Twists and bends are inevitable unless you come across some fabled mountain bike track that is absolutely straight and level (and what would the pleasure be in riding that?). You’ll be able to ride more difficult trails and have more fun while you’re at it if you practice methods for switchbacks, bermed turns, and off-camber bends.
The same principles apply to off-camber corners, switchbacks, and berms. The tips listed below will position you for success at every stage.
First, review the fundamentals: Need to brush up on some fundamental abilities? Check out Mountain Biking: Climbs and Descents and Mountain Biking: Basic Techniques. These articles provide a wider background and review the subjects discussed here.
It’s always a good idea to scout out a tricky area in advance, especially if you’re new to the route or your skills are still developing.
- Is the dirt hard or loose? This is particularly crucial near the summit of berms.
- Does the turning radius increase or decrease? A looser radius allows you to accelerate as you exit whereas a tighter radius forces you to continue slowing down.
- Are there any obstructions, treacherous drops, or other dangers waiting in wait?
Pay attention to your line: Whether a curve is flat, bermed, or off camber, the proverb “your bike follows your eyes” still holds true. Look ahead to keep yourself informed, but concentrate on a line that avoids obstacles and locates the sweet places. Focusing on a rock or root prepares you for unpleasant encounters with it.
Position yourself: To balance your weight over each tire, bend your knees, lean over the bar with your elbows wide and bent, have level pedals with equal weight on each, and keep your head up and level. Lightly grasp the bar, placing your fingers on the brake pedals.
Leaning over the bar causes the front wheel to weigh down for tracking. Prior to the turn, scrubbing speed enables the front tire to roll in the desired direction. Use the rear brake if you still need to slow down mid-turn to prevent the front tire from locking up and skidding. Different approach speeds are needed for different sorts of turns:
- “Walking pace” switchbacks are recommended.
- Ride at a “sprinting pace” around bermed curves.
- Ride “walking pace” around off-camber curves.
Torque your torso: Aim your belly button towards the direction you want to go while pointing your head, shoulders, and hips toward the inside of the turn.
When riding in areas with extremely steep terrain, you may come across switchbacks, which are narrow curves that gently climb or descend a slope.
Uphill Switchback Techniques
- Focus on a wide entrance point since maintaining that position through the turn will offer you the biggest trail to work with. To find your exit point into the straightaway once you enter wide, quickly swivel your head away from your direction of travel.
- Work early: Shift before entering the switchback and cast your eyes forward. Your aim is to pedal gradually: Avoid gears that are too easy or too hard, as this may cause you to stall or “hammer wheel.”
- Lean forward: Whether you’re standing or crouching, or sitting on the front of the saddle, you need to keep your chest close to the bar. This causes your center of gravity to go forward, improving front-wheel traction and tracking. Ensure that the pedals are balanced and level.
- Burst out: Keep pedaling to accelerate out of the corner. You run the risk of stalling out if you don’t keep moving forward.
Downhill Switchback Techniques
- Just as you would on an uphill switchback, focus widely.
- Brake early and “feather” (apply equal pressure to each brake) to reduce speed before the switchback. You can keep your balance over the bike by letting your heels drop when you brake.
- Keep your knees apart so you have room to slide the bike between them when you adopt a “cowboy” stance.
- Having flat, evenly weighted pedals and a light grip gives you stability on your feet and quickness when handling the bar.
Bermed Turn Technique
Although bermed turns are a typical element of bike parks and municipal trail networks, they are not natural characteristics. These unique dirt banks are built by trail builders so you can rail around the bend. It’s crucial to evaluate the dirt’s integrity, especially close to the top of the berm.
Bermed Turn Technique
- Early braking and defensive positioning are advised. Get into an aggressive riding position with your knees bent, weight evenly distributed over both pedals, and scrub speed early.
- Start out big and tall: To carry greater speed through the curve, pay attention to a high line. Exit low so you can rocket yourself out of the turn and slide down the berm.
