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Understanding the dynamics of cornering in a group

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Understanding the dynamics of cornering in a group

Old 03-09-15, 04:27 PM
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JeroAlon
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Understanding the dynamics of cornering in a group

Hey all,

I have not always been very good "technically" on a bike but I've majorly improved my handling skills but still lack a bit of self-confidence.

Still, let's assume that I can take most corners properly whilst riding on my own.

But I still don't fully get how to take corners whilst in a group/pack/bunch however you mean to call it.

I get that you are going from the inside, aim for the apex and ride out of the corner to the outside.
I get that you need to keep the outside pedal down, lower your gravity center (by goind on the drops?), and lean your bike while looking where you mean to go.
I get that your exact trajectory cannot fully be an ideal typical out-in-out because of other riders and that you need to stay in the draft and trajectory of the rider in front of you and keep your line without wobbling during the corner.

What I don't get is:
- how not to be scared as hell when there 8 guys around you, and you feel like the center square of a tic-tac-toe game all that at over 20 mph
- how to act when the mentionned other take the corner at a different speed as you and take a different line: what if someone is cornering faster and closing in dangerously in front of me... I cannot obviously brake on a leaning bike with someone else just few feets behing rear wheel... I cannot change my line to go inside even more, (first because changing line is evil and second, because going even more inside might get me or the other guy ever closer to the inside on the sidewalk and then on the ground with painfuil consequences...)
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Old 03-09-15, 04:36 PM
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If the guy in front knows what he's doing, follow his line
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Old 03-09-15, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
If the guy in front knows what he's doing, follow his line
I think this is the best advice, whenever I was cornering in a group at speed, I'd just follow the guy in front of me and not worry about anything else.
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Old 03-09-15, 04:57 PM
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Yes, wheel in front of you is good. (typically, if you're at a higher speed, you should be lined up even if it's 3 wide). However, sometimes you're stuck in the middle and if that's the case, then I typically give equal respect to the wheel in front & the bars to my "inside".

Outside gets 3rd respect & rear gets my 4th (typically because then they're responsible for their sphere of respect)

That said....I've had full-on veteran racers meet me bar to bar in a criterium going into a turn with me holding my line and them crossing mine and when I back off yelling, "Watch out!", (saving both he & I from a crash) they have a look on their face like they don't know what I'm yelling for.

(shrug)
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Old 03-09-15, 04:59 PM
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Unless you're on the front or off the back, you don't get to choose your line. Follow the wheel in front of you and hold your line. Inside pedal up. Be in the drops, not the hoods. Cover your brakes but stay off them unless absolutely necessary, and even then know how to feather. It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable cornering in a group.
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Old 03-09-15, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Unless you're on the front or off the back, you don't get to choose your line.
Actually you do, you always can choose your line, it just is a very bad idea when that group is a race pack.
You can always coast before the turn when the other are pedaling, brake if they're coasting, brake harder if they're braking... That way a gap will open between the rider in front and you.
It is obviouly baaadddd practice because of the extra speed loss and everything,...
But on the other hand, it is an understandable pitfall to fall into , it being the result of poor confidence leading to scare, leading to not trusting one's reactions leading to the feeling: "I know what I am doing is bad, but if I try to do it right, I might mess up and overreact someone else's clumsy (however mildly clumsy) line and end up being dangerous to me and others, so doing it wrong is the safer way and the most confortable short term...." ... Just don't ever expect to ever win a race...

I believe only practice can get you over that thinking process which sadly is mostly understandable...
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Old 03-09-15, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
Actually you do, you always can choose your line, it just is a very bad idea when that group is a race pack.
You can always coast before the turn when the other are pedaling, brake if they're coasting, brake harder if they're braking... That way a gap will open between the rider in front and you.
It is obviouly baaadddd practice because of the extra speed loss and everything,...
But on the other hand, it is an understandable pitfall to fall into , it being the result of poor confidence leading to scare, leading to not trusting one's reactions leading to the feeling: "I know what I am doing is bad, but if I try to do it right, I might mess up and overreact someone else's clumsy (however mildly clumsy) line and end up being dangerous to me and others, so doing it wrong is the safer way and the most confortable short term...." ... Just don't ever expect to ever win a race...

