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So, I'm still more or less a beginner, but I've been riding plenty since September and I'm certain that the area where I need to make the biggest improvement in my riding is taking tight corners at speed. Those of you who are good at this, please throw me a bone here, and, in return, I'll try to narrow the scope of my questions.

1. How do you use your brakes when cornering?

Mostly rear? Mostly front? During the turn? Before? I'll note that the more drastically I brake during my turns, the less I feel that I'm able to make a nice tight arc. I'm sure this has to do with inertial and centripital forces, etc., and I reckon I could figure out exactly how if it were necessary. But to make matters simpler, what works well for you?

2. Where do you place your weight fore and aft on your bike during corners? I think I understand side to side, but I still can't work out front and back.

3. Are there any good drills for working on cornering skills?

Thanks in advance, fellas!

Merry Christmas,

Beau
 

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heh, I got this in my email the other day, some pro racer from Australia surfed onto my bike tips page and wanted to make a contribution...

1) when going around a corner at speed (offroad) always keep your head level, your inside leg in, and... When you go around the turn, lean the bike over to turn, but KEEP YOURSELF UPRIGHT. This puts maximum force onto the cornering edge of the tyre, and gives max traction. its a well known XC technique, and i figured you should put it on your site! (also, if you are gonna crash, the bike goes thump, and you can bail off the bike, cos you are upright, unlike the bike)
 

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B.Howard said:
So, I'm still more or less a beginner, but I've been riding plenty since September and I'm certain that the area where I need to make the biggest improvement in my riding is taking tight corners at speed. Those of you who are good at this, please throw me a bone here, and, in return, I'll try to narrow the scope of my questions.

1. How do you use your brakes when cornering?

Mostly rear? Mostly front? During the turn? Before? I'll note that the more drastically I brake during my turns, the less I feel that I'm able to make a nice tight arc. I'm sure this has to do with inertial and centripital forces, etc., and I reckon I could figure out exactly how if it were necessary. But to make matters simpler, what works well for you?

2. Where do you place your weight fore and aft on your bike during corners? I think I understand side to side, but I still can't work out front and back.

3. Are there any good drills for working on cornering skills?

Thanks in advance, fellas!

Merry Christmas,

Beau
Corning is probably the one area that almost anyone can improve in, so even high level expert riders are always trying to improve their corning.

I always try to brake before the turn, and carry speed through the turn or accellerate if the traction will permit.

Years ago, I would use both brakes at the same time.

These days, I find myself braking independantly, so I'll use the front and rear brake at different times, on some turns a little rear brake is all that's needed to keep my rear end from swinging out in the turn and breaking traction, but in most turns I start with the front brake, and then go to the rear a little later after my rear end has started to move away from me in the turn, this can help me adjust my line and get closer to the "inside" of the turn. This isn't something I think about, it's just something I do, but I have noticed it.

Other things like head angle can also play a huge role. On one of my downhill bikes, I had a shorter fork than recommended. I had it extended all the way in the crowns, but it was still a little on the short side. This made the bike more manueverable at slower speed, but at any kind of "downhill" speed it sucked in turns. I couldn't hold it in a turn because it was too unstable. By going to a much longer fork that slacked out my front end, my corning improved drastically. I know that sounds like of opposite of what you'd tend to believe, but the improvement of a shorter fork at "slow speed" was just at too slow of a speed to ever make a positive impact,

Weighting the front wheel more (moving forward on the bike) can often help. I find this has to do with the geometry and center of gravity of the bike. On some bikes I don't have to do this much, but on others I notice that I do. Even on a bike that feels really "neutral" in the turns, irregularities and differences in the turns can require a lot of body-english and moving around.

I was a ski racer in HS, so I also try to apply some of the technique and fundamentals that apply with making turns when racing.
 

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You want to get most of the braking done...

...before the corner. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Again, get all of your braking done before you enter the corner, use both brakes to achieve this.

In most cases, you'll setup for the corner from the outside of the trail, i.e., if you're turning to the left, enter the corner from the right side of the trail.

Drop the outside crank arm and load most of your weight on that pedal. It's called "weighting or, loading" the outside pedal.

Ideally, you want to carry as much speed as possible so, lay off of the brakes totally if you can. If you have to drag some brake, use the rear, grabbing the front while in a turn could cause you to wash out. There are instances where you can use the front to correct yourself but that's a little advanced and relies more on feel.

Once in the turn, keep your head up and look for the exit, you'll be much smoother and will carry much more speed.

Invariably, you will lose the front or rear of the bike while cornering. If this happens you've got to move around on the bike to compensate. Start off in a neutral position, with your head just over the stem, and then move your body fore/aft to make the bike hook up. Again, this is more of a feel thing that comes with experience.

I like to use my inside leg as weight ballast in turns. You see roadies doing this from time to time. Just move your inside knee toward the apex of the turn, it can tighten-up an arch sometimes and keep you from having to scrub speed. Be careful not to try this in tight singletrack though, knee + tree = hurt.

