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Cornering advice(20 posts)

Cornering adviceRSB
Mar 14, 2002 9:01 PM
I'd like to get some advice on the best way to make a bike corner efficiently. I've heard that the weight should be on the outside pedal and you should steer the bike by shifting you hips, but I've having some difficulties carrying this out when riding. Any suggestions?
my two centsAllUpHill
Mar 14, 2002 9:34 PM
I don't know what steering with the hips is supposed to mean. Anyway, my advice is to start out by practicing what I call "lean the bike, not the body." Catchy, I know. Stand off the saddle, outside foot bearing your weight, and most importantly, muscle the bars down with your inside hand, but let your body stay kind of upright over the bike. The steering is done more with leaning than turning the bars. After getting comfortable with taking corners fast like this, it becomes less alarming to ride through it seated and leaning inward with the bike. One just has to try for a feeling of being nimble and smooth on the bike -- just relax and glide into it. Try to do all your slowing before entering the turn. Braking during the turn takes away from your available traction, so if you feel panic in the turn, you're probably better off not braking. Don't know if any of that makes sense or if it's scientifically justified, but it's how I learned.

Maybe the most important aspect of cornering well is selecting your line. Kind of comes with practice, but the idea is to start out wide and cut nearest the inside at the apex of the turn. You'll figure out how to look over a turn as you approach and select a good line. It's all about keeping your eyes focused on where you intend to go, and at the same time trying to notice any irregularities in the road.

There's always improvement needed, but I've become a good descender/cornerer, and it's just a combination of knowing the technique, having a plenty of practice, and losing some of your sense of self-preservation. The tires will stick. really. It's quite amazing (and humbling) to watch some expert descenders pass you on a steep corkscrew downhill as if they've made a pact with gravity. I've been passed a couple of times when I thought I was corning as fast as humanly possible.

Lastly, here are 2 good articles on cornering and descending.
re: Cornering advicegtx
Mar 14, 2002 9:41 PM
always a fun topic--and one that is often hard to articulate. Here's some info.

also, try typing "countersteering" into the search on this site
I always wondered about steering with my hips, too...retro
Mar 14, 2002 10:14 PM
I read it for the first time probably 20 years ago, and I never have figured out what it means. I suspect some racer wrote it, knowing exactly what he meant but not expressing it very well, and it sort of stuck and everybody's been saying it since.
How I always thought it worked...brider
Mar 15, 2002 10:29 AM
My impression of "steering with the hips" refered to avoiding obstacles/potholes, not taking corners. You could shift the bike over a few inches pretty easily by shifting the hips over. We did this on the track with a series of tennis balls (cut in half, like traffic cones) -- ride straight at the line of balls and do a slalom by just shifting the hips. Then we'd do the same thing with a rider on each side, shoulder to shoulder. Great bike handling drills.
speed corneringlonefrontranger
Mar 15, 2002 5:08 PM
Steering with the hips is indeed a good slow-speed drill, and often comes into play in MTB situations where you have to thread around objects in tight spaces by keeping the body upright and jinking the bike back & forth underneath you. We also do the ones that require you to steer each tire to the opposite side of the tennis ball; good for avoiding obstacles in rocky lines. What's considered steering with the hips in fast cornering situations on the road mostly involves keeping the shoulders level and weight to the outside of the arc, meaning your outside buttbone is cocked a tad off the saddle.

Great info above regarding the actual technique of cornering, including good distinctions between 'safety' cornering (upright, as you would on loose stuff or wet) and speed cornering (high lean angle). The depth of knowledge here constantly impresses me.

You can drill until your technique is nearly flawless, but body position and form is only half the battle. The other half of the speed equation is the actual line you anticipate and follow through the corner. You can't become truly fast until you have line absolutely figured out. A truly efficient speed corner involves a very flat arc, which takes up the entire road, and isn't recommended for anything but a closed course.

