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Road Cycling: Cornering

By Laurel-Lea Shannon

Road Cycling: CorneringIt doesn’t matter where you live–whether it’s in the mountains or down on the plains–you’re going to encounter curves in the road. The essence of good cornering is maintaining your speed, safely. To do that you have to carefully choose your line through the turn, determine the appropriate speed, be aware of the road conditions, and look out for traffic—all in a matter of a few seconds. But don’t worry. The old adage “practice makes perfect” applies here.

Choose your line


When approaching a corner, you need to decide if you’re going to take the turn with a tight, medium, or wide radius. In city traffic you will most likely choose a tight radius. Tight turns require you to brake harder and pull out of the corner on a wider axis, reducing your speed. Medium or wide radius turns allow you to hold onto your speed but require more road room.

Look down the road toward where you want to travel, not at the road directly in front of your bike. Your bike will follow your eyes. (In other words, don’t stare at the curb you’re trying to avoid.) Always brake slightly before entering the corner, so you can carry speed into and out of it. Before entering the turn, shift into a gear that will allow you to accelerate out of it.

Lean your bike, not your body

If you’re turning with a wide radius, again, look down the road where you want to travel. Keep your inside pedal up (12 o’clock position), and your outside pedal down (6 o’clock position). This will prevent your pedal hitting the pavement as you turn. Keep your body upright. Lean your bike into the corner, not your body. For extra stability, move your weight over your outside leg and point your inside knee into the turn. Once in the corner, only use the brakes if necessary and make sure you feather them (apply them lightly). Braking hard while turning will make the bike unstable and could cause a spill.

Traffic

When taking a wide radius first look over your shoulder (or if you have a rearview mirror,use that) and check for traffic. When the road is clear, move out toward the middle of the lane. This allows you to take a wider line through the turn.

Road conditions

As well as helping you steer properly, looking down the road where you want to travel gives you advance warning of obstacles on the road: potholes, broken pavement, trash, or roadkill—helping you to safely steer around them.

Putting it all together

1) Assess the turn.

2) Check for traffic. When it’s clear, move out toward the middle of the lane.

3) Brake before getting into the turn and shift into a gear that will allow you to accelerate out of the corner.

4) Look down the road toward where you want to go.

5) Lean your bike, not your body, into the corner

6) Keep the inside pedal up (12 o’clock position), and the outside pedal down (6 o’clock position). Weight the outside pedal and point your knee into the corner as you lean the bike into the turn.

7) Accelerate as you come out of the turn.

Whether you’re new to cycling or a seasoned rider, practicing efficient cornering techniques will make you a better cyclist and keep you safe on the roads.

In this video, Gale Bernhardt teaches good cornering techniques.

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2 comments to Road Cycling: Cornering

  • I do not entirely agree with point 5. Definitely not in the wet. Body and bike need to be symbiotic. Positioning of weight is important depending on the conditions. If you are looking around the bend to where you are going. Your body will naturally come lower on the inside of the bike. If you look at the edge of the bend, outside (wrong), then your body will come higher, and you will be aiming for where you are potentially going to crash.
    Still like the rest of the article.

  • very good article and video. i agree that practice makes perfect and it also leads to tons of fun going around corners.

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