Going Round The Bend

Control your body and bike to pick the best line when the road takes a turn

Posted: 24 November 2009

Every ride comes with curves - some some unforgiving. Either way, it's your duty to get through them safely. We tapped the wisdom of 35-year racing and coaching veteran Carl Cantrell, who offers his services and training manual, A Better Way to Train, at www.coachcarl.com


For the swim you practise pulls and kicks. For the run you do strides and form drills. But for the bike, practising specific skills is rare, and that's a mistake, says Cantrell, who suggests triathletes do circle drills and figure-of-eights once a week to refine the motor skills needed for cornering. This means that when you do hit a corner in a race, your reflexes are automatic....BY DOING FIGURE-OF-EIGHTS Shift into a low gear and ride in slow left-hand circles, gradually picking up speed and bringing the circle tighter until you feel the rear wheel lose traction and skid slightly. That's your tipping point. Get a feel for that point and you'll feel comfortable riding within it. Practise in both directions. Graduate to figure-of-eights (see figure A), which force you to change direction quickly and maintain control.

Most cornering blunders happen at the start of a turn. How you approach sets you up for success, says Cantrell. "First and foremost, you need to relax. When you tense up, you straighten your arms and push the bike to the outside, increasing your chances of crashing."...BY RELAXING YOUR MUSCLES Before you commit to the corner, relax your hands and let your fingers hang so your arm muscles relax. Then grip the bar firmly, but not tightly. Feather the brakes on your approach, squeezing the levers just enough to caress the rims (see figure B), harder if you enter the corner fast. You shouldn't feel all of your weight going into your handle bars; if you do, you're squeezing too hard. When you reach a safe speed, let go of the brakes for the rest of the turn. Enter the corner as wide as possible without crossing the centre of the road. This reduces the steepness of the curve, making your turn more efficient and less scary.


You turn your bike by leaning your body, not by turning your bar. How much you lean depends on the sharpness of the curve. The goal is to shift your centre of gravity to send the bike into the turn, while keeping your weight over the centreline of the bike...BY STEERING WITH YOUR BODY Sit back on the saddle with your hands on the drop handle bars. Extend your outside leg and press into that pedal as you push down on the bar with your inside hand. Lower your upper body and drop your head towards the inside so your head is just about over the inside brake lever (see figure C). In a perfect world, you shouldn't need to brake while in the turn. Braking makes the bike want to sit up and go straight - bad news in a sharp bend. But if you find that you came into the turn a bit fast, you can gently slow down by lightly feathering the brakes.

Losing control in a corner can be terrifying. But nearly every triathlete has an 'oops' episode when misjudging a corner at speed. The right response can keep you upright...BY SHIFTING YOUR WEIGHT Kick your hips to the outside to shift your centre of gravity. This will stop the bike from cornering, set the bike up, and bring you back on top of the bike with the wheels down. Then shift your weight back and hit the brakes, bringing the bike back under control so you can slowly bring your bike through the curve without sliding across the road (see figure D).

A swift, smooth exit will ensure that you maintain momentum as you swoosh out of the corner...BY LOOKING AHEAD Your bike follows your eyes. Look as far through the corner as you can so your bike takes the straightest line possible through the curve. As you exit the curve, start pedalling again - it will help you maintain speed and bring you upright.

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