Cornering in Cyclocross
Cornering in Cyclocross
Good cornering technique in cyclocross is so so important. Being confident, smooth and fast through the corners can help your racing considerably. Corners are a great place to execute overtaking moves and being able to consistently carry speed through the corners can help you maintain a hard won gap over those behind.
Many cross riders will go on about tyre choice and whilst it is definitely a factor in cornering, it’s much more important, especially if you are just starting out, that you know your own tyres. Understanding where the limit of grip is for your tyres will give you the confidence to get the most out of them and corner more quickly. Playing around with the pressure can help with traction and if you keep track of what pressure works in which conditions then you can go into future races fully prepared.
Practising cornering is very easy. Simply set up a short course with plenty of left and right turns tightly packed together – the straights in between should be long enough to allow you to get up to speed but short enough that the turns come thick and fast, and you feel as if you are hardly getting any respite. Perform some hot laps to get used to cornering under pressure. You can add in barriers or other obstacles to test yourself further.
Or use some sticks, cones or discarded rubbish to mark out a line on a patch of grass with about 3 or 4 metres between each mark. Use anywhere form 3 to 10 marks. Sprint from the start mark, then corner around the first mark; then sprint back to corner around the start mark. Then sprint out to corner around the second mark, and sprint back to round the start again. Then sprint out to the third and so on. Each time the distance to the turns increases, you’ll reach a higher top speed on the straight and your cornering speed will therefore be higher, making you tackle the corner nearer to race pace. To make it even harder, you’ll find that this drill works really well if done with some mates as a little race…
To hone your ability to handle quick changes of direction you can also put the marks closer together and do slalom practise between them. Add in a bank or hill to create off-camber turns, a favourite of course builders.
Once again we have been looking for videos to demonstrate good cornering technique and turn to the legend that is Kris Westwood for some great tips on cornering in cross. Here’s a brief synopsis of his top tips as featured in the video at the end of this article:
1) Look where you are going, not at the apex or at any obstacles mid-corner. Look at or beyond the exit and you’ll be faster round the corner.
2) Shift your weight back. This is a good technique for most of the racing here in the UK where slippery grass and mud is the order of the day. Rearward weight transfer will stop the front wheel slipping or washing out. Its much easier to control a rear wheel than a front wheel skid . If you cornering in sand or loamy soils then you can use more forward weight transfer to get the front wheel to bite.
3) Look for the areas of traction in the corner. A a race progresses the nature of each corner constantly evolves and you will need to explore the full width of the course to find the best traction. This is especially true of wet muddy courses as the most used path through often becomes very slippery. It’s the opposite in sand, where it’s much quicker to use the established routes through a corner as berms build-up, offering stacks of traction and reward aggressive cornering. Obviously, you need to decide on your line prior to actually turning into a corner, so you can still look at your exit as in 1) above…
4) Pedal through corners as much as possible. In fact this holds true of all parts of a cyclocross course; the more of a course over which you can pedal, the faster you’ll be. A lot of riders coast around much of the course and then wonder why they don’t do better. Corners are the best place to make up time by ‘keeping on the gas’. Try to pedal the whole circuit you use in training and it will open your eyes to the possible benefits this could have in racing.
5) Try to enter slow and exit fast by adopting a wider approach line, then turning in later and cutting in way beyond the apex. This is a technique used by motocross riders to great effect; by getting their turning done as early as possible in a corner they can in effect lengthen the straight before the next corner and have more time on the power, resulting in faster speeds. Therefore think like a motocross rider, not an apex clipping road racer or a racing car driver, though this doesn’t mean start sticking your foot down mid corner…
6) Of course, during a cross race you can ignore all of the above as the situation dictates, which inevitably it will…