Ever watched the criterium racing on the Friday evening before the Madison? The most impressive thing about those riders is the speed at which they sail around the corners. The thing that worries many recreational cyclists is slipping and falling. Taking corners without playing horror movies in your head is simply a matter of some knowledge of technique, and lots of practice.
Think about cornering in three stages: the approach, in the corner, and coming out of the corner.
The most important thing to get right is your speed. You need to brake before you get to the corner, using both front and rear brakes. Don’t forget to gear down as you brake. You want to be able to start pedalling easily when you come out of the corner.
How fast should you be going? That depends on your skill, and the road conditions.
Is the road rough or smooth, bitumen or gravel, wet or dry? (Watch road markings in the wet, they will always be slippery.) What is the traffic doing? What about the intersection itself? Are there traffic lights, give-way or stop signs? How sharp an angle is the corner?
You’ll find you can take corners faster as you gain confidence, but road conditions will always determine your speed. Learning to judge them is a matter of practice.
Watch your pedal position. You’ll find you naturally lean into the corner. You should have the inside pedal up to avoid it hitting the road. Lift yourself slightly off the saddle on your outside leg. This puts weight on that pedal, which lowers your centre of gravity and thereby stabilises the bike.
Look ahead to where you intend going. Don’t look down in front of your wheel – you’ve already seen that bit of road. It’s important to keep your head up so you can see what’s coming. As you come out of the corner, straighten your bike and resume pedalling.
Maintain a smooth line in, around and out of the corner using only minimal road surface. Try to avoid a wide exit out of the corner towards oncoming road users. If you find you need to swing wide, you might be going too fast.
Now you know the basic technique, it’s just a matter of practice. Take corners slowly while you keep all this in mind. As you gain confidence, you’ll find you’ll be doing it automatically.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 23 June 2006