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  1. #1
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    Learning Proper Cornering Technique

    Yesterday in my race I gave myself a good scare by coming really close to washing out in a fast sweeping turn. It's hard to remember exactly what happened but it was the beginning of the race, we were all moving pretty good, and we entered a flat sweeping right hander, not tight at all and should have been easily manageable. I repeated this same turn 6X this race, each other time thinking it's not bad at all. Mostly hardpack but a little dusty/sandy in places. I'm not positive but I think for some dumb reason I started braking mid-turn. I nearly lost the front and I believe the rear started braking loose too so at one point I was probably completely sideways. I have no idea how I saved it and realized I have no idea how to save a bad turn in the first place so there must have been some good instinct involved somehow. In case it matters I was riding full rigid with RaRa 2.35 front and RaRa 2.25 rear. I will be moving to a bike with a front shock next season.

    The whole experience made me realize I need to spend more time learning proper cornering technique. If I could make good turns 100% of the time at speed I'm sure I would make 10-20 seconds per lap and maybe even more as a single speeder who worships Momentum as the One True God.

    How do you learn how to corner properly without wiping out 500 times in the process? It seems like as fitness improves skills have to improve as well since I am moving a lot faster.

  2. #2
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    I learned to corner much better this year. Most of the info came from this forum, and links to videos in other places. I'll see if I can find some of those threads for you.

    My very abridged version is that you don't need to be on the edge of traction to practice proper technique. Finding proper positioning on the bike is seriously half the battle. Outside peddle down, weight on it. Lean the bike, not you. Butt to the outside. It all sounds weird until you see it, or do it. It might even feel weird at first. A lower seat helps, especially while you learn, but lower center of gravity is the name of the game. You can practice this in a parking lot going slow. Lean the bike really far over without even trying to turn. If you stay centered, the bike will turn.

    I need to cut this short but will try to find links to the stuff that helped me.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    There's a lot going on in the first turn in a race, you may have even gotten bumped and not realized it. There's always some oddball event that can make you get unsettled, so don't overthink it.

    First turns rule in traffic: the guy on the inside controls the turn; set up your start so that you can enter and stay at the inside on that first high traffic turn. Plus, all the crashes and mishaps sweep to the outside and you'll be safe (or the guy that takes everybody else out). I was told "the guy on the inside controls the turn" at a cyclocross clinic a couple of years ago, I hear it in my head while racing, and it is true. No-one is going to stuff you to the inside, but you'll get pushed further out plenty of times if you're towards the outside.

    If you're by yourself and don't have to protect the inside line (assuming a fairly consistent surface): start at the outside, get close to the inner edge (apex) just after halfway through the turn, and accelerate out (pedal, or off the brakes depending on up/down) as you end up at the outside edge at the start of the straight. Maximum exit speed is what you're looking for in any turn, or collection of turns. A complex turn (more than 1) you're looking to exit out the end with the most speed, - don't go too fast entering and then have to use brakes out the end of turn where you should be accelerating. Make changes to entry/exit points as the trail surface dictates. Especially if you're racing later in the day, don't assume that the early riders wore in a correct line. If the beginners went first, there will be some lines worn in that are not the fastest way through.

    Late in the race, start thinking about protecting the inside line, because if you set up wide and a guy noses into the inside, then you have lost your apex and he is now in front of you as you exit. -that happened to me last turn of a cx race 3 years ago and I went from 3rd to 4th. You can do the same thing to other riders for a pass; if they set up really wide just make a move up next to them on the inside, and there you are in front as you both exit, -totally fair racing.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

  4. #4
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    I hear you on all of this and it's all great advice but to clarify I am talking about a zero traffic scenario, or virtually zero at least since we were all single file at that point. Skinny singletrack sweeping right hander, so the "apex" was probably only 4-6" wide... leaning in and I start to lose both wheels, in what order I'm not positive but I think front and then rear. The traffic scenario is interesting but I am focussed on just pure cornering at speed, like Thumper mentions.

  5. #5
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    I'm guessing you just pushed to the limit of your cornering grip, and the sand/marbles were there when you didn't need them, -if you did grab a little brake that wouldn't have helped!

