Each month I receive a copy of Mountain Bike Ride magazine (MBR). I bought the first ever edition many years ago because it was clearly aimed at adults, whilst the other UK options at the time seemed to be oriented towards the youth. I haven’t always read the mag. but for a few years I’ve subscribed. I’d realised when my son, Dylan, became interested in MTB that my knowledge had fallen way behind the times and it’s good to now keep up with developments in what is still a rapidly evolving sport. Each month an experienced coach, Andy Barlow, writes several pages to help us to improve our riding techniques. I read this month’s offering just before today’s ride, which concerned cornering technique and in particular how you need to change things depending on whether you’re riding manicured trail centre trails or natural routes, often using footpaths. I’ve written myself about how I vary my riding depending on whether I’m on man made, single track or wider corners. I generally agreed with what Andy had written and thought it would be good to ride a variety of trails, today, concentrating on how I was approaching things.
Since my last ride we’ve had snow, which froze hard, followed by rain which has eventually washed it away. Healey Nab, our local hill, was bound to be muddy but has a variety of trails which are almost always worth riding. I rode by a mix of road and trail to the north end of the hill and climbed to the trail head. For once I didn’t ride the top loop, setting off down the red graded trail instead.
This trail is fairly narrow with bermed (banked) corners. The best way to ride this type of trail is to keep the pedals level whilst cornering, bend the knees and elbows to keep your body low to the bike. This way I’d be ready to absorb the larger bumps and undulation by flexing further. If the ground dropped away I could extend to keep the wheels in contact with the ground. On corners I’d lean the bike, keeping my body fairly level. By riding like this I could easily change line on the trail if I needed to by changing the angle of lean of the bike. I wouldn’t need to move my whole body as I would if I’d leant over in line with the bike. But was this how I actually rode? Yes! My technique was good and by thinking about it quite often it becomes natural. I completed another climb to the top. From here I’d ride down the route which I’d just ascended. It’s safe enough when the hill is quiet and today there were a few riders but they seemed to be using the push up route rather than riding round.
This way descends gently at first but since it’s intended to be a climb it’s different to the red route. It has roots and rocks on the surface unlike the other, more manicured descent. A tight single track skirts the perimeter of an old quarry. Here I used the same method as I had on the previous drop. It was only later on wider, more open corners that I used my other technique.
On a wider corner like this I dropped my outside pedal and extended my inner leg. This way when the front wheel slid my foot tapped the ground and as if by magic the rear wheel slid and the front gripped. A rear wheel slide is easy to deal with. I just kept the front wheel pointing where I wanted to go. My foot tapping the ground had taken some of the weight off the rear tyre which had allowed it to slide, whilst slowing slightly had allowed the front to grip. On the next corner I really messed it up.
After the right hander is a descending left. It’s tighter so in drier, grippier conditions you simply need to take a little speed off. In today’s wet conditions I should have locked the rear wheel on entry to the corner to allow it to swing round. Instead I braked then let the brake off as I turned in. I was going too quickly so grabbed the rear brake again, getting round but with no finesse! I needed a mixture of the two styles on the varying remainder of the downhill before heading home.
It was a good ride and by having something to concentrate on it added something extra.