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  1. #1
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    Advice on cornering

    It's my first season- I've been to a clinic and continue to do weekly practice races. I've developed a bit in all skills, but corners are a sticking point for me. Every time I've crashed, it's been from taking a corner a bad way, and it's starting to get expensive.

    I'm just struggling with grass right now, so I mean, if you have general advice on how to take corners safe and fast, would love to hear it.

    How I do things now is I lay down the hammer, then brake hard before and into turns. This is probably a big energy suck, should I start thinking differently here?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Practice small then go bigger and faster. If you race the road bike and do crits the turns are not the same. When I started cross racing I tried to do road turns by leaning the bike and not turning the bar. Doing that I had to really slow the bike down and could not turn tight because the bike turned slow. Once I learned how to position myself on the bike and steer through the turn it was quicker and smoother.

    Practice in your driveway by doing figure 8's and try to go smaller and smaller while learning how to position yourself and turn the bar without leaning the bike. In the grass put up two cones or some other markers and do out and back loops working on going faster and turning tighter. You will get better, it is a skill that needs to be learned.
    Last edited by Allegheny Jet; 09-04-13 at 08:47 AM.
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    Senior Member Number400's Avatar
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    Set your corner speed prior to entering the corner. If you are trying to scrub off speed while leaned over, you are going to ask the tire to do more than it can.

    Work on smoothness and speeds for the corner/obstacle/terrain/muck/grass/gravel, etc...that you are riding on, then work on exploring the limits of traction.

    As I rule, you cannot apply all the forces together. Braking, lean angle, speed. You must find the compromise of all and balance your inputs.

    To finish first, you must first finish. That means no crashing. It just takes some time and learning and remembering your mistakes so that you do not duplicate them.
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    bf is my facebook. ljrichar's Avatar
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    Don't touch your front brake in a corner, weight on outside foot, look through the exit, etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by longe View Post
    It's my first season- I've been to a clinic and continue to do weekly practice races. I've developed a bit in all skills, but corners are a sticking point for me. Every time I've crashed, it's been from taking a corner a bad way, and it's starting to get expensive.

    I'm just struggling with grass right now, so I mean, if you have general advice on how to take corners safe and fast, would love to hear it.

    How I do things now is I lay down the hammer, then brake hard before and into turns. This is probably a big energy suck, should I start thinking differently here?
    The single most commonly given and important piece of advice is to look ahead to the exit of the corner, not at the apex or a foot in front of your front wheel. It seems like the simplest things in the world, but every August I have to relearn it (and crash a few times in practice in the course of doing so).

    If you are an experienced road cyclist, especially if you race crits, you probably know the importance of countersteering. It is easy to forget when switching to low speed turns. If a lot of your crashes happen when the front wheel dives to the inside on a soft or loose turn, you probably are not countersteering.

    As soon as you can do so without hitting a pedal, get on the pedals. Unless you're going to slow, the rear wheel's going to slip from time to time. You're less likely to go down if your applying some force when it happens; you'll just power through the slide and keep on going.

    Beyond that, practicing (and crashing while practicing) on a lot of different surfaces is part of it. Cornering in mud is a bit different than on off-camber grass is a bit different than on kitty-litter covered hard pack. Your tires matter as well - if you have a pair with aggressive shoulder knobs, you can lean the bike more than if don't. If your area has a lot of races on any of the above and your tires don't have good shoulder knobs, get some new ones.

    If you've got some relatively smooth single track in you're area, mount the fattest tires you can fit on your 'cross bike, and spend hours riding them. It's a great workout, it's fun, and it will help your handling.

    Finally, make a point of always going down when taking a left-hander; it tends to be less expensive

  6. #6
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    "have fun and be kind"
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  7. #7
    Digging in the pain cave. midschool22's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    I crashed a few times just WATCHING Sven.

