accellerate (it will stop when the corner is over) or back out of the throttle a little if you want to. Aggressive countersteering mid-turn to increase lean angle suddenly (a violation of The Rules) can contribute to head shake. Holding tight on the handlebars (attempting to, anyway) and stiff-arming them will surely shake a rider off the bike and/or cause a crash. Just like in normal cornering, it is necessary to hold on loosely in order to remain in control. Wet conditions can produce head shake at relatively low speeds.

      In a hypothetical example, imagine a rider in typical wet-weather conditions, cruising along with traffic flow, well below the posted speed limit. He is following a tractor-trailer rig, maintaining an overly conservative distance just to be extra safe. While traveling downhill around a gentle curve, approaching a busy Interstate intersection, he observes the truck's rear brakes lock up. The rider is amazed that tires could smoke that much on a wet road surface. He also notices that the rapidly approaching rear bumper of the trailer looks even less user friendly to motorcycles than to automobiles (500 drivers are decapitated annually in such "underride" collisions). The concerned rider decides to slow down, just in case the truck decides to stop completely. FORK COMPRESSED OVERLOAD FROM BUMP However, he is understandably distracted by the truck's smoking tires, and he accidentally allows his front brake to lock. This locked front tire creates a violent tank-slapper, since the lockup occurred while negotiating a curve. Due to self-countersteering and gyroscopic precession, the bike is also leaning rapidly left-right-left as the handlebars are whipping back and forth. The bucking bike is trying to throw him off into the path of oncoming traffic. An instant dose of adrenaline kicks his heart and brain into overdrive. Time slows down as his thinking speeds up.

      Fortunately, this rider has studied his motorcycle riding fundamentals, preventing deadly panic. He knows he has to release the front brake pressure and get that front tire spinning again, even while the gap to the next vehicle is closing rapidly. This strategy achieves instant success, and the motorcycle stabilizes perfectly. Since the rider had been generous with his following distance, there is no collision, and he continues to his destination.

      Thanks to education, the rider is not hospitalized (or mortuaryized). Since the rider understands motorcycle physics, he is not tempted to give up his love of riding after this one heart-racing incident. He does revue his riding textbooks, to see if he can learn anything from this lesson. He looks up the chapters on head shake and braking to gain more understanding of his experience. When he returns to the scene of his fright, he discovers a dip in the pavement that allowed the front tire to lock-up as he target-fixated on the truck's smoking tires. The author—I mean the hypothetical rider—gained more insight of motorcycles and more confidence in his riding abilities after his brush with a real-life tank-slapper. Going to the edge and knowing how to return in one piece is the fundamental premise of wreckless riding (and driving).

      Riding in the rain can be just as much fun as riding in sunshine, provided the rider is prepared both with rain-proof clothing (and fog-proof helmet) and educated on recovery from slides and shakes. Steering stabilizers can be installed to dampen head shake (Dennis Kirk, $150), but cannot eliminate it completely in all situations. The steeper a bike's front fork angle, the more likely it will experience head shake (although any bike can do it in the "right" circumstances)NOT??? . This is a normal trade-off for sport bikes that are designed for quick steering and good cornering performance. Be ready for it by programming your brain with emergency instructions. One does not have to speed or compete on a racetrack to experience sudden head shake.

      Motorcycles can slide just like cars. Whether the slide is under the rider's control or not is entirely up to the rider. In racing, The Zone refers to controlled riding the tires at the edge of their performance envelope. This means that the tires are usually sliding in every turn. On asphalt, the front tire is usually allowed to slide while entering the corner, when the tire is slightly overloaded from braking forces. In the middle of the corner, both tires are allowed to slide together since both have equal cornering forces. At the exit of the corner, the rear wheel is allowed to slide under accelleration. The point of this information is to let a rider know that a small slide is nothing to panic over. No drastic steering, braking or throttle actions are required or wanted. In fact, because of the reverse action of countersteering, trying to steer a sliding bike like a sliding car can backfire on the unwary rider. The bike will try to correct itself, thanks to its self-steering caster effect, as long as the rider does not interfere. At these small levels of sliding, the tires actually stick to the road even better, allowing quicker braking, sharper cornering and stronger accelleration.

