There are few feelings greater than cornering a bike well. Whether you’re swooping back and forth on a beach cruiser, shredding single-track on a mountain bike or carving mountain roads on your road bike, a well-executed corner is a big part of why many people ride bikes.
If you find cornering intimidating, you are not alone: Many experienced riders list this as their main limitation. These are three drills help riders improve their cornering, and they can be done in the comfort of your backyard or a local park.
Drills that don’t involve riding help us incorporate movement skills from past sports and remove pedaling and balance from the equation. Drills and exercises that are isolated from the main sport are quite common — a baseball player use batting cages, race-car drivers use simulation programs (and rides bikes) and swimmers do on-deck band exercises.
For this cornering off-bike drill, stand in front of your bike and grip your handlebars while standing over your front tire. You should be facing the nose of your saddle. From this position, assume an athletic stance, with knees and elbows bent so you are low and balanced. Practice moving the bike under you so the front tire leans rather than turns, and tap the inside of your legs. Use your arms to lean your bike in the direction you are looking, make sure your hips and eyes move with the lean of your bike. Try to visualize yourself looking and leaning through corners in this low, balanced, athletic stance.
WEIGHTING YOUR PEDALS AND LEANING
Your second drill is on the bike, practicing shifting your hips side-to-side to weight the pedals and lean the bike while riding in a straight line. Start by shifting your hips slightly to the left so your right foot is unweighted. Make sure you can still feel some weight and tension/connection to your hands since they will be working to lean the bike away from the weighted pedal. You will likely find your left foot drops to the bottom of the pedal stroke. Try bouncing up and down, putting pressure on that left foot to see if you can lean the bike side to side as well. Try this on both legs as you ride until you can feel some movement of the bike under you. Be careful that it is the bike moving under you (like in drill number 1) and not your body moving over a vertical bike. This can take some experimenting if you have come from spin-class or the indoor trainer where the bike is fixed vertically and cannot lean.
Slalom and figure eight are two cone drills used as a basic introduction to cycling skills. After completing the off-bike drill and weighting and leaning, do these. Continue to use them as a warm-up and as a reminder of future practices.
To do the slalom drill set up two or more cones in a row and practice arcing turns like a slalom skier, remember to shift your hips and gaze from the last drill. Lean the bike to arc through the corners and get wide enough to set up your next corner smoothly. These can be made challenging by making the offset variable and using different terrain to add off-camber or tighter corners.
The figure eight around two cones is similar to the slalom drill but is generally slower and challenges you to change direction and make much longer turns. Note: You need to turn for an extended period to get far enough outside to start your next turn, this patience and the skill of setting up wide is critical for expert cornering. The figure eight drill really helps you get the hang of leaning the bike and shifting your hips (not just your eyes) to look around the corner. Play with different surfaces and different spacing of the cones to increase the challenge!
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Cornering is a tough skill to learn because there are so many styles of cornering, but this also makes it a lot of fun and keeps even the most experienced riders excited about bike riding. The techniques are similar across disciplines but each type of bike and riding location adds to your cornering skills.
Using these isolated drills, on whatever bike you have, allows you to get in many repetitions and provide the correct amount of challenge for your current skill level so you can continue to progress your skills.