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I'm not quite sure if this should somehow be broken up into two questions, but what can one do to take sharp corners at speed effectively, especially when you're nervous after having bad experiences riding?

I'm already familiar with common techniques for high-speed cornering on a theoretical level (cf. a video from the Global Cycling Network), but I was never really good at taking corners hard. Now, however, after being in an accident with a car and afterwards having only ridden a lot in miserable conditions (snow, ice, sand/gravel on the road because of the snow, etc.), I realize that I simply don't do sharp turns... and trying to force myself to do it makes me extremely nervous.

Possible aggravating factors

  • Ill-suited bike: Perhaps it's the one rideable bike I've currently got? — it's a lot lighter and "tighter" than my previous training bike, which makes it seem fun to ride, but it just feels squirrely... yet that could simply be me not used to it.
  • Interference from similar sports: Between the accident and the winter, I was on a motorbike quite a lot, and I feel much more confident on it than I do on a bicycle despite going over twice as fast. However, the thing weighs 220kg as opposed to maybe 13kg, and you hug a motorbike in a way you don't/can't on a pushbike. Also, when cornering on a motorbike, it's completely normal to use the rear brake to control your speed; I find I'm instinctively trying to do this on a pushbike but it just makes me feel weird, and I don't even know if you can do this safely on a bike, anyway

Are there no "baby steps" I can try to do in order to get myself to corner properly and aggressively and yet to trust myself/my bike at the same time?

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    I'm pretty sure we have a duplicate question for this.
    – Batman
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 23:21
  • Yeah, I was surprised I couldn't find anything, but maybe I'm using the wrong terminology? Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 23:22
  • If you are nervous then it's not time yet. But you say relearning. If you did it before, how did you do it, why not return to that?
    – andy256
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 23:28
  • Do you ride on the drops or hoods when descending and cornering? Can you borrow a MTB with their fairly wide bars? My best downhill segments date from two years ago when I was doing them on a MTB. Since changing to a road bike, I'm slower downhill mostly due to confidence and excessive braking.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 23:58
  • @Criggie my bike's brakes are pre-hood-braking days. I find it's not so much the amount of descent which scares me but rather how narrow the turns are combined with their blindness and also being covered with gravel this time of year... and then, even when I see a wide, open corner without any debris, my body tells me there'll be some right around the bend... Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 21:23

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I'm only posting this as an answer because it seemed long to comment.

But i would run some drills maybe once a week or whenever your free time allows. Go to a sports store and get some little multi sport cones, or use beer cans or toilet paper rolls or what ever else you have that won't hurt you or the bike if you run it over or fall on it.

Two drills that may help is a large slalom where you need to tightly weave back and forth. The other being a large circle.

Start with ample room where it is almost too easy, then as your confidence and speed increases, decrease the size of the shape or row, there by increasing the angle and lean that you need to use.

You could even go as far to set up a small sprint course either in grass or a parking lot depending on how you feel, and start tracking you time. That way your not racing anyone but yourself and your own head.

It may take awhile to build confidence but repetition is key, after a while that fear should slowly start to shrink. Likely you have some degree of PTSD from the event, some may think it's silly but its very real. I was in a head on 60mph collision (in a car not a bike) about 6 months ago, and unfortunately have to drive on that same 2 lane strip everyday to work, and still i get anxiety going through there, it's a 2 lane underpass, old road so it's narrow, with guard rails on either side so there is no where to go. Guy came into our lane and there was nothing we could do but wait to get hit. Point is, it gets better it just takes time and repetition.

I have also found it helped my cornering a lot to concentrate on my position relative to the bottom bracket, sounds goofy but consciously being aware of my bad form and working on it with similar drills helped me gain a lot of confidence, i had similar issues when i switch from a 2.35" mountain bike to a road bike, just didn't feel right.

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  • This is all excellent information; This is more appropriate as an answer than a comment. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 21:20
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I've raced a bit and crashing is a part of the racing. After every crash - the worst one being actually on the road - riding headlong into a car - I completely lose confidence on the bike. Its like a fear of the next accident waiting around the corner.

I rebuild confidence by riding cross or mountain bike. I relearn all the bike handling skills - I tend to lose on the road bike. The advantages being no cars and a soft landing.

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Well, having respect for what can happen is a good thing! It's what keeps you alive.

That said, there are two things you need to consider:

  • Tire crawl: There are bicycle tires that are just squirmy. When you lean a bit into a corner, the inner flank collapses somewhat while the turning tire is loaded, causing the bike to move in a direction that does not coincide with the plane of the wheel. This crawling easily kills any confidence you have in your bike. I guess, motorbike tires don't do that at all.

    Good tires are stiff enough to retain shape in aggressive corners, giving you a feeling of riding on rails. This builds confidence. Like when you are on a motorcycle.

  • Road conditions: As I said, respect for the possibility of slipping is a good thing. Cyclists typically ride much closer to the physical limits of cornering than motorists, including motorbike riders, do. As such, we need to be much more aware of the road surface where we are going to ride through corners. A slightly moist road can be enough to get a cyclist of their steed, and you need your eyes to do it safe. Look ahead to judge the conditions well, then you can be confident when you go through the corner that you won't be surprised. I guess you do that on your motorcycle as well, or are you only ever riding when the sun is shining and the roads are perfectly dry and clean?

