Video: More Movement Tips to Help Your Cornering

Jan 22, 2015 at 11:02
by James Wilson  

Views: 19,394    Faves: 118    Comments: 1

Something I’ve learned over the years of trying to become more proficient at cornering my mountain bike is that there is a big difference between just riding on top of your bike through a corner and being able to drive your bike into and pump out of the corner. I’ve seen riders who are able to literally gain speed coming out of a corner and you can see that a lot of this comes from how they use their hips to steer the bike.

What I’ve also learned is that it isn’t as simple as “point your belly button where you want to go”. While this advice isn’t untrue, it really isn’t descriptive enough, as there are a lot of different ways to turn your hips. Like I pointed out in this video, there is a specific way that we need to turn our hips on the bike and it focuses more on laterally moving the hips than just twisting them. While trying to refine this concept even further I’ve been working on using my rear leg’s internal and external hip rotation to help me steer my bike through corners. And what I’ve found is that this is one of the keys to efficient and, more importantly, aggressive cornering technique. When you start in a neutral attack position over your bike and internally rotate your trail leg it will drive your hips over to that side. When you externally rotate the trail leg it will drive your hips back over the center of the bike. And it is this lateral movement of the hips that allows you to drive your bike through the corner and to gain some speed by pumping out of it.

On a side note, this also underscores my point about the need to ride switchfoot and come into a corner with the inside leg forward. This leg position has the outside leg as the trail leg, which means you can drive your hips to the outside of the corner using internal hip rotation. Since you have more range of motion and strength in that direction it is easier to get your hips out to that side. While you can pull this movement off from the external rotation of the trail leg, it is harder to do and isn’t as efficient. Now that I understand this concept I also know exactly how exercises like the KB Windmill and the Stick Windmill apply to this movement. While exercises like this are tough for most riders, a lack of mobility and strength with them signals a problem with movement patterns you need to corner properly. Now, I know that all of this probably doesn’t make much sense at first so I shot this video to show you how this works in action. I’ll show you exactly how this internal and external rotation of the trail leg drives proper hip movement and how you can improve it with some targeted stretches and exercises.

So what does all of this “internal-external rotation” talk have to do with you? First, if you want to improve your cornering then your program should be working on this movement pattern, particularly as it applies to cornering our mountain bikes. Like I’ve said before, if your program isn’t addressing everything you need on the trail – including the movement patterns you need to improve your skills – then it really isn’t a mountain biking program. Second, focus on applying this when you ride your bike. You have to have rides or specific times during rides when you are focusing on applying specific skills to the trail and this is a good one to start using. Use the exercises I talked about to get a feeling for the movement and then apply that feeling to the bike. Like you, I’m always looking for ways to help me ride with more speed, endurance and confidence on the trail and I’m always excited to share new things that I’ve found have helped me. Hopefully this movement tip will help you unlock some things that will help you improve your cornering.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


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 to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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76 Comments

  • + 33
 Love these types of videos.
  • + 6
 Need Aggy Cornering 101.
  • + 12
 Two things James. I took this advice of yours deep to my heart a long time ago, trying to switch my forward foot from left to right during rides. Even trying to consciously switch them depending on the direction of the corner BUT that made me notice two things.

If for instance I ride with left foot forward (as I usually do) and approach a left turn, it is easier for me to drop the weight to the outside pedal to either rail a corner with lowered COM, or dynamically apply pressure to increase grip. I put weight on the outside foot in midst of corner and it goes down undisturbed by drivetrain as it is done by backpedalling. No taking the right turn with left foot forward, in favor of theory yu just presented allows for better stance in the corner with LEVELED pedals, it allows for better pumping the corner BUT makes it much harder to drop the pedal to rail a corner. So quite honestly - it's a game of win and lose.

Now the second thing: theoretically blatant, banal comment - I watched videos to see DH pros are doing, I closely watched replays from World Cups, focusing on Greg Minnaar, Sam Hill and Josh Bryceland and Aaron Gwin. In absolutely vast majority of cases, they ride with their "favorite foot" forward regardless of the turn direction, even the rubber man Bryceland, even flat pedal Hill.

