7 Steps to Mastering the Art of Cornering on a Road Bike

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Ashley Brown

Cycling Techniques, Other

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Hello and welcome to the ultimate guide to the art of cornering on a road bike. Whether you’re an experienced pro rider or a beginner just starting out, there’s always room for improvement. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll dive deep into each of the 7 steps to mastering the art of taking corners, sharing expert tips, tricks, personal stories, and useful information that will have you taking turns like a pro in no time. So, strap on your helmet and let’s embark on this exciting journey to become a cornering maestro. But, be warned: there’ll be plenty of twists and turns along the way…

Choose the right line

Choosing the right line is essential for taking corners smoothly and maintaining speed. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the best approach:

  • As you approach the bend, position yourself on the outer edge of the road. This will give you a better view of the corner and allow for a wider arc as you enter the turn
  • Aim for the apex, the point where the inside edge of the corner is closest to the center of the road. This is where you’ll want to be at the tightest part of the curve
  • As you exit the corner, gradually move back towards the outer edge of the road, completing the wide arc

This technique, known as the “outside-inside-outside” approach, enables you to maintain speed and control throughout the turn while minimizing the risk of losing traction.

I remember when I first attempted to corner on my road bike, I had no idea about choosing the right line (or, indeed, about much else to do with riding on the road!) Instead of maintaining a smooth arc, I would often make sharp, sudden adjustments, leading to a bumpy and unstable ride. My friends would tease me, saying I looked like a lost driver trying to navigate a maze. Once I learned the outside-inside-outside approach (AKA taking the “racing line”) and practiced visualizing the ideal line, my cornering skills improved significantly, and I gained the confidence to tackle corners with ease.

Pro tip: Practice visualizing the ideal line on straight sections of road before attempting it on actual corners. This will help build your confidence and improve your ability to select the correct trajectory when cornering

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Maintain a proper body position

Your body position plays a significant role in your cornering success. Here’s how to position yourself for optimal control and balance:

  • Keep your body low and centered over the bike. Bend your elbows and lower your torso, positioning your chest closer to the handlebars. This lowers your center of gravity, making it easier to maintain balance through the turn
  • Weight your outside foot by pushing down on the pedal while keeping it in the 6 o’clock position. This helps to distribute your weight evenly across both tires, maximizing grip
  • Point your inside knee towards the corner, opening up your hips and allowing your body to naturally follow the curve

Remember that practice makes perfect, so dedicate time to work on your body position until it becomes second nature.

When I first started cycling, I used to really struggle with this aspect during cornering. I would keep my body stiff and upright, making it difficult to maintain balance and control. One of my experienced cycling buddies noticed my struggle and gave me some valuable tips on body positioning (actually, he told me I was an idiot before giving me the other advice!) After practicing and getting comfortable with the recommended position, I felt a world of difference in my cornering abilities.

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Look ahead

Looking ahead is crucial for anticipating turns and making adjustments. It’s like playing at an advanced level in chess, where you’re thinking two, three or more moves ahead. Here’s how to master this skill for road cycling:

  • As you approach a corner, scan the road further ahead, beyond the immediate curve. This allows you to anticipate any obstacles, changes in road conditions, or other factors that may affect your cornering
  • Keep your head up and your eyes level with the horizon. This helps to maintain balance and prevents you from becoming disoriented
  • Turn your head and shoulders in the direction you want to go, as this will naturally guide your bike through the corner

Early in my cycling journey, I had a habit of focusing on the ground right in front of my wheel, especially when cornering. This led to some close calls and a general lack of confidence on twisty roads. A fellow cyclist in a group ride recommended that I practice looking further ahead and turning my head and shoulders in the direction I wanted to go. It was a game-changer and my cornering became much smoother, and I felt more in control after taking their advice on board.

Pro tip: Practice looking ahead while riding on straight roads, focusing on distant points and maintaining awareness of your surroundings. This will help build the habit of looking further ahead when cornering

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Brake before the turn

Proper braking is key to maintaining control and avoiding accidents (critical etiquette for riding in a group). Here’s how to brake effectively before a corner:

  • As you approach the turn, begin applying both front and rear brakes evenly. The front brake provides most of the stopping power, but using the rear brake as well ensures a more balanced and controlled deceleration
  • Gradually modulate your braking, applying more pressure as you get closer to the corner
  • Complete your braking before entering the turn, as braking while cornering can cause your tires to lose traction

During one of my initial group rides, I misjudged my braking on a steep downhill corner. I failed to slow down enough before the turn (which had some loose gravel on it too), and when I tried to brake while cornering, my tires lost traction, sending me skidding across the road. Thankfully, I wasn’t injured too badly, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of braking before entering a turn.

