Category Archives: Motorcycles


(Originally posted on 2008-03-04 as /archives/160)

This simulator could have been awesome, but the steering works backwards! BACKWARDS!

Someone asked me, “Are you using countersteering?” at my last track day, and I didn’t know how to answer that question. I thought, “Is there any way that I could not be countersteering at these speeds?”  Countersteering occurs when the rider of a single-track vehicle (bicycle or motorcycle) pushes on the right side of the handlebar to turn right, and pushes on the left side of the handlebar to turn left.  By pushing on the same side, the rider is “turning” the handlebars the opposite way.  With cars you steer right to go right, but with bikes you steer left to go right.

OK, so you might be thinking, “I don’t do that! I lean!”, but you are doing that.  Imagine this: a bicycle rider holds her arms out straight.  She needs to turn right, so she leans to the right.  What’s happening here?  As she moves her weight to the right her right arm begins to push the right side of the handlebars out farther than the left: she is now countersteering.  Countersteering has more to do with initiating the turn than the leaning itself does.  You might have to sit on a bike and actually try this out to be able to picture it.  Do it in an exaggerated fashion, lock your arms, and watch the handlebars as you lean.

Motorcycle instruction usually includes discussion on countersteering because the locking-of-the-arms-thing greatly slows down steering.  Sometimes the effect on steering is so bad that riders ride right off the road when they tense up.  If the rider can learn to loosen her arms, and consciously push on the opposite side of the handlebar, then she will turn much quicker.

I literally practice holding the bars loosely when I ride my wife’s cruiser.  I take each hand off the handlebars one at a time (it has a throttle lock).  I practice bending my arms.  Etc.  This can actually help in all kinds of conditions.  That instability that occurs next to a truck?  It’s less troublesome if you hold the bars lightly.  When you push back against the shaking of the bars, your pushes lag behind the bars movement slightly.  Your periodic pushing summates with the periodic movement of the bars increasing the shaking.  Really.

So, how does this all work?  Countersteering initiates the lean by using the bike’s momentum to pull it over.  Imagine the momentum that you feel when a car turns.  When you turn to the left the momentum makes you feel like you are being pushed slightly to the right in your seat: correct?  This is the same with a two wheeled vehicle.  Turning left simultaneously causes momentum to push your vehicle to lean to the right (like an upside-down pendulum).  The bike then turns in the direction that it is leaning.  It’s that simple.  Really.  I didn’t understand this for a long time, because I was told that the affect was caused by gyroscopic precession, and for sure, that occurs, but it doesn’t cause bikes to turn.  Anyway I am sitting there watching a Kieth Code video, and he explains it.  He only spent a few seconds on the subject, but it made the whole thing clear.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for countersteering. The very top says “For the similar technique used in automobiles, see opposite lock.”  Please ignore that first statement.  The technique described there is about pointing your car’s wheels in the direction that you want the car to move, even if your car’s body is stepped-out.  This automotive technique is not remotely like the motorcycle technique, even though Doc Hudson says otherwise.

Before I tell you about this next part I want to make something very clear: I very much appreciate MSF instruction.  Without the MSF I wouldn’t be riding.  I would have no idea how to get started.

I took the MSF Basic RiderCourse twice.  In 2007 I took it near Topeka Kansas (where I earned 100% on both tests), and in 2003 I took it in Plano Texas.  While in Plano one of the RiderCoaches told us some things about countersteering that weren’t exactly correct.  I don’t know if any of those things are part of the official curriculum, but I want to quickly cover them, just in case you are told something similar.