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    Senior Member 1242Vintage's Avatar
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    I'm also a relative newcomer to CX too, just starting my second season. Last week I read through the advice above and worked on cornering skills Thurs/Fri for a couple hours. Yesterday (Saturday) was first race of the season and had more opportunities to develop cornering skills. Concentrated on adjusting speed BEFORE starting the turn, staying off the front brakes, adjusting my line to go where the traction is, and keeping my eyes up and looking to the exit. Really helped.

    Had tons of fun playing with different approaches to corners. Several were very tight with loose dirt and I unclipped and dragged the inside foot as I went around. Didn't ever break traction, but it gave me the confidence to hit the corners at higher speeds. More practice and I won't need to unclip on those tight turns.

    I also watched a youtube videos on cornering skills and tactics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2sqFXAv5og

    Finished 17 in a field of 31. Much better than last season where I usually finished a couple of places above DFL.

  9. #9
    Senior Member billh's Avatar
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    cornering is a major challenge for me as well so I'm glad to read the above advice. there are so many factors, tire tread, tire pressure, terrain, wet/dry conditions, camber, body weight, speed . . . the brain has to take all these factors into consideration in a split second and communicate instructions back to the body. I imagine that's what makes cyclocross racing so fun and challenging . . . and why experience really matters. we can all probably corner faster than we are . . . it's just a matter of finding the limit in a given corner . . . and to find the limit, you have to cross it a couple times, which means going down. someone once said "if you don't crash once per race, you're probably not going fast enough" . . . the clue that you are getting close to your limit is when the tire slips so it's good to increase speed on a given corner gradually until the tire slips, then you know you are close to the limit for that particular corner. and it's good practice to be able to maintain balance.
    "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one" JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye, 1963

  10. #10
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    "Always set your speed before the corner" is an oversimplification. Sometimes the fastest line calls for trail braking through the corner, this might be the case for fast s-turns on grass or tacky dirt. Other times, you'll want to get on the gas as you come through the corner, this is more common in tight, slow switchbacks when traction is abundant. Other times, if the ground is very loose, you need to tip-toe carefully through. In any case, the only way to learn is to practice, push your limits and don't be afraid to fall down. Better to fall down in practice than in a race! Keep in mind that if your tires are not sliding around underneath you on certain corners every lap, you are not going fast enough.

    More important than anything, though, is taking the right line. In cross, this is almost always a wide setup with a late turn-in. This allows to eliminate as much of turn as possible by taking a straighter line. It lets you come in faster, because you aren't going to exit the corner heading toward the tape, and it lets you get on the power again much sooner. Practice setting up as wide as the course allows, turning in late and ripping it! Remember, if you aren't sliding around a bit and you aren't occasionally falling down in practice (crashing once per race is actually kind of a bad idea, though I've done it!), you aren't going fast enough!

  11. #11
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    Holy smokes! Thanks for that link. The greats make it look so easy. Sven is not sliding or drifting, I don't think. But we can't see him to find out. He's GONE. In an instant! And his run-up, it's over in a second. He makes the other guy look like he's walking, but the other guy was at the top in maybe 5 seconds -- that's only 4 seconds slower than Sven -- 4 times slower. Man, when Sven takes off it doesn't even look like he's pedaling faster -- he's just GONE. His corners are so smooth he doesn't need traction or grip or sliding. They don't even know he was there...

    A friend who did the Masters at the World's went and watched the World's dudes practicing one day. They were awesome, he said, then Sven came out and joined in and he said that Sven was just blowing everyone else away even then, like hugely faster even in practice -- a different level. Like, the Nat'l dudes blow normal mortals away and boggle the mind -- then Sven comes out and makes them look like they're going slow. Amazing.

    Even at our local races when I see a top A going thru they look so smooth and easy, not ruffled or rushed, and they might be a half lap up on everyone else. It truly is boggling.
    Last edited by JeffOYB; 09-22-13 at 08:42 PM.
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  12. #12
    or tarckeemoon, depending marqueemoon's Avatar
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    One thing I've learned when the grass gets chewed up and slick you can often find the most traction a little to the outside. I found myself swinging from one side to another quite a bit today.

