15

Turning at low to moderate speed while road riding is unlikely to be a task of great difficulty for most riders[citation needed]. One simply rotates the handlebars, and off you go.

It is when speeds get higher or turns become sharper that technique becomes more nuanced.

  • Which foot should be down, if any?
  • Where should one's weight be placed?
  • Do you lean the bike? Lean the body? Lean both??
  • Is countersteering (the act of intentionally pointing the front wheel the opposite direction of the intended turn to initiate it) a good technique?
  • Line choice?

The question gets even more complicated in the context of off-road riding, where off-camber turns and berms (banked corners) are to be found. Recommendations will be more situation-dependent there.

6
  • 2
    Citation needed, indeed.
    – ojs
    Sep 13 at 6:20
  • 8
    One simply rotates the handlebars, and off you go. In fact you mostly change your body weight bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/12901/…
    – AnoE
    Sep 13 at 13:57
  • 3
    Simply rotating the handlebars is recipe for falling straight off!
    – topo morto
    Sep 13 at 14:02
  • 1
    I'm hoping this is a canonical Q. Also, this will depend on the bicycle. Answers will be different for track bikes/fixies vs. mountain bikes, at least wrt which foot should be down.
    – shoover
    Sep 13 at 20:37
  • 1
    @shoover I think my bike handling skills are a little better than that! 😉 Yea, answers should include that aspect of context.
    – MaplePanda
    Sep 14 at 15:06
6

Which foot should be down, if any?

The foot on the outside of the curve should be down and the foot on the inside curve should be up (exception: on uneven ground cranks should be horizontal so neither foot is up or down). This is because many bicycles have pedals so low that if you do this the other way around, you will hit the ground with your inside pedal.

Where should one's weight be placed?

On even ground, the weight distribution doesn't matter that much. Some on the handlebars, some on the pedals, some on the saddle.

However, on uneven ground you will want to have absolutely no weight on the saddle. So it's only pedals (cranks being horizontal then) and handlebars. Also, on uneven ground, you will want to hold the handlebars in such a manner that your arms become "springs" / "shock absorbers".

Do you lean the bike? Lean the body? Lean both??

You lean both. The body is leaned the same amount as the bike. Doing it otherwise would place side loads on the hub bearings and spokes. While angular contact cup and cone bearings can take side loads and 36-spoke 135mm/142mm OLD wheels can take reasonable side loads too, there are hubs using cartridge bearings that are really poor in taking side loads, and low-spoke-count 130mm OLD 11-speed road wheels can have so large dish and so low count of spokes that the wheel could collapse with excessive side loads.

Is countersteering (the act of intentionally pointing the front wheel the opposite direction of the intended turn to initiate it) a good technique?

Countersteering is the only possible way of cornering a bike. If you have cornered a bike, you have already countersteered. There's no other way possible to corner a bike. You do it subsconsiously.

Line choice?

Visualize the line in advance. You'll learn it if you practice it. You want to visualize the line in a path that doesn't have excessive bumps on the road, and the line should be such that at no point is the traction exceeded. Braking slightly on the corner with both brakes (equal front+rear) is possible because if your cornering g-force is 0.98g and your braking g-force is 0.1g, then the total force is sqrt((0.1g)^2+(0.98g)^2) = sqrt(0.97040g^2) = 0.985g according to the Pythagorean theorem. So moderate amount of braking increases the total traction need only very slightly.

7
  • 1
    It flat out shocks me how many people I see cornering (on the road, no matter the bike type) with the inside foot down! I think that this is a fear-based response to falling over, "If my foot is closer to the ground, then if I fall, I can catch myself sooner", and/or something they've seen an MX rider doing, which totally doesn't apply to cycling. Having heard horror stories from my dad who went down with a big pack because someone up front clipped a pedal, I've never done that! (Of course, most people I see doing this aren't cornering quickly but it seems so counterintuitive to me...)
    – FreeMan
    Sep 13 at 18:00
  • Countersteering isn't just subconscious, it's created by the physics of turning - try this experiment. Remove the front wheel from the bike, hold it vertically and spin. Now lean it one way or the other - it'll also automatically rotate due to gyroscopic forces. Basically leaning is what initiates the turn and that initiates the counter steer Sep 14 at 4:58
  • Inside foot down allows easy shifting of weight in the wanted direction. But yes, with low frame there is a risk of striking the ground.
    – nightrider
    Sep 14 at 5:04
  • @DavidWaterworth Sorry, but that's wrong: If you ride no-handed, you need to counterlean to initiate a turn. I.e. to do a left turn, you must first lean the bike to the right, allowing the gyroscopic effect to turn the front wheel right (countersteer), then you lean the bike left to use the gyroscopic effect to turn the front wheel left for the actual turn. If you don't believe me, try this: Push your bike by grabbing the saddle, only, and try to make it go round corners. The slow speed will allow you to experience the counterlean rather explicitly. Sep 14 at 8:11
  • One more tip: having the outer pedal low, you can apply more pressure with the corresponding foot to help controlling the bike.
    – clabacchio
    Sep 14 at 9:44
4

