If you master nothing else when it comes to motocross, master this: cornering. This is the thing that will help you stay one step ahead of your rivals and win races. Some experts even think that motocross is, for all intents and purposes, an exit sport, referring to how well you exit corners.
Jumps and whips may be fun and flashy, and they certainly require boldness and skill, but it’s cornering that’s going to make you a winner. Improving your cornering skill and speed could mean the few seconds – or the fraction of a second, even – between winning and losing.
The bottom line? Cornering better is what will improve your speed on every single lap. Here are 10 tips to get you started.
1. Start over
No matter how long you’ve been riding, if you want to improve your cornering you’ll have to go back to basics. This means training the same way you did in the beginning, going around the track over and over to practice just the fundamentals. Find a short, figure eight circuit that doesn’t have any jumps and that has more curves than long straights. Since no two corners are alike, practice on a variety of tracks to get a more comprehensive experience.
2. Put your arms up
Riding with your arms up and your elbows squared off will help you to better control your bike and bend it whenever you need to.
3. Keep your head raised
Keeping your head raised and focusing on what’s in front of you will give you enough time to process what’s coming up and prepare for it. If you don’t look ahead often enough, even one surprise can rile you up, stopping you from making good decisions and causing you to lose some control over your bike. Looking at what’s out in front of you is especially important when it comes to ruts, which are usually placed right before a corner.
4. Look where you want to go
When it comes to riding in general, and cornering specifically, the bike will naturally follow the direction of your head, which is determined by where your eyes are looking. This is important at every stage of cornering. Remember to look where you want to go, which means turning your head before you get there. For example, as soon as you enter a corner, you want to turn your head and look towards the middle of the corner. Follow the same strategy for exiting the corner.
5. Ride smooth
Don’t be too hard on the throttle, especially when coming in to a corner. In general, you don’t want to be aggressive or erratic when cornering. Instead, you need a lot of control. While you may think you’ll get around the corner more quickly with a quick burst of the throttle, you’ll have better results overall if you carefully think through the corner and go smoothly around it. Cornering is technical, and you need to remain methodical to handle it well. This will be especially important if you ride a berm through a corner.
6. Cleanly enter, then quickly exit the corner
By making a clean entrance into the corner, you can smoothly go through the middle of it and then come out quickly. If you come in too fast, you’ll find yourself needing to break in the middle, which could make you come to a stop, affecting how well you exit the corner. It’s important to exit a corner quickly, not only to stay on pace, but also because you’ll likely be facing an uphill, a whoop or another feature you’ll need speed for.
7. Put your foot right back on the peg
As you exit the corner and have to give the bike more gas, you want to put your foot back on the peg as quickly as possible. By having your foot on the peg, you can better control the bike. If you leave your foot out, you’ll notice that the bike goes side-to-side instead of straight. When this happens, you’ll lose some momentum, traction and control.
8. Stay consistent
Staying consistent when it comes to how much power you deliver will mean you can handle each section of the circuit in a uniform and constant manner, and that includes the corners. You’ll find yourself in a reliable and solid flow throughout the entire circuit, and you won’t have to spend nearly as much energy as usual, keeping your mind clear to calculate what you need to do moment-to-moment. In terms of cornering, a good strategy is to always enter on the slow slide, smoothly roll through the middle and then exit fast.
9. Use your knees to grip the bike
Grip the bike by squeezing your knees, both when you’re standing and when you’re sitting. This gives you a better connection to your bike as well as the ground. You’ll also notice that you feel more solid on the bike and in more control of it. Plus, you can loosen your grip a bit on the bars, which will help ease the stress of arm pump. Arm pump affects just about every motocross rider, but the more you ride, the fewer arm pump issues you’ll have.
10. Commit to your choice of line
Yes, it’s always nice if you can pick the perfect line from the get-go, but if you don’t, it’s still important to accept your choice and commit to it. Trust yourself to expertly handle even a slow, tough route. Don’t hesitate when riding and go with whatever the route throws at you. Use the techniques you’ve practiced, and hit those corners like a pro.
One Last Thought
Good riders and great riders are separated by how well they can handle corners in circuits. With enough practice, these cornering techniques will become second nature, just like all of the other motocross skills you’ve practiced and conquered. By focusing on the minutiae of what’s happening now, you can influence the overall outcome of a race later.