What steers your bike (part 1)

Steering a bike is more about balance than turning the handle bars. (Photo Christian Barkla)

Steering a bike is more about balance than turning the handle bars. (Photo Christian Barkla)

Have you ever wondered what steers your bike?

Most people would think that is what the handle bars are for. This is true to a certain degree and the handle bars are there to create stability and control the bike at low speed and something to hold onto at high speed to assist in steadying the upper body.

Riding a bike requires balance that in turn keeps the centre of gravity stable so as to not fall over sideways. 

A bike is a very unstable vehicle when stationary only having two wheels yet is a very stable machine when moving the weight of the body and bike in a forward motion and the centre of gravity is kept in balanced – to the point where riding no hands can be achieved when this balance is mastered.

Start shifting the balance of weight and changing the centre of gravity the handle bars will respond accordingly and the bike will steer in relationship to which side of the bike the weight has been moved over to.
Most people when starting off have difficulties with either riding really slow in a straight line and excessively swing the handle bars from side to side with the trying to counter the wobble or really fast where they may experience a speed wobble.
Try this exercise for getting the feel of the manner in which a bike responds, walk beside your bike holding the seat and very slightly lean the bike to the left. The handle bars will turn left and the bike will veer to the left.  You can counter lean the bike to the right lightly past the point of being upright to get the bike to a straight line. Maintaining a straight line will resume as long as you pick up when the bike returns to upright centre of gravity and not over correct or the bike then goes to the right.

This is what happens at very low speed there is a feeling of falling to the left the body will counter by throwing the weight to the right. Then the bike goes too far to the right and the reverse happens and weight goes back to the left and a wobble is happening as weight distribution is transferred to the handle bars forks and front wheel as this is the design of the frame and steering system.

Where the person and bike frame is smaller the centre of gravity will be lower and control requires less effort.  Hence young children are able to master cycling as they are agile, have less fear, their centre of gravity is lower and body weight much less along  with their ability to react master much quicker that being relaxed and controlled balance helps steers the bike.

A tall person and age combined have more to contend with having a greater fear and experience will tell the mind this will hurt if I fall over. This can cause an overreaction loss of the required relaxed state quickly and a bad experience results. While momentum is maintained and the mass being moved is kept over the wheels in forward direction (centre of gravity in balance) stability is assured. This again affirms the benefits of having the right set up of handle bars width seat height to the pedals, and
overall frames size that suits the individual’s needs.

It is all comparative to the overall results of cycling being a rewarding

experience that you would want to continue again and again.

See you on the road soon God willing


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