Stage 18 of the 2016 Tour de France, was an individual TT, that featured a set of corners, one being a short radius corner near the end of the run that posed a real problem for a few riders on course today. You may wonder why this was so.
Alright then let’s get down to the nuts and bolts analysis of why it did pose a problem.
(Alt video link)
If you watch the video of Oliver Naesen from Iam Cycling, you can see that his exit was a bit wide (off line) out of the prior corner and consequently, that put him off line for the entry (turn in point) for the following turn in which he ran off. Of course this is why he and his bike went off the road and over the barrier. Jeremy Roy suffered from nearly the same error. If a rider misses the turn-in-point of corner entry, guaranteed they’ll miss the corner exit… outcome? Run wide, run off, or potentially worse.
You can also see that his eyes and head were FIXED towards the edge of the road/barrier, this is known appropriately as ‘Target Fixation’ ( this is a survival instinct reaction) which are a riders worst enemy- that’s right, survival instinct reactions, or SIR’s are NOT your friend when riding anything on two wheels.
So, look at his arms, hands and upper body in the video as well. They are LOCKED on the bars. Not only is his vision locked and fixated toward the outside of the corner, but because his brain is now in ‘panic’ mode (SIR’s) his arms, hands and shoulders are also locked in position, forsaking control.
A riders field of vision, or forward vision (VisionForward©) IS everything when riding, period. Coupled with the implementation of counter steering is mission critical when riding any single track, inline, two-wheeled vehicle. No arguments folks, you’ll lose each and every time, against the laws of classical physics.
The corner in which he ran wide and off the road started from the corner prior or even several corners before that short radius left-right turn. When a rider misses an entry of a corner, then 99.9% of the time, the rider will be off line at the exit. And if there are a series of corners, that rider will most likely ‘botch’ the entire series of turns. Unless the rider can correct mid-corner without sacrificing too much speed/time. The short radius that is in question, is a turn(s) that require a rider to ‘square it off’ or, take a wider arc/line on entry in order to have the proper exit line.
This is a crucial piece of the puzzle, your bike’s cornering radius is determined by its entry speed. Missing an apex shows that a rider is in too hot (too fast), the rider is rushing the entry of the corner and then giving up the proper exit line and subsequently, control and speed.
If anyone tells you (this includes any so-called expert, pro, former pro, coach or shop mechanic/owner, etc) that counter steering, in conjunction with body lean isn’t necessary to steer a bicycle, then just know that that person is quite ill-informed and does not have an understanding of the mechanics of braking, steering and turning a bicycle/motorcycle.
Oh, you can try to argue against physics and four basic applied FORCES ( gravity, inertia, (aka- centrifugal force) friction- (aka- traction) and centripetal Force– which affects balance) that are acting against rider and machine, but you cannot win, ever. Machine weight has no significant bearing, because the bicycle steers the SAME exact way as a motorbike, it just takes much less input on the bars, but a rider still needs to counter steer. that’s all folks.
Minimizing lean angle and maximizing contact patch is paramount. Unlike mountain bikes, road bikes have very little to zero adjustability. Therefore, the tires and the rider are the most important factors with regards to bike handling. Understanding this and the ‘mechanics’ of Braking, Steering and Turning (BST©) are the keys to good handling skills.
Counter steering first and foremost is an AVOIDANCE maneuver skill. Of course it makes turning a bicycle most efficient and safe as well. Bottom line is that if you’re not utilizing counter steering, you’re missing out on a critical aspect of bike handling. Especially as speeds go up. My advice is to practice, practice, practice the Fundamentals.