It is 3 key elements my dear Watson…

The BST© (Brake Steer Turn) series presents another rider training article

While turning is certainly not a secret, I do believe this piece is something worth reiterating again and again- because again and again…we sometimes see our fellow riders not completely understanding and/or executing a basic turn in a safe and efficient manner. Being on the correct or proper line- at any speed is first and foremost critical to safety.

What I’m referring to is, a basic constant-radius corner. A basic turn is made up of three parts; the entrance, the apex and the exit. Of course there are other various types of simple or complex corners and/or turns; These include double or triple apex corners, decreasing or increasing radius types, chicanes, esses, hairpins, etc. But this article will center primarily on the simple (design) of a basic 90° corner. The main focus will be on the ‘mechanics’ of the basic corner, how to execute the fundamentals of corner entry and exit, but not so much on the intricacies of cornering techniques.


note that this diagram is referring to a single lane and not the entire roadway

Point of Entry

Starting with the approaching entrance of a corner, which is always the first part of any corner, a rider will and should go through the following progressions: 1. Initial braking application, 2. braking release point, and then, 3. the TIP- (Turn In Point).  As a rider approaches the entrance, they should only be thinking about these first three tasks above. Not about where they are going or where their corner exit is… (yet) Keep in mind that the window or frame of time in which all of these things are happening will be in fractions of a second.

Once a rider has ‘hit’ the corner entrance mark, then the focus should immediately be on the apex of the corner. Now depending on speed, lean angle and external surface conditions, it may be possible to adjust the bikes line mid-corner, if indeed the rider finds themselves ‘off’ the most effective line. Now this could be a tricky maneuver depending on speed and conditions. Though a short gentle pull or a slight dragging of the the brakes (preferably the rear brake) mid-corner will usually be safe to do, in order to get the bike back on its ‘proper’ line. Of course lean angle is a significant consideration, which will typically be determined by rider/machine speed. Remember, radius determines speed. (as does the coefficient of friction- also known as traction…)

What the above phrase means is, the given curb-to-curb radii of a roadway corner will accommodate varying speeds- according to how ‘tight’ or ‘open’ a corner is. Wide sweeping corners will usually allow a rider to enter fast and stay fast through the entire turn. Not so with a hairpin or decreasing radii corner. It should be noted that if a rider is needing to significantly brake mid-corner, then entry speed was likely too high or the TIP was markedly off. If the rider hits the apex fairly correctly, then the next step is to focus on corner exit.

Exit (stage left?)

Arguably, corner exit is perhaps the most critical part or section of the corner. Screw up the entrance or be too wide of the apex…and a rider will always, always be on the incorrect line for a ‘proper’ exit. If the rider made the entrance and apex reasonably well, then the exit pretty much takes care of itself- though the rider must still be very mindful of any variable or change in road condition(s) and obstacle(s). “It all begins with Vision”

This segmented approach to a turn, where a rider divides a corner into very small portions or segments, enables the rider to work through the ‘mechanics’ of a turn, task by task. What this does, is essentially allow the brain to focus on fewer decisions per millisecond.

Key Elements

A primary factor is to always try and remain relaxed on the machine. Remember that once a bicycle is in motion, the gyroscopic effect of the wheels help to keep the bike stable. The rake and trail of the steering geometry (which are fixed by the fork type and its offset) will  assist in keeping the bike stable and going straight, even after the front wheel may be deflected by a bump or irregularity on the road.

This is because of the self-centering aspect of the tire’s contact patch is positioned behind the steering axis. Though, when a beginner or nervous rider ‘clamps’ down (the ‘ol death grip) on the bars, it tends to provide unwanted input that may interfere with the bike’s ability to straighten itself out. So keeping the upper body relaxed and fluid will be a help rather than a hindrance in cornering.

One Vision ( one real decision…)

It’s always best to get your body and vision set up for the corner early, before the entrance. Then a rider needs to begin to initiate counter-steering, along with shifting the body position by slightly pivoting the shoulders and hips towards the bend of the turn. As Counter-steering, along with body pivoting, will allow the bike to ‘tip’ into the corner without much force applied. It should feel natural and easy. Not hurried or panicked.

Hurrying or rushing the corner will usually result in a rider running wide towards the middle and wide of the exit of a turn. The faster one rides, the trickery entry speed determination becomes. This is where VISION, or Forward Vision is the most critical.
Keeping the eyes far ahead towards the exit of a turn at ALL times is a core, key factor. Finding the optimal entry/corner speed takes practice, a lot of practice. These are some of the fundamentals of cycling that are often overlooked or just skimmed over. But as easy or basic as this may seem, it is a core skill-set that needs constant reinforcing. Especially as riders age and spatial judgment and visual perception slowly degenerate.

