Riding corners at the limit of grip.

In a recent post I described 2 types of corners and the different techniques you need to apply to ride them as quickly as possible. On my ride I’d gone to the man made mountain bike trails at Healey Nab where all the corners are of only one of the two types. To avoid degradation by repeated use every corner has a berm, or banking. This helps riders to maintain speed and so not have to brake hard, digging ruts and making bumps in the surface. You are also far less likely to slide on a berm, which could also wear the surface, because the banking helps to steer you round. Today I thought it would be fun to ride first to Birkacre, the site of an old cotton mill, which has no berms but corners with a flat surface. It’s easy to find the limit of grip so I’d need to be ready in case either or both wheels slid. I could then ride back to Healey Nab for a very different type of banked corner.

I was soon off road for a steep climb which always seems more interesting than climbing the small hill by the nearby road. Then it’s a downhill with a gentle gradient but plenty of speed. The damp surface was slippery and half way down a family were walking so I had to brake hard to a virtual standstill. It’s the only responsible thing to do. I was soon at a small but excellent riding place where the mill had previously stood. It has lots of twisty tracks without berms so I used my flat corner technique. I stuck out my leg and foot in the direction I was turning. On most corners I had at most only tiny slides which didn’t divert me. On my favourite 3 corner combination, which I rode a couple of times, I had a bigger slide on the last, right hand corner. You enter the corner heading downhill but turn to exit it uphill. About halfway round my front wheel slid out. My foot tapped the ground and the reduction in pressure on the rear tyre, as I applied some body weight to the ground, caused the rear wheel to slide a little. This was enough to slow the bike and for the front wheel to grip. The description may take some time to read but the event lasted a fraction of a second. With practice these events are not controlled by thought but by instinct. Another potential crash averted!

Turning to the right, about a meter to the left if the tree, is a really good, flat corner, my track is visible on the ground where I’d slid a little.
Before the right hander is a bend to the left which isn’t as sharp. Immediately before this I’ already taken the first right hand bend. It’s just about my favourite 3 corner combo, which I’ve ridden since 1992!

After messing around at Birkacre I rode back via Duxbury woods and found a superb single track, woodland downhill. I knew the parts but can’t remember linking then together in this way before. I’ll be back soon. It was good in the wet conditions and I think it will be even better in the dry, which we’re hoping for in the coming week. In Duxbury woods I decided not to take the longer trail, with some tarmac to Healey Nab and instead rode a very short circuit about 6 times to really get the feel for the only corner of significance on the way round. It’s a lefthander at the bottom of a bumpy slope so there’s as much speed available as you could want. I was dabbing the brake just before I turned in, daring myself to go as quick as I could. Once I had to abort down a safe, clear alternative but otherwise kept increasing my speed. The corner starts with the trail sloping the wrong way but it finishes in your favour so I needed to lean further and turn tighter as I rode round. It’s import to lean the bike, not throw your body into the corner, because by leaning the bike you can stay loose and change your line to a tighter or less tight one. If you commit like a motorcycle road racer and throw your weight in you can only ride one line and hope it’s the right one!

I had a bit of fun on a fairly short ride and got some good training through a lot of short sprints.

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