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Counter steering and inside knee question (PaulCL?)(18 posts)

Counter steering and inside knee question (PaulCL?)hrv
Feb 3, 2003 8:10 AM
There was a post a couple of weeks ago about the counter steering technique taught at the Phinney camps of pressing the inside knee against the top tube. I'm curious: is this a new method taught recently? As someone who is always looking to increase speed/control thru corners I have been trying it and it sure gives me way less control thru tighter corners than the 'stick inside knee into the corner' method. The latter seems to be the preferred method of the majority of pros I see in videos and the people I ride with.

The only thing I can think of is my method allows me to corner fast even if I don't have enough outside pedal and inside arm pressure, sort of cheating thru the corner. And I could see how your method keeps weight over the bottom bracket better. Did you use to corner like me before these camps?

Maybe I should dig up some videos of Il Falco to answer my question!

I've used knee pressure on the top tube for decades ...Humma Hah
Feb 3, 2003 9:12 AM
... it takes the wobble out of bike handling, really builds your confidence that the bike will go exactly where you want it.

I can steer with pressure on the top tube, but usually use it only to stabilize the frame. No hands, I usually use a combination of top tube, seat, and pedal pressure. I've even been known to run downhills in a tuck, out of the seat, with BOTH hands behind my back.

At really high speeds, I use true full motorcycle countersteering: push FORWARD on the bar on the side you intend to turn to (totally conterintuitive, but works like a champ). At intermediate speeds I push DOWN and forward on the side I intend to turn to. In both cases I'll maintain a knee against the top tube for stability.
re: Counter steering and inside knee question (PaulCL?)PaulCL
Feb 3, 2003 9:35 AM
Before going to the camp, I did not use the method of the knee against the top tube. Even now,for me, it is counter-intuitive to do so. I have to consciously put the knee against the top tube.

Is it new?? I don't know. I think it is a technique that Davis Phinney and Ron Kiefel developed over years of trial and error...mostly error. Davis told us the story of him flying down a Dolomite pass in Italy, only to lose it on the corner and take flight. No broken bones, but a conscious desicion to change the way he corners.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea of the weight over the BB when the knee is on the TT. I've got to believe that the most important part of the technique is the pushing down on the outside pedal. But, I have felt much more confident carving a sharp turn with the knee on the TT ....but it took time and practice.

Good luck. Paul
re: Counter steering and inside knee question (PaulCL?)mainframe
Feb 3, 2003 9:44 AM
I bought a cycling handbook about a year ago in which was pictured Phinney doing his turn with text explaining. I went right to work and now, a year later, my turns are smoother and faster with a much tighter radius. I feel the technique is worth investing some time playing with it.
Davis Phinney says...Tig
Feb 3, 2003 9:46 AM
From and Davis Phinney:

"I always cornered in the old-fashioned way: my inside knee stuck out and I sort of steered around the corner. But I've found a much faster and safer way to corner at speed. It's called countersteering. It's now the technique we teach at our cycling camps. Using this method, I can fly through corners where I used to have to slow down. It's safer, too, because it provides more control."

EXAMPLE: "When I went to Europe to race, I thought I knew how to get around corners fast," recalls Phinney. "After all, I was a criterium specialist and I was used to hanging it out in the last corner.
"One day in my first season in Europe, we were flying down this nasty descent in France and I was trying to catch the group ahead. I was gaining fast when suddenly I realized that I'd caught up for one simple reason. The next corner was a U turn and the group had slowed way down.
"I got partway around, locked up the brakes, and went catapulting over a stone wall into a vineyard. It took five minutes to find my bike. After that I decided I'd better think through this cornering business."

Here's how to turn using the countersteering method
You'll know when it clicks by that big smile on your face.
•Start the turn by putting the outside pedal down.
(The outside pedal is the right one if you're making a left turn.)
•Stand on the pedal. Press your body weight on it. Pretend you're trying to break it off. This will lower your center of gravity and make the bike more stable.
•Hold the handlebar in the drops.
•Move your butt to the rear of the saddle.
•Lower your torso along the top tube. Make yourself long to balance your weight along the bike's wheelbase.
•As you enter the turn, push your inside leg against the bike's top tube. (In our left turn example, that's the left leg). Don't stick it out so it's pointing into the turn like motorcycle road racers do. Pushing your knee into the top tube will automatically turn your hips toward the outside of the turn. This makes the bike dive rapidly into the corner but in total control.
•Press your outside leg's inner thigh against the saddle, pushing the bike down and to the inside against the pressure of your weighted outside foot.
•At the same time, pull gently on the handlebar with the outside hand. Phinney used to tell riders to push with the inside hand. The new method accomplishes the same thing while taking weight off the bar and improving control. The bike will carve smoothly around the corner.
It'll lean as much as you need it to while your body remains relatively upright.

Need to adjust your line because of gravel or a wet spot?
Simply relax the outside hand so you aren't pulling the bar so hard. The bike will straighten up so you can avoid the obstacle. Once past, increase your pull with the outside hand to lean the bike over again and complete the turn.
Ah, so I guess I've been doing it right for 30 years ...Humma Hah
Feb 3, 2003 10:26 AM
... sounds like about what I discovered back in college. All this is pretty much instinctive for me after doing it for three decades.
OK, OK...I was drinking when he told us that storyPaulCL
Feb 3, 2003 10:44 AM
So I got France and Italy was still Europe and he still took flight, right?? It was one of our last nights at "camp" and Davis was regalling (???) us with race stories. After a few beers everything gets fuzzy. Besides, I'm getting old (turn 41 in 24 days) and I have a lot of drain bamage.

