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Mastering corners on the trail

Turn smoothly and with more speed by using the brakes just right

Braking in corners is one of the more challenging techniques to master when you are out on the trails. You need to be able to modulate your brakes, position your body and release the brakes at the right time.

The front brake is the more powerful of your two brakes. Its proper use is essential to proficient mountain biking. Generally, you will use your front brake as much or more than the rear when braking hard. Disc brakes on mountain bikes are powerful and proper modulation – being able to control how strongly or softly you brake – will help increase your control. To modulate your brakes properly, you’ll want to brake with one or two fingers. Grabbing a handful of brake with all your fingers will only send your bike out of control.

Stopping, especially when you use the front brake, pushes your body forward. Yet, you don’t want your weight to shift over or in front of the bars. To counter the force that braking exerts on your body, position yourself slightly back from neutral before braking. Dropping your heels on the pedals will also help you keep your weight back.

Now that you are using your brakes properly and have your body in the proper position, you need to apply force correctly going into and through a corner. Braking affects your control over the bike; using your brakes at the right moment will make you a smoother rider. Use your brakes, front and rear, to slow down before the corner. But once you start to corner, either turning or leaning the bike, the front brake needs to be off. When you get to the apex of the corner, you shouldn’t be braking at all. Staying off the front brake once you start to corner is an easy way to improve your bike handling.

Finally, going into a corner too fast can actually slow you down. If you find yourself standing and sprinting out of corners routinely, try going into the corner more slowly and then hold that speed without braking. Often you will have a faster overall speed throughout and leave the corner with more control over your bike. Your goal is to exit corners at the same speed or faster than you entered.