Issue #1 that I see with many second/third year crit racers is that they're still trying to make round, loopy turns, all the while setting up countersteer, lean, strongly weighting the outside pedal, pushing the inside hand, etc. Since they don't have line railed, they still feel out of balance when things get fast. Such a rider often tries to compensate by pushing harder with the inside hand, which causes them to get 'ahead' of the bike, meaning they slide their center of gravity too far forward and drop the inside shoulder down into the turn. When this happens, it causes the bike to 'collapse' inward, which causes loss of stability, nerve, and ultimately, speed.

Issue #2; and even some experienced racers do this, is the rider who constantly looks down at the rear wheel or seat cluster in front of them. The focus of vision should be 'soft', meaning not staring directly AT anything, and you should ideally be looking 'through' the shoulders of the rider directly ahead of you, so that you can see up the road in a panorama around him/her. This allows you to anticipate, react and correct your line as shifts in the field occur.

I had the benefit of a criterium coach who raced 500C road motorcycles in his youth. He was used to cornering and reading line at well over 100mph, so he was a great teacher of line and a big advocate of looking well up the road.

There are two ways to figure out line. #1 is the best method but involves bribery ;-), so be prepared to treat your mentor to the bribe of their choice (within reason). Borrow an amiable crit specialist from the LBS team on a Sunday afternoon when there's no race in town. Find a quiet office park or use your local subdivision, and sit on their wheel through progressively faster corners. Even at slow speeds you'll discover that this person probably takes a radically different line through corners than you do. Once the speed kicks up, you'll really begin to see that flat arc I'm talking about. You'll also discover that speed turns are initiated way sooner than you'd expect - sometimes as much as an entire fire hydrant or light pole before the actual corner.

Method #2 merely requires good observation skills. Go to a decent-sized regional crit, sit yourself down in the shade near a corner with a cold beverage and watch the Pro/I/II guys go through it lap after lap. Not only is this a reasonably relaxed and entertaining method of killing a Sunday afternoon, it will also slowly trickle through your noodle that a) these guys don't use their brakes, and b) they really start their turn early, get very up close and personal with the curbs and use a whole lot of road. Use visual
speed cornering (part 2)lonefrontranger
Mar 15, 2002 5:09 PM
darn, I'll never learn the page limitations...

When watching the pros, use visual cues – i.e. they initiate the turn at a mailbox 40 meters from the turn, and finish it at the bus shelter 40 meters on the far side, etc., so you can translate these distances to visual cues in your own training venue. Once you start to figure out how the fast guys shape their turns, you can take that knowledge home and practice it anywhere there are quiet streets for you to use.

Steering with hipsjtolleson
Mar 15, 2002 8:18 AM
I don't know if this is what the original phrase meant, but I know that when I weight that outside pedal and lean the bike, I use the inside of my thigh against the saddle to turn the bike.
re: Cornering adviceDINOSAUR
Mar 15, 2002 8:22 AM
A lot of it depends on the geometry of your bike. My Klein has short chain stays and the "light" Rolf wheels make it necessary for me to sit on the saddle and put my weight on my rear wheel or else I will be in trouble. The front wheel has a tendency to come off of the ground if I don't do this.
good pointgtx
Mar 15, 2002 8:44 AM
since I often switch between different bikes (and riding conditions) I'm always varying my approach a bit to suit the bike or conditions. BTW, I think the best way to learn how to corner fast is on a mtb or cross bike on fast fireroad descents with lots of switchbacks--it really teaches you body english and makes paved descents seems like child's play.
Mar 15, 2002 5:39 PM
Getting some time in on the dirt makes the whole pavement approach easier. It's much easier to mess around with various cornering techniques and have the bike slide a bit on dirt, only to get it back and if you do go down it's no big deal. Sure the details will be a little different but the principles remain the same. At some point you do have to start playing on the pavement, but it's something you can work up to.
do a crit race or tie one onishmael
Mar 15, 2002 8:35 AM
bikes turn much sharper and faster than most people push them but once you try it, and survive it, its educational....doing a tight crit race always forces people take sharp turns faster than they would've...another way is to get dressed up in some sturdy pants, sweatshirt, gloves and a helmet after a couple of beers and find a CLEAN turn to go faster and faster around...clean, gravel and oil free is really important, going around a turn slowly but still wipping out because you hit gravel is a confidence destroyer...if you have a cheaper bike id use it....what im still unsure of though is when its ok to pedal in the turn, ive seen pro's and cat 1's and 2's just lightly clicking their pedal to the pavment and continuing just fine but ive gone down from hitting the pedal to hard a couple of times and it's really painfull...while standing on the ground and leaning the bike over to see how much clearance there is, is encouraging, once youre riding its impossible to gauge how far over you are
Countersteering through cornersTig
Mar 15, 2002 8:36 AM
This is from Davis Phinney. I've been playing with it, but there are a few things different than what I've been doing for a long time and it is difficult to change.

