Racing World Cup Snowboard Cross for almost a decade I worked tirelessly trying to master the most basic and important skill in the sport, the turn.
Racecourses sometimes had berms to help, but usually they were just for show. 90% of gates were set so far inside that cornering without use of a berm was the only way to win.
Now that I’m mostly retired from competitive snowboarding (a few local banked slaloms still fit into my teacher/dad schedule), I’ve been trying to transfer some of the knowledge and skills from my snowboard racing days onto the bike.
Using similar elements like counterbalancing, weight shift, edge/wheel angle and commitment to master a turn on two wheels.
To be honest I was humbled, it didn’t come as easy as expected. What was effortless and natural for me in one sport, was clumsy and slow in another (according to Strava segments anyway).
It took a massive bike change onto a 2019 Santa Cruz Bronson, two years of research, practice and commitment, but I finally feel like I’m progressing.
There are many things that work for many people and I’m not taking credit for coming up with anything here. These three ideas work for me, and I have a feeling one or more might work for you.
1. Look ahead through the turn.
You hear this all the time, but the faster you go the further ahead you need to look.
Your reaction time is only so fast, so you need to look as far ahead through the corner as you can if you want to go fast.
This allows you to see where the corner is taking you so can decrease bike angle and cornering position early. More importantly, it gives you confidence to stay off the brakes and commit to the exit line out of the corner.
2. Engage the side knobs.
It took about 10 YouTube videos before someone explained it in a way that made sense to me. Paraphrasing here, “you need to tilt the bike over WITHOUT leaning your body weight inside to engage your tire’s side knobs.”
To me, that translated to counterbalancing when turning on a snowboard.
Getting maximum edge/side knob bite, but still keeping your centre of gravity over your contact point with the ground (not leaning too far into the turn/berm).
To help with this, put your weight into your outside pedal in the 6pm or down position, while reaching your inside grip down too. In other words, keep you shoulders squared over your bike, but extend your inside arm out sideways. This tips your bike without moving your weight too far inside the turn to cause loss of traction.
You can practice this while riding straight; see how low you can get your grip to the ground but don’t turn.
3. Commit your weight forward.
Bikes these days have such a long wheelbase that you feel more like you’re “inside the bike instead of on it.”
Ten-plus years ago if you leaned forward you’d endo, now you can trust that your bike will actually increase traction when you move forward to initiate a turn.
There is a fear factor here, especially if you’ve washed out at high speed before.
But slowly increasing trust in your modern bike will allow you to even your weight distribution and traction, instead of getting spat out of the berm in a wheelie.
If you’re not looking to improve, you’re not long for this sport.
Mountain biking isn’t about being passive, it's about progression, challenging yourself, and even scaring yourself a little. Please share what’s helped you to corner better.
Sometimes it just takes a new way to hear the same tip to make it click.
My next challenge is learning how to corner with a 35lb toddler on my top tube via our new Mac-Ride.
Stay tuned for that blog post.