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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 10-20-13, 08:37 AM   #1
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Turns skills? ...Practice, I suppose.

Everyone has their own path to take to learning this stuff, I suppose. But still... Tips?

I've only done a few race. I've read the books. I suppose the SOP is "Enter as wide as you can, cut close, then go wide exiting if you have to." Close?

I did the wonderful, muddy Mad Anthony CX race in Detroit yesterday and I kept screwing up the tight typical turns. I thought I was entering wide and cutting close but then I'd t-bone the tape exiting and nearly stop then have to go my speed up again. I wasn't even doing 'cross! It was frustrating. Especially if it was a downhill offcamber -- to get going again after hitting the tape was a pain. (I still was first Old Guy in the Cat 5's! ...Learning!)

I love the slippery stuff, but I just wasn't doing it right.

Interestingly, our 3 local top dudes didn't fare so well at this venue in such muddy conditions. They're used to the podium. It kinda makes me think that maybe we just don't have enough "cross turns" on our local training ground so we're all short on practice. Well, they do well at all the other races, so maybe it was the mud. We've had a dry season so far. ...Practice makes perfect! Now, nobody has had much mud time yet, but the other guys might've had a homefield advantage.

Also, I wonder if some of it was the bike. I hate an excuse, but... I'm using a roadbike with 28mm green Vittoria Tigre tubies. They seemed like GREAT tires to me but maybe they limit the cornering? Actually, I could see maybe narrow sparse-knob tires rockin' the muddy twisties. What's the word? I haven't compared 'em to anything else since they're all that'll "fit" my bike. (1mm clearance but it was also raining so the mud didn't build up -- hooray!)

Last edited by JeffOYB; 10-20-13 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 10-20-13, 11:34 AM   #2
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My cornering skills are definitely a work in progress this season. I do OK on other parts of the course, but often lose time and positions in turns. Then I have to hit the gas hard coming out of every single turn to make it up. Using so much energy I fade towards the end of the race.

This is my second season racing and a couple things to share that I'm doing in my path to improve.

I mounted my video camera on the handlebars on my race bike and set it up so I can see both brake levers in the picture. Back home I load up the video and see what lines I was taking through corners, the lines others were taking, and where I was braking. Often I was hitting the brakes way too much and too early both approaching and in the corners, losing valuable momentum. I didn't realize how much I was on the brakes. It also opened my eyes to some of the tactical opportunities in the corners that I was missing, like when entering the corner wide and a competitor who usually takes the inside line on me, exits wide, and cuts me off coming out of the corner.

Also, I mentioned to a teammate my weakness in corners and he graciously loaned me a single speed bike with the advice ... go practice and race with this for a while, it'll improve your skills. With only one gear (my teammate joked it really has two gears, sitting down pedaling and standing up) you really have to be smooth through turns to maintain speed/momentum. The single speed is a heavy 26" mtn bike and I quickly learned how much effort it takes to get that thing back up to speed coming out of a corner.

And then lots of practice. I have a dozen bright orange flat discs that I used years ago coaching soccer in my commuter backpack. On my ride home from work I detour to a nice little grassy park, throw the cones out there, drop the backpack and practice for 20 minutes or so.

I have five races in the books this Fall and I am placing better than last year. Even hit the podium with a third place finish on one race, a new one for me. Good luck and happy racing. Now off for some practice with the single speed.
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Old 10-20-13, 06:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
I thought I was entering wide and cutting close but then I'd t-bone the tape exiting and nearly stop then have to go my speed up again.
It sounds like you're braking during the turn. There's a point around the apex where I often find myself feeling like I'm going too fast to exit cleanly. However, I've demonstrated to myself numerous times that braking at that point absolutely guarantees that I'll go into the tape. Surprisingly, if instead of braking I start pedaling that usually pulls the bike through cleanly. There's physics to back this stuff up, but it's absolutely backward to what my brain tries to tell me.

Also, look at the exit while you're approaching the apex. Don't look where you are. Look where you want to be. That helps much more than seems reasonable.
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Old 10-20-13, 08:03 PM   #4
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Thanks for the tips and ideas! I'll try 'em! I like the "look at exit" idea. Heard it before. Forgot to apply it. I also do try to pedal and power thru a corner but need to stay on top of that. Offcamber downhills going to a corner then up are VERY tempting to brake! I suppose there's a line to walk but I'll PRACTICE and try these tips. Somehow the cornering I have been doing hasn't really helped me for a LOT of the corners I see in races! How can that be? Our home courses has a variety of corners. It MUST be helping. ...This is a weird sport.
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Old 10-20-13, 08:24 PM   #5
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Remember the bike will almost always follow your eyes.

One thing that has helped me a ton is to take my cross bike on single track mountain bike trails. It will teach you to finesse it through nearly anything rather quickly. Actually, I did nearly all of my mountain biking on my SS cross bike for over a year. One advantage to SS is it also teaches you to maintain momentum which means getting through corners well.
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Old 10-21-13, 07:29 AM   #6
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Practice, yes. As a first-season 'crosser, I have spent portions of several practice sessions just making turns. Just find a spot where you can set up a few "corner posts" (i have used rocks in conjunction with trees and/or a worn-in path, and repeat. Vary the max turn radius ("outer tape"), put several turns in a row, put some of them off-camber. You get the point. Otherwise, the suggestions above are good (look where you want to go; it's an oft-repeated mantra in mountain biking, and practice on mountain bike trails if available).

I am totally with you on the turns being hard, especially when they get particularly tight and repeated. If turns are linked, I often nail the first couple, then get worked out too much on the inside of the third turn, and then... you get the picture. Good luck!
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Old 10-21-13, 08:16 AM   #7
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Google #svenness and watch them all. Ep 2.3 specifically addresses mud.

I think the narrow-for-mud concept has pretty much been abandoned. Wider gives more traction. And for mud, a really aggressive tread (Rhinos) that doesn't pack up is going to give you as much traction as possible.
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Old 10-22-13, 03:34 PM   #8
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my tip for the day: if I cant practice the turns on the course, I find a patch of grass off-course that looks like the same type of terrain (grass, mud, whatever) as the course . . . get up some speed, then turn into a tight 360 circle . . . pedal as hard as I can around in a circle, cutting tighter each time around until . . . front wheel catches too hard, rear wheel slips, get tired, or too dizzy . . . then come out and repeat other direction. I'm sure it looks stupid but gives me some confidence in the tire-terrain interface for the day . . . because each course is almost unique in grass height, wetness, slipperyness, etc. but really no substitute for practicing a tough turn on the course itself, and I mean like 10+ times, just go around and repeat that section till you got it.
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Old 10-22-13, 03:43 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the great tips!

Circle fever!

And "look to the exit" -- not to the middle or the ground -- or the tape!

Also, a friend reminded me to brake going in then try to let it run.

Now, my problem is often with a gravity assist offcamber, but these ideas seem helpful.


(I'll go watch those Svenness episodes...)
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