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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking for advice for getting through very sharp corners quickly on tight singletrack.

Right now I feel like I either slow down way too much and then have to exert a lot of effort to get back up to speed after the apex or the front end starts to slide on me. I have wrecked a few times and it hurts!

Should I be putting more or less weight on the front to get more traction? other advice?

The bike is a cannondale F6 hardtail with a cheapo Dart2 fork and CST COMP Caballaro tires.

The trails are in Eastern NC so they are relatively flat, in wooded areas where wet and leaves and sand are the main cornering concerns. I am trying to average 8-10 mph through these sections.

I know that a better fork or tires with bigger knobs would probably help but I am more interested in improving my technique than just buying stuff (read I am poor and cheap too ).

Thanks for the advice.

-cgb
 

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Underskilled
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Without more info it is hard to say,

However a basic but not alwys known tip for getting traction on corners is have all your weight on your outside pedal.
 

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Some great advice

bernside said:
I am looking for advice for getting through very sharp corners quickly on tight singletrack.

Right now I feel like I either slow down way too much and then have to exert a lot of effort to get back up to speed after the apex or the front end starts to slide on me. I have wrecked a few times and it hurts!

Should I be putting more or less weight on the front to get more traction? other advice?

The bike is a cannondale F6 hardtail with a cheapo Dart2 fork and CST COMP Caballaro tires.

The trails are in Eastern NC so they are relatively flat, in wooded areas where wet and leaves and sand are the main cornering concerns. I am trying to average 8-10 mph through these sections.

I know that a better fork or tires with bigger knobs would probably help but I am more interested in improving my technique than just buying stuff (read I am poor and cheap too ).

Thanks for the advice.

-cgb
Use the Search in the Beginner's Corner and you'll find a lot of good information on proper cornering techniques...
 

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Do you see other riders taking the same corners with greater speed? I have a hard time maintaining traction through tight corners when the trails are covered with wet leaves. If your front end is sliding out, you can shift yourself to put more weight on the front tire.

Remember that the laws of physics set a speed limit around corners before you loose friction.
 

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LCI #1853
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"Countersteering" may be what you're looking for here... First of all, NO BRAKES! As you approach the corner, "twitch" your handlebars to the opposite direction that you want to turn... for example, if you are going to turn right, twitch the bars slightly to the left, which causes your bike to lean to the right. As soon as you feel the bike start to lean, put your outside pedal all the way down with some weight on it to help you maintain traction, tuck your inside elbow in to make the bike carve into the turn, and look up and out at the line you want to follow. This last is important, since your bike is going to go where you're looking.

This works well on the road and dry trail; where you've got traction problems (wet leaves, mud, wet trail) you will likely want to bleed off a little speed before starting your turn. Just be sure to lay off the brakes while you're turning...

Practice this at first, slowly in a parking lot, then as you get the hang of it, you can add a little speed and hit the trails. With a little practice, you can turn that bike in a whole lot shorter space than you can stop it...
 

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So what the OP is describing is not a high speed corner. It is relatively a slow-medium speed corner.

Braking correctly will be crucial.

First off, I would look at checking your speed before entering the corner to get a feel for how fast you can go and maintain traction. This way, you are not dabbing your brakes mid or late in the corner scrubbing off too much speed. Also remember that the very act of cornering scrubs off speed.

How you are weighted (front/rear) impacts your traction. Not enough traction in the front (like if you are scared of crashing, which is a very healthy fear) could be induced by having too much weight to the rear...unweighting the front. Gotta find that balance point.

I have a habit (good or bad...not sure) of braking before a corner, then I'll release the front and use my rear brakes to shift my weight forward or backward as needed. I don't skid the back tire through the corner. Just enough tap to put a touch more weight on the front bars.

Apexing the corner properly is another way to increase the radius you are taking.

Also figure out if the corner is an entry corner or exit corner. On entry corners, there isn't much of a straight after the corner so you can brake late, increasing the time you are at the higher speed. You can sacrifice a bit of mid-corner or exit speed to maximize the higher speed before the corner. On exit corners, you want to make sure you set up the entry and mid corner to have the highest velocity coming out of the corner before a straight section.

