5 Movement Tips to Help Your Cornering Technique

Oct 16, 2013
by James Wilson  
Out of all the trail skills I work with riders on Cornering remains one of the hardest to pick up. The funny thing is, it isn’t because of a lack of “knowing” what to do since there are a lot of great videos, books and camps that can teach you the technique behind it.

However, despite all of this great information explaining “how to” corner a lot of riders still struggle with applying it consistently on the trail. The reason for this is simple –

Instead of focusing on the techniques behind cornering, they need to focus on the movements behind the techniques.

A lot of times it isn’t a technique issue that is holding riders back as much as it is a movement issue. If you can’t get your hips to move like you need them to then no amount of “knowledge” can help you..

I know this because I was one of those riders. Despite knowing what to do from a technique standpoint my real breakthrough with cornering happened when I started focusing on 5 movement skills to help stay balanced and better able to execute my technique.

I've found these things have really helped my clients as well and I wanted to share them with you as well...

1) Get your seat down and use a mid-foot position on your pedals. Cornering is all about getting your hips moving around the bike and if your seat is in the way it can be a lot tougher to do. In fact, if you try to learn with your seat up you’ll most likely pick up bad habits.

Also, you’ll need to be able to drop your heels so you can weight the outside foot and “carve” the corner which requires a more mid-foot position on the pedals. I recommend flat pedals since they naturally put you in this position but if you run clipless then make sure you don’t have the cleat set under the ball of the foot as this will throw your weight too far forward and make it harder to use your as hips effectively.

2) Be able to ride switch-foot so you can enter a corner with the outside leg to the back. This will let you drop your heel and carve the corner better by giving you a better platform to laterally hinge the hips from. Even though you can get away with either foot being forward entering a corner - and there are times you want to keep you dominate foot forward in fast paced DH sections - you will be better able to execute your technique if you can get your outside foot back. I've also found that most of the time riders who argue this point can't ride switch foot in the first place and are looking for reasons to not have to learn how but that is another subject for another article.

3) Set your hips before entering a corner by weighting the outside foot. If you enter a corner balanced it is too late, you’re going to be playing catch-up with your balance points through the corner. By shifting your weight and entering the corner with you hips set and ready to shift you can set your edge faster and more easily dictate the balance points.

4) Use counter-pressure to lean the bike over and your vision to pull you through the corner. When entering a corner you want to lean the bike over by pushing with the inside arm and look through the corner to make sure you ride smoothly through it. Counter-pressure is critical to maintaining good traction and since you go where you look your vision is your ultimate guide.

5) When all else fails focus on shifting the hips laterally and not squatting down or leaning over with the shoulders. When you are doing it right you’ll feel your ribs laying down one by one on top of your inside thigh.

Your hips are the driving force behind cornering. When they are moving well then you will corner well, if you’re not cornering well then odds are they are not moving well. Focus on improving how you use them to stay balanced in corners and all the other parts of the technique will come much easier.

And, in case you're more of a visual learner, here is a video of me going over these things...

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The take home message is that unless you can move your hips laterally like I show in that video you'll struggle to apply good cornering technique, which is why you need to use targeted strength and mobility training to improve that movement. Once you can do it better off the bike you'll be able to do it much better on the bike.

And in case you missed it, here is a previous article and video I posted going over good cornering technique and a drill to help you dial it in. Apply the movement tips in this post to the technique advice and drill in that post and you'll be well on your way to shredding corners like never before.

Hope you've enjoyed this tip, if you liked it please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word.

Until next time...

