Getting around corners fast is an art that needs to be practised regularly to master and maintain. Whether it is a fast tight criterium circuit or a wicked downhill descent your ability to get through corners fast can easily be the difference between winning and losing a race.
Good cornering is not only for the racing cyclists. If you are a serious recreational rider then being able to corner properly will help ensure that you are in control and get around corners safely. It takes focus, the ability to relax and courage… but not too much courage! Too much courage and you’ll be in the gutter cleaning yourself up. So here are my 7 major tips for good cornering:
1. Keep relaxed. Yep, keep breathing, relax your arms and grip on your handle bars, relax your body. Sounds like the start of a meditation tape… But it’s critically important. You need to be able to respond to things like wind gusts to perform minor corrections and counteract uneven road surfaces, potholes and debris as you ride through corners. If you stiffen up then you’ll lose your fluidness and ability to respond and correct quickly.
2. Brake before the corners. Most of your braking should be done before you enter a corner, using both brakes, so you are in complete control of your speed. If you go into a corner too fast, grabbing the brakes will send you off the road.
3. Look through the corner. The old saying says… Your bike goes where your eyes are looking, so look where you want to go, the exit of the corner. Don’t focus on the potholes or the rough surface unless that’s where you want your wheels to go. You are travelling fast so think and look far ahead and pick your lines early.
4. Plant your weight on your outside foot. To corner safely, you need your centre of gravity to remain over your tires and your weight distributed appropriately across both wheels. With your body weight planted on the pedal facing the outside of the corner, you’re increasing the traction your tires have on the road.
5. Use your Balance. Lean your bike and not your body. When you ride into a corner, both your body and bike lean to the inside of the turn, but you should lean the bike more than you lean your body. To do this, plant your weight on your outside leg and extend the arm facing the inside of the corner. As you extend your inside arm, you’ll notice the bike drops into the corner and your body weight feels like it is divided between your outside leg and your inside arm. This is a very stable position, it provides a lot of traction, and enables you to see further ahead to the next turn. Moving back on the seat helps too!
6. Use the road it’s there to be used. You aren’t driving a car that takes up most of the lane so use the road. Start from the outside of the corner and as you ride through the corner’s apex move towards the inside of the road; effectively cutting the corner. It’s important to keep the motion smooth. By doing so you won’t need to wash off so much speed… Don’t cut the corner so much that you cross the centre line of the road! That is very dangerous.
7. Jump out of the corners. When riding downhill you can lose a lot of time if you break too early and then let gravity build your speed again. As you come out of the corner you want to almost sprint and accelerate back up to your max riding speed as soon as possible. This is really important for down hills and criteriums. Chasing riders won’t gain much ground on a long straight because there won’t be much difference in your speeds if you are both riding at your max. But you can lose a lot of time through a corner that you have to make up somewhere else. Consider it free speed.