Another ride, another evening of thinking about what to write. I’ve been riding Nockamixon state park lately and for several reasons. First off, it’s the closest place I can go to ride my mtb…it can be either a recovery ride, or a screamer, and it’s a great place to practice cornering. Not to mention it’s also extremely FUN! Let’s talk some more about cornering, and how it is such a crucial part of riding. Most people can ride perfectly fine in a straight line, it’s when a corner appears that they have issues. Racers who are proficient at cornering can make up lost time and ground, and when we’re talking downhill, super d, or enduro, those seconds really do count.
One of the things I work on with people the most is proper cornering, and one of the most important things is proper braking. Yep, if your brake timing is off your cornering will pay the price. There are ideal times to brake and times not to brake entering a corner. I see it all the time and you probably notice it as well. You will be out on an xc ride and see a large skid mark going through a turn and off the trail. That person went in “too hot” and blew right through the turn. Had they braked correctly beforehand, they would have been in a lot better shape. Here are some cornering tips to hopefully keep you on the trail and improve your riding.
Do not brake in the corner. If you’re braking in the actual corner you entered the corner too fast. Also, by braking in the corner you greatly reduce the speed at which you exit the corner which is where skilled riders can make up time.
Look through the corner. Same advice as I was saying in a previous article to keep your head up and look farther down the trail. When coming into the corner, look through it and focus on where you want to go.
Your front brake is primarily for slowing you down quickly and ideally only used in a straight away. If you use your front brake in the corner it will dive the front fork (if on an mtb) and it will also cause your body to lunge forward. There is also a great chance that it could wash out your front wheel. When entering the corner, use your front and rear brake together to slow you down and get the bike in control. Focus on feathering the front brake more than a firm lever pull.
Drop it like it’s hot. Lower your body and your center of gravity, and at the same time let your weight move slightly back. You need to keep your body loose, so you can flow naturally through the turn.
Get your hips in it. Turning is greatly improved when you get your hips involved. This isn’t necessary for all turns. For example, a small open radius turn might not involve much steering from the front end at all. When the turns start getting more aggressive, get out of the saddle and let your hips move outward and aim them where you want to go, almost mimicking the angle of the front wheel.
Lower your inside elbow. You do not want to be in a turn and have square, robot shoulders. Lower the elbow and shoulder that are on the inside of the turn, almost as if you’re driving it down towards your knee.
Go to a nice soft baseball field and practice. Place a soft moveable object on the ground and practice going around it. Try and corner close to it, far from it, and approach it from different angles and speeds. You can obviously mix this up a ton of ways and with more than one object on the ground.
Cornering takes practice and a lot of it. On my ride tonight, I rode through a corner and instantly knew I had screwed it up. I stopped, rode back up the trail and repeated the corner.
I hope this helps and feel free to email me with any questions or thoughts.