How to Turn On a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Updated

White Star Rides is your trusted Harley-Davidson companion, offering expert guidance and information to enhance your riding experience.

How To Turn On A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Are you a beginner Harley-Davidson biker who is starting out with your first bike and don’t know how to properly turn on your Harley? If yes, then you are certainly in the right place

Turning on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is simple, as long as you know the basics of cornering and countersteering. For initiating the turn on your Harley, you need to push forward on the handlebar on the side that is corresponding to the direction you’re looking to turn. To go left, you need to push left and to go right, you will have to push right. The majority of the time, you will be doing this even if you have not heard of it. Your body knows this principle, even though your brain might not grasp it yet.

In this guide, you will get to know all about cornering on your Harley, how to turn on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, what is countersteering, tips to keep in mind for safely turning, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Different steering approaches commonly used

There are two common ways you can steer your vehicles. The first one is known as direct steering, and this is what you use when you are commuting in your car. You simply need to steer in the direction that you wish to go, and your vehicle will follow. In other words, you should turn the steering wheel to the right if you want to go to the right side.

The second approach to steering is known as countersteering. This type of approach is used when you are riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The biker has to start steering in the opposite direction of the turn before they ultimately reach the turn. This method harnesses the countersteering forces to get your bike at an optimized lean and angle quicker than what you would with direct steering.

This will harness countersteering forces to get your bike at an optimized lean and angle faster than you could have with direct steering. It will also be safer and help you maintain the speed better. 

Countersteering might feel slightly odd at first, it will feel more natural the more that you practice. You should dedicate enough time to practice in an empty parking lot or a low-traffic residential area. Eventually, it will end up becoming second nature.

How to Turn On a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

You are riding your bike on a crowded motorway, and want to turn to get some breathing room to settle into. Just when you think you are in a position to turn, a vehicle decides to move into your escape route and starts drifting into your lane. 

Suddenly, you are stuck between multiple vehicles with barely any room. It can be a scary situation. Your brain could freeze for a moment, your heart might skip a beat, or you might even panic and make a sudden move to get away from the vehicles. When you are deciding to make a turn, it will be important to know the right way to do so. After making the turn, you could look for an open road and glide freely.

Professional Rider Driving Harley-Davidson Motorcycle On The Road

All this is good in concept, but what if instead of gliding through the road and turns, you seem to be fighting your bike? What if you are drifting closer to the center line on the outside or to the shoulder on the inside? When this happens, you will most likely decide to slow down and work through the turns at a slower pace.

See also  Unlock the Meaning Behind the Harley-Davidson Bell: What Does it Mean?

What have you been doing wrong?

For starters, one thing that you did right was slowing down on the turns instead of forcing your Harley through the curves. Remember, you shouldn’t ride your bike at a faster pace than you can handle, you should let your comfort levels be the thing that guides you. 

With that said, what is likely lacking in this situation is a decent understanding of the concept of countersteering. The counterintuitive riding principle can often trip up even the most skillful and experienced riders.

What is countersteering?

The term “countersteering” is used for referring to the principle that to turn a moving Harley-Davidson bike in a given direction, the rider needs to turn the handlebar in the opposite direction of the turn. For many riders, this might feel wrong. But anyone who has ridden a bike or even a bicycle has used this technique, whether they have realized it or not.

The primary application of countersteering is this – for initiating a turn on the bike, push forward on the handlebar on the side that is corresponding to the direction that you want to turn.

In other words, you should turn the handlebar in the opposite direction of the turn you are going to make. Now, try to forget that you read that. It can be slightly confusing to think of things this way. Instead, you should concentrate on the “push forward” part. You should think of pushing the handlebar in the direction that you want to go, which will create a visual picture that feels more intuitive. 

How to put countersteering to use?

In practice, what the “push forward” will do is initiate a lean in the direction that you want to turn, and the lean will make the motorcycle turn.

Straightening the bike uses the same principle in reverse – you should push forward in the opposite direction of the turn. Meanwhile, enrolling on the throttle will help in bringing the motorcycle out of the lean into an upright position.

Most of the time, even if you have not heard of countersteering, you are doing this without even thinking. Your body automatically knows this principle even if your brain isn’t able to grasp it, enabling you to easily get around on two wheels without any trouble. In certain situations, it will be beneficial to have a better understanding of the principals involved.

Countersteering on Highways and Roads

When you are riding on crowded highways, you might find yourself facing problems due to stress. You can find yourself in a scary situation and panic will start setting in. As a result, instead of your body doing what it already knows intuitively, your brain might try to take over. It’ll tell you to turn. It could also tell your arms to turn the handlebar away from vehicles. So, you should be sure that you’re trying to drive steadily and keep away from other vehicles.

If you aren’t able to enjoy winding roads because you’re having trouble making your motorcycle do what you want it to, chances are that this is because you aren’t countersteering properly. It is quite common, as many incidents can be caused by not being able to turn properly and drifting off the side of the road. Having a good technique will be all about safety, control, and enjoyment.