But generally, you just want to keep as much momentum as possible since we don't have an endless stamina and each acceleration run has a price to be paid.

Just remember a brake dab mid-corner or near the end because your ran out of room will cost you big time corner after corner. Slow down initially and gradually increase your speed.
 

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BTW, I have CST Cabelleros that I use during the summer. And I suppose you can get more terrain/weather specific tires for the conditions. But they are good all around tires for what you describe. I would work more on technique. Once the technique is very good, then up the ante with tires and fork.

A new fork with bigger stanchions will be stiffer and allow for more accuracy and feel of what the front end is doing. And terrain specific tires will increase your traction.
 

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Shaman
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Wow, there is so much to cornering, body position, vision, braking, hips, lean angle counter pressure .... I spend 3 hours in my camps on cornering with riders who are already pro racers, in the parking lot! The written word is a tough way to learn any physical skill but the biggest mistake I used to make and see most riders of all level doing is looking at the apex of the corner as they enter it. The vision goal in cornering is to look 30 feet past the exit of the corner or as far as you can if you see that far. Looking past the exit will make the corner feel much bigger and give you the correct lean angle from the beginning (so you don't make 2-3 "adjustments" throughout the corner) you will also find yourself getting off the brakes sooner by looking through. The second biggest mistake riders make is going into the corner too fast and braking in the corner. Unless your goal is to slide the rear tire and square off the corner do all of your braking before the corner and let off before you start the turn.

I hope that helps but, again, the written word stinks for learning physical skills, no one ever became a black belt by reading a book (books are great for learning knowledge, in sport knowledge is worthless without action) knowing something and being able to do it or two distinctly different things.
 

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Cornering depends very much on the traction. The steeper the incline and looser the surface, the less leaning you can afford, without risk of wash out.
What I do, is taking the turn as wide as possible. On a tight single track there is not much width to take advantage of, but every centimeter counts. That is, say, turning left, I move to the right first, then aim at the corner and proceed crossing the path to the right again, increasing the radius of turn. Also, I lower the inside shoulder (on tarmac, you may also stick the inside knee out, moving inside as much weight as possible).
 

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Genius
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Practice practice practice. Not all corners are the same. Become familiar with the trail and ride over and over and over. Then spend more time on the more technical turns if any are still fowling you up (or your just not satisfied) and do each one individually over and over....etc. This will improve your technique & balance and you'll learn the limits of your bike, the trail, and yourself. Cannondale f-series is a good bike. One of my coworkers has over 12,000 miles on his.

Yes crashing hurts, but its going to happen. Don't be concerned with speed. Speed will come with practice. Keep in mind 99% of mt bikers dont race. Most ride cuz they enjoy the challenge. Wear your safety gear and keep practicing.
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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Around here, I just bunnyhop and throw the bike sideways. Oddly enough, it works.

Agreed on countersteering. Briefly shifting the bike outwards, then into the turn with a ton of pressure on the outside pedal makes the tires "bite" into the turn better. Should be a pretty much natural reaction anyway, you want your inside pedal up and away from the ground anyway. Just fine-tune that. Might take you a few tries (I know I faceplanted a half dozen times learning that) but once you get it, you'll do it fairly naturally every time.
 

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PscyclePath said:
"Countersteering" may be what you're looking for here... First of all, NO BRAKES! As you approach the corner, "twitch" your handlebars to the opposite direction that you want to turn... for example, if you are going to turn right, twitch the bars slightly to the left, which causes your bike to lean to the right. As soon as you feel the bike start to lean, put your outside pedal all the way down with some weight on it to help you maintain traction, tuck your inside elbow in to make the bike carve into the turn, and look up and out at the line you want to follow. This last is important, since your bike is going to go where you're looking.

This works well on the road and dry trail; where you've got traction problems (wet leaves, mud, wet trail) you will likely want to bleed off a little speed before starting your turn. Just be sure to lay off the brakes while you're turning...
CaveGiant said:
Without more info it is hard to say,

However a basic but not alwys known tip for getting traction on corners is have all your weight on your outside pedal.
Both of these tips should be rewritten before following them.