    Now to go unnecessarily into the idea of the 'friction circle'; you only have so much grip and you can use it all for cornering, all for braking, 50% for cornering and 50% for braking etc, if you were already at 90% of your grip for cornering and added only 20% braking...
    (even deeper, for the beginners when you're braking at 100% prior to a turn, you have 0% grip available for cornering, when you decrease braking (trail braking) to 80% you then have 20% grip available for cornering, as you further decrease braking you can add more steering input, as so long as you stay 'balanced' at under 100% your contact patch will remain in contact.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

  6. #6
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    I've had this happen on narrow singletrack before and I realized the reason much later when it happened to me again, after a bit of careful analysis.

    If you study the cross section of narrow singletrack (this applies to all trail, but wider is obviously more forgiving) it is a shallow "u" shape. You can use this to your advantage, or it can bite you. The outside of the trail is like a mini-bermed corner and you can almost rail it if you keep your tires in the exact line of the "berm". But the *inside* of the trail, is off camber. I've cut the apex of narrow singletrack, without cutting the trail and getting in the weeds, and completely lost the front tire because of this.

    A 4-6" trail is not very forgiving and a 2" difference in line might require a significant speed difference to maintain traction.

    I don't know for sure that this is what happened to you, but something to be aware of on super narrow trails.

  7. #7
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    https://www.pinkbike.com/news/Fabien...cornering.html

    This is a great video that I show the high school kids. Helps me as well. Still not very good at it though. :-(

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    https://www.pinkbike.com/news/Fabien...cornering.html

    This is a great video that I show the high school kids. Helps me as well. Still not very good at it though. :-(
    I've tried this and have never been able to do it. It seems like with my seat as high as it is for XC I can't really move the bike around as much as I need to, so my bike and body just end up in a straight line leaning into the turn vs. what they show with body out, bike leaning in.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ohmygato View Post
    I've tried this and have never been able to do it. It seems like with my seat as high as it is for XC I can't really move the bike around as much as I need to, so my bike and body just end up in a straight line leaning into the turn vs. what they show with body out, bike leaning in.
    Some former XC local pros showed our team how to put the saddle on the outside of inside thigh to get the bike lean. Saddle side actually resting on the thigh.

    I learned the technique in 2012 and this year I finally got the hang of it!! The key for me was to really pull that outside elbow up. I also put my inside leg up, out, and forward to get it out the way of saddle (like in pic).

    http://www.leelikesbikes.com/wp-cont...6leecorner.jpg

    But lowering the saddle you really learn the magic of the technique, it's like a "wow moment" after trying for years with a high post. I don't ride with a dropper but definitely see the advantage of having one for cornering.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ohmygato View Post
    I've tried this and have never been able to do it. It seems like with my seat as high as it is for XC I can't really move the bike around as much as I need to, so my bike and body just end up in a straight line leaning into the turn vs. what they show with body out, bike leaning in.
    I have the same problem. I lean the bike and not the body as much as possible, but I ultimately need to lean my body a bit as it gets in they way of the saddle.

    Still experimenting with the limits and trying not to wash out.

  11. #11
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    You shouldn't brake in the middle of the turn, brake before.

  12. #12
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    I have a dropper but I never use it in a race for some reason. Basically the technique is look through the turn, inside knee out, outside leg down, inside arm down, outside arm up, body on attack position to keep equal weight on both wheels. I practice this in the parking lot, 10 times each direction for each step so about 100 times. It helps a lot.

  13. #13
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    re braking in the turn; hardest braking is always in a straight line, ease off at least partially by the time you enter the turn (see friction circle explanation above). Berms are different because there's often no lateral force on the tire, and you can trail-brake all the way to the apex.
    I was coached that the outside foot drops about halfway from level but not all the way down, dominant foot is always at the rear, and when your non-dominant foot is down/outside the hips should rotate a bit into the turn.
    Tight switchbacks are a bit different; keep the front tire towards the inside until just before the turn, then the front tire goes to the outside, making kind of a question mark shape.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

  14. #14
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    this is interesting reading all the responses...thanks!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    re braking in the turn; hardest braking is always in a straight line, ease off at least partially by the time you enter the turn (see friction circle explanation above). Berms are different because there's often no lateral force on the tire, and you can trail-brake all the way to the apex.
    I was coached that the outside foot drops about halfway from level but not all the way down, dominant foot is always at the rear, and when your non-dominant foot is down/outside the hips should rotate a bit into the turn.
    Tight switchbacks are a bit different; keep the front tire towards the inside until just before the turn, then the front tire goes to the outside, making kind of a question mark shape.
    I'm really bad at tight switchbacks, so I want to follow your advice, but don't understand it. Is there a link you have or a diagram out there? I'd be interested in making a point to try it

    Sent from my XT1049 using Tapatalk

  16. #16
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    tfinator; I learned it from this guy. Scroll about 3/4 of the way down for the switchback video. https://fluidride.com/cornering-videos/
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

  17. #17
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    Your weight may be too far back. Once that front goes...

