Are your corner-cutting skills desperately poor despite years spent on a bike? Why do your friends shoot out of a bend with much higher exit speed while you struggle to maintain traction and have to slow down to make the turns? Why do you skid and crash where some other riders flow seamlessly? Let’s check what might be wrong and how to become a cornering expert. Our fellow pro biker Richard Gasperotti tells you how.

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The way you go through the turns is affected by several significant factors such as the entering speed, the distribution of your body weight, the ability to feel the grip of the tires, and focusing on the exit. Basically, it’s all about physical forces and the way you can tame them. Generally, the goal of the whole effort is that, at any given time, most of the force applied should be directed through your tires to the ground to prevent the bike from uncontrolled skidding. In this article, we’ll explain what to do in turns to go through them as smoothly as possible.

Berm
Improve your turning skills. © Profimedia

Even though no two corners are the same, there are two main types of turns: the flat ones and the banked ones, which bikers simply call berms. While the flat corners give your tires almost no support to lean against, berms enable you to fly through at a much higher speed, using the benefit of centripetal force like race cars do in NASCAR (or stuntmen on the circus wall of the death).

Berms

Riding berms is one of the basic MTB skills you can enjoy thanks to modern bike parks. Mastering the skill of passing through them correctly opens you new horizons of maintaining the speed over the entire trail without needing to unnecessarily pedal.

Berm
Red: Stretched limbs. Blue: The angle of the rider’s body against the ground. Orange: The direction the rider looks is the direction he’s supposed to go.

1. Approach the turn from the outside. When entering the left turn, you should hit it from the far right side as much as possible. While standing on the pedals, set the right speed according to the berm’s shape. Finding a proper speed might take you a while but do not give up trying. Being slower in the beginning is way smarter than rushing in with too much speed and losing control right away.

2. Do all braking before you enter the turn to keep the appropriate speed throughout the whole manoeuvre. Despite the temptation to correct your velocity, your fingers should stay away from the brake levers by the time you hit the berm.

3. Pick your line. The more speed you have, the higher you go on the face of the berm.

4. Bend your elbows and knees to lower your body closer to the top frame tube for better stability and a lower centre of gravity.

5. Keep your head up and look forward in the direction of the berm exit.

6. Putting your weight on the outside pedal is key. That move increases the pressure and thus the traction on the inside edge of the tires.

7. At every point of nailing the berm, your bike and body should stay at the same right angle with the face of the berm so all the force heads down directly to the tires. The more speed you have and the higher on the berm you go, the more you need to lean your body to maintain the right grip.

Flat turns

Since flat corners are often less than perfect, the right turning requires more skill and the right feeling of the bike. On top of that, the ground might be loose, rocky and greasy, which makes cornering even trickier. Nevertheless, you can nail it while using your body to counterbalance invisible forces pushing you off the trail. Let’s go.

Flat
Orange: The direction the rider looks is the direction he’s supposed to go.

1. Once again, enter the corner with proper speed. Try to guess what the right speed is according to your own experiences. The best thing you can do is to ask a more advanced friend to ride ahead of you to adjust the right speed for you.

2. The secret of nailing a flat corner depends on leaning your bike but not your body, and shifting your arms and legs into different positions to do so.

3. To get a clue, look at the illustration with Richard turning left on the green forest trail. While his right (outer) leg stretches, his right outer arm bends. That automatically makes his left (inner) leg flex and left (inner) arm stretch. His hips shift to the right so the inner side of his right thigh almost touches the saddle.

Woods
Red: Stretched limbs. Blue: The angle of the rider’s body against the ground. Orange: The direction the rider looks is the direction he’s supposed to go.

4. Get your body lower over the handlebars to distribute your body weight evenly between both tires. Even though the whole manoeuvre looks exaggerated, it efficiently helps to direct the physical forces correctly to the sides of your tires to gain the best possible traction.

5. Unlike cornering through berm when keeping pedals levelled is preferable, put your outer pedal down to maximise the pressure on the inner side of the tires.

6. Watch the exit line the whole time when riding through the turn as your looking direction is the direction you’ll go.

Mastering corners is a long-term task yet everybody improves when following these basic rules. Go through the photos to get the idea and get out for a ride!

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