"Pretty Damn Quick"
With the winter crit racing underway I thought I'd write a blog on how to corner like a pro. Tight, technical circuits are usually won by those who know how to corner the most efficiently. This means, keeping their speed throughout the corner, which leads to higher exit speeds and conserving a lot of energy over the duration of the race. A rider who exits the corner with lower speed will have to accelerate every time they exit the corner to get back up to speed. Lets assume that the race is 45 minutes long, 2 dead turns on the circuit, which is a 3 minute circuit, that's 30 sprints out of the corners that your opponent isn't doing. So here are a few tips to help you corner efficiently and save your legs for the sprint for the line.
Brake Before the corner
Make sure that you enter the corner at the optimal speed at which you will be able to take corner without applying the brakes and keep the most momentum. Braking before the corner and letting the bike go through the corner will mean you will exit the corner with the maximum amount of speed, saving you precious energy. The speed you can maintain through the corner will depend on the tightness of the bend, whether it is off-camber or not, whether it is up or downhill and the road surface.
Change gear before you get to the corner, so you are already in the ideal gear to get back up to speed without taxing your legs. The gear you select will depend on the tightness of the corner and the terrain going out of the corner. For example, if it is a dead turn and/or a rise out of the corner, you will need to select an easier gear than if the corner is shallow and/or flat or downhill on exit.
During your warm up you should assess whether there are any corners you can pedal through or not. If they are tight corners you will need to keep your inside pedal up until you exit the corner.
Body position is really important in cornering well. Hold the drops to enable yourself to get low on the bike and reduce your centre of gravity, enabling you to corner faster and safer. Apply downward pressure on your outside pedal to get maximum grip between your tyres and the road surface.
Look Where You Want To Go
As you approach the corner, you need to be looking at the exit point of the corner. You will end up riding where you are looking, so look where you want to go.
Tyre Pressure and Selection
Depending on the weather you may want to select a tyre with more grip and reduce your tyre pressure if the circuit is wet and slippy on the corners. Assess what the safest speed is to corner if you are racing in wet conditions.
Take a Race Line
Enter the corner wide, pull in closely to the middle (apex) of the corner, and exit wide. This is the fastest line to take through the corner. Assess in the warm-up laps your ideal corner entry and exit points.
Be Aware of Other Riders
In a race situation you may have riders all around you. Be aware of where other riders are while you are cornering. You may not be able to take the race line unless you are single file or riding solo.
Check out for road surface for potential things to avoid, like gravel or drain covers, particularly important in town centre crits where road furniture poses risks and will affect the best line you can take. Also check whether the road surface is grippy or slippy, this will affect how fast you can go round the corner and how far you can lean the bike over.