So... good insight but it just depends...
  • + 3
 I think he states "inside leg forward" so for a right turn that would be your right foot forward, so with you usually riding left foot forward you would want to ride switch into the right corner (theoretically). I personally think there are a lot of others things you need to do right before this is a major issue (looking, leaning bike not body, etc). see: betterride.net/blog/2014/how-foot-placement-affects-mountain-bike-handling-and-cornering-part-3
  • + 3
 I agree with you entirely WAKI, I almost compare it to your skateboard stance. I ride goofy on my snowboard and on my bike I'm left foot in back and right foot in front almost always. Would be interesting to do a survey or something
  • + 2
 it makes sense for pedallig purposes too , your front leg will have the most imediate drive wheather you run clips or not you front foot always puts more power into the stroke . make sense right ? my turner likes to pop ut of corners nicely and really squishes the whole biker into them , which ended up making me realize the hip movement alot more than beforehand . i tend to start moving my hips before the corer the opposite direction , throwing them in as hard as i can . "you see this alot on steep switch backy style corners alot ... everyone has their own style of riding and all so my way isnt right , but im a pretty aggressive rider for my age , "broken two frames before i was 15" @rogue28 i too feel the same way , though i am regs riding switch is a cake walk and could do it about anywhere , taking a corner riding right foot forward on the other hand , youll be lucky if i lean my bike at all , mostly i am just scared for my life at this unatural feeling ...
  • + 5
 I switch legs often when I ride on pump track. I guess it is the best place to see which foot forward does what. I FEEL I can generate more pump out of a berm when I have outside foot forward. ANother great exercise for this is riding down a slope and trying to almost let go of bars, open your palms and steer bike only with hips, wit ha bit of practice you'll notcie than you can turn very well and even pump stuff
  • + 0
 There is also one more thing that very likely is contributing to the decision of which foot to use forward. When you turn (i.e.) left with tour left foot froward you can pump harder into the turn; the same turn with the left foot at the back will create more pressure on pushing the wheel out of turn (i.e. drift, roost, etc.). It does make that little difference too.


I tend to change the foot forward accordingly at most times however I am always finding myself 'liking' it better with my front foot to the front.

Just my 2 pennies...
  • + 0
 Everyone rides (or should ride) favorite foot forward most of the time. Cornering is outside foot back, down, or somewhere in between. Once you are out of the corner, go back to fav foot forward.
  • + 1
 Pros and cons both ways work, level or inside up
  • + 1
 Riding a fixed gear on single track combined with skiing brought me to where I had always wanted to be cornering. No handed wheel lifts and no handed slaloms on my fixed gear was a fun way to strengthen hips on my commute as well. I also noticed a huge difference after riding on lots of ice for a few years. you slide all over- but when the hips/core are strong the bike stays under you unbelievably well.
  • + 1
 I think it's mostly important to do the hip movement and focus on keeping your body upright in flat corners, bermed corners are different. Basically keeping your body horizontal to the terrain your tires are rolling over.
I will try to adopt his inside leg forward approach but I like to ride outside leg forward giving me the ability to really drive the weight in by cranking a 1/4 turn and having my outside leg down and gaining a little bit of speed and grip at the same time.
As far as the goofy foot comment, I'm the same way with skateboarding, snow boarding etc but my Dad had me start on the starting gate at the Bmx track left foot forward and I can't shake that anymore but I mainly ride right foot forward except out of a gate.
  • + 15
 Can we get a video of the technique actually being applied while riding?
  • + 4
 Seriously! I watched for 1:30 and couldn't take it anymore!
  • + 5
 Here ya go. Video of said principals

www.pinkbike.com/video/265915
  • + 2
 Great vid. Thanks, Twofoxes!
  • + 1
 Not saying this sucks or anything, and I appreciate the info, but I've always felt the best way to get better at cornering, is to practice, wait for it... cornering. Likewise, the best way to improve your snowboarding or climbing or surfing, is to go do them, often. Rehabbing and PT surely have their place, as does strength training, but it's my belief that practice and "muscle memory" make the biggest improvements where technique is concerned.
  • + 1
 I agree. Though, it is good to have the technique in mind when you're out there establishing muscle memory.
  • + 1
 @kingsx... You can practice the wrong way all day and it won't make you a better rider; you'll have muscle memory trained to do the wrong thing. And only watching a video is not going to improve your riding either. You have to know the proper techniques so you can go out and try to apply them.
  • + 1
 Agree, fully. Perhaps I wasn't clear before. Makes no sense practicing anything the wrong way
  • + 10
 More of this please. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or pro we can all improve our riding skills.
  • + 3
 More! More! More!
- High Bunny hops
- Jumping/Dropping
- Wheelies
  • + 5
 Funny, I like to do things the other way: I feel like the turn is coming from my inside leg, as if I'm consciously weighting it, and through it, the cornering knobs of the rear tire. Approaching a corner, I'll get light, then load the suspension as I enter, then as I lean the bike, I'm driving that force through that inside leg.