    To me, rear wheel drift is acceptable if I am digging the front tire in. Make sure you have the proper amount of weight pushing somewhat downward on the bar (attack position). I am applying downward force on the outside grip (elbow up). Some coaches I have read coach to "push forward" on the outside bar into the smooth turn. For extremely aggressive turning I am pushing forward and downward at some specific angle that I find works for the tire and conditions. This shift in body English towards the front will naturally deweight the rear a tad if standing. Be careful and strike a balance. I'm not the fastest up the hill by a long shot but I am quick in the turns.

    When you get the two wheel drift going, sometimes you just have to get that weight shifted to the outside, get that weight pushed down on those side knobs, stick a tongue out and pray.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    tfinator; I learned it from this guy. Scroll about 3/4 of the way down for the switchback video. https://fluidride.com/cornering-videos/
    This is a great video series. Thanks for the link! I'm now going to spend less time worrying about my Strava PRs and re-focus some effort working on better technique.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by G-Choro View Post
    I have the same problem. I lean the bike and not the body as much as possible, but I ultimately need to lean my body a bit as it gets in they way of the saddle.

    Still experimenting with the limits and trying not to wash out.
    You always have to lean the body to some degree. A more correct way of phrasing that common piece of advice would be to lean the bike MORE than the body.

    The faster and tighter the corner the more you have to lean the total mass to balance out the forces. Since your body makes most up most of the mass moving through the turn, it is impossible not to have to lean it if you are taking the corner at any significant speed. Watch the pros and pause the video mid turn. You will always see they had some sort of lean towards the turn in their bodies but in most cases, the bike is leaning more than their body.

    Cheers

  20. #20
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    I used to crash a lot. Loose gravel over hardpack off camber descending turns gave me the willies and bench cut singletrack with sharp fall offs had me grabbing for brakes.

    I did an afternoon with Lee from LeeLikesBikes and practice what he taught me and now I crash with confidence at much higher speeds...

    Don't get me wrong. I crash much less, and when I do, it is almost always because I start overthinking it.

    It was the best money I ever spent on MTB.

  21. #21
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    Tagging as corner has always been a weakness for me.

  22. #22
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    One of the great things about mountain biking is there is no ONE way to do things right. It's all on degrees and finesse. But certain stuff is applied more often than others.

    But honestly, I recommend crashing more. Ride in some flats, and go play around. Experiment with the corner or set of corners over and over trying different techniques. Let the bike hit the dirt once in a while. If you have a separate trail bike, even better!

    Try playing around a little with a lower seat just to get a feel for the bike moving under you. And consider a dropper post.

    Also consider a more aggressive front tire. I'm racing a Hans Dampf. It'll be a rare occasion that I put on a "fast" front tire. "Fast" front tires are worthless when you can't get through a corner.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    There's a lot going on in the first turn in a race, you may have even gotten bumped and not realized it. There's always some oddball event that can make you get unsettled, so don't overthink it.

    First turns rule in traffic: the guy on the inside controls the turn; set up your start so that you can enter and stay at the inside on that first high traffic turn. Plus, all the crashes and mishaps sweep to the outside and you'll be safe (or the guy that takes everybody else out). I was told "the guy on the inside controls the turn" at a cyclocross clinic a couple of years ago, I hear it in my head while racing, and it is true. No-one is going to stuff you to the inside, but you'll get pushed further out plenty of times if you're towards the outside.

    If you're by yourself and don't have to protect the inside line (assuming a fairly consistent surface): start at the outside, get close to the inner edge (apex) just after halfway through the turn, and accelerate out (pedal, or off the brakes depending on up/down) as you end up at the outside edge at the start of the straight. Maximum exit speed is what you're looking for in any turn, or collection of turns. A complex turn (more than 1) you're looking to exit out the end with the most speed, - don't go too fast entering and then have to use brakes out the end of turn where you should be accelerating. Make changes to entry/exit points as the trail surface dictates. Especially if you're racing later in the day, don't assume that the early riders wore in a correct line. If the beginners went first, there will be some lines worn in that are not the fastest way through.

