Riding a bike comes with the amazing potential to be able to do more than just go down the street or trail at a quicker pace than walking or running. With riding you can go fast enough and maneuver enough to give you a feeling unlike that of any other. Your heart pumps, the adrenaline flows, you can feel the excitement of what you just rode. You could have crashed but you didn’t. You had the skills to not only get through it but to get through it with style. These few tips will help you ride through corners better and with more confidence.
Whether on the road or trail, cornering is the best skill you can learn to be a really good bike handler. If you can do all the other cool stuff but can’t corner, you’re riding is going to suffer. The biggest thing with cornering is having confidence in yourself and your tires. Like anything, practice is what is going to make you good. You will fall and if you don’t, you won’t find your limits. Practice, but practice smart so if you do fall, the damage is minimal.
On the road, cornering well is imperative because if you’re at your limit, you are probably going pretty fast and if you mess up it’s not going to feel good. To start, the first thing is to gauge your speed. Every corner you go through is going to have a rough maximum speed that you can get through it. As you improve, this speed will go up but there is always a limit. If you come into a corner faster than what you can handle, you are going to overshoot it. Brake and slow before the corner, not in it.
Typically when going fast and through technical turns, you want your hands positioned in the drops of your road bike. This lowers your center of gravity and gives you a solid base of which to corner from. As you enter the turn, make sure your outside legs is at the bottom of the pedal stroke thus making sure your inside pedal doesn’t clip the pavement. As you do this, put a bit more weight on your inside hand while putting extra pressure on that outside leg as well. This is going to weight the tires and bike in a way to get the maximum grip out of the tires in contact with the road.
Some riders swing their inside knee out while some keep it close to the top tube. Swinging it out gives a bit more stability but try it and see what feels best. As you start the turn and continue through it, look at where you want to go and keep your eyes moving toward that point. Avoid any rocks or other debris mid-turn with small adjustments as any real objects that you ride over during the turn has the real potential to cause your tire to slide out thus causing a crash.
If you need to brake mid-turn, you are not going to be able to do it well while leaned over. You are going to have to straighten the bike back up, going straighter for a bit, and then applying the brakes. If there is still more corner to navigate, hopefully you slowed enough and can then re-enter the turn to make it through, otherwise start to look for exit options.
Exit Options for the Worst Case
If you do come into a turn too hot, or for whatever reason can’t make the turn, you are going to have to find exit options. This is going to just be reaction but the key is to stay cool and don’t over react. One of the first things less experienced riders do is to grab a handful of brakes. If still leaned over and cornering, this is going to send you right to the pavement. Instead, like above, straighten the bike back up, and then slow as much as you can.
If there’s a soft exit off the side of the road, take it and continue to slow and hope you don’t hit anything hard. If that’s not an option, say there is a guard-rail, you are going to have to try and make as much of the turn as you can. You may make it, but if you don’t you’ll have at least slowed some and created less of an angle into the object so it is less of a direct impact making your landing softer. You don’t need to be thinking about this as you enter every turn but when you do encounter it, you need to know what to do. It’s going to just be reaction but the fact that your brain has thought of it once before and has some inclination on what to tell your body to do will go a long way.
The more you go through corners, the better and more comfortable you are going to get at going through them. The best way to practice cornering is to find an empty parking lot where there is good pavement and no traffic. Practicing on the open road is dangerous and lends itself to traffic and having to focus on them instead of cornering.
First make a corner out of the parking lines or something of the like. Make sure however that at the outside of your turn there isn’t a curb or anything that you may hit if you do overshoot the corner. The first time you go through the corner, do so at a slower speed, exaggerating your actions such as the weight on your inside hand and outside pedal. Get a feel for it and then go through again from the other direction. You want to get equally good at turning in both directions, not just one. As you get more comfortable, go faster and faster but don’t overshoot your ability. Feel how the tires are contacting the pavement and try leaning the bike over more and less along with playing around with other things until you get extremely comfortable. Practice this once a week until you’re an expert at cornering and extremely comfortable with it.
Becoming good at cornering is going to allow you to be more comfortable on the bike because you are always going to feel in control. If you go too fast for what you’re comfortable with your body will tell you and you’ve found your limit. The key is to raise that limit and always be comfortable. Don’t test your limits where you shouldn’t such as on busy streets or descents where if you overshoot a corner you’re crashing. Do it safely and with that you’ll still have fun with it. Always be in control.