Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home
Mountain Bike HAPPENINGS - July 2023
Cornering: Part I
by Chile Pepper Bike Shop

The day was hot. The smell of sweet ponderosa pine filled the forest. A six minute World Cup level downhill outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado was in perfect condition from the rain the night before. I was doing training laps with the Australian “Thunder from Down Under” Mick Hannah and Colorado ripper Matt Fischer. I was leading (which is always nerve-wracking when you have a rider like “Sik Mik” Hannah behind you) and kept blowing out the bottom of the turns. After a few minutes of riding, Mick simply said to me, “turn before the turn” in his classic Aussie accent. After a few beats I asked if he could elaborate. His response was “Just turn earlier, mate”. Mansplaining obviously didn’t come from Australians.

What I learned and what he was actually saying applies to all mountain biking on all trails. To be fluid in turns, and ultimately faster in turns, there has to be a level of trust in the relationship of speed, grip, bike angulation and apex of the turn. The apex of the corner is the tightest part of the turn; after the apex, it starts to open up. What most people do is wait until the apex to lean the bike over and actually turn. What fluid riders and most fast racers do is initiate the turn/the bike lean well before the apex. In the example with Mick in Colorado Springs, we took a video of the same corner with all three of us riders. At the entrance, we paused the video. Mick was already leaned completely over and fully committed to the turn. Matt and I still had upright bikes and a body position that was not fully confident or committed. In order to do the corner properly at the speed Mick was riding at, we had to initiate the turn nearly a second earlier than what we were previously doing. What Matt and I found was that once we committed to initiating the turn early there was no way we could back out, were forced to carry more speed and trust the tires to grip the terrain. It’s the same principle as hitting a gap jump-full commitment and appropriate inertia.

A few things that will help- body position, eyes and shoulders, brake control and timing.

Body position:
Your bike needs traction to turn, especially on your front wheel. A common mistake I see is a rider being a “passenger” which puts their weight in their back seat and makes the front want to wash out. It’s important to stay neutral to forward in turns to get the front tire to grip. If you find yourself pulling on the handlebars instead of feeling pressure in your palms, you’re probably in the back seat (we will go into suspension settings next month which will also help with body position).

Eyes and Shoulders:
The next most common thing I see is people twisting their shoulders out of the turn. For example, if it’s a right hand turn their shoulders would twist to the left. In a right hand turn, the rider should be pulling their right shoulder down and backwards through the turn.

Eyes should be scanning the corner as you are entering it and well before the apex, the eyes should be looking beyond the corner- through and past the exit. Your shoulders and eyes should be square to the direction of travel you’re headed. AKA the exit of the turn. This creates natural fluidity to have excellent exit speed to be able to link up to the next turn.

Brake control and timing:
Tires like to grip the terrain when they are rolling freely; meaning tires grip the best when there’s no brake application in the corners. Your tire has the most surface contact area when you’re traveling in a straight line. Applying brakes before the turn is a way to actually get better overall trail speed and fluidity. Braking while turning creates less traction and stands the bike up- two things you do not want to happen in a turn. Practice braking in a straight line before the turn, roll through the turn and notice that your exit speed at the end will be quicker.

As always, remember elbows up, ride from your core, and smile every once in a while!

Bike Rentals - Apparel - Gear - Swag
702 South Main Street
435 259 4688

Return to home