    I generally try to take off camber stuff high so I can drift down if needed, but the same thing applies. If there's firm ground on the low side try it.

    Don't be afraid to get up close and personal with the tape.

  13. #13
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marqueemoon View Post
    One thing I've learned when the grass gets chewed up and slick you can often find the most traction a little to the outside. I found myself swinging from one side to another quite a bit today.

    I generally try to take off camber stuff high so I can drift down if needed, but the same thing applies. If there's firm ground on the low side try it.

    Don't be afraid to get up close and personal with the tape.
    Related to this, the line that gets burned into the track isn't necessarily the fastest one. It pays to experiment. There was one very sandy, bumpy, right-hand turn into a downhill on day 1 at Gloucester. Most of the cat 3s were following my advice above to come in wide and turn in late. But that wasn't the best line on this corner - it was so loose and bumpy on the outside that guys were just tip-toeing through and losing tons of time. It took just a couple of practice laps to figure out that it was much faster to come in tight on the inside of the turn, eliminating as much of the really treacherous terrain as possible and use the ample room on the exit of the turn to straighten out and set up for the next corner.

    That's why you should do practice laps. Don't just assume that what everyone else is doing is the right line. Try some alternatives. And if you're struggling with your line in the race itself, try something different on the next lap. Experimenting with different lines will ultimately get you around the course faster.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post
    Related to this, the line that gets burned into the track isn't necessarily the fastest one. It pays to experiment. There was one very sandy, bumpy, right-hand turn into a downhill on day 1 at Gloucester. Most of the cat 3s were following my advice above to come in wide and turn in late. But that wasn't the best line on this corner - it was so loose and bumpy on the outside that guys were just tip-toeing through and losing tons of time. It took just a couple of practice laps to figure out that it was much faster to come in tight on the inside of the turn, eliminating as much of the really treacherous terrain as possible and use the ample room on the exit of the turn to straighten out and set up for the next corner.

    That's why you should do practice laps. Don't just assume that what everyone else is doing is the right line. Try some alternatives. And if you're struggling with your line in the race itself, try something different on the next lap. Experimenting with different lines will ultimately get you around the course faster.
    Wish I could remember which turn you're talking about. Mansfield Hollow today had some corners I just couldn't figure out, ended up doing the tip toe and losing that time was painful, but it seemed like others had to do the same thing. It's those 180's, man. What can I do about those? Today there was one 180 turn without much room with loose sandy stuff that I wiped out on once, the rest of the time i crawled around it and cried softly. And the loose stuff loves to kick my wheel out from under me- I wasn't prepared for how the sand developed in some of the corners. And, one corner you were rocketed into but I kept losing time to crawl because the loose gravel and deep tracks HIDDEN underneath the leaves that almost put me down every time. On the last lap I saw people were taking that one hard inside to avoid that bs altogether- d'oh.

    I'm going to try going wider- I do it, but I also come in tight a lot when I don't have to. Planting my outside foot in the pedal has been helpful, too.

    Another thing I thought was funny- there were some guys behind me trying to take my spot when we came to a corner that was loose with deep tracks. I took up a lot of space, crawled through slowly, which was almost required, the guys bunched up, and I lit it up out of the corner putting them behind. We were like, 40% back, so not a crucial place, but it was cool to not have any of them come around me.

  15. #15
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Cornering on a bike is not like cornering in a car. You do it with lean angle, not by turning the handlebars. This is a common new-guy problem. They try to turn the bike with the bars, wash the front tire and then crash. You just use the bars to balance the bike when it's leaned. Keep your weight on the rear tire and pedaling can help make the bike turn on exit. The extreme of this is a motorcycle that completes the corner with it's front tire in the air. One of the reasons that file tread tires work is because they have side lugs. The grip is there, you just have to get the bike leaned over to take advantage of it.
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  16. #16
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    This thread has helped me get better at cornering. Someone I battled for a position with afterwards told me how smooth i looked around corners. Now if only I can get the holeshot so I stop getting stuck behind the tip toers who open up gaps.

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