Dirt Skills MTB Coaching: Part 4, Cornering
This week’s talk focuses on cornering, an often underestimated but essential skill if you want to increase both your confidence and your speed on the trails. Efficient cornering combines the skills learned earlier in this series to have you quickly and comfortably changing the position of your body and bike in order to change direction.
When cornering you should be focused on maintaining balance as you lean your bike into the turn, this is done by continually fine tuning the position of your body on the bike. Try to keep a low centre of gravity and your weight centred between the tyres, this will help you get maximum traction and therefore greater confidence to tackle corners at speed. Mastering the art of looking through the turn and rotating your body to point towards the exit will soon have you turning on a dime.
To get your body in the correct position for a corner, rotate your hips to point your belly button to the exit of the turn while pressing your outside knee into the frame. This will bring your hips out nice and wide and rotate your shoulders, making sure all your weight is on top of the bike; this will increase your stability and find the most grip from your tyres.
All braking for corners should be done in a straight line i.e before you enter the corner. It is very difficult to lean the bike over with your brakes applied. Slow down earlier than you think is necessary and give yourself plenty of time to correctly position your bike and body for the corner ahead. When your position is set, let go of the brakes, keep your eyes up and flow through the turn. Avoid grabbing and releasing the brakes as you turn, this will unsettle your bike and make it difficult to maintain balance.
When you feel comfortable staying off the brakes and flowing through corners, start pushing your braking points further and further back to see just how fast you can hit those turns. If you run off course and into the bushes you will know you’ve pushed too far.
Depending on the type of corner it will be best to either keep your pedals level or have your outside pedal down. Try both on a trail you like, you will soon find what works best for you. As a rule of thumb, a bermed corner will be best with level pedals and a flat corner best with your outside pedal down. Always be careful when dropping your outside pedal, make sure it will not hit any rocks or roots that are on the track, this can be a quick way to end up on the ground.
When cornering it is essential to keep your eyes up so you can scan the trail ahead. How many times have you locked eyes on a tree 10 metres before crashing into it? If you look at something, you’re going to hit it. The same principle goes in your favour when it comes to cornering, by keeping your eyes on the trail ahead you will get where you want to go. Turn your head, raise your eyes and scan the trail, you will quickly find yourself choosing better lines, braking less and carrying more speed.
Anyone can ride fast in a straight line but holding corner speed is something that makes a good rider great. Slow things down for a while and focus on your technique, look where you want to go, rotate your body to point where you want to go, and you will get there. With these techniques dialled, you will feel more grip from your tyres, giving you the confidence to stay off your brakes and carry more speed.
As the saying goes, ‘jump for show, corner for dough’