Whether you’re flying down a mountain descent, winding through country lanes or diving through tight city streets, confidence and good cornering technique are essential for conserving energy, staying safe and gaining time on your mates.
While the pro peloton has more than its share of assured descenders, no one quite gains as much from the bends in the road as world champion Peter Sagan.
On any terrain, the man who has won the Tour’s green jersey in each of the last five editions knows how to put his rivals to the sword.
1. Take control
Sagan can dominate the most aggressive races by hitting the front ahead of corners, enabling him to take control of his own lines and speed. If you have a regular route you ride with friends, get to know the corners and where they are to give yourself an advantage.
2. Hold your speed
The central idea when it comes to cornering is not to slow down as much as everybody else into the corner, and therefore not have to speed up as much as everyone else out of it. Key to that is being able to control your line, which is why Sagan always makes a point of leading through corners.
3. Keep the front end grounded
Through the corner Sagan keeps his centre of gravity low to aid balance, with his weight focused over the front wheel spindle to keep the front end grounded. If you feel your back wheel slipping you can often correct it and stay upright, but if the front wheel goes… that’s when teeth can meet tarmac.
4. Smooth the corner
To keep speed through a corner make it as wide and smooth as possible. Unless riding on closed roads stay on your side of the road, but aim to use as much as you can: enter from a wide point, skim the apex of the bend, and exit the turn as widely as conditions allow.
5. Inside up, outside down
Another coaching staple that Sagan uses is to go into any corner that you can’t pedal through with your inside foot up, outside foot down and weighted. As well as preventing you from clipping the road with your inside pedal, that weight being pushed on the outside helps keep the wheels grounded.
6. Quick start
Being first into the corner means you will be the first out of it (accidents aside) so take the opportunity to get back on the pedals as soon as it’s safe to do so. Everyone behind you will have had to scrub off more speed, and as they aim to get back on your wheel they’re all burning one more match.
The golden rule: build your confidence
While good cornering technique is something you can use to win races (or beat your mates to the cafe) it’s something best perfected alone.
Build confidence in yourself and your front wheel by taking a corner you know, slowly initially, working on taking the best line and putting the golden rules of keeping your centre of gravity low, your inside pedal up and outside pedal down and weight over the front wheel into practice.
As your confidence increases, up your speed and learn how hard you can push your bike, and how far you can lean it. Stick to dry weather to start, then learn how to handle your bike in the wet.
Meet your coach, Tim Elverson
General manager and directeur sportif with the Bike Channel-Canyon pro team, Tim is a former-Elite level racer now coaching and managing the UK-based UCI Continental team.