Cornering skills play a critical role in road cycling, particularly in races. Precise cornering on a descent can help a breakaway rider maintain or increase her lead, while quick and confident cornering within a peloton increases safety and helps conserve energy. Successfully navigating fast direction changes leading up to a final sprint can also mean the difference between a podium finish and disappointment.
1) Go Back to the Basics
Cornering perfection starts with the basics. Correct body position, line choice, and brake control are all critical factors. Make sure to check out our Road Bike Skills 101: Cornering Tips before trying to increase speed through corners.
2) Get Low and Lean the Bike
The faster you are going into a corner, the more you will have to lean into the corner. Through the apex of the corner, your bike should be leaning more than your body. You can do this by counterweighting the bike with pressure on the outside foot and inside hand. Also, a lower center of gravity will help you corner faster. So the lower you are on the bike (hands in the drops and elbows tucked under your body), the faster you can go because you are decreasing the distance your body has to go around the corner.
3) Read the Corner
When descending a winding road, scan at least 25 meters ahead. If you can’t see the exit, the corner will be tight. Brake accordingly. For tighter corners, use more of the lane by swinging out wide into the corner and exiting wide. For faster corners, hug the inside to straighten out the corner. The shorter the distance, the faster the line.
4) Dial in Speed
Experience will help you determine how much to slow down into a corner. Confidence in your equipment and your skills, as well as pre-riding the course will help you know how fast you can take a corner safely. Always dial in your speed by braking BEFORE the apex of the corner. Braking in the corner makes it harder to get the bike to turn and might cause you to slide out if you’re on the brakes too much. It is important to scrub enough speed before entering the corner while you are still going straight.
5) Accelerate Out
You can start pedaling once you’ve exited the corner or if you’re not leaned too far over after the apex of the corner. If the exit of the corner is uphill or you have to scrub a lot of speed into the corner, you can shift a couple gears lighter before you enter the corner so you can come out of it quicker. But if it is a fast, flat or downhill exit corner, I stay in the gear that I entered the corner with.
6) Practice Makes Perfect!
Cornering is important. When you corner efficiently at speed, you don’t have to waste energy reaccelerating after every turn, and in a race situation, if the corner is within the last 300 meters of the race, it could be the race-winning corner. So if you want to win, you have to get there first and take it fast so no one can come around you. Keep pushing the limit in corners to see what you are comfortable with. To up your skills, follow a skilled rider you trust. Stick to their wheel and take their lines. You’ll be cornering faster with confidence in no time.