Steering

There seems to be a constant ongoing debate (though it is moot) about whether counter-steering or ‘body’ steering is the most effective way to steer a bicycle (or a motobike for matter). There are those who think it has to be one or the other or, that counter-steering isn’t necessary at all! But in reality those who believe that notion are missing a key point. Which is, utilizing the upper and lower body together is by far the most effective and efficient way to steer a two-wheeled, inline, single track vehicle. Initial steering input should always begin with light counter-steering (a slight pushing-forward on the inside bar- which utilizes the front wheel’s gyroscopic effect, essentially permits the bike to ‘fall’ into the corner)

In summary, as the rider enters the corner, the focus quickly shifts to the apex and then the exit- all of which happens in milliseconds.  Being prepared early and staying aware will allow a rider to re-position themselves if necessary in order to be on the ‘proper’ line when cornering. Approaching these tasks methodically and accordingly may improve a riders ability to corner BOTH safely and efficiently. Now get out there and practice folks!

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Bike Handling 101

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)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6mv8Il7RvTRUThfNWREZG9wblU

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.

cornering-apex.jpg

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 Forcewhich 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.

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LeanIn Cornering©

LeanIn Cornering© Concepts

Turn Left - Copy

The objective of LeanIn Cornering©  Concepts is to provide rider training utilizing relevant information, how-to bike handling skills and drills that will make for a better and safer rider.

Riding drills are a part of our ‘classroom’ for teaching the proper techniques to improve your bike handling abilities as well as riding into a corner and exiting out of a corner and brief lectures on techniques.

Rider training is possibly the most valuable aspect of riding, for any type of rider. For beginners and novices to seasoned riders. Our BST© (BrakeSteerTurn©) methods and coaching will help you to gain confidence by attaining more control over your machine.

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#ridercoaching #ridertrainng #skillsanddrills

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Countersteering: An Absolute…

The second ‘how-to’ in the Brake Steer Turn (BST©) series.

Lately I have been reading up on road cycling articles and watching cycling videos on the subject of bike handling and descending skills. Mainly as a rider and former moto racer I have a genuine keen interest in the topic and I am curious as to the latest information being doled out.

I figure, perhaps there is something I could glean as well, heck I’m always open to learning something as long as it is both credible and valuable. Though lately what I have been reading and watching is a bit frustrating. Some bits I have been reading and viewing (from so-called ‘experts’) is really a mix of good advice but with a bit of outright incorrect advice.

So, I’m not going to call out any specific Bicycling type magazines, or a so-called Global video channel, the so-called coaches-experts or the various cycling web sites that are purporting some of this misguided info, but suffice to say, there are more than a few top line publications and cycling sites that are doling out  some poor advice and somewhat questionable opinions on bike handling and descending skills.  In fact there is even a misguided bloke who claims that you don’t need to counter steer at all!

How sadly uninformed that poor man truly is…but the worst part is, some if not many riders will take that advice to heart. So I heavily advise…to Steer clear of those would-be squidly riders! 😀 To be fair though, some of these publications do offer some sage counsel, but, they are also offering up a couple of ideas and notions that are either simply incorrect. And in fact presenting some opinions as fact- rather than what they are, which is opinion. And in my view has to potential to nullify some of their credibility.

Though, if I give some of them the benefit of doubt (for simply not comprehending the very complex nature of single track, two-wheeled vehicle dynamics and physics) perhaps a portion of their advice is just simply short-sighted, from a lack of understanding the dynamics of two-wheeled vehicles. Just to be clear, Both bicycles and motorcycles are classified as single-track vehicles. Though they vary greatly in weight, they BOTH steer in the same manner and both utilize counter steering, no ands, ifs or buts about it.

Okay, so let’s dive in and point out what I know to be incorrect information regarding two-wheeled steering dynamics. There seems to be much confusion about steering a bicycle (or motorcycle for that matter) often this confusion results in compromised control, which leads to either poor cornering technique and-or a crash. Simply believing or thinking that one can properly steer a bicycle with just body lean or a shift in body weight alone is absolutely false.

But apparently this has become the popular narrative, but I assure you, it is a False Narrative. And as far as where to put a riders hands or where to steer from, the popular opinion that a riders hand must always be in the drops is another misleading statement. In fact, a rider actually has more leverage in the hoods than in the drops.

