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Recently I have noticed the following. When doing extremely tight turns e.g. 90 degree trail turn, I tend to:

  • Get out of my high saddle, position in front of it and low over the top tube
  • Stick the inside foot out, a couple of inches over the ground (easier on concrete, because it is smooth).

I have always thought of cornering as a trade-off between speed and safety. So doing the above, I feel safer, and am thus able to pass at a little more than walking speed.

One of two things can happen:

  • Because my center of gravity is now lower, the bike is tilted, and virtually all my weight is on the outside pedal, I make the turn.
  • Because I have entered the turn at too high speed, one or both tires begin slipping. I "fall" onto my foot, stepping firmly. As now all my weight is on the foot, I can "pick up" the bike and swing it around me in a crazy tight turn, then jump on it, while still moving.

My questions:

  • When is this appropriate technique and when would it be disaster?
  • What is the correct procedure for executing a planned foot plant?

Conclusion:

After I tried this on the trail a couple of times, my opinion is that planting foot is very different on smooth pavement and in rough terrain.

On smooth, but slippery pavement/ice, I can plant the foot momentarily, knowing that I will fall/slide out. The resulting acrobatic maneuver seems to increase the maximum possible speed in situations where no other technique would be appropriate.

It's a pity that I don't have a picture of the place this thing is helping me. Basically, it is a part of my commute, and is a steep-ish ramp, with two 90 degree turns, which in winter is wet, snowy or icy. As I need to stay upright, this technique is pretty much all that can be done on those corners.

On the other hand, planting a foot while going down the trail is radically different. This is because on smooth surface, on can put their foot out, parallel to the ground, and very close to it, so as to anticipate slide-off. On an off-road terrain this is not possible and dabbing seems to be confined to "free get out of jail" functionality when you realize the "oh shit!".

Thanks Tyler Jandreau and Aaron!

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Try to avoid these kinds of skidding turns on hiking paths or similar. They tend to destroy the path and also look "reckless and dangerous" to the casual hiker. –  arne Jan 16 at 11:19
    
@arne, it's actually a little more than walking speed, so not enough to cause erosion. But if I don't stick a foot out, I need to effectively stop and then take the turn very very slowly. –  Vorac Jan 16 at 11:20
    
Also, I do this only in the city (for now), where the knobby tires have terrible grip on the wet pavement. –  Vorac Jan 16 at 15:26
    
My original idea was something like this. –  Vorac Apr 10 at 14:32
    
Also this. –  Vorac Jul 1 at 21:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

While a "dab" isn't exactly the most graceful of techniques it's useful to save yourself from a spill or wipeout. What you need to ask yourself though is whether you leave a foot out because you're not sure what's going to happen when you turn or because you plan on going fast enough to slide around the turn. Sometimes the slide is unexpected and should just quick plant a foot and move on.

On the other hand, you're going to get a bunch of trail builders and riders who say that any slide is unwarranted and damages the trail. Generally this is true, but hardpack trails with dust on top or a little gravel are very easy to slide on and don't damage the trail at all. Mud, loam, and other loose soils are more prone to being disturbed by excessive sliding.

As for the proper technique for a dab, it's very dependent on your riding style. Here's a general breakdown of the timeline for a turn:

  • See the turn: Look ahead and see a tight/loose corner. Begin evaluating how you want to take it (eg. at speed, slow and upright, or sliding).
  • Begin the turn: Lean the bike towards the inside of the turn, pushing your weight to the outside pedal. Keep your inside foot relatively light.
  • Back tire breaks loose: Knowing when this will happen requires experience with your tires, so practice sliding in a parking lot or gravel road.
  • Plant foot: Remove your inside foot and place it slightly ahead of where you currently are, in the direction your moving.
  • Push through the turn: Push a bit with the inside foot, kind of a cross between a kick and step. This should keep your bike position or possibly move you a little more upright.
  • Re-engage and continue: Plant your foot back on the pedal and pedal out of the corner.

And that's more-or-less how it's done. Watch a bunch of Trail/AM/DH riders do it and you'll get a sense of where in the turn you should expect a plant.

Last bit, as you get more confident riding push more speed into the corner. You'll find that some spots where you previously needed to dab, you'll clear no problem due to the added force keeping your tires in place.

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The inside foot is your "get out of jail free" card when it comes to the limit of traction. You'll see a lot of racers do this when they're riding at the limit of their grip.

You can use the inside foot if the front of your bike starts sliding out to "prop yourself up". If the rear starts sliding you can use the inside foot to push yourself back to put more weight over the rear tire.

This approach can be used if the corner is really tight as well, which it seems like you're doing.

So the long and the short: use a foot whenever you need it. It's not the most efficient way to corner, but in mud/rain/gravel/snow you can actually ride faster with a foot dragging.

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Apart from the "jail" thing it also makes sure that you apply max pressure on the outside pedal and maximum pressure on the front end. That way you are more likelly to successfully turn on difficult situations. –  cherouvim Jan 16 at 15:08

Just a quick suggestion. I ride mtb and after I get back into the swing of riding I learn to push the bike ahead of me more. This allows the bike to do more of the trail work. There are different styles of riding and some riders won't put to the limit of needing to dab. If you dab you lose some of your flow.

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