How well you descend or handle a corner at high speeds has a lot to do with your comfort level and bike-handling skills. While this takes time to improve, there are a few techniques you can use to make your cornering smooth and safe.
Use these five tips to improve your cornering confidence in tight turns and on long descents.
1. Brake before the turn. On long descents where there are a lot of switchbacks to navigate, this can be difficult. If it's possible, try to complete all of your braking before you enter the turn. It will keep your overall speed higher and make handling the bike through the apex of the corner easier. If you can't avoid braking through the turn, you'll need to slow down to a safe speed.
2. Keep your hands in the drops. By keeping your hands in the drops (or the curved part of the handlebars), you lower your center of gravity, which makes it easier to steer and balance. It also puts your hands in a better position to get more leverage on the brake levers if you make a mistake.
3. Keep the outside leg straight. As you ride into a turn, your body will naturally lean toward the apex of the corner. To avoid scraping the pedals on the pavement, keep the knee bent on the side of the bike that's leaning into the turn. The outside leg should be straight, where you'll have more clearance to the road.
4. Choose the right tire pressure. You might be able to get away with under or over inflating your tires at moderate speeds. How much air you have in your tires is crucial in wet conditions and when navigating corners. If you inflate to 110 psi or more, the traction of your tires will decrease. If you inflate below 90 psi, your tire will feel spongy and unresponsive. Inflate your tires between 90 and 100 psi for optimal performance on long descents.
5. Aim for the apex. The fastest line through a corner is the apex, or the highest, tightest point of the turn. Enter the turn wide so that your line to the apex is straighter. Exit away from the apex wide too, smoothing out the corner to make your line as smooth as possible.
*One note of caution: Please obey all traffic regulations when cornering. Going into the opposite lane of traffic to hug the apex of a turn is dangerous and can result in serious injury. Most race courses also prohibit this technique unless the road is closed to traffic.
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