Steering a bicycle

Months ago, there was a thread about a bicycle puzzler. It was about steering a bicycvle without leaning. I was reminded of it when I recently rode a adult tricycle. One of my clients recently got a Schwinn three-wheel bike. Since there are two wheels in back, you cannot lean! I almost wrecked the first time I tried riding it, and that was in the driveway. Had to re-learn how to ride a bike.

When I learned to ride a motorcycle, One of the first things they taught us was to first push the handlebars away from the direction of the turn, then lean into the turn. So for a right turn, first push away on the right grip. It seems counterintuitive, but there’s no other way to do it.

It’s the same on a bicycle, but it’s so subtle, and we learn to ride bicycles at a young age, that there’s no conscious thought process to it. We just do it automatically. But when learning to ride a motorcycle, which is much heavier, you have to actually “relearn” that process and do it consciously, and it seems strange at first until it becomes automatic again.

@jesmed - that ‘push right hand to turn right’ works because of the gyroscopic forces. It also explains why some folk who crash on a bike claim ‘the steering locked up’. They panic, go into ‘pull right to turn right’ mode, and the bike refuses to turn, as expected.

Now, class…
try turning an airplane.

You’d think the rudder, ( aka verticle stabilizer, the ‘‘flap’’ on the straight up part of the tail ) would turn the plane .
you must lean to turn , via the ailerons ( the ‘‘flaps’’ at the outer ends of the wings that operate opposite of each other. )
In fact, once your lean is established you return the ailerons to zero position and just maintain the same lean untill the turn is complete.

Ken, can we borrow your plane to try? :wink:

sold it years ago when the expensive hobby stopped being fun and started being an expense burden , or I’d take you up for a trial ride.
Dad and I co-owned a Cessna 172 ( 182 engine ). When their retirement meant visiting in any one place for long periods, a travel trailer was more practical.
As my family grew , a light 4 seater was impractical as well.

But it was a fun ride having ‘‘been there, done that’’ for a while.
Flying here in the four corners southwest is the best. You can see for hundreds of miles.

Many years ago I bought a 1941 Harley Servicar; commonly referred to as a meter maid trike.
It was the first 3 wheeler I had ever ridden and while rounding the first corner on the shakedown ride I also did the leaning thing.
It kept on turning and put me right in someone’s front yard…
Pretty embarassing for someone who is supposed to be motorcycle proficient. :frowning:

I’m not a pilot but have had the opportunity to take the yoke a number of times on several different aircraft.
It’s pure Nirvana to be at altitude with nothing around but the horizon. The sad part is having to come down and I might even venture to say that flying is a bit more fun than motorcycling.

On Pawn Stars the other night, the guys looked at a gyrocopter for sale. Neither one of them wanted to go up with the pilot for a test ride, so the producers strapped a camera on and the pilot went up alone. Looked like fun. Probably not terribly safe, but I’d give it a shot at least once.

I have a few pilot friends and from them I learned that owning an airplane is about like supporting a second family.
Hangar fees
the divorce

Countersteering a bicycle is really pretty simple. In order to lean into a turn, you first have to steer the wheels out from underneath your bike’s center of gravity. Then to stop the turn, you steer the wheels back underneath the bike’s center of gravity. When going straight, you are constantly steering the wheels back under the bike’s center of gravity so it doesn’t fall over.
Gyroscopic precession of the front wheel tends to make some of this happen automatically, which is why you can ride hands off.
I’m pretty sure ski-bikes also have to start a turn by turning out of the turn first but there’s no gyroscopic auto-balance, a good thing or they would be banned from ski slopes just like sleds are. If they auto-balanced, every other wipeout would result in a runaway bike heading downhill.

A unicycle takes this even farther. In order to stop a unicycle, you must first accelerate forward which causes the unicycle to fall backwards, then stopping the unicycle balances the backward lean. To accelerate, you must first pedal backwards so the unicycle falls forward, then accelerating balances the forward lean.

Good description B.L.E.

Another point is to consider is balancing in a turn. Once the turn is established the wheels have to be centered under the center of the resultant force. The resultant force being the vector combination of gravity pulling vertically on the center of mass and centrifugal force pulling horizontally on the center of mass. The resultant force is higher than 1G as a result.

In a heavily banked steep turn with an airplane that increase in G force is most noticable. IIRC a 60 degree bank yields 2Gs.

I was thinking about how one turns a unicycle. I guess you swivel your lower body opposite to the intended turn getting the wheel from under the center of gravity; swiveling in the direction of the turn once the appropriate bank has been established; and then swiveling into the turn to move the path of the wheel back underneath the center of gravity.

One of the motorcycle safety instructors I know is fond of saying that three-wheeled vehicles are much more dangerous than two-wheeled vehicles. I guess side-cars aren’t as fun as they look.

When I was a kid, and I’d visit my grandmother, I frequently got my grandmother’s adult tricycle up on two wheels in a turn, so I think you can lean on them. However, I would not try that with a three-wheeled motorcycle.

This morning, while commuting on my motorcycle, I saw someone on a Can-Am Spyder. I didn’t envy him. He looked pretty funny trying to lean into curves and turns.

Piaggio does make a trike you can lean:


As I was riding my motorcycle home yesterday, it occurred to me that you don’t press on the opposite side to which you want to turn. You press on the side you want to turn. This is called “counter-steering” because it turns your front wheel ever so slightly in the opposite direction in which you are turning in order to create the lean.

@whitey, that’s what I said…“for a right turn, first push away on the right grip.” Sorry if I wasn’t clear. :wink: