If there is one thing that can cause crashes, slow you down, and disrupt your rhythm, cornering easily comes out on top. It's an intricate balance between braking, using your body weight, and staying upright! If there are numerous corners to contest in a triathlon or cycling event they can cost you a lot of time so let's have a look at four easy steps to help you corner quickly.
Step 1: Change down a gear or two when approaching the corner. If you don't it will be very hard pedaling out of it because of the big decrease in speed. If you are riding into the corner with a fast tail wind it is likely that when you turn you will head straight into a strong head wind, so changing down into two gears will help you get out of the corner quicker and back up to speed. If you have a road bike with "drop" handlebars that curve down and under towards you, cornering on these is quicker than with your hands on the brake hoods or top part of the handlebars. This is because it lowers your centre of gravity and helps your body weight steer you quickly around the corner.
Step 2: Stay close to the curb, gently squeeze your brakes and slow down before the corner – not while going around it as this will disrupt the direction you are intending to go. Avoid any painting on the road as this can be slippery, especially on ones. Your outside or "curb leg" should be straight or at the six o'clock position and your inside leg up or at the twelve o'clock position. Always look straight ahead in the direction you are intending on going as your bike will follow this. Put pressure or weight on your outside or curb leg and lean into the corner as shown in the picture.
"Contrary to what many people think riding around a corner is not about turning your handlebars. It's about distributing your body weight around your bike at the right time"
Step 3: "Cut" the apex of the corner (as shown in the figure), leaning into it and head straight for the other curb. Always look straight ahead at the other curb. Leaning into the corner helps your bike turn by itself so you do not have to turn the handlebars. Contrary to what many people think riding around a corner is not about turning your handlebars. It's about distributing your body weight around your bike at the right time. Don't be afraid to really lean into it as shown in the picture. Keeping pressure on your outside leg and your centre of gravity low will prevent you from sliding.
Step 4: Once at the opposite curb, head straight. Get out of your seat to get back up to speed. Once up to speed you can change back into your race gear and settle back into your rhythm.
Practice makes perfect so if you have a chance before an event or even if you want just want to brush up on your cornering skills, find a quiet road or park with an interesting corner and practice! As you become more confident at cornering you will be able to brake less and go faster into and out of them. Practice different types of corners and imagine you are a motorcycle racer, leaning into it, taking it wide and speeding out of it. It is an important skill that can save you time, energy, and skin!
Amy Taylor is an Auckland based Exercise Physiologist and Cycling Coach. She is one of the founders of Kinetic Edge Training Technology, and along with other coaches offers cycling skills training on a one on one or group basis. Kinetic Edge also offers programming for specific events, and personal coaching. For further information see www.kecycling.com or contact her directly on email@example.com