      This is where "knee-dragging" becomes useful. Any bumps or ripples in the road's pavement can start a slide. As a safety precaution, keeping a knee close to the pavement in readiness for a bump can help a rider catch a slide before it turns into a crash. Like training wheels on a child's first bicycle, a rider's knees can ensure that a motorcycle won't be able to tip over when it slides a little bit. Since the rear wheel is spinning and producing gyroscopic stability, a slide won't make the bike instantly fall over. The bike will also slow down when sliding, allowing the tires to grip again. Obviously, "knee sliders" are required to perform this safety action without grinding one's knee into a bloody pulp. Disposable sliders can either be part of a leather suit or can be purchased to fit over any pair of pants. Even if the bike never slides, keeping a knee down just-in-case can give a rider a useful margin of safety.

      While hanging off will give a rider an improved margin of safety in ground clearance, knee dragging is the only way to control a mid-corner slide. These techniques are useful even at speeds below the government's speed limits, whether the road is wet or dry. It is intelligent for a rider to learn how far his bike can safely lean, in preparation for the day when he might require that experience in an emergency situation. It is amazing how far a modern bike can lean over, and there is no way to learn this without gradually sneaking up on it. Learning a bike's lean-angle limit in a controlled environment can reduce a rider's panic should he accidentally find himself in need of a tighter cornering radius. Note that hanging off does not have any effect on increasing the tires' grip (which is limited to about 1.0g, since there is no aerodynamic downforce). Hanging off only increases the available ground clearance at a given speed for a given corner.

      Photos 35 mph in 40 zone: (1) sit up, (2) hang off, (3) knee slide.

      Lean angle is also affected by bike weight and rider weight. The heavier a bike and rider are, the more lean angle is required to go through a given corner at a given speed. Center of gravity height also affects lean angle: the higher the center of gravity ("C.G"), the more lean angle required (a heavy rider will raise the C.G.). That's why 125cc race bikes are faster through a corner than a 500cc race bike that has wider tires and three times the horsepower (and why racers learn on the smaller, faster-cornering bikes before moving to bikes with higher straightaway speeds). That's why 600cc street bikes can lap a racetrack in less time ("faster") than a 1,000cc street bike that costs thousands of dollars more. That's also why factory race teams only employ featherweight riders. Weight reduction is the same as adding horsepower, widening the tires and strengthening the front brake, all at the same time. Bigger is definitely not better when trying to cut corners. This quirk can catch a rider off guard if he is not aware of it, especially if he is on a big-cc (heavy) bike and is trying to follow a smaller (lighter) bike, or try to follow one that is a newer version that has weighs less. If a rider is tries to follow an identical bike but the leading rider weighs significantly less (such as a female), the heavier rider ought to recognize and respect his lean-angle limitations.

      Although there is no law against leaning a bike over in a curve, police routinely arrest riders for dragging a knee or hanging off. This is about as unintelligent as profiling riders for being intelligent enough to wear safety pads and leathers. "Reckless driving" (one rider) or "drag racing" (two or more riders) is the alleged crime. Any rider faced with such an arrest situation would do well to gently explain the facts of life to the driving-instructor wanna-be. Of course, to speak to a cop makes a citizen "guilty" of "contempt of cop" and faces the threat of "resisting arrest". (ALL traffic citations are technically an arrest, which the citation only prevents going to jail while awaiting arraignment in court.) So maybe it's best you allow the cop to remain stupid and ignorant.