Pro tip: Practice braking on straight sections of road to become familiar with how your brakes respond. This will help you gain a better understanding of how much pressure to apply and when to start braking as you approach a corner

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Lean into the corner

Leaning into the corner is crucial for maintaining grip and achieving a smooth cornering experience. Here’s how to do it right:

  • As you enter the turn, lean your bike into the corner while keeping your body weight centered. This can be achieved by pushing your inside hand down towards the ground and slightly lifting your outside hand
  • Trust your tires and lean at a comfortable angle. Your bike’s tires are designed to maintain grip even when leaned over (assuming your inner tubes are at correct pressure for pavement), so don’t be afraid to push your limits within reason!
  • As you exit the corner, gradually bring the bike back to an upright position

I used to be really nervous about doing this, terrified of leaning in, thinking I would lose balance and fall. It took a friendly challenge from a fellow rider, who demonstrated just how far a bike could lean without losing grip, to convince me to give it a try. I gave it a shot and, as I practiced leaning into corners, I realized that my bike and my tires were more than capable of handling the lean, and my cornering skills improved dramatically.

Pro tip: Practice leaning your bike on a flat, open area or empty parking lot, gradually increasing the lean angle as you become more comfortable. This will help you build confidence in your bike’s ability to maintain grip through corners

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Control your speed

Managing your speed through corners is essential for a smooth and safe ride. Here’s how to do it:

  • As we’ve already seen – cut your speed as you approach the turn. Maintain the same speed throughout the corner, then
  • As you exit the corner, gradually increase your speed by applying gentle pressure to the pedals. Ensure that your bike is stable and upright before applying more force
  • Shift your gears to match your increasing speed, ensuring a smooth and efficient transition as you exit the corner

Remember that smooth acceleration is key. Avoid sudden or jerky movements, as these can lead to a loss of traction or control

Once, while riding with my cycling group, I tried to show off by accelerating quickly out of a corner. Instead of impressing my friends, I lost control and ended up in a bush. It was a prickly bush and they all had a good laugh about it as I picked the thorns out of my legs. The incident taught me the importance of controlling my speed during cornering (and how to remove thorns from exposed skin, obviously…). I soon learned to gradually increase my speed – safely – as I exited corners, leading to a smoother and more controlled ride.

Pro tip: Practice controlling your speed on straight sections of road by gradually increasing and decreasing your pace. This will help you become more comfortable with managing your speed during cornering

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Practice, practice, practice

The key to mastering cornering on a road bike is practice and repetition. Here are some tips to help you improve your skills:

  • Dedicate time to practicing cornering techniques on quiet roads or empty parking lots with minimal traffic. This will allow you to focus on perfecting your skills without distractions
  • Challenge yourself by practicing on various types of corners, including sharp turns, sweeping bends, and uphill or downhill corners. This will help you develop a versatile skillset for tackling any corner with confidence
  • Be patient with yourself and don’t be discouraged by initial struggles. Even experienced cyclists had to start somewhere, and the more you practice, the better you’ll become

I can’t stress enough the importance of practice in mastering cornering. When I first started, I dedicated hours to practicing on quiet, winding roads, gradually building my confidence and technique. As I continued to practice, I noticed my cornering skills becoming more refined, and I was able to tackle even the most challenging turns with ease.

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Conclusion

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tips for mastering the art of cornering on a road bike, it’s time to put these skills to the test.

My personal journey to mastering the art of cornering on a road bike has been filled with trial and error (and thorns), but also with valuable lessons and memorable experiences. By sharing my personal anecdotes and the 7 steps to mastering cornering, I hope to inspire and guide fellow cyclists on their own journey to becoming cornering maestros.

Remember, practice is the key to success, so dedicate time to refining your technique and applying these steps consistently. Be patient with yourself and don’t be discouraged by setbacks; even the most skilled cyclists have faced challenges along the way.

So, get out there and conquer those corners, and always remember to enjoy the ride. After all, cycling is not just about mastering techniques, but also about the exhilarating experiences and camaraderie we share with our fellow riders.

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