Guide to Cornering, Turning, and Counter-Steering a Motorcycle

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Knowing how to turn and corner properly is one of the most important skills to master as a new motorcyclists.

Improper cornering is one of the main causes of single-vehicle crashes for motorcycles (i.e. the accident was cause by the rider mishandling the maneuver).

A key component to proper cornering is counter-steering.

This page will explain how to counter steer on a motorcycle and provide some basic tips on turning and cornering.

What is Counter Steering?

If you know how to ride a bicycle, you already know how to counter steer.

However, hearing it taught or talking about counter steering can sound a little counter intuitive.

Basically counter steering involves pushing – rather than just pulling or “turning” – the handlebars in the direction of the turn. e.g. push right and pull left, turn right or push left and pull right, turn left.

If you think about steering a car, you’re doing the opposite on a motorcycle.

The reason you need to counter steer on a motorcycle boils down to the gyroscopic effects of the front and rear wheels.

This kicks in as speeds increase to about 10-15 mph or so.

How to Counter Steer on a Motorcycle

To counter steer on a motorcycle:

  • Get going to about 10 to 15 mph.
  • Maintain an upright riding position.
  • Look and turn your head in the direction of the turn.
  • Press on the handlebars in the direction in which you want to turn while pulling in the opposite direction. Press right, pull left to turn right.

Resist the urge to lean your body or throw your weight around. You really don’t need to be leaning your bodyweight all that much in most turns.

Like many techniques for new riders, counter steering is a great one that can practiced in an empty parking lot as you perfect your skills.

How to Corner on a Motorcycle

One of the most common approaches and techniques for cornering on your motorcycle is the one taught in the MSF basic rider course.

This is the Slow, Look, Press, Roll technique for cornering.

To go through a turn on your motorcycle, you should:

  • Slow down to a safe entry speed before entering the curve. The proper speed will depend on the road conditions and the sharpness of the curve. A good speed will allow you to maintain a good position through the entire curve without having to go wide.
  • Look by turning your head where you want the motorcycle to go. You body and bike will follow where your head is turned. If you fixate on the side of the road, you’ll be off course.
  • Press the handlebars in the direction you are turning. Since you turn a motorcycle by leaning, you need to press rather than steer.
  • Roll on the throttle as you move through the curve to retain speed and balance through it.

Some other helpful things to remember when cornering a motorcycle include:

  • Maintaining a proper riding posture with a slight lean forward.
  • Keep your grip and arms relaxed with your elbows low.
  • Keep your head up and actively looking through the curve.
  • Accelerate smoothly and gradually through the curve.

How to Turn a Motorcycle at Low Speeds

At really slow speeds, before the gyroscopic effect of the motorcycle kicks it, turning on your motorcycle is all about pro-steering with the handlebars and using the friction-zone of your clutch lever.

When you’re just starting out, an empty parking lot is a great place to practice your slow speed techniques.