At the next junction, turn left

rattuscatchus, Going Postal
Jorge Lorenzo
Image by 1153393 from Pixabay

It was whilst approaching a junction where the options are to turn left or go straight ahead – I was going straight ahead – that I had to move slightly to the right as there was a car turning left.

Let me explain.

I’ve noticed that frequently, when a vehicle turns left, they seem to edge out to the right before turning left. Why do this when all it means is that the turn will now have to be sharper in order to maintain the same turn?

My mind the wandered – as is its wont – and then was quickly brought back in to focus by a cyclist doing exactly the same thing. Clearly, this turning right thing before turning left was not solely associated with motor vehicles. I then began thinking about how cyclists, both motor and pedal, turned.

If I were to ask how a cyclist turns left or right, chances are that the reply would be ‘lean in the direction of the turn and add in minor steering compensations to get the right degree of turn’. This is wrong. A cycle is akin to a gyroscope owing to the angular momentum of the wheels. This means that if you try and lean on a moving cycle, it is not only difficult but also non-productive so something else must be going on as you may well know, leaning is part of cornering.

rattuscatchus, Going Postal
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If you are on a bike – again, it matters not how it is powered, then the action of steering starts well before leaning. What is needed is something to perturb or upset the gyroscopic effect of the cycle. This is called counter-steering.

Let us assume that you are turning left. What you will do subconsciously is actually put in a tiny steering input using the handlebars that points to the right – bear with me! This tiny steering input upsets the balance of the cycle as it very slightly turns right yet your inertia wants to continue ahead. There then follows a very small centrifugal effect where the joint mass of your body and cycle lean to the left as it is, arguably, being thrown outwards. This means that the gyroscope of the cycle is now off kilter to the left hand side. You can then begin to steer more easily to the left easily as you are now leaning in that direction.

Don’t believe me?

Next time you are alone on a straight piece of private road and have a speed above 10-15 mph, then, without leaning, gently push your left hand handlebar outwards but only as a minimal ‘twitch’ type steering input  – as if you are turning right. The cycle will turn to the right yet you will lean to the left. Try the other way round too but be careful and at your own risk!

This tiny action that very few of us are aware of may be the reason why some people just can not ride a bike.

So what’s this got to do with ignorant, arrogant, motorists that lack any form of self awareness, veering in to my bloody lane when they want to turn left?

I can only assume that they once rode a bike.

© Ratcatcher 2020

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