Problems with corners?  The eyes have it, and PYP

It’s hard to compare to the feeling of riding a mountain bike in the woods downhill at speed.  It’s exhilarating…it’s mildly risky…it’s definitely an adrenaline pumping experience…and then there’s a turn…*sigh*

If you can relate to that paragraph, this post might help you.  I have ridden with many a friend who are better riders than me on many levels but the only thing I seem to be able to adequately hold my own on is downhills…especially downhills with tight corners.  I’m going to share my strategies that I’ve learned that allow me to corner quickly. 

First off, it involved a LOT of internal self-coaching on solo rides of the information that I’m going to share here.  Yes, I just admitted to talking to myself.  Not ashamed. 

The single most important sense in mountain biking is sight.  It influences everything you do on the bike…whether it be riding circles in the parking lot, riding off of a curb or a drop, or railing a turn…the eyes have it…PERIOD.  You have to be able to see the trail in order to navigate it properly.  I know, that seems obvious.  What’s not so obvious is that it’s not simply that you see the trail…it’s HOW you see the trail.  So first point is this:



    Your bike wants to go where you look.  Yeah…it’s that simple.  Don’t believe me?  How many times have you seen a rock or an obstruction that you didn’t want to hit…then stared at it thinking “oh shit…don’t hit that!”  Ultimately, what happened?  You hit it didn’t’ you?  If you didn’t, you got lucky that time, but inevitably, it will play out as I described.  How do you fix it?  Don’t stare at it!  Notice, I didn’t say “don’t see it” or “ignore it.”  No…by all means…see it…then immediately see your path around it (or over it if you’re sporty...in which case you should be looking for your landing.)  Yup…that simple…acknowledge it as soon as you see it then make your eyes find a route to avoid it.  This leads into another important tenet of MTB vision. 

    The worst thing you can do to yourself as a mountain biker is to ride while watching the trail just ahead of your front wheel.  If you’re watching within 3 feet of your front wheel all the time then you are “reacting” to every feature on the trail which will ensure that you will be slower than your potential.  On the other hand, if you look at least 1-2 bike lengths ahead of you, you’ll see what’s coming much sooner and will be able to plan a course of avoidance prior to reaching the feature that may be an issue.  You’ll notice almost immediately how much smoother your riding will become if you start practicing this.  Which gets us back on point into cornering.

    NOTE: The faster you are going, the farther ahead you should be looking. 

    I added exclamation points to this statement because it is that important.  Literally…look into your corners!  I don’t mean with just your eye movements and peripheral vision.   If it’s simply meandering singletrack, fine, but if we’re talking about hard turns, switchbacks, or high speed tight berms…TURN YOUR HEAD and look at exactly where you want to be because that’s where the bike wants to go as well.  Did I mention yet that this is important??? 
  4. Next point…POINT YOUR PELVIS (PYP.)

    I’ll dumb this one down.  You need to use your hips in high speed turns or in really tight turns.  The easiest way to do this is to point your pelvis in the direction of your turn.  This will often times set your shoulders and turn the bar just enough to get your turn going smoothly and initiate the right amount of lean for your turn.  Need more turn??  Lean the bike harder and keep pointing your pelvis in the direction you want to go.

Well there ya go…that’s how I take corners at speed.  I didn’t cover braking technique in this post but I’ll paraphrase by saying that when using the techniques described here, you should have already finished braking and be at the speed you are comfortable at for a corner.  These techniques however might allow you to make that speed even a little faster in the future. 

Now go ride and try it all out!!!  Let me know how it all works out for you!!!