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BACK TO BASICS - COUNTER STEERING

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

In a nut shell, counter steering is simply pushing the handle bars right or left in order to steer the motorcycle. Most riders do this subconsciously. At higher speeds you don't even realize you are doing it, but you must be or you would never get to where you are going without a serious crash. At low speeds, it does become a conscience effort. A friend of mine who recently purchased a Kawasaki Nomad and obtained his learners permit, asked me to help him pass the motorcycle drivers test.

Unfortunately, he picked one of the most difficult motorcycles to drive through that particular course. The course was designed years ago when most motorcycles had short wheel bases. The problem area with the state course is the off-set cone weave. This consists of 5 cones set 12 feet apart, with 2 of the cones having a 2' off-set. In order to maneuver through this exercise on any long wheel base cruiser, especially the Nomad, you have to be able to turn the handle bars from lock to lock at less than 2mph. For new riders, or even experienced riders who don't know the technique of HEAD AND EYES or have not mastered the friction zone, it's damn near impossible.

I set up a replica of the exercise in a parking lot and was able to get my Kawasaki Nomad through it, but did find it quite difficult. Most people believe it is impossible to get a large motorcycle through this exercise. While difficult, it is not impossible. However, it is going to take considerable practice. Your best best is to borrow a friend's small 250cc, etc. type bike or take the motorcycle safety foundation course. If you are intent on passing the motorcycle exam on your cruiser, here's my recommendations to get you through it.

Get yourself 6 cones, cups, cans, etc. Set them up in a straight line 12 feet apart. Keep your foot on the rear brake, stay in the friction zone, keep your head and eyes up and look at least two cones ahead. The more cones you set up the quicker you will learn to weave your way through them. If you are worried about dropping the motorcycle get some heater hose or an old garden hose and tape the pieces to your crash bars. You will be going so slow that if you do drop the bike, it should not cause any damage. Once you get comfortable weaving through the cones, start off-setting the 2nd, 3rd and 5th cones in 6 inch increments, until you eventually get to the two foot off-set.

With enough practice and patience, this can be accomplished. If at first you have to put the cones 14' apart to comfortably weave through them, do it. Good luck and ride safe.

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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25 years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says, "When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to ride a motorcycle."
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