What steers your bike (part 2)

Cornering fast and smoothly is all about balancing forces and lots of practice. (Photo Dean Murhpy)

Cornering fast and smoothly is all about balancing forces and lots of practice. (Photo Dean Murhpy)

Continuing on the theme of what steers your bike, hopefully last week we established that a bicycle is unstable when standing still due to being a two wheel human powered vehicle.

Once the bicycle is moving forward stability increases when the centre of gravity in over the frame and wheel.  The weight being kept in balanced combined with the wheels acting as gyroscopes the forces keeps the bike upright and moving forward and is very stable. As the speed of the bike is increased cornering takes on a complete new approach to maintain the forward momentum and centre of gravity stability. 

Most will have experienced going around a left hand corner in a car where the forces will push your body to the right and to counter this we lean to the left into the centre of the  corner.  The same applies on the bike and is helpful in having the understanding what was happening at low speed as to not making the characteristic side to side wobbles now speed has been added.
You may recollect that we spoke that when the bike was leant over to the left the bike handle bars naturally went to the left and the bike steered tighter and tighter to the left if no control was taken over the swing of the handle bars.  When it comes to making moderate to fast speed cornering applications such reactions of the bike have to be countered as to keep the forces in line over the bike frame and wheels to sustain  tability.

In essence fast cornering can be achieved when the wheels of the bike are kept in a reasonably straight line, the centre of gravity kept low and the bike leant over into the corner. To complete such a maneouvre there are some decisions that can drastically affect the cornering being undertaken safely.

In approaching a corner the mind makes a decision about the approach entry and centre point or apex of the corner and an exit point. This will depend on the amount of road that is safe to utilise and approach speed to the corner and how much of the corner can be seen to complete all three decisions.

In enabling the bike to be leant over into the left corner requires the handle bars not turn into the corner but will ever so slightly be counter steered to the right or at least held so that they don’t go left into the corner with the bike leaning. The body will be required to keep the centre of gravity of the bike in stable contact with the road by applying pressure downward with the outside leg down through the centre bracket which will try to make the centre of gravity as low as can possibly.

Please be mindful of where your pedals are as if the bike is leant over and the inside pedal is at the lowest point and makes contact with the road surface and lifts the back wheel off the road and loses traction and stability.

There are techniques of cornering which we are not trying to cover as to what these entails but more make people aware that there is a dynamics of forces applied and a law of physics that makes cornering a sophisticated process that requires an understanding and considerable practice and appropriate application of techniques of keeping the bike
stable.

Such techniques of where the inside leg is and how far the knee protrudes will all come down to individual style and confidence being gained overtime. Much can be learnt from watching others who are smooth and make it seem effortless and have a success of not losing their line throughout the corner.

This can be what separates many riders in groups when it comes to getting into and out of corners and does the manner of riding hills.
So what steers the bike? It could simply be equated to a combination of forces being applied that keeps the centre of gravity in check and allows the body to maintain balance over the frame and wheels of the bike allowing forward movement.

Having all the right bike set-up will assist how the body weight is balanced and distributed.  Any changes to this balance will cause a reaction that will steer the bike and may need a counter reaction to keep control.

See you on the road soon God willing

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