Road Bike Skills 101: Cornering Tips
Becoming more confident at cornering on a road bike is an important step to being safe and smooth while navigating traffic and riding with groups, and increasing your cornering skills will help you ride a little faster too!
Perhaps the most important part of proper cornering is body position. Without appropriate body position through a corner, a rider will have a hard time maintaining traction and holding a line. Here are the key body position points to think about as you make your way through each corner:
- Ride in the drops. Riding in the drops gives you more traction and control on the bike by lowering your center of gravity and putting pressure on the front wheel – not to mention, you’ll be fast and aerodynamic!
- Lean the bike by balancing your body. As you lean the bike into a corner, it is important to straighten the outside leg while putting pressure into the outside pedal. The outside leg is strong and active. At the same time, your inside hand should be putting pressure on the handlebars. This creates a counter balance and keeps your tires firmly in contact with the road while executing a corner.
- Look through the corner to the exit. Looking where you want to go seems simple, but it is harder than you think. It is all too easy to stare at the center line that you don’t want to go over instead of focusing on the path you want to take. Along with looking where you want to go, pointing your inside, bent knee through to the exit can help you execute the corner.
When riding through a corner, a general rule of thumb is approach wide, lean inside to the apex and finish wide. This effectively creates a straight line through the corner and is the most efficient and fastest way through.
However, there are a couple key things you want to think about when approaching a corner to determine the line you want to take. Here are a few:
- Is there oncoming traffic? Never cross the center line and risk coming head-on with traffic coming up the other side of the road.
- Are you riding in a group? When riding in a group, be very careful to hold your line and not move into another rider’s space.
- Is the road wet? In wet conditions, your speed and line choice may be affected.
- Are there any obstacles in the corner? When coming around tight switchbacks, in particular, looking ahead to see if you need to adjust your line to avoid pot holes, road debris, etc. is key.
- Where is the apex? The apex is not always in the center of the corner. The center point of a corner depends on how tight the corner is and the slope of the road. Learning to read the road to determine the apex of the corner comes with practice and experience.
Braking and Speed
Your main goal through a corner is to exit faster than you entered. That requires braking control and gear selection when entering a corner and commitment on the exit.
On the approach, before you stop pedaling, shift into an easier gear so you are prepared to accelerate out of the corner. When entering a corner, start braking while you are still traveling in a straight line and aim to slow down to an appropriate speed before you start leaning your bike in the center of the turn.
Let go of the brakes slowly through the turn to maintain traction and control of the bike. Appropriate line selection is key to being able to let off the brakes and accelerate out.