I was determined to ride my mountain bike today but we have friends coming round this evening and it would, lets face it, be rude to fall asleep halfway through the evening. A short ride wouldn’t harm, though, but I still wanted the ride to have purpose. On my last ride I realised that, after around two and a half hours of hard, continuous riding my cornering was uncontrolled. I just wasn’t getting that feeling of confident flow when I was fatigued so today I thought I needed to go back to basics and practice cornering on my local, purpose built trails at Healey Nab.
It takes about 20 minutes to reach the trails using the steep route. Although I was trying not to tire myself I still took the quicker option and made sure I kept the bike in a low gear on the climb. I was soon trying to climb a very steep slope and ground to a halt only for gravity to win the battle as I tried to hold myself and the bike upright. We both tumbled backward but no harm was done. I reached the top of the hill to then ride 3 downhills. I’ve read complaints on Facebook and the like that the trails here are “too short”. This is only true if you ride up and straight back down. I could easily ride circuits of the hill, taking different options for both climbs and descents, and never repeat exactly the same route.
I was dropping my weight close to the bike as I approached the many banked corners so that, where I needed the most grip I could push away from the bike. This digs the tyres into the ground to increase grip where needed and it helps to avoid a slide. It’s mainly a matter of extending the legs, much less the arms. If I’m worried about front wheel grip then extending my arms to push down on the handlebars will change the balance between front and rear wheel grip. Increasing front wheel grip is often worthwhile because a rear wheel slide is easier to control, only needing you to keep the front wheel pointing where you want the rest of the bike to follow. I had small slides at both ends during my laps but nothing too dramatic. I was noticing just how quickly I was getting into the corners on the first lap so tried to slow a little to perfect my technique. Going in too fast means that you may not have time to react. You need to start slower, get the feel correct, then speed up later. This way the correct method can become intuitive rather than something you have to think about every moment.
I only covered seven and a half miles with 913 feet of ascent but it was a useful lesson to concentrate on the basics of cornering. I didn’t feel that I was quite at my best even after 3 laps so will make sure I keep training my method for speed and safety. At the top of the page is the scene in my garage after my ride. Some people my want a Ferrari, a superbike and a speed boat but I find myself perfectly contented with a pedal powered boat, a scooter which is currently on loan to me and a mountain bike. (One of 5, you have to have a few spares.) I’ll tell you all about the scooter over the next couple of weeks because I’m going with 6 like minded fools to Europe from next Thursday, whilst we’re still young enough to be able to cope.