  • She told us about countersteering, and that it is caused by gyroscopic precession occurring at a 90-degree angle, but she didn’t tell us what plane the 90-degrees was measured from.  This Web site has a good example of what she was talking about. This is all true, but that force doesn’t cause countersteering to work.  In fact gyroscopic precession makes turning more difficult.  Robby Kasten proved that with his wonderful reverse rotating rotors invention.
  • She had us sit on motorcycles that were standing still and told us to turn our bars and feel the motorcycle fall in the other direction, while using our legs to not let it fall all the way.  About 50% of the time my motorcycle fell in the same direction.  Of course it did.  Countersteering doesn’t work while standing still: gyroscopic, momentum, or otherwise.  A motorcycle should never be used as a Ouija board!  To be sure the RiderCoach in Kansas had us do the same exercise, but he made it clear that we were to make the bike lean ourselves by using our legs and imagine that the handlebar turning caused it.
  • She told us to watch the other RiderCoach’s front wheel, and to see how it was facing the opposite way while he was riding around.  I couldn’t see this, and I said so, and the reason that I couldn’t see it is that it just wasn’t so.  The front wheel doesn’t go the opposite way once you are leaned over.  (The speedway/flat track thing is something slightly different.  It works more like the automobile-reverse-lock technique once the bike is leaned over.)
  • She told us that countersteering doesn’t work under 13 MPH. This is not true. What is true is that there is another, much-safer, turning-technique that involves turning the handlebars in the direction of the turn, weighting the outside peg, and using your own body to lean the bike. That doesn’t mean that countersteering won’t work. It just means that you are capable of exerting enough-force to overcome-it at those slower-speeds. Here is a video that proves that countersteering works at-all-speeds, and on-all single-track-vehicles (motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, etc.)

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Amanda & Jack Palmer: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

(Originally posted on 2016-05-05)

Amanda & Jack Palmer cover Richard Thompson‘s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning if this video. The video is quite good. The art is by David Mack of Kabuki fame. Watch it.

I was aware of the Dresden Dolls, but I didn’t start listening to Amanda Palmer until after she married Neil Gaiman, because: Neil Gaiman. I suspect that this true for many people. Most of her music is pay what you want so there’s every reason to buy it if you like it, and pay exactly what it is worth to you.

Here’s what a stock Vincent Black Shadow looks like. The image is by brett Jordan:

brett Jordan’s Vincent Black Shadow, licensed via Creative Commons

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So that’s what a tank slapper is…

(Originally posted on 2007-06-21 as /archives/22)

I experienced my first tank slapper on 2007-06-20.  That’s when a harmonic instability causes the handlebars to swap from side-to-side as far as they can go (AKA full lock).  I purchased a Suzuki SV650SA7 one month earlier (2007-05-19), and I already have over 1200 miles on it.   Anyway, I was coming out of the parking lot on the NE corner of Iowa and 23rd in Lawrence, KS after lunch.  These cars were coming at me pretty fast so I wanted to accelerate out-of-there.  I gunned it while I was leaned over.  First the rear wheel starts spinning, or I hit a false neutral, or who knows what (VROOOOOOM), and then the handlebars are doing a high speed dance (JIGGY-JIGGY-JIGGY), and left foot comes of the peg.  Afraid?  HAH!  Danger is my middle name!  Embarrassed?  You bet.

Here is a video of a tank slapper that looked like mine:

Here is a much-worse-ending one:

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AMA drafts model on-highway motorcycle sound legislation

(Originally posted as /archives/4408 from a 2009-09-28 American Motorcyclist Association Press Release)

© 2014-05-23, Paul Danger Kile, All Rights Reserved


September 28, 2009

The AMA has developed model legislation for use by cities seeking a simple, consistent and economical way to deal with sound complaints related to on-highway motorcycles within the larger context of excessive sound from all sources.

The model legislation offers an objective method for municipal jurisdictions to evaluate motorcycle sound through science-based measurement. It’s based on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) new J2825 standard, “Measurement of Exhaust Sound Pressure Levels of Stationary On-Highway Motorcycles.” The AMA produced similar model legislation for off-highway motorcycles several years ago.

“Many cities and other jurisdictions already have excessive sound laws on the books, but when they get citizen complaints about loud motorcycles, they sometimes decide to single out the riding public with unfair or overly restrictive ordinances and laws,” said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. “We believe that motorcycles shouldn’t be singled out, but should be regulated as part of a comprehensive sound management policy that also addresses cars, trucks, leaf blowers, generators and other sources of excessive sound.”

The J2825 standard, issued by the SAE in May, is based on a comprehensive study of a wide variety of on-highway motorcycles. It establishes instrumentation, test site, test conditions, procedures, measurements and sound level limits.