Also, keep in mind that slipping away once in a while is perfectly normal when biking, especially with bad weather conditions when you wouldn't even think about mounting a motorcycle. When I commute to work in winter, I expect to slip away at least once per winter. That's ok, though: When I happen to slide in winter, I'm typically dressed rather thickly, my arms and legs don't have time to get into any odd angles, and the ground I'm hitting is slippery rather than abrasive. Those are the accidents where you scream sh*** once, get up, brush the snow from your clothes, recover your bike, check that the handlebar is still straight, mount, and continue on your way. The better the road conditions, the less likely you are going to slip, and on a dry, clean road, it should be next to impossible with good tires.

TL;DR: The better your tires, the easier it is to gain confidence in them.

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  • Excellent points - tyre squirm is a sign of insufficient pressure in the rear tyre in my experience, and it does feel awful.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 21:48
  • @Criggie Even with proper tire pressure there are differences. I've ridden a bad tire once that could not be stopped from squirming, no matter how much pressure was put into it. Needless to say that I've never ever bought another tire of that brand. Instead, I went back to the brand I was using before, and which never had this problem. Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 22:45
  • Odd - might have been related to a wider tyre on a too-narrow rim internal width perhaps?
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 0:50
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    @Criggie No. Just too soft flanks. Same tire width, same rim, but totally different behavior when cornering. Probably I've been lucky to be riding the rather stiff Marathon brand before and after, so the contrast to the weak brand was especially strong. Even with heavy load, the Marathon is strong enough to provide the driving-on-rails feeling up to the point where the pedals touch the ground on dry and clean asphalt. I have never experienced any squirm with that brand. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 8:30
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I think the best way to build confidence cornering aggressively is understanding cornering principles and then practice doing them without leaning too much. From there progressively increase speed plus lean without going past the limits. I think throwing your hands up and saying well crashes happen or go ride off road for a while is selling yourself short and not necessarily addressing the a lack of confidence cornering.

Some fundamentals on a bike are:

  • Brake upright prior to the turn. If you have to brake during the turn I prefer to use the rear brake and that is similar for me on a motorcycle too.

  • Your line should be Outside, Inside, Outside. It minimizes the time your bike is leaned over and allows you to carry maximal speed through the turn.

  • You should also look through your turn and Outside, Inside, Outside path you plan to take. Also, you should be firm, but loose on the handle bars. Like a motorcycle if you have a death grip on the handle bars it makes the bike more unstable and twitch as the bars slightly will move as the tires adjust to terrain in an attempt to stay upright.

  • Prior to leaning you should have your inside foot and pedal at 12' oclock to avoid it hitting the ground and avoid pedaling until you are straightening your bike back up as you exit the turn. I also slightly stand on the outside foot to act as an anchor to allow my upper body to lean towards the inside of the turn and my inner leg to be unloaded. This is similar to the leg work when cornering on a motorcycle as in the outside leg acts as an anchor for your lower body so that your head and upper body can lean into the turn. This through the magic of physics will allow you to go through a turn at a given speed while minimizing lean angle.

  • If you are traveling around 18 MPH or more you should initiate the turn by counter-steering like on motorcycle. You also should be in the drops on a road bike when cornering aggressively or at least the hoods.

You can see some of that here on one of my rides around my favorite hairpin on a warm up @4:37:

As an external reference you can check out Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code for motorcycles. They do one of the best jobs explaining cornering physics and I find almost all of it translates to bikes including shifting body weight to the inside in an attempt MINIMIZE lean angle while maximizing speed.

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    Additionally - braking while leaning tends to stand the bike up and straighten the line out. If you want (or NEED) to turn faster, braking works against you while leaning.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 3:12
  • @Criggie - It is true especially on the front brake that if you use it in a lean during a turn it will tend to stand the bike up and if you fight it you will wash out the front end. Ideally you are not having to brake in a turn, but I have found if you gently feather the rear brake works that works to slow a bit. Emergency stops are always stand the bike upright and hit both brakes just like on a moto. Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 4:46
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I've lost count of the accidents I've had. The best way for me to regain confidence is to wear safety gear. But I'm a very rough rider at any time.

The safety gear gives me the confidence to go back to pushing limits.

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    So its you who spoils all the statistics for safety gear. (ie an increase in protection is often overcompensated by a greater inclination to take risks, leading to a net increase in damages.)
    – gschenk
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 22:51
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    Possibly, probably not just me though, bike is to have fun on, otherwise I'd get a wheelchair
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 23:16
  • I'm tempted to get a full kit of MTB armor for riding my road bike just to see how the guys training on the weekends with their $6,000 carbon-fiber rigs react. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 21:19
  • That would cost more than my bso, my idea of safety gear is steel capped boots, jeans and gloves, rather than jandals and shorts.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 1:13
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Maybe it is just evolution's way of asking you to increase the chances of passing your genes onto future generations? Of course, it must be balanced against the greater number of potential mating partners who will be attracted to you as they watch you taking corners faster and lower, and seeing you in the top spot on the podium.

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