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems



MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com for more training and riding tips like this and to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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69 Comments

  • + 60
 this is good stuff, is there one to improve jumping?, neg prop me all you want
  • + 11
 Same, these are good, no one really teaches you how to ride its all feel, so its cool to have some technique to learn
  • + 6
 fabien barel has a video series that will tell you all of the basics to riding jumping, braking in corners, etc. does anyone know what im talking about and have a link?
  • + 7
 Here's the link to that Fabien Barel video:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJ3AfSPgj8
  • + 9
 The hips don't lie.
  • + 1
 Honestly, from my experience, the better you are at cornering, the better youll be at jumping. I had a serious dominant foot issue that really affected my right turns (right foot dominant, right foot fwd). And adversely, sometimes created an uneven pedal drift in the air on my jumps. Once I got my balance sorted out with my dominant foot on left "and" right turns, the jumping followed suit. Even pedals/weight distribution off the lip and jumps became much more effortless.
  • + 47
 If all else fails....stick a foot out and skid.
  • + 13
 Manning up and actually committing works pretty damn good too...
  • + 2
 Nahh man, nahhh
  • + 22
 This is the first time I have heard inside foot forward. To me having the outside foot forward means your hips are automatically starting to turn into the corner. Plus you can use the inside leg in the back position to flick the rear end into a bit of a drift. I am sure there must be something in what you are saying but I don't get it. I ride right foot forward and I am better at turning left.
  • + 3
 Likewise with the opposite thought, but will be interesting to try.

On loose stuff off camber it's definitely best to get that outside foot stomped right down. Check out these guys who know how it's done.

www.pinkbike.com/news/Rain-Man-DH-World-Cup-5-Finals-Norway.html
  • + 5
 I think it's all about weight transfer while cornering. The process of carving a turn is unload-load-unload, where you transfer your weight forwards into the turn to give your tyres maximum traction and apex as tightly as possible. If you do this when your front foot is to the outside, you're shifting your weight in the direction your bike doesn't want to go – the opposite direction to the turn, and you can't turn as fast or as tightly.

I dunno if I explained that well; if anyone has a copy of F1RST to hand, watch Blenkinsopp's segment. At one point he murders a flat turn, busting such a colossal drift, that he exits with his pedals in the position that you're told you should never corner (inside foot down). It's because to turn so hard and fast, he transferred all his weight forwards and into the turn. I don't think it would have been possible to do that leading with the outside foot.
  • + 1
 The physics with what lochussie said seems right. And watching the pro's has not helped because I can't find a set pattern on how they take corners. Will more people care to elaborate?
  • + 2
 I should make it clear that I like these articles and was hoping for some further explanation rather than looking to be negative. One other thing I've found is that it seems better to corner with your feet in their natural position than be worrying about whether you should be putting in a half or quarter turn before each corner. To the guys who say that they ride on instinct alone, unless you are already a WC rider then some thought to technique will make a big difference.
  • + 1
 I find that if I ride with my outside foot back, I struggle to put my hips/body in the right direction. Maybe if I swapped my knees for universal joints it would work. To me having my outside foot forwards, is the reason that I corner better turning left than right. I'm considering teaching myself to have my left foot forwards when turning right but haven't tried it out yet.
  • + 2
 I'm with lochussie. I ride right foot forward, and I turn left better. I hip left, 360 left, carve bowls left and turn left on a dh course better. I have always assumed this is because with my right foot forward my hips are naturally turned slightly left. Also have given some thought to it being easier to push through a corner with my legs, while maintaining equal pressure through the cranks, if my outside foot is forward. With the inside foot forward when you push through far too much weight is placed on the inside foot, which is now also very close to your inside hand, which leads to a lack of balance and stability, made worse by the fact that my hips are turned slightly out of the corner. I have tried riding switch footed while turning right to see what affect it has. I found it actually quite useful in very tight corners, and have begun to naturally switch occasionally, but still feel more comfortable right foot forward on open high speed corners. Just my two cents really. my riding style definately has room for improvement, but I figured I'd comment as this is something i have given much thought to in the past. It seems quite a few people feel the same as me.
  • + 3
 @locoola That article only has photos of flat corners, not one single berm. This inside foot forward is for berms. The outside foot down on flat corners help to put weight on the outside, which keeps the bike balanced and gives a lot more traction to the edge of the tyre.
  • + 7
 "in case you're more of a visual learner, here is a video of me" talking to you! . How is that helping a visual learner? get on a bike and show it!!
  • + 3
 I'm an outside pedal down guy, 12 o'clock on the inside, 6 o'clock on the outside. Hips open to the direction of the turn. As I come out of the corner I'm on the gas right away. I use this clipped in on my xc bike, platforms on the AM bike, or on my road bike. Centers your weight pretty evenly and allows you to press hard into the turn. I think he's nailed it with the hips as being the most important, but I think his foot position is off.
  • + 3
 Yeeeeeah the tip about cornering with the inside foot forward is.....completely wrong. Do not do this. Just think about it - doing so basically turns your body in the opposite direction from which you're turning. Outside foot forward, people.
  • - 1
 Do you not think that having the outside foot back and heels dipped will naturaly transfer more wait to outside through the corner? In a similiar if not as effective way to having the outside foot down allowing more traction in carving the corner.
  • + 3
 Not quite sure what you mean. I don't know why you'd want to transfer weight to the outside in a corner. Doing so would reduce your lean and make the bike corner wider. And taking your outside foot off in a corner would not work out well. Taking your inside foot off is one thing – primarily if you're in loose conditions and want a safety catch in case you slide out a bit – but taking off your outside foot would drop your inside pedal and likely make it strike the ground.