First of all, it is ok to use the brakes but when you are turning, specifically leaning your bike in a turn, you could lose tire traction and slip out. Beginners also may panic brake, grabbing the brake levers too hard and locking up the wheels, which will likely lead to a crash during a turn.

Beginners are usually advised to do their braking before the turn, while the bike is upright and you have maximum contact patch with the tires. If you do need to brake in a turn, using the rear brake is less likely to affect your steering. A slightly more advanced technique in a turn is to reduce lean when you brake, which will increase your contact patch and traction. Straight up for a moment, slow down, then continue turning.

As for putting all your weight on one pedal, how, and more importantly, when to do it is critical.

A traditional cornering technique is to raise the inside foot and lower the outside, which would put your weight on the outside foot. But many mountain bikers avoid this technique because you could clip a rock or root with the lower foot. They corner with both feet level in most situations.

You can still lower your outside foot on turns, just on open trails where your foot is not going to hit something.

Countersteering is taught to motorcycle riders as a way to steer a heavy bike at high speeds. However, it does apply to bicycles but in the 20 years I have ridden mountain and road, I have never heard this term, mostly because steering is very intuitive on a 25lb vehicle going 10-20mph.

What is more helpful is shifting your body weight to the inside of your turn without leaning the bike as much.

Your traction comes from the contact patch of the tire with the ground. Hypothetically, let's say on level ground, you lean the bike to 45 degrees to make a right turn. You will lose contact on the knobs on the left side of the tire, and if you lose enough contact, you will slip out.

But if you can keep your bike more upright, and let's say you only lean over 5 degrees, then you have almost all the knobs contacting the ground, and you have maximum traction.

The way you can do this is shifting your body weight to the inside of the turn without leaning the bike as much.

On a bicycle, I find I start bending over at the waist and letting my head lean into the turn. Where my head goes, my body follows.

I also get out of the saddle, but unlike the classic beginner tip, get your weight back, I actually keep it centered between the wheels. I am able to shift my weight around easier than having my butt planted on the saddle. You also want to keep some weight on the front wheel to maintain traction, which is the opposite of "Get your weight back".
 

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Every corner is different.
Brake before the corner until you get the hang of cornering then learn to brake in it as well.

This old motor racing adage is accurate across all forms of wheeled sports (for many corners, but not all) :- "Slow in, fast out". The opposite obviously is fast in, slow out.

It's saying :- Brake early enough to cleanly enter and exit the corner on your chosen line and have it in the correct gear when you do it and you'll be well on the way to a quick run out of the corner.

Late braking and trying to squeeze, brake, fiddle, steer, balance and "ohhh,foook" your way into a corner means you'll dawdle out. There's no ifs and buts about it.

Braking in some corners is a necessity but takes some learning.

Squeezing the brake levers, not grabbing them makes braking smoother and settles the bike, tyres and rider more than jamming them on.

Tyres like consistent movement (i.e. not jerky) to gain grip most of the time.

I apply what I learned from karts and motorcycles and use it all the time on the bike.
It works well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the advice guys. I know a bit about cornering technique and practices from riding motorcycles as far as braking, apexing, leaning into the turn, etc.

The thing I never worried much about on a street bike is fore-aft positioning because rider weight is much less of a factor on a heavy motorcycle than on a bicycle (At least fore-aft, not side to side).

I am sure that I need to work on my braking technique. I think I am using both brakes about evenly, I need to start thinking about what each one is doing.

And I think practice is probably the best advice. I can handle the corners fine at a more moderate pace but I am trying to push things and this is my weakness. I ride with a guy who races expert class and when the trail gets really tight is where he leaves me behind. He has been riding long enough that it is just natural and hard for him to articulate what he is actually doing.

Every time I ride I get better. That is part of the fun.

-cgb
 

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On the road, whether I am sitting on my SV650 or my road bike, I use 90% front brake.

Off road, I use 50/50. You need to know when and how to apply the brakes, but I think you will be able to figure it otu.

But if you are talking about keeping up with an Expert class racer, you need a better bike and more experience. No short cuts there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
sanjuro said:
On the road, whether I am sitting on my SV650 or my road bike, I use 90% front brake.

Off road, I use 50/50. You need to know when and how to apply the brakes, but I think you will be able to figure it otu.