Where to place your hands or steer from is simply a personal preference, but when a rider is in the drops, a rider is placing more weight on their hands, wrists and shoulders- as weight is being shifted forward (and so to, the Center of Mass, debunking yet another ‘theory’ that riding in the drops “lowers the center of gravity” which is mostly rubbish. Because whether in the drops or in the hoods, the center of mass is so much not affected by hand position, but rather by body position. And furthermore, getting your shoulders a couple of inches ‘lower’ only very slightly affects CoM. It is not measurable in fact.

But for the average rider, this extra weight on the wrists/arms/shoulders could result in less control. Next time you head out for a ride, try counter steering in an area that is free from traffic. In the drops make firm inputs to the bars. Do this a few times or as many times as you want. Then do the same in the hoods. Note your observations.

Alright, so some of the misguided advice goes something like this; ‘push down on the outside pedal, press your inside leg against the frame and lean your body…that’s it”  -Well, that is Misleading advice, which causes problems for riders, both new and experienced. The idea that a rider can properly steer a bicycle at any speed other than very low speeds by just utilizing body weight and using only body lean is one giant myth (which has busted by the way)

Counter steering always works, just push on the bar and bike responds Instantly, each and every single time. This allows the rider to have more control, resulting in safer riding conditions. Now that is not to say that body lean isn’t a worthy technique, when combined in conjunction with counter steering. Body lean is merely a component in the bike handling mix, but it is not the sole skill. I have and still advocate using ones torso and hips to aid in turning-cornering, but the main component of cornering is to employ counter steering.

Utilize just body lean and a rider will more often than not, run wide, will usually miss the apex and subsequently, the risk of crashing rises as speeds increase. Have you ever wondered why many of the pro’s run wide, or run off the edge of the road or crash in a turn? Well, barring an obstacle, it is usually a result of compounding factors. The first is they typically start their turn-in too early, they typically use just their body to make the turn instead of counter steering and once they begin to run wide, they then succumb to Target Fixation.

Now there are some exceptions, some of the best pro riders like Sagan, Nibali, Evans, Cancellara and other great descenders understand and utilize counter steering and that is what separates them from the rest. Yes, steering is light on a bicycle and that causes most riders to have difficulty in separating the lean of their body with the slight effort it takes to counter steer.

Praising the virtues of  Body Steering ONLY or as it is sometimes called, counter lean, –that is ‘steering’ without counter steering is potentially dangerous. [link:  While a rider can certainly initiate the steering action using counter lean, a rider cannot maintain the arc or angle as both speed and ‘external forces’ increase (the forces acting against a bicycle are gravity, inertia and friction- the latter generating Centripetal Force)  If the turn or series of turns are decreasing in radius, then a rider will simply miss the apex and run off the road or at the very least run wide.

There are so many riders who still suffer under the misconception that body steering is all that is necessary to turn and-or corner a bicycle in a safe and precise manner. The end result is that they are dedicating themselves to an idea or notion that has the potential to do harm to themselves and possibly other riders around them. Counter steering truly becomes evident when there is an obstacle to avoid.

If a rider uses just the ‘body lean’ technique, the rider will experience a momentary lag from body input to actual movement on the bicycle, as in the bike won’t do what the rider wants it to do, at the exact moment when the rider expects it to. So, if a rider needs to initiate a avoidance maneuver or a quick, sharp turn, the rider will most likely end up in a heap or at least crossed up.

https://theroadsofascension.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/countersteering1.jpg?w=640

If a rider is confronted with a obstacle from road hazards or other riders and is not able to initiate firm and concise counter steering, more than likely, the rider will be unable to avoid said obstacle(s). If a rider relies on just using body lean most of the time, when that critical moment arrives and quick, firm counter steering is necessary, it won’t be an automatic reaction, instead, survival reactions (freezing up, tightening the grip on the bars along with target fixation) will all take over and that could and will probably be disastrous.

I defy anyone to descend quickly and just use body or counter lean alone. Try it. Keep your hands on top of the bars without gripping and pushing on the bars. Just rest them on the bars and go attack your favorite descent. You can get back to me after the body cast and bandages are removed. Or not, if perhaps you’re paralyzed or maybe even worse. The fact that so-called experts are telling and propagating the body lean technique to steer in a descent is down right dangerous and just irresponsible in my experienced opinion.

If you are inclined to really delve into single-track vehicle dynamics for both bicycles and motorcycles, there is a very in-depth and very technical wiki article here: Countersteering Dynamics and Implementation

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