You must have seen racers leaning with their motorcycles while making a turn on the race track. If you would have noticed supermoto riders do the exact opposite as they lean the opposite way of the motorcycle. Then there are motorcycle cops that are told to stay neutral on the curves. So, there are three ways in which you can lean and make the turn but which technique should you follow?
First, we need to understand what is normal force is. Gravity, as we know, pulls everything down and the same is true for tyres whereas the ground pushes the tyres up. This is called the normal force. You might have noticed that when you are turning, the motorcycle might feel like it is going outwards. This is called centrifugal force. This is where the friction from the tyres do not let the tyre skid.
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There is a limit in which a motorcycle can lean before it runs out of tyres. This is why riders lean in the same direction which increases the gravitational force and helps in taking the turn faster. However, this also means that the person would need to come back to its neutral position which takes time. So, you cannot lean in the same direction as the motorcycle when you have to perform rapid pivot movements. This is because you won’t be able to return to the neutral position.
This is where counter leaning comes into play. While counter leaning the body stays upright and it is the motorcycle that is leaning. So, you can perform tight pivot turns very easily. This is why while riding the motorcycle in the city you should counter lean instead of leaning with the motorcycle. Also, performing an emergency manoeuvre requires the rider to counter lean.
Then there is the case of the motorcycle hitting something. When a motorcycle hits something, the first thing that happens is that the tyres lose traction and the motorcycle skids. If the person is neutral then the motorcycle would lose its balance. So, it just makes more sense for the rider to counter lean to so that the motorcycle can balance. This is how motocross racers balance and can continue their slide. Even the moto GP racers spread out their outside leg in case their motorcycle skids. Spreading the outer legs shifts the centre of gravity so the tyres can once again grip the tarmac.
Also, when you lean with the motorcycle, you can only see the objects that are towards the side of the motorcycle. Whereas when you counter lean, you stay upright and your view is not obstructed by anything. So, you have a wider view of what is there in your surroundings.
So, overall counter balancing seems more practical for riding the motorcycle in cities. It is safer because it provides better visibility to the rider and can help in balancing the motorcycle in case it hits something. You can also perform rapid pivot manoeuvres and while leaning the chances of the motorcycle running out of tyres decreases.
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