Cornering – Tips & Techniques

skylark-denshaw3

Round the bend – one of the joys of cycling is “nailing” a corner like this!

The Skylark Sportive will take you through a great journey encompassing high hills, steep climbs and descents, narrow roads, tight bends and testing road surfaces. We believe that a Sportive should be both challenging and engaging for riders, which is why we have included so many minor roads.

However, this does mean that as a cyclist you need to treat the route with respect and it will test you cycling skills and techniques along the way. One skill that will be particularly important to you is cornering and with Spring just around the corner, it’s a great time to give your cycling technique a little thought and perhaps brush up on the basics as well as getting in those training miles.

We love the British Cycling website’s “Insight Zone” and there are a range of tips on technique, including this excellent video on cornering.

Our Tips & Technique Guide to Cornering

Speed Entering The Corner: when approaching a corner, you need to adjust your speed to enable you to safely get round it. If you can’t see all the way around a corner, you need to adjust your speed so that you can stop within the limits of the roadway that is visible. That means braking. It’s always best to brake in a straight line where it is most efficient and least likely to cause one or other tyres to lose traction. Get all your braking done before the corner.

Line Through The Corner: The ideal line through a corner starts wide, cuts into the apex (the inside at the mid point of the corner) and then goes wide again on the exit. Obviously, although this is the best line, in reality it is not often that you can use the full width of the road to achieve it. Traffic, both oncoming and behind you might dictate a more conservative speed and line through the corner. Similarly, the road surface itself might influence the line, with pot-holes and gravel just two of the hazards you can encounter. If you are riding with a group of other cyclists, your line will also have to reflect their needs: you will be going wider if there are riders on your inside, or staying tighter if there are riders outside you.

Speed Exiting the Corner: The whole point of the ideal line through the corner is to help you hang on to speed and exit the corner as quickly as possible. Over a long ride, you can save a lot of energy by skilful cornering. Allied to this, you should always try to anticipate your speed out of a corner and change gears just before the corner so that you are in the ideal gear as you exit it. Usually a couple of clicks down on the rear derailleur is sufficient, but on a steep climb in bend, you may make a bigger move or perhaps change to a smaller chainring.

Your Body Through The Corner – Relax: with practice, you’ll become adept at relaxing through corners, allowing the bike to move beneath you and that will make your cornering quicker, safer and smoother. Maintain a firm grip on the bars, but allow your arms and legs to flex and absorb the shocks transmitted through the bike from the road surface. Some riders even rise a couple of centimetres out of the saddle, allowing their legs to soak up more of the bike’s movement and damping the rippling feedback from the road surface.

Your Body Through The Corner – Eyeline: At the same time, keep your eyes level with the horizon as this will aid balance and perspective through the corner, aiding precision and co-ordination.

Your Body Through The Corner – Weight Distribution: it’s generally best to raise the inner pedal and lower the outer pedal through a corner. Most importantly, this prevents the inner pedal from grounding and potentially causing you to crash. It also allows you to channel more of your body weight through the outer pedal. This aids balance and moves your centre of gravity closer to the line of your tyres on the road. At the same time, many elite riders lower their upper body through corners, thus lowering their centre of gravity, again aiding balance. Both these techniques greatly reduce the chance of a skid or momentary loss of grip bringing you down.

Drills to Improve Cornering: We try these with the younger riders at the local club and they work equally well with adults. Always make sure you carry out these drills somewhere away from traffic and where the surface is both grippy and smooth.

1/ Set up a straight line of six cones (water bottles will do fine) 3 to 4 metres apart and practice slaloming through them. Adjust your speed and riding position to see how they affect cornering. Try it standing up and sitting down, pedalling and not pedalling.

2/ Set up a mini velodrome – two lines of parallel cones perhaps 3 metres apart and each 10 metres in length. Ride around this rectangle of cones practicing cornering technique at each end. This is particularly good for allowing riders to explore the limits of grip, lean and develop their pedal position in corners, all at a relatively low and safe speed. Again, try different techniques, standing and sitting and also different gears. Remember to do this in both directions! If you have another riders to work with, you can even do mini pursuit races, which introduce a competitive element and help you to identify which techniques aid speed.

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