Like the article touches on, so much of cornering is making the bike follow your body. Pointing your eyes, head, shoulders, and hips to the direction you want to go will naturally take the bike there. Cornering with your inside foot fowards makes your hips point in the wrong direction.
  • + 1
 I take your point on the body positioning, but to clarify when i said outside foot down i meant at the 6 o'clock position still connected to the pedal (with the inside foot at the 12 o'clock) and not off the pedals
  • + 2
 For me cornering is pretty doable. The real problem I have is jumping. I have a serious problem with commiting to jump a gap. Table tops, whoops- no big deal. But I always struggle to hit a gap. It is definitely in my mind. How can I fight that?
  • + 2
 Start with small gaps and build confidence from there. Gaps used to freak me out too, until I found some small ones to start on. I've also found that you can usually case your back wheel on a small gap with minimal consequences, especially with rear sus. This helped my confidence too.
  • + 1
 Ya, it's a mind game. The only trick i have is to focus on fisting the handlebars the whole way into the jump (no fingers on the brake levers).
  • + 1
 theres not really any technique for growing bigger cohones, just start on smaller stuff like johnkoz said. then just have some confidence in yourself &, f*!kin send it!!
  • + 2
 Cheers James. Thanks for the video updates. Its good to have the technique broke down and have these visualization reminders to apply on the trail. As you mention its easier to fall back to a drill technique when things aren't quite working out. Good work.
  • + 2
 If you find yourself thinking about techniques before a corner, you're going to have a "bad cornering day". I'm also thinking that your riding style, and the discipline you're doing will change the way you corner. Cornering on a XC bike vs. a Park bike will be drastically different.
  • + 2
 A very good point. I wonder what sort of cornering he is talking about. Based on the "drop your seat" section, im gonna assume he is talking about xc. In which case talking about cornering technique is about as useful as talking about cornering technique while hiking...
  • + 1
 ive had it pointed out to me that this looks like a cuss to xc riders. I totally see that now, but didnt mean it like that. i like xc, but meant more, just like having your seat really high, xc riders and bike tend to favour pedalling efficiancy over cornering. its not often an xc race is won through cornering, more usually through lung inverting pedalling effort and sheer bloody mindedness.
  • + 6
 I thought you used the handlebars to turn .
  • + 1
 While out on my ride yesterday I noticed that I had my right foot forward through a right hand turn. It actually felt better than my left hand turn, I had more control and felt like I was faster. I'm not great at switch-foot riding though so it's right foot forward for left turns as well.Looking at some books like Lee McCormack's Mastering Mountain Biking, everyone has their inside foot forward. Can't be a coincidence. One thing to consider is, if you need to get your foot out for a hard turn, where is it going to go, behind you? No, out in front. If that is the case, where do you want it to come from? Furthest point back, or off the front of the pedal cycle, so that you can get it down and then back on the pedal. Doesn't that make a little more sense?
  • + 1
 picture on the front cover of lee mccormacks mastering mountainbiking is brian lopes, arguably one of the most naturally talented riders in the world, cornering with his outside foot forward...
  • + 0
 I think there are a lot of similarities with riding to skiing.... Good skiers have their bodies upright with shoulders flatish to the slope whilst the lower body, from the hips angulates (this is what you do with the bike). This has the consequence of moving the inside ski forward (with the hips pointing slightly in the opposite direction to the turn). This would bring you inside foot forward on a mountain bike and work well in conjunction with pushing on the inside hand on the handle bar (counter steering often used in higher speed turns on motor bikes). Just my 2 cents worth from a CSIA level ski instructor...
www.esacademy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/9-1.jpg
  • + 1
 With your center of gravity infront of your feet, as on a bike when pushing hard through a turn, if you have your outside foot forward your feet and c.o.g. form a nice wide triangle. This gives you a stable platform to push your weight (cog) through, with fairly even pressure on both feet. With your inside foot forward, your feet and cog form an almost straight line. This does not form a stable platform to push your cog against. With your cog behind feet, as in cornering when skiing (or when something has scared you on the bike and it has become more a case of just trying to stay on than being in command of the bike) the whole arrangement is reversed. Now your inside foot needs to be forward to allow your cog and feet form a nice stable triangular platform to push against, while having the outside foot forward now draws a fairly straight line between feet and cog. Any sport, anywhere, your contact points and cog want to form as stable a platform as poss. When you then add handlebars into the equasion (or more to the point, that all important inside hand) the whole straight line v triangle thing becomes even more apparent. Sorry if this is not worded very well, but i have literally just woken up.
  • + 1
 Good to hear about counter steering / pushing the bars down in direction of travel. I'm still learning this... Made a massive difference thus far... Takes time to learn mind...
  • + 1
 A good way I think about cornering is always have your belly button over your bottom bracket. This helps keep your hips where they need to be.
  • + 2
 mountain biking is a sport that requires strange body contortions to enable you to hit that perfect line.
  • + 3
 Lean back drop yo hips... Ladies of PB hehe
  • + 1
 When you going around the berm do you want your body at a more upright angle than the bike is at, or do you want to be directly over the middle of the bike.
  • + 5
 "Lean the bike not your body."

