Corner at speed and save vital momentum

With James Thornhill-Fisher’s advice on getting into the attack position in your armoury, it’s time to talk cornering. Remember you’ve worked hard to build up your speed and to shed it all in a corner is going to kill your momentum, so cornering efficiently is going to save vital energy. 

1.      Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go

When cornering at speed on your mountain bike, you need to keep your eyes focused on where you want to go and not on the front tyre! The most common mistake among mountain bikers is the “want to look at what you’re riding over and not where you’re heading” syndrome. I think it is in our human nature to do this, so we have to train ourselves to look forward to our exit point instead of right in front of our wheel. By looking forward and through the turn, your body gets pointed in the right direction and you don’t make unnecessary adjustments to your steering during the turn.

 2.      Brake earlier… not In the turn

You need to adjust your speed before you hit the corner then accelerate through it. The second most common mistake in cornering at speed is braking too late, so that your hardest braking force is being applied at the apex (middle) of the turn. At the apex of the corner, you want to be carrying your momentum, not squashing it, so by adjusting your speed beforehand you are able to concentrate on using the momentum you already have, instead of having to crank up the power in an attempt to get going again. Ideally, you want to be off the brakes throughout the entire turn and on the pedals exploding out with your forward motion as soon as you straighten up.

 3.      It’s all about the line

Especially in tight corners on the trail, you want to straighten your line out as much as possible. When I am cornering, I imagine myself in a race car on the track. By coming in wide and not on the inside line, you are able to maintain your speed better than if you try to cut the turn short. In corners that have a natural berm, it is important to stay in that berm and let it carry you around the corner. With tight and off camber corners, come in wide, meet the turn at the apex and use that straight shot out of the turn as a way to increase your momentum and speed.

 4.      You and your bike are not one

When you are cornering at speed, you and your bike need to move independently of each other as you take the turn. The more you can adjust your body weight on the bike to compensate for traction, the better. If you stiffen up and keep your body moving on the same plane as your bike, you are going to run into trouble. At high speed on downhills, try to keep your head and hands as the points of a triangle and lean the bike inward independently of your body, pushing downward on the outside pedal (pushing the bike against the ground for speed and traction) and bring your inside leg/thigh up against the crossbar or saddle to add stability. It is also a great idea – especially on downhill corners – to keep your weight back and let the fork pull you through the turn. If you have your weight forward, you are going to kill the momentum and make the front end twitchy; to the point you are going to want to grab a handful of your front brake (not a good idea!)

 5.      Speed and your tyres are your friends

There is a fine line between too little and too much speed, but if you plan the turn, speed should be your friend as you bomb out the other end. You need to trust that your tyres and suspension are going to grip the trail and keep you upright. By going too slow without that trust, you are killing all chance of speed out of the corner, as you’ve lost all the forward momentum you had.

 6.      If you get Into trouble… use the back brake and wheel

If you feel yourself coming in too hot or getting off line, do your best to stay off the front brake. You can use the back brake and a little tyre skid to turn the bike in the right direction without killing all the speed you are so desperately trying to keep. But please don’t go skidding into all the corners, you will end up ripping the trails to shreds and killing all your momentum. The trail builders out there will hate you and so will the other riders, who end up in the ruts you create. Your rear brake and tyre can be your saviour in keeping your bike pointed in the right direction. Too much front brake is just going to bring you to a dead stop or worse – wash out the front wheel, ending in a face plant. Hopefully these tips help keep your speed up when cornering so you don’t waste any precious energy.

Slow, Look, Lean, Power

  1. Slow down as you approach the turn.
  2. Look through the turn for the best line.
  3. Lean the “bike” into the turn.
  4. Bang on the power.


Corne at Speed Tips

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.