When I first started mountain biking in 1989, I was continually scouring for information on “how-to’s”. How could I climb better? How could I corner better? How could I tackle tech better? Magazines were THE source for all that intel since it wasn’t like East Greenville, PA was the mountain bike mecca of the world and there were experienced riders I could rub elbows with for beginner riding techniques. So I’d read up on the latest article I scored and then head to the trail to practice sections on my ride. One of those things I learned early on and honed was how to corner. It seems easy enough. But layer in some tech and there’s some points you really should know that will help your cornering abilities. What I’ve seen a lot of recently is riders cooking their way through corners. And when I say “cook” I mean heavy braking and locking up brakes which is just bad trail mojo. Not to mention it’s uncivilized, man. So I’d like to do a few posts about technique and pass on what I know to perhaps return the favor. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work on stylin’ those corners. Step 1: SIGHT THE TRAIL So when I’m riding at speed, I’m constantly scanning the trail in front of me. I typically sight about 10′ out in front of me and glance further down the trail at intervals. So I have a sense of what’s coming but I’m more focused on parsing what’s relatively close to me. More tech and as speeds slow, I’m sighting a bit less (say 6-7′ in front of me). What’s important to note is that constant scan: what’s in front of me, what’s coming.? What’s in front of me? What’s coming? In the above, the trail has a large sweeping curve that comes into a rather tight 90° hairpin turn over an old rock wall with about 12-15″ of drop at the apex of the turn. So setting things up is key. I’m full speed until about 20 yards to this wall I’d gander. As I approach the wall and corner, I’m sighting what’s coming. Note my pedals are set with inside foot slightly raised. Elbows are out. Shoulders are flat. I’m “in the stirrups” so I’m not seated. Dropper is dropped about 2″. I’m just starting to lean and push on that inside hand. Step 2: LET THAT FRONT TIRE DRIFT HIGH Pedals set, elbows out and shoulders flat, I’m also letting the bike’s front tire drift a bit “INTO” the turn. So that front wheel starts wide. That’s important. This allows me to pivot over the rear wheel. In the previous picture and the one above I’m working both front and rear brakes BEFORE the turn. I’m also bending at the knees and hips compressing both tires down and into the turn. My weight is centered but shifted back over the rear wheel and a bit biased towards the outside of the trail so my leg/thigh are pressed up against the saddle a bit. Step 3: SIGHT INTO THAT TURN Here’s where I want you to note my eyeballs. I’m just about ready to go over the obstacle but I’ve already started looking well past it INTO the turn. Inside pedal is high so when I rise up, over and through that object, I can give it a little forward kick to keep momentum going INTO the turn. My front wheel is no longer drifting wide but attacking the turn’s center. That allowed me to basically pivot on my rear wheel through the turn. Step 4: GET LOW So when you’re practicing moves, exaggerate them and take things slow. This helps you learn the movements. Get OFF the back of the bike. Keep that inside pedal HIGH. And most important: GET LOW. That last part you can see in the above image. My elbows are out. My inside pedal is up. I’m getting good and LOW. Flattening my back and sinking down and IN the bike trusting the wheels to do the work while my body flows over the obstacle. The bike is out in front of me. I’ve essentially picked the bike up slightly and pushed it forward a bit in one motion. So the more you exaggerate certain movements, the more aware you will become of just how far to push yourself and the bike through the turn. I’m also now getting OFF the brakes. The vast majority of my braking has been done well before and ahead of the turn. Any braking from here on out is simply scrubbing small amounts of speed. Step 5: GET OVER IT Use the flow and rhythm of the trail to “float” over and through the object. Don’t slam the front of rear wheel. Concentrate on working that corner smoothly. That’s where the style and soul comes into play. You want to make these transitions smooth and seamless. Nothing abrupt. The best way to learn these motions is actually on a hardtail. It forces you to pick smart lines and use body english and shift weight subtly so it’s balanced but for split seconds can be biased over the front or rear tire. But looking at my eyes, you’ll note I’m in the turn, getting over the object but I’m looking well past the turn and down trail. Here’s something I learned as a Linebacker: Wherever your head moves, your body will follow. My head is constantly on a swivel. Especially through a turn. So it’s important to keep that head up, eyes forward, shoulders flat and your pedals set. Your body will follow. Step 6: SNAP OUT OF IT Over the obstacle, sighting down the trail I’m exiting the 90° turn. Front tire is hugging the inside line. It started wide, snapped down and into the turn allowing me to pivot on my rear wheel a bit. Exiting the turn I now push with my outside hand and pull with my inside hand. Like a paint brush: Wipe on. Wipe off. Sweep those tires out of the turn and SNAP the bike upright to maintain speed and momentum. Keep sighting down trail. Pedals are starting to level out. I’m rising up bit and no longer so biased over the rear wheel. If I kept back I’d feel as though I’m falling off the bike. It’s one fluid motion. And if you’ve looked at my fork, I haven’t really compressed the fork all that much (disregard the sag o-ring). Into and through the turn, the fork isn’t necessarily taking the hits, it’s my legs and shoulders. My body is absorbing the terrain and working WITH the terrain and I’m trusting the wheels to do the rolling. I’m fully upright and poised for the next turn in front (the trail is a long series of switch backs down a fun technical stretch of single track). So that’s it. 6 steps to NOT cooking a corner. In review: Sight the turn. Brake early. Inside foot high. Let the front wheel drift high. Head up. Get your body low. Pivot on that rear wheel. Pop and push. Concentrate on keeping things smooth. And then Snap out of that turn! Pick a turn that’s 90° or near 90° and session the heck out of that sucker. Just repeat it over and over again till you got it dialed. Then start trying to build more speed into and through the turn. Start leaning harder. Easier said than done but with lots of practice, you’ll add style to every turn. Good luck. Enjoy. And have fun!