      Wheelies are another accidental phenomenon that can catch a rider unawares. Many modern bikes have such excellent power-to-weight ratios that wheelies can literally occur at any time and at any speed. The downward dip of the front forks between gear changes or throttle changes can bounce the front end upward. A sudden twist of throttle at the same moment can catapult the front wheel skyward. Accidentally popping the clutch from a standing start can also create a more violent style of wheelie. Fortunately, rear-wheel gyroscopic stability keeps everything going in a straight line, so long as the rider doesn't panic and hold a death-grip on the throttle at max-power, flipping the bike on its back. Reducing the throttle when only sky is visible should keep things under control, bringing the errant tire back to earth without too much shock. A rider stopped by police for wheeliing might solicit sympathy for being forced to travel on such a monstrous machine. Performance Bikes magazine published a reader's letter to the editor (June 1999) which declared it was actually possible to avoid a ticket or arrest for a 120-mph wheelie. Being deselected for selective enforcement would depend on a rider remaining cool under pressure, which a rider is obviously capable of if he can ride a wheelie at 120 mph. (Wheelies are the motorcycle equivalent to playing a with a music-making machine--both can result in criminal citation or arrest when done without a government permit anywhere near "government" roadways.)

      Burn outs can also be accidental or intentional, due to many bikes' strong power-to-weight ratio. Grabbing the front brake while standing off the seat and dumping the clutch at full throttle is useful for drag racers at the track (to heat the tire and make it grip better), or for street riders who enjoy buying overpriced new tires. Accidental wheel-spin is not uncommon in the rain, and is best handled by reducing the throttle slightly. Chopping the throttle is rarely a wise move on a motorbike.

      Good luck.


      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 government employees choose to censor life saving information from public, for reasons only they can explain. (I would hate to think the MSF—and now the government—has been attempting to increase profit from its schools by extorting 100,000 riders per year to purchase lessons on the "secrets" of countersteering. That would be a criminal conspiracy, which the government always alleges is an impossibility.) One and a half million motorcycle riders have learned the technique of countersteering. That only leaves 25.5 million motorcycle riders to go. Fortunately, by reading these techniques and practicing them on your own, you can win the game even without the government's support.

      These are not new ideas, so there is no reason for the government to drop the ball, so to speak. In fact, the government takes billions of tax dollars from motorcycle riders in the form of sales taxes, gasoline taxes, registration fees, licensing fees and police prosecutions, yet provides virtually nothing in the way of a return on their investment. Public service billboard and television advertising could easily promote citizens to seek out detailed information for themselves and their kids. For example: "Attention Bicyclists and Motorcyclists: Countersteering—learn it before a lack of it kills you." Such an advertising campaign could quickly generate curiosity and acceptance of countersteering. If Americans can believe that tobacco products can make them younger (or more mature), sexier, better-dressed, wealthier and happier, simply due to the power of advertising, then they are capable of believing anything.

      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 not-so-humble 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.

      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). One bike "expert" recommends tossing things at drivers who are following too closely, but you never know when a psycho (person who is "psychiatricly challenged") is going to trip-out on road-rage mania.

      For example, the murder of the off-duty motorcycle cop, described in the chapter "A Citizen's Experience with Crime Fighting," occurred when he stopped his expensive Harley-Davidson at a traffic light after midnight. As he revved his open-pipe motor above idle (a normal requirement), a passenger in the car next to him—who was high (or withdrawn) on cocaine and alcohol (and probably suffering from psychiatric malnutrition) freaked out. His jealousy of not owning his own motorcycle (a common enough response among motorists—perhaps due to their ignorance and fear of how to safely ride one) triggered him to "decide" to shoot the biker in the back as he pulled away from the downtown intersection. In all the excitement, the killer promptly shot himself in the leg attempting to hide his gun under his seat. Despite being arrested for DWI and allegedly confessing to murder, the two cop killers had DWI and murder charges dropped by the (corrupt) government, as a personal favor to a relative of one of the accused. This version of events is alleged by a partner and friend of the dead cop who was privy to inside information, counteracting the disinformation fed to the public by the corporate media. The "official" police version is that no evidence was gathered, no confessions were ever made, and allegations were dissimated in the media that the dead cop was killed in a "drug deal gone bad" (so good riddence?). The alleged killers were later arrested by a different American government and convicted for selling drugs.

