Success is just around (or in…) the corner and that is no joke! Here’s why…

One of my favourite comments when coaching is, “You can never be too good at cornering!”. No matter where you ride, there will always be corners to navigate through. This is such an important element or skill when riding that I will be breaking this down into further detail over the next few articles. But for now, let’s dive into what you can start focussing on to improve your cornering ability.

CORNERING or DIRECTIONAL CONTROL as the experts like to call it is unavoidable! When we speak about directional control, we refer to the ability to control the direction of the bike either by maintaining direction, changing direction slightly, or changing direction significantly. In short, here are the three main ‘movements to keep in mind:

INCLINATION: leaning the bike and body together (banked or berm corners).

Leaning the bike and body together is a fundamental technique for maintaining balance through flowing, or downhill corners. Generally speaking, to initiate a change in direction and to be balanced, it requires a rider to lean the body into the turn, this movement is called inclination. In some cases this movement is very small and sometimes even hard to notice, but it is still there. Inclination is a key component to direction control and is present in most corners. The exception to this rule is very slow, tight, corners (e.g. uphill switchbacks) where a rider may need to counter balance the bike.

ANGULATION: leaning the bike underneath the body (Flat and off-camber corners).

Angulation involves a rider leaning the bike more than they lean their body. Firstly by using their arms to tip the bike (Inside arm almost straight – depending on the angle of the corner), then with the hips and knees to counterbalance, keeping the rider in a stable position while providing more space between their legs to move the bike underneath them. This results in BIKE-BODY SEPARATION and gives three big advantages to a riders direction control. NOTE* if you have a dropper post and more importantly use it when cornering, you want to feel your saddle push into the inside of your leg on the same side you are corning / heading in.

ROTATION: Rotating your hips in the direction of the corner.

Rotational movements on the bike mostly come from the hips and knees, with supporting movements from the torso and head. The hip movement begins with the rider moving their hips laterally (sideways) to the outside of the turn while also rotating them towards the inside of the turn. This is often described as “pointing the belly button” into the turn. Moving the knees to point in the same direction as the belly button helps both the lateral and rotational movements of the hips. If different parts of the body are moving in the same way, it makes the whole thing easier.

Keep this in mind on your next ride: When riding, try these three different movements and see how they work for you and how low you can lean your bike. Try practice on a tacky / grippy and softer surface (like mowed lawn) section to increase traction and also minimise impact should you make a mistake and hit the ground. 

Markus van Niekerk is an Advanced Level 2 and Kids PMBIA (Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association) coach. Should you want to improve your skills, whether it’s elementary, intermediate or advanced, contact Markus.

Mobile: 071 606 2341 | Email:  | Instagram: coachm_multisport