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You’re (Thinking About) Steering Your Motorcycle Wrong

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  • February 13, 2024

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If you’ve ever ridden a bike — whether bicycle or motorcycle — you understand how they work: Steering happens in the front, where you turn the handlebars, and the rest of the bike follows as it leans (at least, most bikes do.) Most of us have taken it for granted since we were kids. There’s one problem, though: That’s not how bikes steer.

A new video from FortNine breaks down all the myths about how bikes turn: Steering the bars in the direction you want to go, body english, and leaning. As it turns out, none of them individually make the bike steer.

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Ryan tests each of these myths by isolating them, removing as many other factors as possible to see if anything can — on its own, independent of anything else — cause a bike to steer. Some mods (like bars disconnected from the forks) don’t allow the bike to turn much at all, while others (like squared-off wheels) merely make turning difficult. Really, really difficult.

As it turns out, turning a bike really comes down to two things: Counter steering and tire shape. Counter steering initiates a turn, getting those pesky wheels out from under you so the bike can lean, while leaning gets you onto the more conical sides of your tires — giving you less rolling diameter on one side, and pulling your bike into a circle.

Next time you’re on your bike, don’t worry about turning to steer at low speeds or mastering your body english to carve corners without ever touching your bars. Instead, just remember to steer in the wrong direction, and everything will turn out just fine — doing the wrong thing is the right answer. I wonder if that’s the mindset that fuels all those other two-wheeled shenanigans.

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