Every rider knows that you lean when your turn. Yet few understand a critical aspect of this—countersteering.
Countersteering is the technique you consciously or unconsciously apply to initiate that lean. In short, you steer left to lean right, and vice versa. To fully understand the theory, you need to get your head around camber thrust, roll angle, and centripetal force. But to ride you only need to understand the practice.
To really get a feel for it, get going down a straight piece of road at a moderate speed—anything over 10 mph (16 kph). Now, still holding the handlebar, open both your hands so only your palms are in contact and your fingers point straight up—so you can only push the bar, not pull. Now push with your right hand, and see what happens.
You’ll experience a momentary dip to the left, and then the bike will bank slightly to the right. Combine countersteering with a quick weight shift to the inside footpeg, and voilà—your bike responds instantly and goes where you want.
Why is it so important to understand what’s happening? It can, quite literally, be a matter of life and death. After all, in a car, when we need to turn right to avoid an accident, we yank the wheel to the right. Doing that same thing on a bike does just the opposite, so that instinct can be deadly.