Cornering Tips With Eric Carter
I often see riders carrying too much speed and having to lock up their brakes, sending them to the inside and straight over the banked right-hand turn. In this sequence, I will show you how to manage speed, set up and get to the ideal entrance point of the banked right-hander, resulting in optimum exit speed.
There are three segments to a turn. I labeled them as follows:
1) Entrance. This is the most critical point of the turn, because it dictates the whole corner. Line choice and speed are decided here and play a big part in what happens later in the turn. The largest portion of braking is done just before the entrance to avoid heavy braking in the rollthrough phase. This disrupts the attitude of the bike and compromises the goal of the corner, which is to maximize exit speed.
2) Roll through. In this phase, the decisions of line choice and speed have been made. The focus here is to settle the bike into its line and stay off the brakes, allowing for a smooth and continuous arc through the corner. Sometimes riders don’t manage their speed correctly and need to continue to decelerate in the roll-through phase. This is called “trail braking” and demands a very smooth touch. The goal is to drag the brakes lightly without locking them up. When a rider breaks too heavily in the roll-through phase, the wheels will lock up and the bike will want to stand up vertically. This disrupts the ideal line choice, hinders potential exit speed and lessens the overall flow.
Take note: You should never be on your front brakes during the roll-through phase. This most often results in tucking the front end and the rider hitting the ground before they can even get their hands off the handlebars. A good place to practice smooth braking is to roll down a hill and feel the brakes engaging without locking them up.
3) Exit. Hopefully you’ve executed phases 1 and 2 correctly. The focus now is looking down the trail while carrying exit speed into the next obstacle or corner.
This specific sequence has two corners that are really close together, so the process gets repeated twice. There are extremely dynamic things happening between these two turns.
Here, I am already in the entrance phase of the section. I spotted my line on the small embankment instead of the main line that most riders use in the center of the trail. My front tire is in the line that I spotted 20 yards before, so I am looking past my current location to my next visual focus point. I am decelerating, using both brakes with smooth pressure, conscious of not stabbing them, which could make the front end dive and make it harder for me to steer the bike on line.
You will also notice that my body is crouched and loading the suspension of my bike. This creates stored energy that I use in the next image to transfer weight and to get to the proper entrance line of the right-hander. It is important to note that I am looking where I am going—NOT where I am.
Here, I am no longer crouched, allowing the bike’s suspension to release the stored energy. This makes my bike lighter and easier to transfer from the exit of the left-hand dogleg to the desired entrance of the right-handed banked turn.
I am steering the bike to the desired line, and, as you can see, my focus is again on where I want to go.
In this image there is a lot going on. As you can see, my front tire is high on the embankment at the very beginning of the turn. Later, this will allow me to utilize the entire embankment and have a nice smooth arc all the way through the corner. My vision is ahead of where I am and looking to where I want to go. This is the most critical point of the sequence because of the degree of direction change that is occurring. Despite the radical sideways angle of my bike, I am keeping my shoulders squared and my inside shoulder is beginning to dip in, with my focus on the turn ahead. I am also engaging my hip rotation to the right-hand turn, despite still being on the left-hand dog-leg. It would be very easy to be lazy at this point, but I keep my shoulders and hips focused on the right turn.
Now for the braking. As you can see, the rear wheel is locked up. This braking maneuver is called “opposite locking” or “rally turning.” I am focusing less on scrubbing speed and more on steering the back-end of the bike. These two turns are so close together that it is really hard to get your bike to transfer from one turn to the next by just steering it, especially when a higher rate of speed is carried into the corner. Advanced riders use this technique to bring the back end of the bike in line with the front end of the bike. Inertia and timing play a big part here. By locking up my brakes, I’m allowing and forcing the back end of the bike to drop down to the right while I am creating resistance. When a bicycle is rolling, the two wheels are always trying to stay in alignment. By purposely taking the back end and forcing it to swing out of line, I have created resistance and stored energy.
Once I release the brakes, the back wheel will try to come back in line with the front wheel. The goal is to release the brakes and engage my right-hand turn at the perfect time so that the back wheel swings up and back in line with my front-wheel. Ideally, my speed is managed so I don’t have to do any further braking and can focus on the roll-through phase.
Despite the brakes still being on, the back end of the bike has already started to come back in line with the front end. By choice, the front tire is at the highest possible point on the banked turn to open the corner radius up and to allow for the smoothest arc possible.
I am now fully engaged in the roll-through phase. I have carried a lot of speed, evident by the squat of my suspension. You can see how aggressive my approach is by the portion of my head over the stem and my butt back over the rear axle. My knees are bent, and I am squared into the bike. This is a centered and planted position that allows for smooth roll-through. Again, there is still no dust off of the rear wheel, telling me I am rolling through with no brakes on.
I am now well into the exit phase. My eyes are focused out in front of me. This trail has another banked left-hand turn coming up, so my focus shifts to the entrance line to that corner. I am no longer squared in and have started to allow the release of the stored suspension energy to transfer my weight and the bike to the upcoming left-hand turn, gaining momentum on exit.
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