"I always cornered in the old-fashioned way: my inside knee stuck out and I sort of steered around the corner. But I've found a much faster and safer way to corner at speed. It's called countersteering. It's now the technique we teach at our cycling camps. Using this method, I can fly through corners where I used to have to slow down. It's safer, too, because it provides more control."

"When I went to Europe to race, I thought I knew how to get around corners fast" recalls Phinney. "After all, I was a criterium specialist and I was used to hanging it out in the last corner.
One day in my first season in Europe, we were flying down this nasty descent in France and I was trying to catch the group ahead. I was gaining fast when suddenly I realized that I'd caught up for one simple reason. The next corner was a U turn and the group had slowed way down."
"I got partway around, locked up the brakes, and went catapulting over a stone wall into a vineyard. It took five minutes to find my bike. After that I decided I'd better think through this cornering business."

What You Can Do
Here's how to turn using the countersteering method.
You'll know when it clicks by that big smile on your face.
Start the turn by putting the outside pedal down.
(The outside pedal is the right one if you're making a left turn.)
Stand on the pedal. Press your body weight on it. Pretend you're trying to break it off. This will lower your center of gravity and make the bike more stable.
Hold the handlebar in the drops.
Move your butt to the rear of the saddle.
Lower your torso along the top tube. Make yourself long to balance your weight along the bike's wheelbase.
As you enter the turn, push your inside leg against the bike's top tube. (In our left turn example, that's the left leg). Don't stick it out so it's pointing into the turn like motorcycle road racers do. Pushing your knee into the top tube will automatically turn your hips toward the outside of the turn. This makes the bike dive rapidly into the corner but in total control.
Press your outside leg's inner thigh against the saddle, pushing the bike down and to the inside against the pressure of your weighted outside foot.
At the same time, pull gently on the handlebar with the outside hand. Phinney used to tell riders to push with the inside hand. The new method accomplishes the same thing while taking weight off the bar and improving control. The bike will carve smoothly around the corner. It'll lean as much as you need it to while your body remains relatively upright.
Need to adjust your line because of gravel or a wet spot? Simply relax the outside hand so you aren't pulling the bar so hard. The bike will straighten up so you can avoid the obstacle. Once past, increase your pull with the outside hand to lean the bike over again and complete the turn.
Countersteering through cornersgtx
Mar 15, 2002 9:25 AM
yeah, that sounds about right--and I've found it's easier to get a sense of how to do this in the dirt at speed. I know a lot of people say that "countersteering" only applies to motorcycles, where there is power going to the rear wheel. But I think this is more of a question of semantics.

FWIW, also found this
Mar 15, 2002 10:29 AM
the 'countersteering' you refer to on mcycles, particular dirt-bikes, is (i believe) is a term many people improperly use to describe a 'powerslide'....most evident on dirtbike or flattrack racing.

see my post below for more explanation on countersteering.
Mar 15, 2002 10:27 AM
countersteering is one of the most over-analyzed concepts. Many people, especially in the motorcycling world, perceive countersteering as some sort of METHODOLOGY; in actuality, countersteering is simply an EXPLANATION.

