Today let’s focus on cornering for the XC Mountain Bike Racer / Rider.
The instruction here is designed for riders who already have some cornering skills and want to improve on their foundational skills.
The advice is best geared for racers / riders who aren’t afraid to enter turns fast, and ride high on the berms. Many XC racers ride in multiple disciplines, like Downhill (DH), Enduro, Freeride (FR), Dirt Jumping (DJ), BMX, Road and any other label the industry wants to stick on every category. This is excellent training and many world level XC MTB racers actually train with ex-pro DH racers to master these skills. These skills are best learned at high speeds. XC racing speeds are much lower and it will be easier to implement them.
There is also a great advantage for those racers that are proficient / cross train on a street and / or dirt motorcycle.
Understanding the Drill
Tip: Either go to the races and watch the UCI World Level DH Mountain Bike Downhillers live or on the internet. Red Bull has it live or archived. UCI Races Live / Archived Previous years are great as well and last years event, was absolutely legendary in terms of both quality and competitiveness.
Ok, besides just fun and the insanity of it all, we are looking for these mountain bike racers’ uncanny ability to not only brake so late into the turn it’s scary, but most importantly their ability to get on the pedals and accelerate so early out of the turn it’s like they have an Acme rocket booster on their back.
In many cases they are on the pedals all the way through the turn, wow that’s something to appreciate. Study this, and plant these memories in your head so when you hit the trail, they will guide you to match their form. You can film your performance or have a competent friend coach you as well.
If you want to send us your links to your practice videos (shot by another rider, or set up on a tripod as a POV will not be helpful), we would be happy to critique your form and provide any pointers we can. Contact us.
Some speed is required to get the hang of it, so find a course that points down, lower your seat a tad, and begin. The best courses aren’t too blown out and have some berms, that aren’t too sandy. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love blown out and sand too, just it makes it a bit harder to fine tune this skill as consistently and quickly as the novice or intermediate XC racer needs to get up to speed, literally no pun intended.
Practice Drill Pointers
Advice: The goal is not to crash and ruin your bike, unless it is already a beater. Wear proper protective gear and we are not instructing you to crash, we want you to slowly work your way up to developing this skill, and not damage your body or equipment.
- Set up your brakes for aggressive, quick stopping that requires one finger braking. If this isn’t your braking system, consider one of these better braking systems as an option. . If you have an oohhh sh**t moment feel free to grab a bigger handful if the need is dire.
- Practice braking late and hard into the turn.
- The finesse / art of braking is a bit hard to dictate in an article, but the goal is to brake hard on the front wheel while your wheel is straight. A smaller amount of back brake can be applied. Even a slightly turned front wheel may cause you to tuck the front end, and eat some dirt and rocks.
- Remember your rear tire follows the front, so your focus is to hit your mark with the front wheel.
- After the brakes are released you want to focus on getting through the turn as smoothly as possible and work on getting on the pedals and accelerating through the turn faster each time.
- You must master applying enough weight to the rear end generally by shifting your weight rearward and applying some pressure to the saddle, if it hasn’t been lowered too much so that when you begin accelerating on the pedals, you get maximum traction on the rear tire to launch your way out of the turn.
- On berms work on getting your front tire high on a good line on the berm, riding across the top and exiting out of it as fast as you can. The rear wheel will track the line of your front tire.
- In sand or other terrain that you slide easy in some rear brake application might be in order, or at least get used to practicing how to apply a bit of rear brake to stabilize your suspension through a turn and control a slide. In the turn never hit your front brake. The fastest riders in the world never use any brakes in many turns if they can help it.
- Be aware of the position of your feet on the pedals, they should be level and you should have the proper foot forward for both left and right turns, as each turn will have the opposite foot forward.
- Generally you want to remain clipped in, but there are times when you might need to drag / hang a foot out, so adjust your cleats accordingly.
Practice, practice and have fun mastering this one.