Cycling - Knowledge

Mountain Biking: How To Corner A Mountain Bike

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Mountain biking is no fun without those blind turns, narrow twist and the ups and downs, isn't it? For the seasoned bikers, their mountain bikes are lifelines and the life is full of these ups and downs, twists and turns. We might sound quite philosophical, but that's how mountain biking is. There are various techniques that you use while biking, some of them are fruitful while some cause grave injury. To get a safe and successful mountain biking experience, you need to know the simple techniques of backpedalling, trail cornering, turning and overall postures while you bike. Now the question might pop on your head, “how to corner on a mountain bike?”

We are here to prescribe you the simple techniques of cornering, equipment tips and the steps on experiencing faster corners. First, we are going to suggest you check and go through a few adjustments on your bike to enjoy a thrilling ride through the challenging mountain terrains. 

Things to Look for Before Cornering

There are a few technical glitches that can ruin your biking experience altogether. To prevent them from happening, go through the following steps –

things to look before cornering
Check your bike before cornering (source)

Air pressure in Tire

Lower your tire pressure to help your bicycle adjust to the bumpy terrains. Hyper-inflated tires tend to bounce and have a loose grip. At the same time, don't make it so underinflated that you find it hard to ride uphill. The underinflated tires will make you lose control. Learn how to repair any flat tire issues which will help you during your mountain bike ride.  

Livingit Tip
Try out a simple fruit-test! Squeeze the tire with your finger. If it feels like a green apple, it is over-inflated. If it is soft as a ripe banana, it is under-inflated. If it feels like a ripe orange, then it is a win-win for you!

Adjust Brakes

Make sure the levers of the brakes are supported by the first knuckle of your braking fingers. Brake angle and bar position should be perfect so that your brake response is accurate on trail cornering. Grip the handlebar lightly.

Check Suspensions 

Adjustable suspension creates a great impact on the bike’s traction and handling. Increase compression damping to minimize the diversion of your turning force into suspension travel. 

Lower your Saddle

Drop your saddle while biking in the downward direction or through rough trails. This will enable your bike to move freely underneath your body while you can keep your body low and aligned. A dropper- seatpost will help you adjust the saddle height while soaring with a bar-mounted control.

Perfect Getup

While you put all the concentration selecting the best helmets, don’t ignore the helmet, kneecaps, gloves, elbow pads and good clothing. They should be comfortable and hardy.   

Ride Safe: Easy Techniques on How To Corner a Mountain Bike 

Before going into details of how to corner on a mountain bike, let us revise the basics, shall we?

  1. Don’t use front brakes in corners, complete all your trail braking before cornering
  2. Stay vertical, tilt your bike. Keeping your body vertical will help you counter steer if you lose control of your front tire.
  3. Lower your centre of gravity, put weight on the front with elbows wide bent. Keep a light touch on gears, drop heels to lower the centre of gravity further by bending your knees. Put pressure on outside foot, not on handlebars. Put equal pressure on each pedal. Rest your fingers on brake levers.
  4. Rotate hips so that your navel is pointed towards the direction you are going. Look out for the turns and obstacles rather than focusing on the rear wheel.

Now, comes the main part of Cornering Techniques. 

  • Riding Switchbacks: Slow Corner

You are going to encounter switchbacks on steep mountain terrains where hairpin curves are present that traverse gradually uphill or downhill. The tighter the radius of your trailbed gets, the more you need to slow down. So how to make sharp turns on a mountain bike? Take slow corner to avoid crashing.  

- Uphill Switchbacks 

Focus wide to gain access to most of the trail route. While entering wide, turn your head away from the direction of travel to locate the exit point into a straightaway.

  • Look ahead and shift before entering switchback. Pedal moderately; neither too hard nor too easy.  
  • Hold your chest towards the handlebar to increase front-wheel traction. Level Pedals and put equal pressure on them.
  • Continue pedalling to burst out of the turn, maintain momentum to avoid stalling out. 

- Downhill Switchbacks

Focus wide, the same as in Uphill Switchback. Apply feathering before entering switchback. Apply same pressure on each brake. Drop heels while braking to maintain your position. Take the “cowboy” position to move the bike between knees. Put equal pressure on heels and have a light grip on handles. It will provide stability and agility. Now you know how to corner on a mountain bike.  

riding switchbacks
Riding switchback (source)
  • Bermed Turn: Fast Corner

How to rail a corner on a mountain bike? If the dirt of the track is loose of firm, scrub speed early and position yourself in an aggressive riding position with bent elbows and knees. Put equal pressure on both pedals. Focus on the high and wide line to gain momentum through the turn. Exit low to roll down the berm and zoom out of the turn. This technique is called a Fast Corner. 