Turning a two wheeled vehicle at speed (above, say 10-12mph) requires employment of gyroscopic procession and out-tracking. it is IMPOSSIBLE to turn otherwise (again, at speed). 'Countersteering' is simply a simplified explanation of how to achieve those requirements

Most simply stated, it is the concept of pushing the handlebars ever-so-slightly to the left, to turn right. This will result in the GP to lean the bike, which results in the OT which results in the turn. Likewise, one who 'leans' the bike to turn, will experience OT, which will result in GP, which results in an ever-so-slight turn of the bars.... they go hand-in-hand.

Like i already said, it is IMPOSSIBLE to turn otherwise.... therefor, we've all been 'countersteering' since the age of 5...we just never realized it.

Since we're already doing it, improvements in turning would yield more benefits if we forget the inherent concept of 'countersteering', and focus on lines, apexs, etc.

Note - this confusion of 'countersteering' as a method results from, i believe, the extensive (mis) use of the concept in mcycle training courses... which was later (mis) carried over into bicycling.
Mar 15, 2002 2:47 PM
While what you say is true what matters is to what degree the technique is employed. A little bit of counter steering and anyone can corner and actually must, but learn to push the concept and you suddenly are much more aware of the dynamics and your ability to corner at higher speeds dramatcally improves. It's one thing to talk about it - it's entirely another thing to fully ultilize it. You can't competitively corner at speed without understanding the distinction and knowing the limits. Nothing quite like riding with a bunch of riders of mixed abilites to bring out the point that not everyone understands what is at work, that it's not necessarily natural, or how to corner harder and not lose as much speed.

Your explanation that GP is what makes it all possible completely overlooks the simple fact that the center of gravity is now off to one side - or is this what you meant by out tracking (you didn't define it)? Certainly the gyroscopic effects are not sufficient or all that is at play while cornering. This has an influence when a force is applied to a gyroscope and the result is a force normal to the axis of rotation, but this is a transitory force and doesn't expalin the steady state sustained cornering forces. In reality a free body diagram is required and goes well beyond trading text on a BB. Finally you still have yet to explain cornering at slow speeds - speeds where GP isn't enough of a factor to explain everything - there isn't some magic break point where suddenly GP determines everything. It's a continuum.

In fact most people have a marked improvement in cornering once they've been properly exposed to the TECHNIQUE of counter steering.
Mar 17, 2002 4:57 AM
Countersteering through cornersQuack
Mar 15, 2002 11:03 AM
I've never seen bicycle steering explained in such intricate detail. Very informative. One thing I can attest to is that in slippery situations, steering is the only way to go. I have seen many riders go sliding out on corners because they didn't get their weight on top of the tires while cornering. When your leaned over with your weight on the inside and you slide the front, you are most likely going down. Whereas riders correctly steering their bikes can slide both wheels sometimes 2-3 feet laterally still under control at even faster speeds and still make the corner. The only danger then is that you slide your bike to the ouside and drill some guy who has taken the outside line.

My most memorable steering experience was when descending at around 30-35mph and coming around a tight corner to find apples strewn across the road. My front tire hit an apple and actually left the ground and because I was steering, the front wheel turned to the inside in the air and landed slightly sideways in a somewhat violent impact/slide. The impact of the rim coming back down on the pavement flat spotted my rim but it didn't wipe me out or blow the tire. If I'd have been leaning to the inside, I would probably still be pulling apples out of my ribcage.
Great Stuff!!Lone Gunman
Mar 16, 2002 7:07 AM
My goal for this year is to become a far better rider at cornering than i currently am. Last fall on a week long tour I put myself in a truly horrific position in a turn that easily could have cost me my life. Unfamiliar with the road and cruising along at about 30mph or so and into a downhill section that made a sweeping >90 degree right turn. I set up for the turn too late, had way too much speed and my hands were on the hoods. I tried scrubbing speed, steering, and was out of control clear over to the white line on the wrong edge of the road. At that point I had unclipped my inside leg and skied the turn leaning the bike over as far as I dared, braking while on the hoods was soo ineffective. I later checked my speedo (and shorts) and at one point was going 45 mph. Had a car been coming the other direction, splat. The other option was over an embankment and into a stand of pine trees Sonny Bono style. I vow to be a better corner rider after that mess.