Tip #17: Practice your cornering
Two of the fastest, most technical criteriums of the season are coming in the form of Elk Grove and Downers Grove. Are you confident enough in your cornering yet? Can you make a turn at 30 mph without freaking out?
If not, practice now or risk eating hay later on. Spend time the next few weeks taking fast turns in a parking lot. Even as you make simple turns on your commute, visualize yourself in a race and imagine going fast, leaning and holding a steady line. Ride to the grocery store in your drops and pretend a national championship is on the line. Better yet, go take a few hundred corners at Matteson.
I don’t pretend to be the world’s best handler, so here are a couple of resources online, some more accessible than others:
- » David Sommerville: “As you speed around a corner, centrifugal force makes you want to fly out from the corner. In order to compensate, your center of gravity must lie inside the tire-road contact line.”
» Jobst Brandt: “Cornering is the skill of anticipating the appropriate lean angle with respect to the ground before reaching the apex of the turn.” (I’d never thought of raising the pelvis to increase traction, but I noticed this morning I do this subconsciously.)
» Steve Hansen: “You need to go wide to go fast. The diagram below illustrates the concept.”
» Jim Langley: “Actually rotate your head slightly so you’re looking just to the inside of the line you want to follow around the bend, or in a tight turn, almost at the road’s edge or centerline.”
Some things I’ll add:
- » Don’t bomb the inside. Don’t use the corners to try to make up ground. Please. Pros and 1/2’s? Sure, they have the skills to pull this off. The rest of us don’t. Persist in crossing other people’s lines and you’re eventually going to cause a crash. As Rick Dearworth (XXX Racing-AthletiCo) put it to me while diagnosing the mayhem at Evanston: “The wheel you follow into the turn should be the wheel you follow out of it.”
» This goes double for the U-turns at Elk Grove. Don’t get greedy. Focus on getting through each turn safely and smoothly, and hold steady to the wheel in front of you. Otherwise you’ll take the turn too fast and wide and run out of room, or take it too tight and have to scrub too much speed. Instead of trying to advance in the turns, then, you’re going to have to use the straightaways. Sorry.
» There is little, if any, mechanical benefit in sticking out your inside knee. However, I found this a useful tool at Downers Grove last year. I focused on staying up front, where I could take the turns single-file (a huge advantage), and on each turn I let my inside knee hang out as a message to the riders behind me: “This is my personal space. Don’t even think about bombing this corner to get ahead of me.”
What other tips and secrets do people have?