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!
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work...
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work on improving our skills with their feedback. Next time I would definitely do the intermediate clinic or do a one-on-one session. Richard is super patient and provides great feedback and riding tips. ~ Lisa D.
My speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved!
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going...
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved. I would not have attempted 50% of the drops and jumps on the course prior to participating in the clinic, and my overall time would have been much slower. The first two hours of the class (int/adv Sedona) made the whole thing more than worth it, and the rest of the two days seemed like a bonus. Both Courtney and Richard were encouraging and patient, and both had that classic mountain biker charm and humor ready when the moment called for it. Overall a very enjoyable and valuable weekend. For reference, I participate in amateur XC endurance races (with no hope of ever coming close to winning anything) and have been riding for about two years. I was worried before taking the class that I would not be skilled enough, but the int/adv was appropriate for my skill level. If you're worried, just go for it anyway. There is a good mix of people and everyone was very friendly! ~Alana Bencivengo
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Heather B.
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.