Ultimately, if I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be to look ahead rather than looking down at the tire. By viewing the entire turn (by focusing on the exit) you will be amazed at how much smoother you'll be. Good luck!
 

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formica said:
heh, I got this in my email the other day, some pro racer from Australia surfed onto my bike tips page and wanted to make a contribution...
Yep, that is a good technique. I read years ago that you put your outside pedal down and shift your weight to that pedal and keep your body upright which puts more weight on the tires. It works pretty well. I think it is worth saying also that having good tires is a MUST.

One other tidbit, when I am going through turns I will usually also continue to pedal through the turn where permitted and just the act of pedaling through the turn usually keeps the bike ontrack pretty well. Practice trying to take the turns using these techniques and lessoning the braking. Braking will make it harder to turn in many circumstances. Of course, braking is better than hitting a tree too.....
 

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Re-emphasize

DoctorJD says it all in his last paragraph. All good advice on this thread. Like the good Dr., I've found the thing that works better than anything is to look WHERE YOU WANT TO GO and not where you don't. Your body will make the proper adjustments to keep the bike going with what is in your 'mind picture'. Not easy to explain, but real.

Example: (cause no one asked!)

There is a particular nasty section of trail on a route I ride regularly. An off camber drop, then a ditch, and a dead tree branch broken to impale you if you 'miss' and go too far to the left. All really nasty sounding, and I would position to go off the camber, turn quickly and unweight my front to go over the 8 inch deep ditch and go past the tree limb.

All impressive sounding, but one day I realized I have a $500 fork, that is all squishy and really is supposed to do something other than impress my friends. I thought that instead of the ballerina act on this section, why don't I plow thru it, let the friggin fork do its thing, and be done. Just going thru the middle avoids the stupid tree branch anyway.

I came up on it the next time and simply looked across to where I wanted to be. A few seconds later, I was there. I paid no attention to the off camber, ditch, tree, I just rode thru it. Few jiggles from the fork just like it's supposed to do.

Moral is, same thing works in cornering. Look where you want to go, your body will react to the sight picture to get you there.......within reason.

Weighted outside leg, up right posture, slight weight on the front........all really good advice as well. I knew all those things but couldn't put it together until I trained myself to look WHERE I wanted to go, not where I was afraid I was going to end up. It's not natural, you tend to gravitate towards looking at whats gonna hurt you. It takes some practice to size up a turn, and then just look through it and do it.

Cheers,
Mike
 

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This is the perfect time of the year to work on cornering. If you dont have go buy a good headlight. Start doing night rides as often as you can. It's amazing how it forces you to look ahead or around corners & ride the way you should. Dont look at the tire keep your eyes ahead wher you will be going. I really look forward to night rides because it improves my day time rides when i get lazy & look around too much. Unfortunatly for me my night riding friends moved away & it's hard to find people that understand that a night ride is in the dark.
 

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dogonfr said:
This is the perfect time of the year to work on cornering. If you dont have go buy a good headlight. Start doing night rides as often as you can. It's amazing how it forces you to look ahead or around corners & ride the way you should. Dont look at the tire keep your eyes ahead wher you will be going. I really look forward to night rides because it improves my day time rides when i get lazy & look around too much. Unfortunatly for me my night riding friends moved away & it's hard to find people that understand that a night ride is in the dark.
on the path you are, young master, but blind folded riding you must!

heh, great idea, btw
 

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I don't have mad cornering skills but I took a skills lesson from someone who did. See my writeup here:
http://ashwinearl.blogspot.com/2005/11/review-better-ride-private-lesson.html

The main points he made about cornering were:
-Exit speed is the #1 goal.
This usually means braking BEFORE the turn so that you can glide through it with as much speed as possible.
-Entering a turn too hot and then braking in the turn is most likely going to be slower.
-Don't brake in the turn. Practice braking before a turn and then riding the turn closed fisted with your fingers off the levers. Start slow at first and work up to entering faster

-Countersteering is king. See the pictures. It might look like the front wheel is being steered into the corner, but it is actually the opposite. I can't remember the reason why even though they are countersteering that the tire looks to be being steered into the turn

-Vision is king. Look 'through' the turn, Head level, and up.

-Position yourself like a downhiller, chest low elbows out
 

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Corners

I agree with a lot of what was said but also want to add that you use your head a lot in cornering. That thing atop your neck is similiar to a 20 lb. bowling ball. If you shift it to the inside of the corner you can take it much tighter. Of course look out for trees. My cornering technique combines a lot of what was said previously, inside leg up, brake before the turn, mash the pedals at the apex of the turn to accelerate out. Throw the head around a bit and see what that does to your center of gravity. You'll be amazed. You also need the right bike setup. A 150 mm travel fork and super high front end corners like ass. You don't see chopper motorcycles doing slaloms, so how can one expect a mountain bike with a long travel fork to corner well. My setup is an 85 mm fork and a neg five degree rise stem to keep the front end super low.
 
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