|From I Love Cycling! Facebook page|
A few months ago, I wrote a piece on cornering — including ascending and descending, speed, posture, and trusting your bike. Reading the articles on which that piece was based is an excellent way to help visualize the body movements and techniques necessary for a good, clean turn. But experientia docet, as they say, so its time to put those techniques into practice.
To do so, I took the second-level training class with Savvy Bikes in Portola Valley. The class reviews all aspects of climbing and descending, and ends with a killer ride down a wonderfully curvy stretch of Alpine Road.
Most of the techniques we learned mirrored those in the articles I posted earlier, but I wanted to highlight two techniques which I’ve found crucial to solid cornering which together make you feel in control.
First is proper steering. When you enter the turn, you’re not moving the handlebars, but using gravity to complete the turn. Earlier I explained that you achieve the turn my pressure on the handlebar opposite of the direction of turn. While this is generally true, there is a better way. Instead, focus on the feet. As you enter the turn, make sure the foot on the outside of the turn is down, and actively push away from your body with that foot.
Using only this technique, you gain a sense of stability and control you don’t have by trying to use the handlebars to turn. Indeed, you probably will naturally lower the outside foot, but by driving your foot down, the process becomes conscious and the feeling is that you are much more in control. Here’s a little video describing the technique.
Second is speed control. I blogged earlier about not “feathering” your brakes on descents and the dangers of keeping on your brakes during a long descent. But how do you control your speed in descents? You do it by braking before the turn. Reduce your speed so you can accomplish the turn described in the first section without applying your brakes.
Braking when your bike is upright is safer and more efficient. Braking in the turn is dangerous (especially when the road surface is gravely or sandy). So, keep your hands off the brakes in turns — just make sure your speed matches the turn and your skill level!
If you are planning on being a regular endurance cyclist, I highly recommend you take the classes at Savvy Bike (if you live in NorCal), or find a reputable and experienced trainer who gives classes near you!