Regardless, enjoy these articles, I always find bio-mechanics fascinating.
  • + 3
 I find the same, especially if trying to proper shralp a turn. A bit like a whip and pushing away from yourself.
  • + 3
 I've never whipped, cause I'm a hack, & better at technical descending than air, but it does feel similar to how I imagine a whip to feel.

Also, i think it has to do with me trying to be conscious of "lean the bike, not your body!" as much as possible.
  • + 2
 I agree. I feel as though my inside leg is really where all the control of the rear wheel comes from, and to use that control the inside leg needs to be trailing. Having my outside leg trailing feels wrong for so many reasons. It cant exert any force on the rear tyre, and the inside foot being forward exacerbates the same issue. I really have tried this technique and it feels like it just leaves my rear wheel trailing out behind me with no control.

This outside leg trailing technique sounds more like good skiing technique to me, but i think there is a fundamental difference between skiing and mtb. This is that when cornering on skis the center of gravity is usually behind your feet, driving your skis into the corner. When I am cornering at speed on a mtb, my center of gravity is usually mid point between my wheels, meaning it is slightly in front of my bb/feet. Because the c.o.g/feet orientation is switched, I feel I need to switch the front foot/back foot orientation too.

When cornering while hard on the brakes (for example on extremely steep tracks) my c.o.g is usually pushed further back, behind the bb and my body ends up in more of a skiing pose. In this instance I find I instinctively switch my leading/trailing foot, to the technique described by james here.

This is only my opinion, but it feels to me, (for my body/riding style at least) that I corner much better with my outside foot in front, unless I am hard on the brakes.
  • + 1
 No when skiing your weight should normally be in the middle to the front of your feet just like mtb. I agree that the turn comes more from the inside leg and specifically actions of the inside foot. In both sports you can add tension to the outside leg to delay the turn but ultimately you can just relax the outside leg and it will match the actions of the inside leg. The more I bike the more I realize, oh this is just like how you do it on skis! and the more I ski the more I realize, oh this is just like how you do it on a bike!
  • + 1
 well, arguably central or just behind in the first, for mild corner. way back in second pic for hard corner.
  • + 1
 I think we'll just have to agree to disagree:
a href="http://imgur.com/0DgWud2,4inrBHc#1">weight centered to forward in middle of turn/a>

a href="http://imgur.com/0DgWud2,4inrBHc#0">weight behind feet in middle of turn/a>
  • + 1
 In both of those pics you linked to the skiiers center of mas appears to be behind their feet. If you removed their skis and just stood them in that position both would fall on their arses, not their faces. If you took a mtb rider and removed the bike, they would fall face first. Anyway this is all getting slightly off topic. Simply put I think the advice given in this video is wrong.
  • + 4
 Two things to keep in mind. First, I said in the video that you can do this technique and corner properly with either foot forward, it is just easier to learn how to shift your hips when you can ride switchfoot. You'll always have a foot you prefer to have forward and that's teh foot you'll have forward when pushing at 100% but you should be able to ride switchfoot since it can help facilitate this technique.

Second, if there was nothing to this whole switchfoot thing then why can I predict with almost 100% accuracy which way a rider has trouble cornering by which foot they favor riding forward with? If you prefer riding with your right foot forward then you probably have trouble cornering to the left, if you prefer your left foot forward then you probably have trouble cornering to the right. Obviously there is something in the foot position that biases you towards being able to corner one way or the other or else you wouldn't see this.