      The moral of the story is that riders must find ways to increase visibility without alienating nutty motorists (or else wear bullet-proof flak jackets?). A friendly wave of thanks--or excuse me--can work wonders. Fortunately, according to the Hurt Report, random acts of violence against riders are very rare. (As all violent crime is rare, contrary to what the corporate media portrays. Even murder is usually committed by "friends" and family members against each other. The real news is the gratuitous arrest of normal citizens.)

      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 (beware the nicotine propaganda). 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). 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. Ordering information for the California Superbike School is provided in the bibliography.

      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 (part-time riders), and (usually) enjoy their motorcycle riding. (The local MSF school I attended was originally founded by a motorcycle cop, but after he was arrested for selling drugs, control was taken away from the police department.)

      The free schools are paid for with government recycling of driver license fees, giving citizens a return on their tax investment (what a great idea—why not do this with automobiles, too?). The only downside is that the government is taking over administrative control of the MSF schools, leading to bureaucratic stifling of education (for example, MSF advice on emergency maneuvers such as swerving, quoted in government license manuals, is being reduced—not increased—in subsequent revised editions). Like the racing schools, MSF schools provide motorcycles, insurance and safety apparel. Nearly 1,000 schools are located within a few hours traveling distance for most citizens. The beginner's course includes three days of classroom instruction and riding practice. The (half-priced) experienced course is only one day, and allows a student to use his own bike and insurance, and gives more technical data. Training focuses mainly on handling a motorcycle at low speeds, below 30 miles per hour, which is actually where most crashes occur. There are approximately 2,500 mental tasks that a motorcycle rider must learn to perform—and the school will at least give a rider awareness of the most important ones. Driver license checks are required for insurance purposes, although beginning riders can take the course provided they are at least 14 years of age. Completion of the school allows the student to skip the riding test for a government license in some states (big deal—most test stations routinely fail to give riding tests), and entitles a rider to a 10% discount on liability insurance. (Admittedly, this a token discount for such a major improvement in crash-avoidance skills. Perhaps a 90% discount for their 1.5 million graduates would be more fair.) 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 dangerous, and can get a rider killed if he follows it. 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 (such as regarding countersteering), 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 test 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 this state, motorcycle riders are not even given a proper road test. Either the police testers waiver the test, or they conduct minimal "supervision."

      In this state, 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.


      Throw away holiness and wisdom,
      and people will be a hundred times happier.
      Throw away morality and justice,
      and people will do the right thing.
      Throw away industry and profit,
      and there won't be any theives....
      When taxes are too high,
      people go hungry.
      When the government is too intrusive,
      the people lost their spirit.
      Act for the people's benifit.
      Trust them; leave them alone.

      –Lao-tzu, from Tao Te Ching (circa 500 B.C.)

            The law embodies an invincible rationale: 'He had an accident; therefore he violated the law.' No distinction is made between responsibility for the accident and responsibility for the injury due to unsafe vehicle design or construction. Manslaughter charges are filed routinely against drivers; there is yet to be recorded any similar charges against the manufacturers for vehicle defects.... A typical police traffic accident report has a list of 'contributing circumstances' which the officer is to check off: 'Speed too fast; failed to yield right of way; drove left of center; improper overtaking; passed stop sign; ran traffic signal; improper lights; had been drinking; and other improper driving.' ...Thus the driver is heir to all the dangers created by the automobile designers, not only in terms of bodily injury but also in terms of legal exposure. The result of this drastic imbalance in the law is the very poor quality of accident investigation in this country.... Consequently, enforcement of the law brings no pressure on the car makers to increase the safety of their vehicles.
      –Ralph Nader, from Unsafe at Any Speed, the Designed in Dangers of the American Automobile (circa 1965 A.D.)


      Tennessee Motorcycle Operator's Handbook


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