Steering insight

You learn things and you don’t know how you learned them, and you’re not even sure how you do them until someone asks, then you can’t show them. Been there?

I learned to steer in sudden tyre-scrubbing turns, using the down stroke of the pedal. I could turn 90 degrees easily and up to 180 degrees reasonably easily. Then I started riding distances, and winding trails, and sort of gradually learned to go round curves reasonably smoothly, rather than in a series of small tyre-scrubs. Then my mate asked me to help him learn.

A few months back we discussed countersteering in this forum. However, them more I consciously try it, the less convinced I am.

Then I was pushing my uni and I got to thinking how you steer it when you’re pushing it. You just tip it slightly, and it sort of rolls around it’s own curve. I know that’s what we’re after when we’re steering smoothly, but how do we achieve it? Or how do we teach it?

Perhaps the following is a partial answer. It seems to work, and it’s an easy way to explain to a learner:

Think of the body as hinged at the waist. If you are standing up with your legs slightly apart, you can lean your upper body about 45 degrees to one side or the other.

Now imagine you’re on a uni. If you lean your upper body to the right, Newton’s laws of physics dictate that there is an equal and opposite reaction and your legs and the uni will lean to the left.

Now you only need to lean your body a tiny bit to the right to get the uni to lean a tiny bit to the left. Then the uni starts to turn, leaning a bit more. You then try to keep your upper body more or less vertical, which means you are still bent at the waist.

So to initiate a smooth left turn, a small but distinct movement of the upper body to the right will tip the wheel to the left.

In fact, if you let your right buttock drop slightly that is enough to push the seat to the left.

Now in real life, once we can do it, we tend to ride without consciously making these movements. However, I found that thinking about them helped me a bit when I was ‘pursuit racing’ around a zig zag course last week, and explaining the technique in these terms seems to have helped my friend to learn. So I thought I’d share it.

Very interesting. Generally, I just move my upper body to turn and the lower body follows. This works for me on longer and smooth curves and some tight stuff but your way sounds very handy.

Thanks,
Andrew

Re: Steering insight

Riding on mud today was neet- I could do most of my turns just by swivelling my hips.

I don’t think Newton rode a unicycle- but I’m not sure, I’ll have to ask Mr. Harper.

New ways to think about same-old-things are wonderfull little treasures.

-Christopher

Re: Re: Steering insight

Newton was English. Mike is more likely to know if Newton rode a unicycle. I think one fell on his head and he discovered balance or the bubonic plague or something like that. Then he wrote Principia but no one read it because it was in Latin and all of the REAL mathematicians were French and only spoke pig-Latin.

Gauss, for one, was not French. Neither is Leibniz or Euler. Or Bernoulli, Jacobi, Bessel, Kirchhoff, Lanczos, Feynman, Maxwell, and Lord Rayleigh, to grab a few other crowd pleasers, And anyone who thinks “I think, therefore I am” proves he exists, is definately French.
-me

Re: Steering insight

Thanks for posting this, I’ve been thinking about it too, especially in regard to bigger wheels. I took the Coker out a while back and was practicing figure 8’s. I practiced two types of turns:

The first was the more traditional turn. I initiated the turn by first twisting my upper body in the direction I wanted to go and leaned my entire body into the turn. My center of mass was definitely inside the turn, if I looked down I was looking at the ground on the inside of the circle.

The second type of turn I initiated the turn by dropping my hip into the turn but kept my upper body over the wheel. This keeps the center of mass over the tire, if I looked down I was looking straight down at the wheel. Add to this, not counter steering, but counter rotation. My lower body twists into the turn but my upper body remains tangential to the turn. This is very effective in tighter turns as the counter rotation pre-loads your body so when it comes time to initiate the next turn your lower body naturally wants to snap the other direction.

For skiers this is the same action used in tight radius turns where in preparation for the next turn you keep your upper body oriented down the fall line and load your skiis perpendicular to the fall line. Then at the unweight your skiis naturally head for the fall line.

Try it in figure 8’s or a uni-slalom course. In tighter turns most the action is below the navel.

On Sun, 23 Feb 2003 23:09:20 -0600, UniBrier
<UniBrier.jca7m@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:

>The cuckoo is named for the sound of its call in most countries: France,
>coucou; Holland, Koekoek; Germany, kuckuck; Japan, kak-ko.

Amazing that they speak all those languages

REPOSTED ON FORUM, YOU KNOW WHY

Re: Steering insight

On Sun, 23 Feb 2003 23:09:20 -0600, UniBrier
<UniBrier.jca7m@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:

>The cuckoo is named for the sound of its call in most countries: France,
>coucou; Holland, Koekoek; Germany, kuckuck; Japan, kak-ko.

Amazing that they speak all those languages

Re: Steering insight

Yes and no. If you’re purely leaning to one side or the other, what’s actually happening is that your hips are moving out to the opposite side of your lean. The unicycle leans over, but your body is still centered above it.

At least that’s what you would get with a simplified model of a body on a unicycle. But in real life we are more flexible, and usually making lots of movements we may not even be noticing. What matters is that you find a turning method that works for you. Even if the way it works is mostly in your mind, you know your body is finding the right solution if you’re making the turn.

The USA/IUF Obstacle Course, as seen in recent full page ads for Unicycle.com in On One Wheel, is a great testing ground for turning. You have to ride at a cone as fast as you can, then slow down and turn around it as quickly as possible without losing traction.

Later in the course you do a 180 around one cone, then go 8 meters to another cone and have to make a 180 in the opposite direction. To make this transition, you have to go from an extreme lean to the right to an extreme lean to the left, in a fairly short distance. If you’re not doing an extreme lean, you’re not going to get a good time.

So what happens between those two cones (#'s 8 and 9 as you traverse the course)? As I come around the first one, I don’t aim my wheel straight at the next cone. If I did, I’d still be leaned over and not be able to switch turning direction in time. So I keep the wheel turning to the right, while my upper body heads in more of a straight line. This is countersteering, where I’m purposely heading the wheel in a different direction than my center of gravity.

As my wheel continues to the right, I literally get lifted in the air as the frame becomes near vertical (not counting the forward lean) and then tilts down to the left. In fact, in practice I’ve done that move too fast and been lifted off the seat, losing my grip on the pedals. Anyway, I keep steering the bottom of the wheel to my right, until I’m ready to make a hard turn to the left.

During this transition, my center of gravity is supposedly aimed just to the right of the next cone. It goes straight, while the unicycle crosses underneath me. So when I get to cone #9 in the course, I’m leaned over to the left and ready to make that sharp turn to take me to the final cone.

In any figure 8 the same motion happens, though the slower you’re going and the larger the 8, the less you may notice it. The Obstacle Course provides a good example of that move. The course is shown in the image, and I’m describing the two cones just before the bottom, with the 8m between them.

John Foss, now the second-fastest person ever to ride the Obstacle Course.