  • Off-Camber Corners: Corkscrew

Off-camber defines a part where the outer edge of trailbed is lower than the inside edge. The challenges include outward slants, pronounced tilt etc. gravity and momentum work against you making you crash. A good grip comes in aid here. Geology and some jerks (who create new tracks deliberately) are behind such trail situations and you find making tight turns on a mountain bike really tricky. 

Here, the mountain bike cornering confidence is needed. Standard turning technique comes handy but you need to slow down much ahead of time.

  • Pull chest over the handlebar, bend elbows and knees and place equal pressure on each pedal. 
  • Attempt the Corkscrew Method by starting high to allow downward skidding.
  • Find your best line.
  • Steer the handlebar to guide the rear wheel along your chosen line.
  • Keep your body upright to allow your tires and knobs to contract and cling to the trail surface accordingly. In case of large gripped side knobs, lean inward to improve traction. 
  • Keep inner pedal higher to avoid clipping. Keep the same pressure on pedals. Rachet the pedals for mid-turn acceleration. Push the inside a half revolution, pull it back and repeat. 

All-in-one techniques: switchbacks and off-camber corners in walking pace and bermed turns at sprinting pace.

off camber corner
Off camber, corner needs good grip (source)

Right Movements on How to Corner on a Mountain Bike 

There are a number of factors that can make you fall in the middle of the trail, no matter how much you know about the techniques or try to follow them. To avoid such hassles, you need to follow some rules. Focus more on movements behind techniques than on techniques behind cornering.

1. Looking Direction

Look where you want to go, not at your rear wheel. While you start cornering, look towards the exit and anticipate what you may encounter next. The faster, the better. While you are in the corner, look in the middle and once you hit the entrance, look out for the exit. To acquire this training, there are a number of mountain bike turns video online that you can check out.

Pulling Brakes Spinning offers more grip to the tires than sliding downhill. Don’t look back at the back wheel, it will slow you down. Pull the brakes mostly before entering the bend, don’t get into trail braking mid-corner.  If you check out Fabien Barel cornering techniques from their workshops or on online video, you will learn that a proper trail braking is important while you are cornering and taking straight line positions.  

2. Center of Gravity 

Lower your centre of gravity to round the corner quicker. Bend your arms and knees and lower your chest towards the bar. You will gain stability and control. 

3. Shift Gears 

When you come to a co0rner, shift your gears to an easier one so that you can match the exit speed. Think ahead; don't get so over-geared that you cannot control your speed. The Scandinavian Flick Mountain Bike technique is a really cool example of how you shift gears to control your speed at the sharp turns. 

4. Put Weight on Outside, Midfoot position 

As you get to the corner, shift your maximum weight on the outside of the pedals. It helps you to press the tires on the ground with more grip while automatically raising the inside pedal to prevent you from being crashed. This is called Midfoot position.

  • Flat pedals are better as they naturally offer you the midfoot-position. If you run Clipless then make sure that the Cleat is not set under the Ball of your feet, otherwise, it will make it hard to use your hips accordingly.
  • Switch foot with outside leg to the back –Be able to ride switch foot so that you can drop your heels to carve the corner and get a better platform to laterally hinge the hips from. This will provide more balance.

5. Set your Hips

Shift your weight while entering a corner and set your hips so that you can balance your weight and speed while edging faster. This is the most important MTB cornering body position.  

6. Counter Pressure

While entering the corner, look through it and lean the bike over by pushing inside arm. Push forward left arm to turn left and right elbow to turn right. It offers a smooth ride with good traction.

When all else fails? –If you feel your ribs laying down one by one on top of your inner thigh then you are not doing it right. Shift the hips laterally and don’t lean over with shoulders or squat down while backpedalling. Stay balanced and the other parts will come following.   

Summing Up

No matter how experienced you are, if you don’t follow the cornering rules, you can get into tight situations. Skidding, crashing on your face are some of the accidents you can easily prevent by adapting to the mountain trail cornering techniques. All you need to do is practice them out regularly so that you are expert enough to predict what comes next and how to react.

Keeping the mountain biking equipment in good condition is also necessary. Align your body and watch out in the accurate direction. Shift and brake properly. Keep the techniques in mind and you are all set!

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