It's an interesting question. I don't think either foot should be down, but the foot forwards for the direction of turn.

Standing with knees bent, heels down, weight over back of saddle.

Lean is learned intuitively as is countersteer. Once you have confidence to take a corner fast, you can analyse that in fact you do automatically countersteer and that you and the bike lean into the corner in relation to speed.

Where you have a choice of line, you start wide, come as close to the apex as possible and finish wide, like a racing car. But on a narrow trail, you don't often have a choice. On a berm, the fast line is out near the top and the slow line on the inside at the bottom and that stays a constant, you don't cut the corner.

Off camber turns are even harder as extreme lean angles will easily lead to wash-out especially on loose surfaces so just go slow on these until you've learned the particular bend.

9
  • 1
    This answer is more targeted towards mountainbiking, right?
    – Michael
    Sep 12 at 19:50
  • 1
    @Michael yes although cornering at speed especially when descending (on a road bike) falls into a similar category, as allowance in made in body positioning for braking hard, taking corner and carrying on.
    – JoeK
    Sep 12 at 20:19
  • 3
    I don't think either foot should be down - i think whichever foot needs least clearance over the terrain if clearance is required.. which if you're leaning a lot and/or the terrain to the inside of the curve has e.g. projections that could catch a pedal, then put the outside pedal lower so your inside pedal is less likely to catch the floor..
    – Caius Jard
    Sep 13 at 11:28
  • Generally pedals level with ground when cornering. This means for high speed, pedals level only when on berms, but on flat, unbermed corner (with a lot of bike lean), outside pedal down. Slow speed, the bikes is leans much less, pedals more level.
    – mattnz
    Sep 13 at 22:41
  • When cornering fast on a road bike I've always felt more stable with the outside pedal down rather than level. I find it easier that way to position my body a bit like you see the TT motorbike riders, with my inside (of the corner) knee out, and the bike leant as much as possible. Sep 14 at 4:53
3

I watched a video on this a while ago and it showed some useful tips step by step. This and a few other videos on their channel might help you out. In this video they cover flat turns but other videos cover berms etc

There are loads of tips here from the very basics to more advanced stuff but the thumbnail is a pretty good example. Outside pedal down to minimize risk that inside pedal catches the floor, and bike / body separation so you can lean the bike while retaining balance. Cornering fast on a mountain bike.

2
  • 3
    Welcome to Bicycles SE. We prefer answers on this site to be self-contained. That way, the answer is still valid if the video is taken down. Please use the edit button to summarize the the tips in the video within the body of your answer. Otherwise, it is likely to be downvoted, flagged for moderator intervention, and possibly deleted.
    – jimchristie
    Sep 13 at 13:46
  • 1
    It would be useful to screenshot the video at relevant points and add a bit of commentary. To take a screenshot open the Windows snipping tool (on Mac use the key combo to snip a region Shift Command 4) and then you can just literally copy with Ctrl C and paste into the answer box with Ctrl V; the uploading and hosting on imgur is automatic. For example even the thumbnail shot for the video is a good example of what a couple of people are saying to do for epic trials and high speeds: outside pedal down to minimize risk that inside pedal catches the floor
    – Caius Jard
    Sep 15 at 5:34
2

Which foot should be down, if any?

Usually your outside foot should be down, especially if you’re taking the turn at high speed (you need to lean more at higher speeds), with the intent being to avoid clipping the pedal. This is notably the exact opposite of what a lot of people seem to intuitively do, but is something that you will definately learn very quickly after the first time you clip a pedal.

If the ground is especially uneven though, having both feet at the same height is generally better for controlling your weight distribution. If cornering like this, usually you want the inside pedal to be the one to the front, as that will let you capture some of the extra energy of rebalancing after the turn to help maintain speed.