And there are a lot of other reasons to learn to ride switchfoot, this is just one based on my experience and what I know about how the human body moves and how we can apply that movement to the bike.
  • + 4
 It doesn't matter what foot is your lead foot if you just drop the outside pedal. The technique section with Richard Kelly in IMB is my personal favourite for riding knowledge. He explains everything from a very fundamental, ground up approach, always building on a previous lesson. These exercises seem pretty good though, I will definitely add them to my training plan. That reminds me... I need to make a training plan!
  • + 7
 It's all in the hips happy!
  • + 2
 are you a hips-ter?
  • + 5
 If you square your hips to the corner, then is it hip to be square?
  • + 3
 Just easin the tension baby, Just easin the tension!
  • + 3
 Go ease it on somebody else!
  • + 0
 you eat pieces of shit for breakfast?
  • + 1
 .......NO!
  • + 3
 Anybody - I'd like to understand why I seem to see him demonstrating the 2 windmill exercises with his outside foot forward after he has told us to put the outside foot back? or am I just interpreting it wrong?
  • + 2
 cos he'd be less stable and balanced if he did it with his feet the other way. Which perhaps highlights a flaw in the technique he is trying to promote.....
  • + 5
 A french traduction please !!
  • + 1
 One thing that has helped me immensely is olympic lifts and stretching. Build explosive power and strength from movements like the clean, as well as the hip mobility he talked about that will allow you to apply that strength to movements on the trail.
  • + 1
 I really enjoy these vids and think there's a lot of value to them, but I think it over complicates things slightly and makes riders maybe think about the wrong things. The best MTB coach I went to is a bloke in England who goes by Jedi on a number of proper forums. His USP as it were is that he has a way of telling people to do stuff by focusing on one or two things that sort of generates these movements, these optimal positions etc He doesn't do this bellybutton thing - he sets you up through a corner one step at a time until you get each thing right so you know how quick feels - if what you're doing is helping or not. That way, you don't get silly focused on thing or another, you drop a pedal to a greater or lesser degree and you get you looking right and you tweak one thing at a time until you can feel it yourself. I think a lot of these systems focus too much on 'if you do x you will be quicker and y is wrong' instead of work on this aspect and ride a corner thirty times and then change this and feel what that does and so on and so forth. Eventually you know why you're slow or what you're doing wrong. Doesn't mean you can easily fix it, but you know that you're relying on pedal drop too much instead of body positioning or that you're tired and not looking in the right place. With stuff like this I think it's easier to feel it rather than seeing a lecture - for practical purposes anyway. That aside, I found it really interesting and I do enjoy these viids.
  • + 1
 I'll give it a try. I have practiced pumping a turn, like pumping a roller except at an angle and it works great. One thing to note he should have mentioned is the back foot is often the outside "down" foot ( not down on the ground, but crank arm down).
  • + 4
 James has been helping me through his programs to become a better rider. Thank you James!
  • + 1
 Great video. I suddenly realize my hip joint problems are probably holding me back when I am riding and am going to try James's training programs. Watch Fabien Barel corner and you will see the technique in action.
  • + 3
 I just watched a few vids of Barel. Funnily enough he seemed to have his outside foot forward about 90% of the time.

So I watched some Sam Hill vids, cos he is the undisputed Lord of all corners. He just rides left foot forward, no matter what.

So I watched some Gee Atherton, thinking his riding is more calculated. More scientific, less wild. He seems to ride right foot forward no matter what.

Cant really find anyone using the "always have your inside foot back" technique
  • + 1
 oops, I mean "outside foot back"
Doh
  • + 2
 normaly you only do that on turns without support, like on ftat ground, or off camber, if you have a berm you don't need
  • + 1
 Oh no...
So many riders are outside/dominate-foot forward. That is by far the most proven technique.
Trying to switch foot-forward every turn is a huge mistake. Learn your dominate-stance and embrace it. MTB Strength is just a novice rider giving his opinions as fact to riders who soak it in and digress. Maybe it works in a long, smooth turn with no obstacles; however, we don't ride in parking lots and riders need to be ready to hit a drop/jump/rock.
  • + 1
 KBs are my most utilised piece of gym kit. I do loads of windmills, Turkish get ups, snatches, swings, SL deadlifts. Unbelievably versatile for strength, mobility and metabolic conditioning.
  • - 1
 occasionally this guy posts some really helpful videos, i don't think this is one of them because:
Most of the time when you corner you actually drop the outside pedal down, i.e. cranks aren't level, so why you need to learn to ride with the other foot forward is beyond me.
Slow static exercises won't help fast dynamic movements.
If you can't already twist your hips, i would be very surprised.
IMO much better going out and railing some corners or a pump track to help your cornering rather than wasting time with a stick.

