If you're learning a new way to steer your shiny new motorcycle, you don't want to make a mistake that could send you and your expensive toy sliding across the pavement.
Craig Hansen devised a kind of training stand that allows motorcycle riders to learn how to "body steer" while standing still, eliminating any anxiety about dumping the bike if they make the wrong move.
Most motorcycle riders steer by what's known as counter steering — the slightest movement of the handlebars to the right makes a bike turn to the left, and vice versa. Body steering is a technique that involves moving the legs and subtly shifting body weight to make the bike turn.
Motorcycle riders have argued about what actually makes their bikes turn for more than a century, and both schools of steering have passionate adherents.
Hansen calls his stand KnowB.S., because it helps riders learn to body steer. The name is also a not-too-subtle jibe at another rider who built a bike he calls No B.S. that he claims debunks the theory of body steering.
Hansen, who owns a motorcycle shop in Phoenix, also calls the device his "lean machine" because it helps riders learn to lean.
The aluminum frame slips under the rear tire of a motorcycle and a compression strap secures it to the top of the tire. A flat section on the base of the frame allows the bike to stand upright on its own. The base of the frame rises off the floor in a parabolic curve, so that when a rider leans, the bike follows. Tubes at the far ends of the frame limit how far the bike can lean and prevent it from falling over.
Hansen, who teaches high-performance riding skills, created the lean machine because he could see that he wasn't getting through to his students when he tried to explain body steering.
He built several complicated prototypes, then had an "aha" moment one day when he picked up a rocking chair and realized all he had to do was pattern the lean machine after the chair's curved rockers.
The current device is the fourth iteration of the design inspired by the rocking chair. The curve had to be gradual enough for the rider to stay upright with ease, while simultaneously responding to relatively subtle shifts in lower body weight.
"The hard part was getting the right curve," he explained. "The design isn't that complicated."
Hansen says several motorcycle riding schools have approached him about buying the lean machine, but it's unlikely it'll ever go into mass production. Protecting the design would require securing a patent, and then he would have to defend the patent when the inevitable foreign copies began to appear.
Hansen says a lot more people are inventors than they realize. Anyone who wonders how to do something better could have the creativity to find a better solution.
"If you're asking, 'Why doesn't somebody do something better?' you could be the somebody," he says.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 541-776-4492, or e-mail email@example.com.