See also  What are Forward Controls on a Harley-Davidson Bike

It is basic, so simple that you may even say to yourself why you did not realize it sooner. You should push left to go left, while you should push right to go right. Instead of battling against those turns and curves by trying to muscle your way through them, you should go with the flow. Allow the natural forces of physics to work in your favor by pushing the bike’s handlebar into the turn.

Key Things to Avoid When Making Turns

When you are learning to ride a bike, everyone will have tips and suggestions that you must do, from the type of helmet to wear to the type of fuel you should be using when riding your bike. However, there are a few taboos around motorcycling that you wouldn’t want to break, unless you are looking to hurt yourself or your bike. To that end, here is a list of taboos that you would not want to break when riding the bike.

1. Overloading the bike

Harley-Davidson bikes aren’t really built for transporting cargo, this is what trailers and trucks are for. You might feel that you can get away with loading up the back of your motorcycle with numerous items, provided that you strap them down, but you will end up unbalancing your bike, reducing your handling, or limiting your visibility. All this means that you’ll be more likely to get into an accident. Keep the cargo to a minimum and make use of proper storage compartments like saddlebags for stashing it safely.

2. Wearing insufficient gear

Normally, people don’t like wearing safety gear, but this is the only way of keeping yourself safe on the highway. A motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety gear for the biker to wear, but wearing a protective thick clothing made using leather and denim will also be necessary for protecting the skin during a slide-out or collision. Boots and gloves will also be required for protecting your feet and hands. Riders who try riding without these items could end up getting injured during an accident.

3. Rushing corners

It should go without saying that you need to be patient when you’re riding your bike. But sometimes, bikes take corners fast because they don’t wish to slow down.  However, you will be more likely to slide out if you end up colliding with oncoming traffic due to the angle at which you’re tilting the bike. Slowing down before the turn and making sure that your speed remains constant while looking around the bend for any traffic would be the best way to make a corner safely.

4. Wearing shaded visors at night

Shaded visors are usually worn by bikers during the day to prevent any sunlight or glare from distracting them or temporarily blinding them. Riders may want to wear shaded visors because they just love the look or wish to mask their identity. You may think that wearing a shaded visor at night could help minimize the light from oncoming vehicles. However, this could be a recipe for disaster. Visibility will be severely reduced, and it’ll be easy to skid on debris or not see pedestrians when you are wearing shaded visors.

See also  Who Manufactures Harley-Davidson Spark Plugs?

5. Assuming that others will see you

Many bikers assume that they’re much more visible when driving on the road than they actually are. Simply assuming that bikers can see you is a terrible mistake to make because other drivers might be distracted, or they might fail to see if you aren’t wearing bright colors, or you haven’t got lights on. Even if it is broad daylight, it can be easy to be missed on the road. Riding defensively will help you avoid any accidents and keep you safe.

6.  Weaving through traffic

Even though Harley-Davidson bikes are quite big, motorcycles still tend to be comparatively small compared to other vehicles. Bikes can easily fit into narrow spaces, such as the gaps between trucks and cars on the road. Many bikers try to take advantage of that in heavy traffic by trying to weave in and out between other vehicles. This isn’t just rude to other drivers, but it is also quite dangerous as a vehicle might suddenly move or try changing lanes, and you’ll be hit. Further, you shouldn’t ride on the shoulder of the road.

7. Riding your bike on bad tires

When you notice that the tires of your bikes are starting to skid and aren’t gripping the road like before, this is a sign that you should either repair them or replace them. It isn’t a sign that you should continue riding until becomes impossible, or your bike suffers from a blowout. Some bikers might even be complacent and decide that balding tires aren’t that big of a deal, but bad tires are incredibly dangerous, especially when the weather isn’t good.

You should do both yourself and your Harley a favor and keep a close eye on the tire pressure and condition. Moreover, check the treads from time to time. If you notice anything that requires fixing or any bald patches, you should get the tires off your bike. New tires could be costly, but so would a trip to the hospital if you end up getting into an accident.

FAQs

What gear should you turn your bike on?

For your and your Harley-Davidson bike’s safety, it is recommended that you should always start your bike in neutral gear. This happens so that you don’t end up accidentally releasing the clutch while in gear and accelerating when you aren’t intending to.

Why is my Harley not starting?

There are many reasons that might be preventing your bike from starting. Some of the common reasons include a dead battery, faulty starter motor, blown starter motor fuse, a safety override, or something as basic as the kill switch of the bike being in the off position.

Should you use a clutch when turning your bike?

For higher-speed turns, squeezing the clutch will be rather unnecessary and sometimes even counter-productive, as it’ll remove engine power during the turn. Proper drive out of the corner will be necessary for stabilizing the motorcycle, and it’ll provide the fun part of cornering.

Should a Harley-Davidson bike have to be in neutral to start?

For numerous reasons, you cannot start a Harley-Davidson bike with the clutch engaged and the transmission in gear. Instead, you need to be in neutral or have the clutch released.

Photo of author
Author
White Star Rides is your go-to Harley-Davidson expert. We live and breathe these bikes. Our team has years of experience in fixing, riding, and loving Harleys. We know every part of these bikes and love sharing what we know with you. Whether it's about fixing a problem or just enjoying the ride, we're here to help. Trust us to make your Harley journey better and easier.

Leave a Comment