“Too many times, jurisdictions responding to citizen complaints about excessive motorcycle sound create laws that simply don’t work in the real world,” Szauter said. “They either set an unreasonable decibel limit, leave it up to a police officer to subjectively decide whether a bike is too noisy, or come up with another plan that is arbitrary or unworkable. Our model legislation is objective, workable and fair.”

The model legislation adopts the SAE J2825 standard for stationary on-highway motorcycle sound testing, specifies the type of sound meter to be used, and allows for each city to specify the penalties for violating the law. Szauter stressed, however, that the sound-testing procedures and decibel limits established in the SAE J2825 standard should remain unchanged to ensure that the law remains objective and fair.

Under the SAE J2825 standard, decibel limits range from 92 dBA at idle for all motorcycles, to up to 100 dBA at certain RPMs for various motorcycles, depending on the type of engine.

In 2003, the AMA organized the National Summit on Motorcycle Sound to bring together riders and user organizations, representatives of the motorcycle manufacturers, the aftermarket industry, racing promoters, government agencies, law enforcement and others to develop proposals regarding the increasingly controversial issue of excessive motorcycle sound. The creation of a new on-highway motorcycle sound measurement procedure was a top recommendation of the summit’s Motorcycle Sound Working Group.

“The motorcycling community, local governments and police officers have sought a practical sound field test for streetbikes for many years, and now it exists, thanks to a collaboration between the Motorcycle Industry Council and the SAE,” Szauter said. “The next step is for jurisdictions struggling with motorcycle sound complaints to adopt fair and objective laws, and the AMA is providing the tool for them to do that.”

Szauter encourages motorcyclists and government and law enforcement officials to download the model legislation from the Rights section of this website.

Note from We did not find the model legislation.  We did however find these resources there:

  3. Appendix B (of (“SAE J1287 Measurement of Exhaust Sound Levels of Stationary Motorcycles”) doesn’t appear in the electronic version of Sound Advice. To order a copy of SAE J1287, contact the Society of Automotive Engineers at 877-606-7323 or visit
  4. Appendix C (of“AMA Position on Motorcycle Sound” ) as of May 14, 2005. For the current AMA position statement on motorcycle sound, visit
  5. For the latest information on engine test speed data for stationary sound testing, see the Motorcycle Industry Council downloads page.

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Motorcycle oil filters exposed!

(Originally posted on 2008-01-23 as /archives/158)

Toby Creek is a geek: in the best possible way.  Read along as he “exposes” motorcycle oil filters, and by “expose” I mean that he literally cuts them open and shows us what’s inside.

Read Toby’s Fram review.  It begins with the words: “If anything, the Fram will show you how NOT to build a high performance oil filter.”

Here is my next filter (I copied the picture from


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Places Where I Have Been

(Originally posted on 2012-05-14 as /archives/2681)

I just added Colorado! I rarely go anywhere anymore, due to my disability, but we did get to Colorado.

States That I Have Lived:

States Where I Have Worked:

States Where I Rode Motorcycles (Florida was a scooter):

States That I Have Traveled-to:

Countries? I’ve only been to the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Arkansas        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
California      [Traveled]         [Worked]
Colorado        [Traveled]
Connecticut     [Traveled]         [Worked]
Delaware        [Traveled]
Florida         [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Georgia         [Traveled]
Illinois        [Traveled]         [Worked] [Rode]
Indiana         [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Iowa            [Traveled]
Kansas          [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Kentucky        [Traveled]
Louisiana       [Traveled]
Maine           [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
Maryland        [Traveled]
Massachusetts   [Traveled]         [Worked]
Michigan        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
Minnesota       [Traveled]         [Worked]
Missouri        [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Nebraska        [Traveled]
New Hampshire   [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
New Jersey      [Traveled]         [Worked]
New Mexico      [Traveled]
New York        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
North Carolina  [Traveled]
North Dakota
Ohio            [Traveled]         [Worked]
Oklahoma        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Pennsylvania    [Traveled]
Rhode Island    [Traveled]
South Carolina  [Traveled]
South Dakota
Tennessee       [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Texas           [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Vermont         [Traveled]
Virginia        [Traveled]
West Virginia   [Traveled]
Wisconsin       [Traveled]
Washington      [Traveled]
Washington D.C. [Traveled]

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