Seriously, great outline of the the technique. It takes practice and conscious thought.
Physics policeContinental
Feb 3, 2003 2:30 PM
This statement is wrong:

Stand on the pedal. Press your body weight on it. Pretend you’re trying to break it off. This will lower your center of gravity and make the bike more stable.

You cannot lower your center of gravity by pushing down with your foot. The only way to lower your center of gravity is to move the mass of your body closer to the ground. The technique might be sound, but the physics is shakey at best.
maybe it's the whole systemDougSloan
Feb 3, 2003 5:15 PM
If you are supporting your weight with your hands and butt, and not your feet, isn't your CG on the bike higher than if you support your weight with your feet? If not, what concept is that?

center of gravity = center of massMrDan
Feb 3, 2003 7:51 PM
He's right. pushing down on the pedal does not lower your CG. You must lower your entire body down, which is why he's telling you to hug the top tube as tightly as possible.
Ok, Ok ... I'll give it another gohrv
Feb 3, 2003 10:25 AM
Too many postive testimonies not too. Not sure if I'll do it in my first road race this season in one month, however!

Yeah, I guess I do put my knee against the top tube when riding with no hands and not pedaling, esp. when descending. Haven't tried the hands behind back except when getting a power bar or taking jacket off!

Thanks for the awesome input,
I'm not actually recommending that trick ...Humma Hah
Feb 3, 2003 10:30 AM
... both hands behind the back was an experiment to test the next logical (?) extension of the drag reduction technique of a tuck with ONE hand behind the back. I have a couple of hills where it is safe to do so under select circumstances. My observation was that it was not quite as fast as one hand, as you can achieve a tighter tuck with one hand.

But as a bike-handling exercise, it definitely explores all the ways to control a bike that don't involve hands.
I don't think it is possible to corner without countersteeringmwood
Feb 3, 2003 10:35 AM
Try it. If you don't exert pressure (right hand to go right etc.), you'll be unable to corner at anything more than a walking pace.
As far as position of inside knee, maybe there is something to do with body type (where weight is carried, arm vs. leg length, torso vs. legs), comfort with body steering techniques, and frame geometries which dictates which is more functional for a given individual.
Clearly, pros go very, very fast using both knee in and knee out styles and I think that countersteering is just physically neccessary and unconscious.
Oh, I can countersteer just fine.hrv
Feb 3, 2003 11:24 AM
It's just that, as my post spells out, I do it with my inside knee driving into the turn, rather than it pressed against the top tube. I use the same technique as 99% of the people I ride with, from people just getting into going fast to cat. 2's.
It is possible to corner by pure leaning ...Humma Hah
Feb 3, 2003 3:02 PM
Try riding no hands some place like a deserted street or long parking lot. Get nice and straight, no-hands, and try nudging the bar with a fingertip. At medium speeds, you CAN get the bike to turn by pushing the bar to the side you wish to turn to, and the wheel will respond by turning the desired direction. This is precession, aided by fork geometry. But it can be a little scarry as the degree of the turn is a tad unpredictable without both hands on the bars. It works at medium speeds.

At low to medium speeds, pure countersteering is a bit wobbley. Push the right end of the bar forward, the bike will wobble left for about 1/4 turn of the front wheel, then go to the right. But get up to 20-25 mph and the push to the right will result in a clean turn to the right. At very high downhill speeds, the effect is very powerful. This is also a precession effect.

Weight shifting is how most folks try to operate at low speed, and is how unicycles typically work. It continues to work at higher speeds where precession aids the effect. Basically, you control the bike by moving the points of support back and forth under your center of gravity, or moving your CG above the supports. This is the principle behind the Dave Vos self-piloting autonomous unicycle (look it up on This is basically a leaning technique, but does not depend on gyroscopic effects at all. Many low-speed track-bike stunts are based on this.

Marry all of these techniques together, and you're a master of bike-handling.

The one thing you CAN'T do, above about 2 mph, is turn by twisting the bars like some kid on a tricycle does, twist clockwise to go right, etc. That will result in the bike going into the golly-wobbles and probably tossing you on your head. And this is the tendency most new riders must learn to avoid in their first few minutes of riding. It is also why I urge folks NOT to put training wheels on bikes, as training wheels encourage kids to ride a bicycle like a tricycle.
Feb 3, 2003 4:52 PM
That term is now officially added to my vocabulary. Love it! And hope never to use it to describe anything that I've done or has happened to me.
I don't even think of counter-steering, just see the line.Spunout
Feb 3, 2003 10:53 AM
If I thought about pushing, pulling the wrong way, sure, I'd drop into a hairpin easy, but probably flip over the bars.

I just 'feel' like on a rail through the corner, hold your line.
Steering from a book.peter in NVA
Feb 3, 2003 1:29 PM
I once tried to learn to ski from a book with pictures and the descriptions made no sense to me. Same with bike pushing down on the bike (I never pull up!)

Anyway, I think I counter steer and here's what I have noticed. If I make a sharp right turn, for example, I rapidly get off the saddle and swing my hips to the left. Many times my inside right knee hits the top tube because of that motion. As the bike turns I instinctively then point the inside knee out. I think the "pushing the top tube" is just a consequence of the swing.