by Andrew Randell and Steve Neal of The Cycling Gym
Cornering skills are some of the basics that can make your riding smoother and more enjoyable. If you are riding in a group and can roll through the corners smoothly, you will save lots of energy by not having to accelerate out of every turn just to hold the wheel ahead.
Many riders think of the path around a corner as an arc. It isn’t. In fact you are actually trying to make a straight line, as best you can, through the corner. You enter the corner by initiating your turn, then try to ride a straight line through the apex, and then head out the other side of the corner to finish and straighten up again.
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Initiating your turn properly is the most challenging part of the technique. Get this right and you will breeze through the apex and out the other side of the corner. Let’s start by looking at what happens to the bike. Initiating the turn means leaning the bike into the corner, but we get the bike to do this in an unexpected way, and it doesn’t involve turning the bars.
Let’s take a right-hand turn as an example. The bike has a tendency to want to carry on in a straight line. To get the bike to break away from this straight line, we lean our weight on the inside of the handle bars (the right side of the bar in this case). This lean gets the bike “diving” into the corner. The timing of the turn’s initiation is important. You want to start the turn at the point where you can line yourself up to take a straight path through the apex, the deepest part of the corner. Out the other side is less complicated and is really a case of straightening up the bike again as the forces pushing on you dissipate.
An important tip here: keep your outside pedal down through the corner. When cornering, you want to use as much of the road as safely possible –
“outside to inside to outside” should be your cornering mantra. On the road, think “yellow line to apex to yellow line.” Following this path will reduce the forces working against you in the turn, and help you line up better with the apex. Try taking a turn quickly from the inside of the corner, along the curb; you’ll find it doesn’t work.
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Now let’s talk about positioning your body in a turn. It is important to lower your centre of gravity as much as possible. Therefore, before you initiate the turn, you want to lower your chest toward the bar, keeping your weight distributed evenly between the front and rear wheels. Now push on the inside of the handlebar and “dive” into the corner. As you dive, you also want to drop your knee into the corner, just like a MotoGP racer. Dropping the knee can make a big difference.
Your outside leg, which is always at the bottom of the pedal stroke as we mentioned, and outside hand also play a crucial role. They should both be pressing the bike down aggressively into the ground to help maintain your tire contact. And as we’ve noted, you want to keep some weight on the front wheel. Make it too light and it will wash out from underneath you.
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Finally, take a look at the quality of your tires and their pressure. Research has shown that lower pressure is faster and will increase the performance of your tire. We are running 25c tires at 65 to 70 p.s.i. front and rear. Try it: you might be surprised.
Initiate your turn leaning your weight into it. Keep your body low. Try to make the corner as straight as possible. Practise while riding down a shallow grade and start to feel how the bike falls away from beneath you, and then take it into a corner and set yourself up right to blast the apex.