    Late in the race, start thinking about protecting the inside line, because if you set up wide and a guy noses into the inside, then you have lost your apex and he is now in front of you as you exit. -that happened to me last turn of a cx race 3 years ago and I went from 3rd to 4th. You can do the same thing to other riders for a pass; if they set up really wide just make a move up next to them on the inside, and there you are in front as you both exit, -totally fair racing.
    Spoken like a true CX guy, well said! Line management is key, sometimes the 'fastest' line isn't the 'quickest'.

  24. #24
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    A few weekends at a bike park with some skills coaching will teach you more about high speed cornering than you can learn in a year of watching videos and trying to learn stuff on your own. Thanks to the chairlifts & purpose designed trails, you can cram more high speed cornering into a single afternoon than you'll see in a normal month of riding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    Also consider a more aggressive front tire. I'm racing a Hans Dampf. It'll be a rare occasion that I put on a "fast" front tire. "Fast" front tires are worthless when you can't get through a corner.
    This is why I want a tire like the Minion SS but with a fast rolling XC casing, fast on the straights, then set the side knobs in and rail the corners.

  25. #25
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    Here's a question which I hope is on topic for this thread:

    XC race bikes have their handlebars really low. I know this is to help get weight over the front tire, which helps in cornering. I imagine it also helps with aerodynamics, but having the bars really low can give me numb hands. Is it pretty much the same thing if I raise the bars a bit so as to lesson the numb hands effect, but bend my elbows to lean forward when necessary like in the turns and such? Obviously riding around with numb hands isn't sustainable, or comfortable.

    I guess the question is based around lowering the bars versus just leaning forward for Corners.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post


    This is why I want a tire like the Minion SS but with a fast rolling XC casing, fast on the straights, then set the side knobs in and rail the corners.
    I need knobs down the center up front too for braking. I would consider it on the rear though. I'll be trying an Ardent race 2.35 in the rear at some point.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thumper33 View Post
    Here's a question which I hope is on topic for this thread:

    XC race bikes have their handlebars really low. I know this is to help get weight over the front tire, which helps in cornering. I imagine it also helps with aerodynamics, but having the bars really low can give me numb hands. Is it pretty much the same thing if I raise the bars a bit so as to lesson the numb hands effect, but bend my elbows to lean forward when necessary like in the turns and such? Obviously riding around with numb hands isn't sustainable, or comfortable.

    I guess the question is based around lowering the bars versus just leaning forward for Corners.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    Not sure about the physics behind it, but raising bars, regardless of body position, does change the way the bike rides in fairly significant ways.

    Not sure what causes numb hands, I get it once in a while too, but be very careful about secondary change such as raising bars. Depending how much you are raising them, you can be shortening your 'reach' quite substantially. You may need to offset with a longer stem depending on fit.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    Not sure about the physics behind it, but raising bars, regardless of body position, does change the way the bike rides in fairly significant ways.

    Not sure what causes numb hands, I get it once in a while too, but be very careful about secondary change such as raising bars. Depending how much you are raising them, you can be shortening your 'reach' quite substantially. You may need to offset with a longer stem depending on fit.
    Adding weight to the front increases traction and gives more direct feedback to the body on what the traction is doing. You see dirt bike riders shifting all their weight forward for corners to put the extra weight on the front tire, then shift back to get the weight over the rear. You actually do the same on a road race motorcycle, but it is less dramatic looking so you might not realize it.

    Often (not always), numb hands will be from a bad wrist angle or death grip. If it is a bad wrist angle, it could be from having the levers in a bad position that forces you to hold at a weird angle. If it is a death grip, then you just need to relax.

  29. #29
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    Numb hands also results from over reach, esp if you have shoulder problems or tendonitis. Try a couple long rides on a bike with shorter reach.

  30. #30
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    ....and back on topic: https://m.pinkbike.com/video/181079/

    This really helped me with improving cornering speed.

  31. #31
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    I just try to ride with people who are faster than me. I watch what they do and try to mimick it. As someone who is 6'4 and comes from a super sport motorcycle racing background, I struggled mightily with handling the first 2 years or so I started riding off road. Just couldn't get the body positioning and weight transfer down. So I started trying to ride with guys who raced cat 1 and asked a ton of questions. I had some of them film me and then watched the footage. What I thought I was doing was WAY different than what I was actually doing. So between seeing them, seeing footage of myself and asking lots of situational questions I learned a ton. To the point where I was a regular on the SS podium... where corner speed and momentum is king.

    I still suck at slow tight stuff so that's my next big hurdle to overcome.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

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