If some new Honda motorcycles are being made with gyroscopes to keep them upright even without a rider, will that negate the gyroscopic effects when riding?
It’s a combination of inertia, centrifugal force and gyroscopic effects on the motorcycle. The motorcycle wants to stay upright with spinning wheels and gyroscopic effects. A bike starting to move away from its centre of gravity naturally steers the other way to counteract the forces.
How do bikes stay upright?
At low speed, it’s mainly balanced by the rider, but once you build up speed, the bike’s spinning wheels have a gyroscopic effect on the motorcycle, keeping the bike upright. The natural state of a motorbike in motion is to remain upright.
Most folks have seen videos when the rider comes off the bike, and the bike continues in a straight line under power until it collides with an object or runs out of speed wobbles and hits the road.
It stays upright even without a rider because of the gyroscopic effects of the spinning wheels. It’s thought that the wheel spinning about an axis keeps the wheel aligned and upright without any other inputs.
Even if the rider veers off the centre line and changes the bike’s balance at speed, the bike will self-correct and steer the opposite way to the tipping motion.
This is important when cornering and leaning. When a rider enters into a corner and leans the bike to complete the cornering manoeuvre, the motorbike wants to become upright.
This forces the rider to counterintuitively steer in the opposite direction until he exits the corner.
How do motorcycles not fall over?
It’s all about physics! A motorcycle travelling forward will not fall over due to many factors like inertia that propels the motorcycle forward.
Combined with the gyroscopic effect of spinning wheels, an axis the motorcycle tackles on the properties of a gyroscope.
When you were a kid, you surely marvelled at the wonders of a gyroscope. It would spin around its axis and balance itself as long as the centre wheel was spinning.
Your motorcycle wheels act like a gyroscope and keep the motorcycle upright and stable, provided there is enough forward momentum and rotation of the tyres.
To fall off a moving motorcycle takes some effort if you do not collide with a stationary object.
Why is it bad to lay a motorcycle down?
It’s not great, but it’s done for a reason: to prevent injury from an impending impact. Your only course of action to prevent injury is to lay the motorcycle down and let it slide away from you.
Invariably your motorcycle sliding away from you at speed will come to a stop like you, the rider. At best, you will have broken mirrors and footpegs and a lot of cosmetic damage, but with luck, that’s all that will happen.
However, if the motorcycle comes to an abrupt stop by impacting an unmovable object, the damage will be more severe.