Although this makes a nice change from the 'core stability' theory that is constantly force fed to us, not convinced by any of this core stability theory until the evidence supports it no matter how many personal trainers try to sell it as essential exercise.
  • + 0
 Nah, ideally, I don't think the outside pedal should be down, at least not fully. Sure, I think you should be transferring weight through your outside leg through a corner, but your pedals should be as level as possible so if you start to lose traction you've got a little bit more traction to call on by moving your pedal closer to the down position.
  • + 1
 LoLs & rolls head
  • + 1
 I tried it today it really helps cornering and making it easier. thing is it is way to easy to over turn and possibly washout the front wheel
  • + 2
 These are fantastic James. Thank you!
  • + 3
 Blah, blah, blah.....
  • + 2
 I would have love to see some "on bike" examples. Great stuff! Thanks.
  • + 2
 Am i the only one who thought this was totally bizarre?
  • + 4
 Not necessarily. It depends on how you've been coached... or not. These cornering techniques are pretty widely disseminated, but not universally understood. If you look at the bikejames.com website, you'll see that his philosophy is that to be a fit and healthy rider you need to be a fit and healthy human, and his regimens are geared towards that. Hip flexibility is important to LIFE and so it is with biking.

I flirted with the outside foot back in all corners many years ago when steerer angles were steeper and my size 12 feet kept hitting the front tire, but found that by constantly swapping my stance I increased the likelihood of hitting a pedal in the technical terrain I ride. I've since gone to favorite foot forward (or back if you think of it that way) for all corners unless there is a clear advantage to switching my stance for a specific corner.
  • - 2
 Stretching and weight training is all good, but from my experience the fast guys never needed to be taught how to go fast. Watching buddy wiggle his hips back and forth was good for a laugh though.
  • + 2
 I didn't neg prop you. I think that what most of us take for innate ability is actually the result of both talent and coaching and determination. Some coaching might happen through kernels of truth learned from different sources over time, or from riding with 'fast' riders from an early age and having that visual image to go to school on. The roots of many fast riders are anchored in skills developed over time and with experience. If you watch video of good riders in tight sections of trail, you'll see the same hip movement James demonstrates. (segments of Ratboy and Cunningham in Finale Ligure (sp?) in the Seasons video are some excellent examples of this. There are tons of excellent examples all over.)
  • + 2
 Holy California accent...how embarrassing Smile
  • + 1
 Yea, but he lives in Grand Junction, Colorado so it can be forgiven.
  • + 1
 "Wow, look at all those kettleballs! You must REALLY know what you're talking about!"... aaaaaaand skip.
  • + 1
 Hmmmm... Strength and fitness coach for Aaron Gwin. Maybe he really does know what he's talking about.
  • + 1
 Did he teach Aaron Gwin how to ride a bike too? I don't doubt his knowledge of kinesthetics and fitness. Just his riding skills. I only want to see some demonstrations. not kettle balls. Then again, advice online is a dime a dozen. Don't know why I bother watching these videos anymore- you learn best by riding behind people faster than you.
  • + 2
 He explained it for 6 minutes, just show the exercise.....FFS
  • + 1
 @SANTACRUZ-SENDERS good read up, could really help ya
  • + 1
 holy fuck I am flexibility limited!!!
  • - 3
 So you're saying; point my hips into the direction of the turn, with my forward-foot on the inside???

No.

Go swing some weights around and leave biking tips to bikers. This isn't crossfit. There's a smooth technique. You don't just jerk from the waist then post opinions online....
  • + 0
 PS. If you want to go faster on a bike, go ride your bike more! Proven fact.
  • + 1
 You might want to check James Wilson's credentials before lambasting his input. He runs a company called MTB Strength Training Systems, and has been strength and conditioning coach for the likes of Aaron Gwin... (him, you've heard of?). While his discussion of the biomechanics of cornering may differ from how you and I actually ride, this doesn't mean that the biomechanics he espouses are without merit. I have a feeling that if some of us learned to ride as he suggests, we might find that we corner better in general.
I don't switch stances because I tend to experience pedal strike on trail obstacles when I try it. Practical application, riding in the woods where I live, versus optimal biomechanics. Either way, what James is stating is that in order to corner better, greater flexibility in the hips is advantageous, and then he gives us a couple of methods to use to improve that flexibility. I don't see what the hang up is about.
  • + 1
 Nice video. It explains some basic techniques and exersises.

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