- Start lower if the berm’s top is shaky: You’ll depart later since you’ll roll more slowly through the turn and on the exit. However, if you take care to prevent the berm from pushing you higher, you can avoid blowing over the edge.
- The berm really aids in leaning your bike and body so they are perpendicular to the trailbed if you hit it high and quickly. You must lean the bike toward the inside of the turn while maintaining a more upright posture to maintain balance if you are traveling slower and at a lower speed.
Riding Off-Camber Corners
Any segment of the trailbed where the outside edge is lower than the inside edge is referred to as “off camber.” The issue is not a little outward tilt that keeps water from collecting on a trail. However, a noticeable tilt makes matters a little uncertain.
Gravity and momentum both work against you when the off-camber is on a turn. And because most collisions occur on the trail’s downhill side, they are riskier. Good footwork is your best defense.
The trail crew never makes an off-camber turn on purpose. Geology in the area is to blame. Forests can have challenging off-camber parts caused by tree roots. In the Southwest, redrock ledges fashion long pathways that weave between sharp turns. There, riders are helped by the gritstone. On every surface, rock-solid talents are helpful.
Off-Camber Corner Technique
- Get balanced and brake hard: Follow the typical turning procedure, but drastically slow down beforehand. Put equal weight on each pedal and tire while positioning your torso over the bar while bending your elbows and knees.
- Locate your line: It doesn’t matter if you go wide or tight. The ideal line enables you to execute your sharpest turns in the corners with the least amount of pitch. Start high to allow for some downhill skidding whenever possible. Choose a line that hits the roots square in the face where they are involved. Otherwise, there’s a chance they’ll turn your tires in directions you might not want to go.
- Rotate the bar: Steer the bar to direct your front tire along the desired path rather than depending on body torque and bike lean.
- Change the lean: To have more of your tire and knobs make touch with and stick to the trail surface, keep your body mainly upright. A modest inward tilt increases traction if your side knobs are large and sticky.
- The inner pedal should be raised to prevent clipping, but the pedals should still be similarly weighted. To accelerate during a turn, “ratchet” the pedals: Pull it back and repeat after pushing the inside one and a half revolutions.
Equipment Tips for Cornering
Even while it’s always necessary to “run what you brung,” a few tweaks can help your bike perform better through difficult corners.
Verify tire inflation because low tire pressure makes tires more flexible and provides better traction. Tires that are inflated too high are harsh. The sidewall of a tire that is substantially underinflated may wiggle sideways, causing the tire to lose control and burp air.
Try this quick squeeze test to see whether your tire is overinflated: if it feels as hard as an apple, it is. It’s underinflated if it’s as soft as a peach. The tire should feel smooth and ripe like an orange.
Adjust brake position: Responsive braking is necessary for technical cornering. Check out our post on How to Set Up Your New Mountain Bike if the brake angle and bar position weren’t properly adjusted at first. Make sure your braking finger’s first knuckle is cradling your levers (s).
Suspension may be adjusted on most bikes, which has a significant impact on the bike’s traction and control on the trail. You can boost compression damping if you feel confident making adjustments to yours. The amount of your turning force that is diverted into your suspension travel is reduced as a result. Check out the Bike Suspension Basics article for additional information. You may help guarantee your bike handles well on any trail segment, including turns, by according to the maintenance recommendations there.
Lowering your saddle will be helpful if the trail ahead is downhill, rough, or both. You may keep your body low and in the middle while the bike can move around freely underneath you. Consider purchasing a dropper seatpost if you don’t already have one. With the aid of a control positioned on the bar, you can quickly change the saddle height. The high cost may be justified if you intend to ride a lot of technical terrain.
Examine your protection: Everyone is aware of the value of helmets, but occasionally other safety equipment is forgotten. Now is a good time to add or upgrade armor and pads because knee and elbow pads are much more comfortable than they once were.
Learn more: How to Climb Hills on a Road Bike