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Building Cornering Skills

I did a series of "Race Notes" videos covering my 2021 Over the Hump season, and trying to note what I could do better.

One thing that was really clear in 2021, and again this year in 2022, was that I need to improve my cornering, especially on loose trail. So I've been practicing.

My favorite video on cornering a mountain bike is this one by The Loam Ranger. I love that he establishes that leaning the bike is key.

Focusing on that really helped. But something still wasn't clicking. The video above on cornering motorcycles really helped.

What I noticed was that the rider was setting up for the U-turn by shifting his hips to the outside of the turn. Basically, for a left turn, he'd put his left butt cheek on the saddle, and vice-versa for the right.

When I tried that, a few things happened naturally:

  • I made more space for my saddle to lean into the turn.
  • Rather than trying to drop my outside foot all the way to the "6 o'clock" position at the bottom of the stroke, I adopted a stance with my inside foot slightly higher than my outside foot, which I've heard called the "60/40 stance".
  • That, in turn, let me lean the bike much more easily, getting those all-important turning lugs planted in the dirt.

And all of this felt much more natural than ever before. I feel more secure in the turns, and it feels so much more secure than ever before.

And the proof is in the pudding. There were so many moments during last night's race where I was clearly carrying more momentum through turns than before. In places where I used to just be part of the conga line going through a twisty section, I was often picking up time on the riders around me.

My training goals for the rest of 2022 boil down to:

  1. get leaner (ideally, weight around 175#)
  2. build trail skills
  3. build my ability to sustain race pace with periodic 30- to 90-second punches at 400-500W.

It's really great to be making solid progress on #2 there.

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