As Part Two of our continuing investigative series into counter steering and body steering (see Art & Science, October 2002), we asked a number of top racers to comment on how they steer their bikes. Some of their answers will surprise you. In Part Three, we will attend a selection of riding schools and report what each teaches on the subject. Stay tuned.
I use my arms to push on the bars. I get a lot of sore triceps from pushing and pulling. I do a lot of that. It's not something that I consciously think about. I use my legs a bit as well. It's fairly physical. I apply some pressure on the left side in a left corner. Through the esses it's a combination of the legs and pushing on the bars.
You really don't think much about it. I use my lower body [and my] hips a bit, because you get off to the side and yeah, your arms kind of initiate it, but you almost twist as well to set the thing in. I think it's a combination-I can't say one more than the other. You do it so long, you just kind of put that out the window and go on with it-think about other things. I do more work with the pegs [from the] middle of the turn out than I do entry. Entry, you're working on backshifts; you're positioning. I've never felt really good to [keep moving] around as you're going up into the apex, it tends to upset the bike and you lose it. But once you start to get on the throttle, transfer everything to the back, then it becomes more of what you can do with your feet.
The counter steering thing...that's more obvious at the fast tracks, you're just really pushing hard to make the bike turn. I think 90 percent of it's in the handlebars. To initiate the turn...you really push hard to just drop the bike in and then obviously you shift your body on the inside of the corner and turn the bike. For me turning, obviously, you have to put your body into position. We get up and brake hard, and then you're in a good position where you counter steer and you push the bike into it. I think it's got to be done with your arms first because if you throw your body off, you've got less leverage. The legs, you put a lot of pressure on the footpegs. I think the best school for that was motocross. The more you road race, the more you find out that you're losing that. But the legs play a big part in road racing, weighing the footpegs as far as turning. Going into turning there's quite a bit of legwork being done in there, as you push backwards and then you counter steer and turn the bike. And then after that, you put all your weight on the inside footpeg. And then when you come out, of course, picking up the bike, you put both feet on the footpegs. Actually you use the outside footpeg to lift the bike coming out.
To me, there's really no one way to do it. You're always in a different position on the bike at different parts of the track, so it depends on the situation. When you're hangin' off the bike in the middle of the corner, you're using your legs more. Maybe going into the corner, you use your arms a bit. After a race, sometimes I get a little tender in the back of my knee; sometimes my arms are sore. There's no one way...you just ride the shit out of it.
You use your body more, but you use your arms and hands, too. I mean, everyone always says, "What do you use more?" When I'm riding, I use everything as much as I can, so you can't put a number on the arms and hands. A couple of the schools and stuff say, "It's all done with your arms, it's how you steer." And another is, "It's all done with your legs." Well that's bullshit. It's done with everything; because I know when I'm done with everything I'm hurting all over. Motocrossers think that roadracers sit on the seat and don't do anything. I remember talking to Larry Ward at Glen Helen and he said, "You guys just sit there and you don't do anything and your suspension doesn't travel." And I'm thinking, "What's this guy talking about?" You'd think a top motocrosser would know better. Certainly roadracing isn't as physically demanding as a motocross race, but it's physical. You've got to be in shape.
I use my arms a lot. Lately I've been concentrating on really gettin' the bike down into the turn with my arms, because with the Formula Extreme bike, it's got so much power that you need to use the bars to help get the bike steered as you're gettin' in the throttle. I don't really use my legs that much.
I never really thought about it. It's just natural. I never really think about what I'm doing, so I'm probably the wrong guy to ask. Try to use your legs as much as possible, because you're a lot stronger in your legs. Mainly in transitions, that's where I try to use it more. You use your arms to kind of pull yourself into the right position and to get the thing stopped and turned at the same time, with your legs. Here, VIR, you have to do it all the time. Brainerd you don't have to do it as much. Here you have to do a lot of legs and arms. Downhill you have to use a lot of upper body to keep from falling onto the tank.
I steer more with my arms for sure. Everybody thinks it's all upper body, people who just watch, who don't actually ride a bike. I know for me, I think I use my body a lot more, my knees, my legs. It's kind of weird, every school, everybody's got their own opinion on counter steering and stuff, but for me it kind of comes natural. I don't notice it as much. A track like VIR (Virginia International Raceway), you use a lot more lower [body] just to get your bike to change directions. You use a little bit of upper body too, but a lot of lower body to get the bike to change directions. Laguna a little bit, but not as much as here or Sears, Laguna, Loudon. Dirttracking you counter steer a lot. That's all you do. You use more of your upper body, but you use your lower body too, to get traction. Coming out of the corner you weight your right peg, you're really pushing on it to get traction.