Friday, January 27, 2012

Counter strike out!

So yesterday, me and a bunch of friends went out to this paintball range and while we waited for our turn, we decided to go check out a small ATV ride in the same place.

I was all excited, since I'd never driven one before and I assumed I'd be able to really throw it around since I consider myself a pretty decent bike rider (I've never driven a car BTW).

However, no sooner than I got on the ATV and set off, did I realize that something was wrong - I was totally unable to steer the vehicle in the direction I wished - The total steering movement of the handlebars was way, way more than what a motorbike would have and for some reason (simple physics and the fact that this was a 4-wheeler), all my attempts at correcting steering using lean were totally in vain. I seemed to be counter steering - My brain was saying "turn right" but my hands were causing the vehicle to turn left.

I had three attempts and each time I ended up a few meters ahead plowed into the median on the left edge of the track. Each time my foot ended up on the ground as if I were driving a motorbike and needed to keep it standing.

My friends had no issues driving around the track at all, and while they are not self-professed bikers, they do ride motorbikes to varying extents.

It was embarassing and weird, and my only consolation was to convince myself that my bike riding instincts are so strong that they cannot be over-ridden, meaning I must have some skill at least!

This whole episode convinces me that counter-steering input is used at all speeds on a motorbike, contrary to my earlier beliefs about this.

It seems to be true that at any speed, one initiates lean by a counter steer, and then uses body position to fix the lean angle of the bike. In my case with the ATV, every steering attempt of mine resulted in the vehicle going a bit more in the wrong direction. Since it did not respond as my instincts expected, I apparently increased my steering input magnitude to compensate... until I ended up with steering fully locked, to the left and left front tire pressed hard against the extreme left of the track and with my right leg down, as if I was wrestling the machine to lean to the right.

Much humbled, a bit confused, but now wiser....

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