Where should one's weight be placed?

For a lower speed on even ground, normal weight placement for the bike type is fine and generally preferable.

For higher speeds or uneven ground, weight should be on your legs and arms but not the saddle, ideally with both your legs and arms slightly bent and loose so you can use them like shock absorbers. If the ground is level, you generally also want your weight back like you would position yourself while braking. The key here is to make sure you can shift your weight quickly to compensate for issues resulting from uneven ground, loss of traction, or other unforeseen complications.

Do you lean the bike? Lean the body? Lean both??

Both, but unless you are doing things strangely this will happen naturally (and you should let it). From an efficiency perspective, just leaning yourself is inefficient (you have to lean further to shift enough weight to turn properly), but from a safety perspective not leaning the bike is potentially dangerous because it puts a side load on the hub bearings and the wheels (good bikes should be fine, but it’s not something you should bet on, and the types of failure this can cause are both expensive to fix and really dangerous to have happen).

Is countersteering (the act of intentionally pointing the front wheel the opposite direction of the intended turn to initiate it) a good technique?

In general, you should countersteer as part of turning. It’s technically possible to turn without it (leaning appropriately to produce the same effect, sometimes called ‘counter-leaning’), but you need to know what you’re doing and it’s riskier than countersteering.

In practice though, if you have to think about countersteering, you’re probably approaching the process of turning incorrectly. The required motion is intuitive even to small children, and it’s instinctual enough to anyone who has ridden a bike any reasonable amount that they will generally not even notice that they’re doing it.

Line choice?

On level ground, a racing line is theoretically optimal but not the easiest. Outside of actual racing, you ideally want to just come from the outside, cut as close to the inside of the turn as possible, and end on the outside (this maximizes the turning radius, making it easier to safely turn at speed).

On inward banked turns (that is, the inner radius is lower than the outer), a similar out-in-out pattern is still safest, but it’s also relatively easy to take a constant distance from one edge if the bank angle is correct.

If you have to deal with an outward banked turn (that is, the outer radius is lower than the inner), a fixed distance from one edge is arguably safest.

Of course, that all assumes no potholes, bumps, or other hazards. Ideal line choice obviously avoids those.and is such that you maintain proper traction throughout the turn (though that is something you kind of have to learn based on the combination of tires and ground conditions). From a practical perspective, it’s very helpful to visualize the path you intend to take ahead of time.

2

On a radius turn-in, don't do a snap countersteer but smoothly and linearly leverage the handlebars. In other words don't lean as a reaction to the countersteer but lean in time with it.

Now note that turning is not steering but is a leveraging of the tires against the track surface. Then since both front and rear tires have drift, there is not much apparent steering angle. (Tire drift is the fundamental action of lateral tire traction and that fundamental makes the line of the vehicle in a curve. It's a tire slide that's a loss of traction. The vehicle-dynamics source for this fundamental is tire-slip-angle which according to me should really be called tire-drift-angle.)

Also, lean the body, don't stiff-arm the bicycle down and the rider up. Get the rider weight low and to the inside on the turn-in. But stay in the seat, don't move the rider's weight forward.

4
  • Here is the link of the development of a new sport: kbhscape.com/downhill.htm .
    – S Spring
    Sep 12 at 23:48
  • Can you define radius turn-in in the first sentence? Did you mean a turn with constant radius, rather than decreasing radius (i.e. turn gets sharper toward the end)?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 13 at 15:36
  • I calculate a radius path of the vehicle based on a line within the track width. But a decreasing radius just calls for a different line and apex. In general and for all curves, a vehicle reduces speed on the turn-in, and that fundamental just due to the turn-in, but then adds-power on the drive-out. A bicycle is frustrating because it can't really begin replacing speed at mid-curve. The calculation is for a curve with tangent straights: kbhscape.com/curve.htm . And the suggested sport has track designs of curves with tangent straights.
    – S Spring
    Sep 13 at 23:38
  • As for countersteering, I hesitate to post it. To turn left, push the left bar forward and lean. But once the bicycle is leaned-over, look down at the front wheel and there is a slight pointing of the wheel to the inside even though the bars are still being pushed to the right. Now ordinary bicycle countersteering is not a correcting of a rear-wheel slide, it's just a gyroscopic action.
    – S Spring
    Sep 14 at 6:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.