But if you are talking about keeping up with an Expert class racer, you need a better bike and more experience. No short cuts there.
Sanjuro - you would not believe it....this guy rides a 1998 cannondale hardtail! for me to keep up with him I would need a motor :D
 

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LCI #1853
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traffic002 said:
First off, I would look at checking your speed before entering the corner to get a feel for how fast you can go and maintain traction. This way, you are not dabbing your brakes mid or late in the corner scrubbing off too much speed. Also remember that the very act of cornering scrubs off speed.

...
Just remember a brake dab mid-corner or near the end because your ran out of room will cost you big time corner after corner. Slow down initially and gradually increase your speed.
Exactly... A braked wheel wants to go straight, not turn. And controlling your speed helps you maintain traction in slick/slippery places, and not skid or wash the bike out from under you.

The countersteering (or "quick turn") technique will help you turn better in tight places. But a lot is going to depend on the ground where you're trying to do it... :nono:
 

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Shaman
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sanjuro said:
Both of these tips should be rewritten before following them.
Beginners are usually advised to do their braking before the turn, while the bike is upright and you have maximum contact patch with the tires. If you do need to brake in a turn, using the rear brake is less likely to affect your steering. A slightly more advanced technique in a turn is to reduce lean when you brake, which will increase your contact patch and traction. Straight up for a moment, slow down, then continue turning ....

...also want to keep some weight on the front wheel to maintain traction, which is the opposite of "Get your weight back".
Wow, this is interesting advice. First a little on my background so you know where I am coming from. I have spent the last 15 years racing in the pro downhill class and the last 12 years coaching mountain bikers and one of the biggest things I have studied is cornering. I have coached some of the fastest US racers and worked with Greg Minnaar and Marla Streb as assistant coaches.

First off I completely agree with the last paragraph, "get your weight back" is horrible advice causing you to get out of a balanced, neutral position and often causing the front tire to push in a turn.

I disagree with a few of your statements though (not saying they are wrong, just saying I disagree, opening up discussion, not attacking you)

"Countersteering .... because steering is very intuitive on a 25lb vehicle going 10-20mph."

Having taught over 1,500 riders of all levels I have not seen this to be intuitive, most riders when wanting to tighten up a turn will steer into the turn, the exact opposite of what you want to do.

"What is more helpful is shifting your body weight to the inside of your turn without leaning the bike as much.

Your traction comes from the contact patch of the tire with the ground. Hypothetically, let's say on level ground, you lean the bike to 45 degrees to make a right turn. You will lose contact on the knobs on the left side of the tire, and if you lose enough contact, you will slip out.

But if you can keep your bike more upright, and let's say you only lean over 5 degrees, then you have almost all the knobs contacting the ground, and you have maximum traction.

The way you can do this is shifting your body weight to the inside of the turn without leaning the bike as much. "

I believe your traction comes from the down force on your contact patch, keeping your bike upright and shifting your weight to the inside is a recipe for sliding out.

I bring all of this up because I teach counter steering (well actually counter pressure but that is a long story) as it nis really misunderstood, leaning the bike not your body and putting all of your weight on the outside pedal (when your goal is to rail a corner). I also coach to not to lean your head or shoulders in on a turn as it breaks you at the waist taking pressure off the outside pedal and putting weight inside the turn (both causing less downward pressure on your tires). I learned a lot of this cornering technique from Nathan Rennie when he was on Yeti years ago and have since fine tuned it with the help of Greg Minnaar and a lot of the pro racers I coach.

Some of my theories (which I learned from the above riders, snowboard coaching, snowboard coaches, motorcycles coaches, reading books on physics, etc.) are:
1. counter pressure is what makes the bike lean, lean is what makes bike turn
2. the more you lean the bike at any given speed the tighter you will turn,
3. braking should done before a corner, asking I our tire to both slow us and change direction at the same time is a bad idea
4. we want as much down force on the tires for traction,
5 to get that down force, if the terrain is smooth where we want to set an edge our outside foot should be down,
6. if our goal is to keep the tires on the ground through a slower, bumpy corner keep our feet level

Those are some of the cornering pieces (there is actually a lot more) that I have taught to riders of all levels and many top US racers and it seems to being doing well for them.
 
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