I believe only practice can get you over that thinking process which sadly is mostly understandable...
Please don't do this. Or suggest that anyone else do it.
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Old 03-09-15, 05:48 PM
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2 bits of advice. 1)
Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
If the guy in front knows what he's doing, follow his line
AND always be seeking out good wheels to follow Make it a habit to notice the quality riders and hang around them. Do what they do.

and 2) (this from other avenues of life) courage is not having no fear. Courage is having fear but doing it anyway.

Ben
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Old 03-09-15, 06:59 PM
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Riding with others, especially those you don't know well, into corners always scares the hell out of me. I try to make sure there is space between me and others around me. I am super vigilant and I am quick to trade away the perfect line for safety.
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Old 03-09-15, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by JeroAlon View Post
Hey all,

I have not always been very good "technically" on a bike but I've majorly improved my handling skills but still lack a bit of self-confidence.

Still, let's assume that I can take most corners properly whilst riding on my own.

But I still don't fully get how to take corners whilst in a group/pack/bunch however you mean to call it.

I get that you are going from the inside, aim for the apex and ride out of the corner to the outside.
I get that you need to keep the outside pedal down, lower your gravity center (by goind on the drops?), and lean your bike while looking where you mean to go.
I get that your exact trajectory cannot fully be an ideal typical out-in-out because of other riders and that you need to stay in the draft and trajectory of the rider in front of you and keep your line without wobbling during the corner.

What I don't get is:
- how not to be scared as hell when there 8 guys around you, and you feel like the center square of a tic-tac-toe game all that at over 20 mph
- how to act when the mentionned other take the corner at a different speed as you and take a different line: what if someone is cornering faster and closing in dangerously in front of me... I cannot obviously brake on a leaning bike with someone else just few feets behing rear wheel... I cannot change my line to go inside even more, (first because changing line is evil and second, because going even more inside might get me or the other guy ever closer to the inside on the sidewalk and then on the ground with painfuil consequences...)
The two bold sections. "Cornering line" goes out the window in a group unless you're at the front of a strung out field or off the back. When you drive on a multilane highway do you take the proper "cornering line?". On a left curve during rush hour on a highway do you start in the right side shoulder, sweep across the 3-4 lanes, then end your left curve right next to the left side barrier? No, you follow the lanes because although you may be able to actually follow the "ideal line" you'll wreak mayhem on those around you. Likewise in a group you should be following your "lane".

Getting on the drops helps with control when stuff goes weird. Realistically you can corner etc on the hoods pretty well. It's when something slams into your front wheel/tire, you need to shift weight quickly, you need to brake, that being on the drops helps. It's not the center of gravity as much as it is retaining control over your bike.

Second bold section.

You need to get more comfortable riding in a group. I call it the Sphere, the area around your bars and front wheel. It's cycling's version of "personal space" and when someone intrudes on it it's extremely stressful. An inexperienced group rider might have a 5-6 foot Sphere. An experienced rider's Sphere might be an inch or two to the side and maybe 2-3 inches fore/aft. When I feel the need to stress myself Sphere-wise I put my front tire between the rear derailleur cable and the spokes of the rider in front of me. At that point I have an inch or so to each side of the tire, left/right/front. I can do this because I'm reasonably confident that I can sustain a heavy impact to my front tire and stay upright - I learned this by doing drills when I wasn't comfortable in a group. You can work on side-to-side bumping without having to fall but touching your front tire/wheel will involve falling (so you do it on grass at lower speeds).

If someone is taking a different line then you need to follow, unless you have an out. If someone dives inside I'll just follow the rider in front of me. If someone cuts me off (they turn into me from the outside) I'll let them come to me because I know that I'll be okay even if they contact me and typically I don't want to adjust my trajectory too much else things get wiggy behind me.

Unless you are really laid over you can brake surprisingly hard mid-turn. Even if you lock up a rear you should be okay as long as you immediately let off. On steep switchback downhills it's usually necessary to brake while heeled over. As long as you have good weight on the front wheel (so not scared and pushing yourself to the back of the bike, your butt is planted on your saddle, you're using your front brake) you can make some significant speed adjustments while leaned over. It might mean a moment or three of no traction on the rear wheel but, again, as long as your front tire is planted you're fine.

