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Learn How to Tackle Hairpin Turns while Cycling

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As you ride different terrains and explore new tracks, you will encounter many hairpin turns while cycling. These turns are also an integral part of many international cycling races and events of mass participation. Therefore, it is essential to understand what is a hairpin corner and how to tackle it.

Cycling around but afraid of tackling turns? Learn how to make hairpin turns while cycling in the hills or any type of road!

What is a Hairpin Corner

Hairpin turns, also known as switchbacks, are corners that turn the direction of the cyclist by 180 degrees. It might not be apparent, but these turns can be very difficult to tread past. This is because of the changes in altitude that may occur when riding the bicycle on different paths.

If you know how to survive hairpins, you will be able to take advantage of these turns and gain time while climbing an uphill turn. They also give you the perfect opportunity to catch up on breath and ease out for the rest of the cycling trail.

However, if you don’t know how to corner them, you can be put in big trouble, because they can catch you off-guard and disturb your cycling technique.

The main reason why you should give special importance to hairpin turns while cycling is that you are in the turning position for a much longer period of time compared to a normal turn. Thus, you should ideally enter the hairpin turn corner wide, then move over to the inside and then make an exit wide again.

However, what you find after the turn cannot be predicted.

Therefore, you have to be very careful while exiting from the hairpin turn. This is the basic requirement of hairpin cornering.

Master the hairpins
Master the hairpins

5 Steps to Follow for Riding Hairpin Turns

Another key feature of hairpin turns is that their interior side has a different gradient than their outer side, making some of them very steep.

Therefore, if you are wondering how to ride hairpins, here is a five-step key to make it easy for you:

Step 1.

Have a good look at the hairpin that lies ahead of you. Inspect it to get all possible information about it. Try to get an idea about the slope and gradient of the hairpin turn and try to see what lies after the turn.

Step 2.

Once you have assessed the hairpin turn, you should take a quick look at what is behind you on the road. Plan your riding line according to the status of the track or road. If there is nobody to overtake you, you may change your riding line to a better position.

Step 3.

Position yourself so that your inside leg is upwards and knee points to the corner. Try to ride through the inside apex of the hairpin turn. It is ideal not to hit the brake when tackling hairpin turns while cycling.

Step 4.

Your body posture is critical while cornering a hairpin turn. Bend your body low and forward on your outside leg and keep your head at right angle to the bike.

Step 5.

As you approach the exit of the hairpin turn, you will find that your bike will drift out. This is absolutely normal, but this drift should not be too intense. If you find that the drift is too high, you should modulate the speed by bringing your inside knee outwards to bring the bike back in a straight line.

The steps mentioned above are your best bet for successful hairpin cornering. However, for those of you who wish to understand the details of road riding with hairpin turns, we have compiled the basic information regarding the same.

To know more about cycling tips and tricks, read: How to Increase Your Average Biking Speed and Cycle Faster? The Secret is Out.

Start out slow and practice
Start out slow and practice

Dealing with a Hairpin Turn While Cycling: Necessary Precautions to Follow

The following precautions are necessary for avoiding crashing at hairpin turns while cycling:

Tip 1: Don’t Get Tempted to Increase Your Speed Before the Hairpin Turn

Many cyclists end up crashing at hairpin turns because they enter these turns too fast. Your speed, along with the gravitational force can have an additive effect and lead to your fall at a hairpin turn.

Therefore, keep your speed steady and at a level that you can easily manage.

Most cyclists assert that a speed of 10 mph is the minimum that you should have while cornering hairpin turns while cycling. This limit is necessary to maintain a stable posture and balance while riding a bike. If you go too slow, you are likely to fall on the hairpin turn. This is because if you ride at slow speed, then even the slightest shift in the weight of your body and the smallest reduction in speed will disrupt your balance.

Do check How to Make Your Bike Faster: Learn Tips For Quick Speed Fix

Tip 2: Don’t Use the Brake Unless Absolutely Needed

Many cyclists are ridden with anxiety at hairpin turns and end up hitting the brakes for no reason at all. This spells disaster for cyclists as they can take a tumble on the hairpin turns.

Even if you have to brake while cornering a hairpin turn, do so very gently.

Tip 3: Don’t Let Go of The Throttle

Even if you make a slow hairpin turn while cycling, it is important not to let go of the throttle completely. This throttle is necessary for your stability. If you don’t have this forward drive, it is likely that you will fall.

At the same time, it is important not to accelerate the bike abruptly.

Learn all about Mountain Biking: How To Corner A Mountain Bike

Tip 4: Know How to Descend on a Road Bike

When going downhill at a hairpin corner, you will have to slow down slightly when you reach a downhill hairpin turn. This decrease in speed should be minimal and you should not drift too far away from the corner. Many cyclists falter at the exit of the hairpin turn because of an imbalance of speed and braking.

Tip 5: Know Which Line to Take

This will only come after a lot of practice of cornering hairpin turns while cycling. Your ideal cycling line on a hairpin turn is one that will let you manoeuvre your angles and position before entering the hairpin turn. This will allow you to finish the hairpin turn with your throttle.

This line also gives you a good angle to view the complete turn.

Figuring out the location of this line is a skill that needs patience and practice. Also, this line can be at different positions for riders depending on their height and weight. Once you figure out the position of this line for your riding, cornering hairpin turns will be a cakewalk for you.

Check out Smart Ways to Avoid Road Potholes when Cycling

Tip 6: Know How to Climb Hills on a Road Bike

Uphill cycling is a great skill that comes in very handy when you want to practice on diverse terrain. Since uphill climbs are part of every major cycling race and event in the world, your expertise in riding uphill switchbacks will be of great use.  

Whenever you encounter a hairpin turn that is uphill, you have the freedom of going a bit higher on speed, but make sure that the throttle stays steady for the full hairpin turn.

A tight control on your throttle is the key to corner an uphill hairpin turn successfully. However, don’t make the mistake of giving a lot of throttle on your uphill climb because the tire may start skating on the surface.

Tip7: Know How to Position Your Pedals

Another very important skill that is only learnt after a lot of practice is to position the pedals correctly. As you approach the hairpin turn while cycling, you should stop pedalling and lean along the turn. Make sure that the inside pedal is up so that it doesn’t hit the ground as you take the turn.

At the same time, you should put some pressure on the outside pedal, which is at the bottom. This is of immense help in maintaining your balance as you learn how to corner the hairpin turn.

Know all about All about Bike Pedals - A Quick Guide for Cyclists

Conquer the hairpin turn
Conquer the hairpin turn

There is no magic formula that helps you make a successful hairpin turn. Almost every cyclist has fallen and tumbled over at hairpin turns while cycling. Therefore, it is vital that you understand the importance of practicing.

The more hairpin turns you encounter while cycling, the better your understanding will be regarding its gradient, your speed, your throttle and your braking.

We have tried to compile every essential tip that will allow you to survive a hairpin turn. However, you should be prepared to learn that despite all of the above-mentioned tips and tricks, there will be instances where you may stumble over some hairpin turns while cycling.

Take every fall in the right stride, and understand where you need to improve. We are sure that you will soon be able to tackle hairpin turns like a pro.

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