-Fabien Barel
  • + 2
 So I should keep my body in a relatively upright position and move the bike under me?
  • + 2
 On berms, supported corners, I lean both the bike and my body. That way, I could also use my mass to compress and pump outta the corner.

On flat turns/off cambers though, I lean the bike more, with my body slightly upright.
  • + 2
 I think Twofoxes is talking about this video www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF5K9V2w6W8 And it is true that is what Fabien says but he is talking about flat turns. Flat turns you want to have as much of your weight on the tires to keep traction.
  • + 2
 I would also love some tips on how to properly take off of booters on Aline etc...
  • + 1
 Do you want to know 5 weird tips to to get a bigger than average... Air Time
  • + 0
 Also look at where you want to go not where you're going naturally you go to where you looking p.s. Sorry if he mentioned it i didnt watch the vid yet
  • + 1
 thats a really important thing- agreed... racing BMX helped me with that... i am looking out of the turn spotting the next jump or roller pretty much as soon as i enter the turn and my bike just carves the berm perfectly... now i ride like that on the trail too which has surprisingly been helpful for flat turns...
  • - 1
 He needs to do a podcast which you could take on a ride with you.... Come on James!!!
  • - 1
 If you want to improve your cornering buy a Yeti SB-66c.
  • - 2
 go ride your bike. that will help you corner.
  • + 3
 Rubbish, you have to break these things down to improve. I guarantee you every single world cup rider actually practiced their individual skills seperate from their trail rides.
  • + 4
 well it seems people spend more time on here talking about how to be a better rider than actually riding.
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