BIKETART FEATURE: HOW TO CORNER FASTER (DOWNHILL AND MTB)
Even if you’re a weekend rider, you can take some serious advantages away from learning to corner faster. Do you ever find yourself losing traction or awkwardly exiting tight corners? We’ve got some tips from our Downhill rider Tom Gredley (Griz) on how to corner properly and take the racing line. Griz has been busy racing at PORC, Aston Hill, Rogate, Forest of Dean, Innerleithen and the Mega Avalanche with Ryan and Sam over the years, so the trio have a wealth of experience behind them. This feature is beneficial to even seasoned downhill and enduro riders, so have a read.
The run out of corner can be just as an important factor as the corner entry itself.
Take the racing line – Let’s imagine a left hand corner. Swing out to the ring and then bring the bike back in extremely tightly to the left apex. This is what we call the racing line. It allows for maximum speed and control in and out of the corner, and sets you up quickly to sprint out the other side. With experience and knowledge of the course you will be able to work out which line will be faster for you, because this is also dependent on the agility and weight of a rider.
Assess your skill level – Don’t try and take a difficult line if you’re not experienced enough or ready for it. Aspiring to be the best is brilliant, but injuring yourself on a fast descent because of poor cornering can set back your whole career of riding. Learn your capabilities and accept that crashes can happen. Whatever happens, it’s experience and you’ll learn invaluable lessons on your own dynamics when you ride.
Brake before the corner – Braking during the corner can be dangerous and lose you traction. If you break before the corner, you have more time to glide through and increase your speed, leaving at a similar momentum to which you entered.
Get to know your course – During downhill races, you may get the chance to 3 or more runs. On the first run, take it slower than your race speed. Assess the terrain, grip, corners, race lines and the run out after the corner. Work out the traction on your wheel when you’re going slow and factor in your speed and traction on the corner exit. Nailing your preparation now can get you an amazing result, so take your time to know the course. Our riders who often go to PORC have seen amazing results from repeated performance, which allows them to learn the course.
Look ahead and keep the pedals level – If you’re looking at the camber of the corner, you can overshoot or slip out. Look ahead to where you’re going and you’ll be able to slide through the corner without losing traction. Be wary of your pedals and judge the angle you need to keep them at. A gentle corner will provide the most speed when your pedals are even at 90 degrees. For sharper corners (let’s take a sharp left, for example) keep your right pedal lowest and your left knee bent to allow for quick put downs should you start to slip out. This shifts your body weight to the outer of the corner, allowing for traction and grip. (Dropping a pedal is the slower option but is safer and is something which happens instinctively to riders. Through progress and experience you can learn to always keep your pedals flat).
Get low and judge your centre of gravity – Judge exactly how low you should get on the bars. As a rule, a fast descent will have aerodynamic factors – which means the lower, the better. This reduces your frontal drag, and the same can be said for corners. Keep your centre of gravity low when you corner, getting you chin and torso close to the top tube (but not too close!) to provide extra traction and effectively cut through the air.
Choose your exit gear – Flick down a couple of gears before you go into a sharp corner to allow for extra cadence to sprint back up to speed when you’ve come out of the corner. It’s these techniques which can save seconds. Forgetting to change to an easier gear can cost 5 or more seconds getting back to an acceptable speed because of the low cadence. Choose a gear you can sprint into and you’ll be saving precious time. Judge the corner on whether you need to change gear, but as a general rule a gentle corner may only be 1 gear change and 2 for a sharper corner.
Lead with your outside shoulder – Keeping yourself rigid on the bike will only allow for mistakes and crashes. Your bike is dynamic and flexible – you should be too! Lead into the corner with your outside shoulder, rotating your upper body and the bars in a fluid motion so the momentum causes you to exit with your inside shoulder. This is a critical movement to allow for control and purpose management of your body weight over the bike.
With these tips, you should be able to save precious time on corners and do it safely. This isn’t only for racing, but is easily applied to your social rides when trying to improve a best time or just have an overall fluid ride. We’re going to be adding in sections on PORC Downhill racing from Ryan, Griz and Sam in the coming weeks. For more How-To’s, check our blog.