by Fred Matheny
The next time you take a corner at speed, think about where you’re looking.
Many bicycle riders stare directly in front of their wheel, looking for debris, cracks or potholes. As a result, they take a poor line or they don’t notice even more dangerous obstacles farther ahead.
The solution is to “sweep” the whole corner with your eyes before you enter. Just before you begin the turn, look through it to visualize the correct line.
If it’s a right-hander, you’ll want to enter the corner wide from the left of your lane, then cut nearly straight across the apex of the turn. This will put you close to the curb or road edge. Drift wide again to maintain speed as you exit the turn, putting you near the lane’s left side (traffic allowing, of course).
The trick is to visualize this line just before you begin to lean the bike. Spot anything in the way so you can make adjustments smoothly without risking control.
Remember, the bike goes where you look. Focus on the best line all the way through the turn and that’s the path your wheels will take.
This is what we taught for mountain biking 30 years go, the phrase was “look where you want to go, NOT where you don’t want to go. I still teach this to newbies today….and it works! Mountain biking really improves your road cycling skills. I rode MTB exclusively for my first 10 years and my transition to road cycling was flawless, and I’ve not had a single serious fall or crash on the road bike. I believe in learning the basic skills first, like how to shift properly(ease up on pedaling during the shift), pick a correct line, clipping in without looking at your feet, reaching for a water bottle while keeping your eyes on the road etc etc etc. With the advent of all this suspension on mountain bikes today riders just plow over everything instead of picking a smooth line around obstacles. Back in the day we had to pick a smooth line as all mountain bikes were rigid. I believe learning on a rigid bike greatly improves your MTB and road handing skills. But I’m a dinosaur from a whole other era.
Larry Best says
Using your eyes to look ahead is an “OK” idea, but IMO there’s a better one. A more effective method for cornering is to turn your head, not just your eyes. If you’re just using your eyes the temptation to “cheat” and look down or straight ahead is too great. I stressed this when I was teaching bike handling to club members. I told riders when cornering never look where you’re going, always look where you want to go. Turning your head in the direction of the turn greatly reduces target fixation. I taught riders to make a “U” turn between the lines of a parking space. You have to turn your head all the way around, or as far as you can & look directly behind you. At the end of the class even novice riders could do this. I know people who are very strong, experienced riders who have been riding for decades who can’t make a U turn on a narrow country road without putting a foot down. You must turn your head to be able to do this.
Another important thing when cornering, especially at higher speeds Is to make sure your outside pedal is in the six o’clock position. Put all your weight on that pedal. Try to break if off. So, four things I always stressed in my classes, 1. Turn your head 2. Don’t look where you’re going. Always look where you want to go. 3. Put all your weight on the outside pedal 4. Do all your braking before you get to the turn.
In addition, just like riding a motorcycle you use counter steering when going through corners, especially if you find yourself going to fast and wide through the corner. Turn your bike in the opposite direction of the corner, seems counter intuitive but due to the gyroscopic action of the front wheel this forces your bike into the direction of the corner. If you are going into a left hand corner, use your right hand to push your handlebar away from you. And, as above, you go where you look. This is why police officers are hit by highway drivers because they take their eyes off the road and look at the officer and that causes them to go in that direction.
Larry Best says
Exactly! Two wheeled vehicloes cannot turn without leaning, and counter steering is the fastest way to get them to lean in the direction you want. Remember…push right to go right, push left to go left.
Richard Stum says
It seems like I saw a reference in Bicycle Magazine about when cornering you should keep the bike at an angle but your body should be slightly more upright, to keep the weight over the wheels more. But I can’t find that article again. Any comments on that?
Road Bike Rider says
Here’s an article about countersteering and technique: