Picture this: it’s the exact moment that you settle into the flow of a descent when the singletrack throws a hard left or right at you. You lay on the brakes, eek your way around the turn, pedal like mad to get back up to speed and do your best to find your rhythm again… sound familiar?
You’re not alone. It’s one of the most common questions we get asked:
How the heck do I keep my flow and momentum through corners and switchbacks?!
– Every rider ever
Meet the Pre-Turn – a game-changing technique that’s the key to smooth, fast corners. Are you ready?!
Let’s say you’re approaching a left-hand corner or switchback. What are your line options?
1. Inside line
If you approach the corner from inside line (left side of the trail), it will be considerably tighter and sharper and you’ll be unable to carry momentum through it. Plus, your rear wheel always tracks even further inside than your front wheel where it can slip (as shown in the video) or get hung up on an obstacle like a rock or root.
2. Outside line
If you approach the same corner from the outside line (right side of the trail), it will increase the corner’s radius making the corner wider and therefore faster. But beware! There are often sketchier conditions on the outside line such as loose dirt with less traction or broken off trail edges. Additionally, it doesn’t leave you room to go wider if you mis-calculate your speed or the corner’s radius (as shown in the video) – there’s no buffer zone.
If you’re wondering “what the heck is a pre-turn?” you’re not alone. It’s a turn in the opposite direction of the corner that moves the apex earlier in corner.
Approach on the inside line of the corner
Prior to the apex, turn right (opposite the direction you intend to turn)
Transition smoothly into a left turn
Putting these two turns together, the first being a “pre-turn” and the second being the direction of the corner, makes for a very smooth, controlled corner.
Keys to success
Bike-body separation – Separate yourself from the bike by swinging your hips to the outside of the corner and keeping your knees wide to allow the bike to lean beneath you. This separation will naturally allow your outside foot to come to the down position which leads us to…
Footwork – Your outside foot should be down opposite the direction you’re leaning the bike. So, in this case of a left corner, your left foot should be down for the pre-turn, then as you transition to the actual turn, your right foot should be down. Focus on the smooth application of this footwork
It’s a Mystery
While we have no simple explanation of why, two turns back-to-back is wayyyyy smoother than any one turn. And for some unknown reason, when you add a pre-turn you’ll shift your focus from dragging your brake into the corner into good footwork and compression… and that means SMOOTH and FAST!
They’ve helped build my confidence and competence!
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a...
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a few seasons of cyclocross under my belt. I was a novice mountain biker with just enough confidence to get myself into trouble on the trails. I started by attending the free Tuesday night mountain bike workouts at Balboa Park, led by Coach Richard. While these are primarily geared toward building fitness, we learned some skills tips and I met some cool folks. Since then I've taken the intermediate and advanced skills clinics, as well as raced a couple times. Coaches Richard and Kris are great at instruction, which is not easy. Most great riders cannot teach others to do the same, but these two are exceptional at it. They've helped build my confidence and competence. In fact they have taken time during weekday and weekend rides to help give me pointers! I joined Team Ninja to train and race with this fun crew and would highly advise you check them out! ~Henry H.
All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic.
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed,...
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed, and specific, so that I could start to get the feel of how to work effectively on trails instead of asphalt. Jeff (a former elite cyclocross racer) also joined us and added some solid hints and comments. All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic. ~ Mike Sofen
I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more …
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never...
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never had any formal training. I just finished the weekend skills course in Irvine, CA with Richard, Randy and Daniel as the instructors. They are excellent instructors breaking every fundamental skill down, demonstrating the skill and then evaluating your practice runs with constructive criticism before applying the skills on the trails. Even though I have been riding single track for a few years, I quickly found out that I have been doing many things if not everything wrong, which means the people I ride with are doing it wrong too. Richard, Randy and Daniel are very patient and professional encouraging every student no matter what the age or gender (our class had males and females from late 20s to late 50s). They went over everything from bike set up, basic position, turning, high speed cornering, wheels lifts to you name it. If you have a desire to improve your skill then Ninja Mountain Bike Performance are the team to go to! I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more of their camps in the future. ~Kyle Kimm
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed....
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed. The preparation and lesson planning is great. Instructors seem to be everywhere providing input and excellent advice. Both groups had a wide range of skilled riders, but the team made everyone welcome and everyone learned important new skills. This training makes everyday more fun on my bike. DAY 2: Just rode one of my "regular" morning workout routes. 2 PR's - and I thought I was just cruising. I was making no effort to ride fast... just smooth like I was taught. ~Peter O.
….and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)!
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a...
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a great environment for learning . Your professionalism, skill and experience in teaching, choice of terrain to teach in, and enthusiasm all made this a totally worthwhile experience. I would do it again and again as you never stop learning. ....and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)! ~James Crawford
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.