Likewise you can adjust your line mid turn, but usually the only time you do this significantly is if someone is crashing in front of you. Otherwise a significant line adjustment usually means problems to those behind you.

When I have time I'll have to dig up some clips for you off my helmet cam. YouTube sprinterdellacasa if you want to browse.
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Old 03-09-15, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
Actually you do, you always can choose your line, it just is a very bad idea when that group is a race pack.
You can always coast before the turn when the other are pedaling, brake if they're coasting, brake harder if they're braking... That way a gap will open between the rider in front and you.
It is obviouly baaadddd practice because of the extra speed loss and everything..
Are you joking?
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Old 03-09-15, 08:00 PM
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If you don't feel comfortable riding thru corners in the middle of a group don't do it. You owe it to yourself and the group. Ride in the back and watch those riders who are familiar with this skill. There is certainly a learning curve here and you will get there. It's hard to explain so I guess it comes with experience.
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Old 03-09-15, 08:07 PM
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Put your elbows up. Hold your line. Be aggressive but predictable. Try to slightly scare yourself in each corner. When you don't think you can make it and your heart skips a beat... Hold fast and believe in your basic technic and the laws of physics. Expect to crash hard once learning the limits.

Last edited by EvilWeasel; 03-09-15 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 03-09-15, 08:09 PM
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for the love of god....
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Old 03-09-15, 08:13 PM
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It sounds like you're talking about riding on a group ride rather than a race. If you've just started riding in groups it might take a little while to get comfortable but you aren't going to be railing through corners on the edge of traction.

Best advice I can think of is to keep your vision up. Don't get caught staring at the wheel you're following; look as far ahead as possible and use your peripheral vision to keep yourself in between the other riders. If someone in front of you brakes, your first instinct should be to move to one side or the other and try and avoid braking. If you're using your vision properly you'll know which side to move to.

edit: and if you do plan to race, find some novice clinics where they'll introduce you to everything you need to know to get started racing. They won't start you off in a group of 100 racing on a tight course.
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Old 03-09-15, 08:29 PM
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Also. You must train yourself not to target fixate. The bike goes where you look. See it, stare at it, hit it. Exit line or obstacle. That's the rule.
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Old 03-09-15, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by bt View Post
for the love of god....
Hey, he asked for advice. He didn't specify good advice.
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Old 03-10-15, 02:13 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
Are you joking?
Originally Posted by bt View Post
for the love of god....
Just to be clear guys, the only part of my post that was advice was this last line:

Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
I believe only practice can get you over that thinking process which sadly is mostly understandable...
All the rest was just sympathetic chit-chat about how OP might feel and that he probably is not the only one and that many have gone through the process.

Obviously the other posts of you guys, especially CDR are way more helpful technically-wise.
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Old 03-10-15, 04:55 AM
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Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
Just to be clear guys, the only part of my post that was advice was this last line:



All the rest was just sympathetic chit-chat about how OP might feel and that he probably is not the only one and that many have gone through the process.

Obviously the other posts of you guys, especially CDR are way more helpful technically-wise.
Yes, it seems some missed the way you started your first paragraph - that what you were about to describe was "a very bad idea." I got it, but you might have been a little more forceful - it's a bad idea in ANY group, not just pelotons.
Cornering on a descent is my bęte noire, so I appreciate the way you were describing the mistaken and unhelpful thought processes that lead to poor form, which is important to understand if we want to eliminate it - so we can attack the bad idea from all angles, so to speak. Sometimes we forget how easy it is to just "go with the flow."
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Old 03-10-15, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
If the guy in front knows what he's doing, follow his line
What if he doesn't?

I love this place.

BTW...I coached racers for a while and told them all the same thing. If you are racing, ride the course. Take different lines into corners because when there are other riders there, you can't change your line. If you have never ridden that line, which may not be the most comfortable preferred line, most likely you will panic, get on the binders and destroy a lot of equipment from folks who are mostly paying for their stuff out of their pockets.

It's not that complicated.

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