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!
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills....
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills. I knew Richard La China from the cross country racing scene and felt confident that he and the ninja team could help out. I bought a woman's beginner clinic for my wife and she really enjoyed the challenge and experience. She is a better mountain biker now with much more confidence and new and improved skills. Mission accomplished! I highly recommend Richard LaChina and the ninja skills clinics for any level. I bought my wife a clinic gift card for Christmas which she will use to take the intermediate clinic. I plan on taking an advanced course to improve my cornering skills. ~ Mark T.
Good clinic. It was helpful to learn, practice with repetition and get critiqued by the coach all at once. I...
Good clinic. It was helpful to learn, practice with repetition and get critiqued by the coach all at once. I look forward to an intermediate level class! Thanks for doing this coach Richard! ~ Sally A.
The best money I’ve ever spent on mountain biking!
Just finished a two day skills workshop in Dallas. To say it was the best money I've ever spent on...
Just finished a two day skills workshop in Dallas. To say it was the best money I've ever spent on mountain biking would be an understatement. Our instructor was Aaron Lucy, a wonderful teacher and just a real pleasure to be around kind of guy. I highly recommend Ninja for anyone from novice to advanced riders as they cover just about anything and everything that will make you a more rounded rider. Thanks so much Aaron for all the advice and coaching! ~Mark Stewart
I'm a 63 y.o. Road and MTB cyclist. I've ridden mountain bikes since 1988. I really wish that I'd taken...
I'm a 63 y.o. Road and MTB cyclist. I've ridden mountain bikes since 1988. I really wish that I'd taken this course 25 years ago and I might have avoided some of the injuries I received over the years. I took only the morning first intro session at Phoenix and I learned a great deal in a short period of time. Richard is a very gifted cyclist and coach with excellent pedagogical skills. The class moved quickly, but covered all the appropriate details needed to handle a bike on technical trails. Richard had two local expert cyclists who demonstrated techniques while he provided a narrative and answered question. We had one relatively new rider who was very wary of some of the steeper, technical descents. By the end of the class, you could actually see a significant increase in her confidence using the skills acquired in the class. I'm looking forward to doing one of Ninja's camps and I hope they are able to expand their clinics to my area (Albuquerque, NM). William J.
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.