Ever watched the pro's flow down a course and thought "wow, how do they make that look so smooth"?
I'm sure you have, as I have.
Cornering on a mountain bike is an essential skill that when mastered inspires confidence, and makes you faster/smoother on the trail.
Being able to corner effectively allows you to line yourself up for the next corner better, and also allows you to line up for technical features and jumps that come after berms better too. You will carry more speed on the trail and ultimately become a more skilled, more confident and faster rider.
So, how can you master cornering?
In this blog I will give you three top tips to help you master cornering and find your flow. Let's get started:
1: Look where you want to go:
While this seems obvious, you would be surprised at how many people I catch looking down at their front wheel, or even worse. At trees. You will naturally travel towards what you are looking at so if you want to make your corners more effective you need to start practicing where you look on the trail.
This is something that becomes second nature in time but it's always good to keep one eye on your head position as you ride.
As you approach a corner look at the line you want to take, on a right hand berm for example look into the entry of the berm, then the top of the centre of the berm, and finally the exit of the berm.
*Visualisation tip: Close your eyes, think about what I have just described above and imagine a berm on a local trail, place three mental dots on the berm and then trace a line to connect the dots, this line will reflect the perfect line on the corner, imagine yourself riding that corner, and I bet it's an awesome image!
Now focus on where your eyes need to be to achieve that and train this into your mind.
Cornering made simple: Outside leg down, Eye's looking where I want to go, Turning from the hips, not the arms.
2: Foot position:
Foot position is key to mastering corners and riding on trails. Determining when you need to move your feet on the bike is a key trail skill. And you will no doubt have seen coaching videos about outside foot down, should you do this?
Essentially it all depends on the corner. For example, on the picture above I have my outside foot down, this is allowing me to push my weight into the bike, pushing the tyre into the surface of the berm and allowing more traction and grip. This photo was taken on a blue grade trail with lots of flowy corners, it's at the dual track at Parkwood springs in Sheffield and is the perfect place to practice this as corners come at you with enough time to move about on the bike.
However, if you turn a corner straight into a jump, or technical section having one foot down can be a hazard. You don't want to exit in a rock garden, clip a pedal and then end up out the front door. Similarly you don't want to hit a jump off balance and have an airborne accident.
Where to put your feet relies on knowledge of the trail and your confidence in putting your feet down.
I would practice this movement on a trail you are comfortable with and then ride a trail with more features so you can get used to moving your feet about on the bike.
Think about a place you can go and practice this, take a camera and film yourself cornering, watch how your feet move and look at the difference it makes to the bike too as you do this. You will see the bike is much more willing to be leant over when your outside foot is down.
3: Turn from the hips:
I find a lot of people steer a bike with their arms, pulling on the handlebars to turn the bike. This seems logical to the beginner as the handlebars are what you hold, they turn left and right so why wouldn't you move them with your arms?
However, when you turn with your arms you encourage poor head position, and poor body position, often becoming rigid on the bike and not holding the attack position.
Turning from the hips goes hand in hand with head position as it allows your body to turn as one and track movement better.
It also allows you to push your shoulders into the turning movement so it is your core that is handling the bike not your arms.
This will make your cornering much smoother and controllable.
You can practice this on the bike by riding on flat surfaces, or simple trails and just ride into the corners focusing on using your hips to turn. You can also make this more second nature by adding exercises into your training plan that allow the body to turn, Russian twists, twist box jumps and woodchoppers are three great examples of this.
When it comes to learning how to corner. It takes time, practicing these movements is a great start, my advice would be to head to your local trail and practice them one at a time, head position, foot position and turning from the hips. Then when you feel you have it all dialled in, try putting them together. Film them and look at how you and your bike begin to work with each other instead of you working your bike in the corners.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and can take something from it. If you would like to know more about my mountain bike skills coaching courses, click the button below: