Jan 8, 2007

Dodge this!

Here's a situation. You're coming up on a long queue of traffic stopped at the average traffic intersection. The footpath/sidewalk is not accessible and you decide to filter on the extreme right to the front row. Seems normal enough, right? You do this at your usual pace. Which could be very fast for some, and walking pace for others like me. Suddenly, without warning, a passenger in the front seat of the Maruti Van you're passing opens the door to get off. You're, say three feet, from his foot which is now dangling out of the van and another few inches from a solidly mounted door made of metal. What do you do? What did you do wrong? How could you have avoided it?

1) Walking pace:
If you're half good on your brakes. You have enough time to stop without a chirp from the tyres, and then time and composure to yell the crap out of the guy who did this to you. Try not to hit him, though.

2) Mid pace:
You have two options. The first is to brake hard and try to stop. If you can simultaeneously honk, there's a chance chap will pull that leg in, at least. The second is a swerve around the door. This obviously implies that there must be space to do this.

If there is space, a little conscious countersteering can work wonders. Basically, the idea is to push and pull on the handlebars at the same time. Usually, countersteering lessons or discussions say push left to go left. For an emergency, I say push left and pull right as well. Together, it will almost snap the bike in half to change direction. With luck, you'll do it quick enough to get the widest part of the bike around the door and then the opposite will have you back in a line.

The trick, of course, is to practice. Next time you're on a empty road, look around and confirm that no one is close by. Then try riding on a lane marking line (check that this is not illegal in your country). Try and 'snap' the bike around every second of third long mark. If you're with a friend, take turns doing this. When he's at it, you observe and correct his mistakes, and vice versa. More than a couple of times now, the swerve has taken me around a hazard which would otherwise have me on my arse, either in hospital, or at least, right there.

Added note:
Okay, basic countersteering says, you push the left handlebar grip away from you when you want to turn left. We all do this unconsciously. The theory is that if you know you are doing this, you could improve your technique etc. Usually countersteering articles will also explain that you can achieve the same thing by pulling the right handlebar grip towards you to initiate a left turn as well. However, they recommend pushing left because it is more precise, and more controllable. And that is true.

What I'm saying is that in an emergency when you need the bike to turn quickly, you do both together. You pull the left grip and push the right grip at the same time. In effect, you magnify the torque your applying on the handlebar and make the bike turn quicker. This results in a very fast change of direction and lean angle. In the situation above, it could be crucial.

To practice this, you need a fair amount of space. Begin by only pushing or pulling until you know how both feel when done alone. Then, when you are ready, do both at the same time. Result!

Want to read this in greater detail? Try these: msgroup.org | wikipedia | Motorcycle Cruiser

3)Race pace:
Which hospital do I send the flowers too?


Hrishikesh said...

Sounds intresting, but its a little difficult(for me) to understand exactly what to do.

Any videos, or links i can look at?

Thanks in advance.

The BATFAN said...

It was exactly one of these situations I was caught in a couple of days back. Had to take a left turn up ahead. The traffic was all jammed up and there was this bigger van kind of thingy in the way. I am 6 feet from the front (basically just met the rear of the van) when the front door opens. AAAAAaaaaaaaa. Fortunately there was lot of space still beyond the door and I was at about 30KMH. Tap at the brakes and a gentle swerve did the trick. RVM showed a stupid typical South Indian late twenty dumb witter female step out without a second thought to what had happened. There was not time to stop as the signal had turned green.

What I am confused about is the reason for saying push left to go left and further still the pull right part. When I push the handle bar on a stopped bike pushing the left handle bar would actually turn the handle towards right. This would be even more obvious when pulling it on the right which would definitely turn the handle bar towards the right. Then why do we say in a moving bike push left to go left and vice versa. Though I have been riding for 3 months now I am still not able to naturally understand what actually turns the motorcycle (or a cycle for that fact which I have ridden for nearly 8 years) without actually turning the handle bar. I always thought it was more of weight shift and a slight jab at the bars when needed rather than such a fine push or pull.

rearset said...

What happens when you push/pull at a standstill has the effect you notice till roughly 5-6 kph only. After that, it's the other way round... which is why you push left to go left...

Nyctophobia said...

besides the car door opening, a more experienced biker friend told me to watch out when going past the left of BEST buses which have come to a halt (signal / traffic), there's usually some smart guy / gal who wants to get off !!!

rearset said...

So true! That's why I almost invariably check the road before I enter the space between the stationery bus and the pavement and then keep my eye firmly planted to the window above the door... If I see any movement, I slow down from the usual 6 kph to 3...

The BATFAN said...

Hey reading at Wikipedia this counter steering stuff is really an eye opener. But it sounds strange to me. Even after 8 years of riding a bicycle and riding it quite well after the initial falls in the first six months, I must say that I still don't understand this concept. Does all this actually mean that all the time I used to turn even on a bicycle I was actually turning against the turn without even knowing it. Man, how does the brain know it. Is this God at play or what??? I think I got to start blogging soon. Very soon.