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Coaching E-Zine - Cornering - Achieving Flow by Kieron Selley

By:  Kieron Selley
Date:  03rd September 2014

Cornering - Achieving Flow

Think about all the trails you have ridden and ask yourself which ‘section’ you enjoyed most? I am quite confident that for most of you your answer will include a section which has a sequence(s) of beautifully sculpted corners. The corners in question may be flat, bermed, off-camber or switchbacks but together they provided you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to ‘flow’ down the trail gaining more and more speed as your technique improves. Imagine if all trails were designed straight! A trail with ‘sweet’ corners separates fun trails from boring ones.

Cornering is a technique which, as we improve, allows us to master the flow of any trail. The skill is simply putting the techniques together at the correct time to help us achieve the edge over our competitors, friends or move up the Strava table!! It is the most basic of skill which really demonstrates a rider and bike working in unison and is often the difference between a good rider and a so-so rider.

The start of one of my favourite sections of trail at Ballyhoura! Post 23

A collection of books could be written on the techniques of ‘cornering’ but in this short article it is my aim to highlight the key aspects of the techniques which I feel must be mastered by all riders to allow them to achieve the much dreamt of ‘flow’. I will focus upon flat corners as it is felt that mastering this technique sets the rider up to develop their technique for the other ‘types’ of corners.

In all my sessions I split techniques into ‘chunks’ which allows me to really breakdown the technique and for cornering I always look at them in three different areas:

         1. Corner Set Up
2. Execute the Corner   
. The Exit.

Corner Set Up

The most important technique of cornering is having the ability to look ahead as this provides your mind with the detail it needs to allow your body to assume the correct position for the corner in question. Your vision should be as far down the trail as possible. As you look ahead you can identify the line which you are going to use and therefore the speed at which you are going to enter the turn, the ability to determine the required speed comes with trial, error and experience . The aim of line selection is to ‘flatten’ the corner to allow the rider to maintain speed; for most corners and novice/intermediate riders this will undoubtedly be a wide entry, middle apex and a wide exit. The two pictures highlight the difference between the ‘normal ridden line’ and ‘the line with least resistance’. It is obvious that adopting a wide, middle and wide line helps flatten the corner which allows the rider to carry more speed through corners and therefore be on the way to ‘flowing’ through the corner. It is accepted that these pictures do not consider what is prior to and after the corners shown.

It is often stated that entering the corner at a slower (or more controlled) speed allows you to exit at a higher speed. I couldn’t agree more! Get your speed right by scrubbing before you enter the corner and you will stick to your chosen line without being pushed wide by the laws of physics. You will also be able to ride the corner without touching the brakes!

Coaching this aspect of cornering can be done simply by selecting a corner on the trail or setting out a corner using sports cones, ropes or any other suitable resource. As riders ride the corner they will begin to ‘feel’ their bike handling the different lines and speeds. Riders should be encouraged to experiment with line and speed and you can progressively ‘tighten’ the corners used and add in more corners to develop a series. The common faults include entering too fast, looking down and applying the brakes in the corner.

Executing the Corner

You are now hitting the corner at the most suitable speed and travelling on the best line. Have the confidence to stay off the brakes – if you have set-up correctly you should be able to allow the bike to grip into the corner and slingshot you around to the exit. Grip is crucial!!! To maximize the grip you need to position your body in order to ‘drive’ the tread of your tyres into the surface which you are rolling over. The amount of grip required is influenced by a number of different factors but the technique of maximizing grip is key in all instances, just to varying degrees.

In order to obtain maximum grip, and when travelling at speed, you will flow around the corner by ‘leaning’ the bike into the corner; at this stage you will be in the ‘Ready’ position. At slower speeds, switchbacks, the bike will be ‘steered’ around the corner. Leaning the bike allows you to apply weight to the required areas of the bike which ‘pushes’ your body weight through to the required tyre  and provides a stable platform and the all important traction. The important areas for the application of weight are:

 a. Outside pedal
 b. Inside handlebar grip

At the point of leaning your bike and applying body weight to the above positions your hips should be angled into the corner and your upper body, in the 12 o’clock position, with your outside pedal down in order to allow you to push your body weight onto it. Your inside arm should be straight pushing down and through your inside handlebar grip. and eyes should be looking where you want to be hitting. Initially, this will be the apex as you enter the corner and the exit as you hit the apex. Imagine having a ‘laser’ emanating from your belly button, point it where you want to go. Your inside pedal should be up, in the 12 o’clock position, with your outside pedal down in order to allow you to push your body weight onto it. Your inside arm should be straight pushing down and through your inside handlebar grip.

Coaching this technique aspect is more time consuming and you should plan for this. Riders will often feel uncomfortable ‘leaning’ the bike and will try to steer. Using an ‘Off Bike’ demonstration as shown below allows the rider to get used to the body position which allows them to lean the bike. Once mastered they ride the corner gaining the experience required to generate the default position. Common faults include being too rigid in the body, not looking ahead and not applying sufficient pressure to the key areas.

The Exit

The end of your corner is just the beginning of your next obstacle so you need to maintain the momentum you have managed to push through the corner. Your next step all depends on what that obstacle is; if a straight lies ahead then you will need to straighten up the bike by applying weight to the outside handlebar grip and centering your bodyweight and then get the foot down and pedal hard. If you are looking at another corner you need to apply the same steps as you did prior to entering the corner you have just nailed – Set Up, Execute and Exit!!


ou could spend days even weeks coaching cornering techniques and this article is aimed at getting the ‘basics’ nailed before moving onto the various forms of corners you will come across on the trail. Get these right and you will be on your way to achieving the ‘flow’ we all crave!

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