Everyone wants to corner faster

Go wide, stay high, pump out: keep your flow locked down with Dirt School‘s tips on how to make a hasty exit form tight corners and turns.

Words by Andy Barlow

We all love that feeling of effortlessly gliding down the trail with no more effort than is necessary, but one of the most frustrating things that can happen when you ride is that you feel like you’re fighting the trail. We all have days like this from time to time, but there are ways of reducing how often it happens. A list of tricks that if you stick to, will allow you to ride with a lot less energy and a lot more smiles. This time we’re going to look at how to carry more momentum when you’re riding. We’re going to look at how to set up your line so that you can carry more energy out of corners, how to look for the positive features on a track, and how to prioritise parts of the trail so you feel like you’re carrying speed instead of always fighting for it.

The three lines on the way in are a hot topic of discussion. Where would you go on this right right-hander switchback?

Line choice

Turning up and away from the corner on steeper terrain is a great way of making much better use of the available space. It gives you a better view of where you want to go, allows you a smoother line round the corner, and means you can control where you accelerate instead of rushing up the inside and being left with a lot to do in one spot towards the end.

“I thought I was already going high, but when I saw how much further and later I could go, it really took me by surprise. These lines aren’t actually that bad once you give them a go.”

If the trail is particularly rough because of erosion, or there are features like roots and rocks poking through, then try and stay off the brakes as you traverse. You’re on a level plane at this point so you won’t pick up any speed. As you drop in expect it to speed up really fast. Stay focussed on looking through the corner and staying in a solid body position.

When Andy says go high and stay up there late he really means it.

Using gradient

As soon as your bike starts facing downhill you’re going to accelerate. The steeper the incline, the faster you’ll accelerate. While high lines are great for widening the trail, if you turn in too early then you’ll end up accelerating into the wrong part of the track. Instead of turning down right after you’ve gone high, try staying up there a little longer. That way you’ll be able to do most of the corner before you’ve started to accelerate instead of doing all the acceleration before you’ve done the corner. You can always do a little braking as you tip it in just to stay in control of that acceleration. If you drop in without braking then you’ll likely need to dab them later on. Scrub a little speed off while you’re still high and limit that acceleration. Just make sure you’re off the brakes when you’re doing the bulk of the work further down as you’ll need that traction to make the turn.

Notice how much further round the corner Andy is looking.

Look out

If you’re finding that you run out of room on the way out of turn then perhaps it has something to do with what you’re looking at as you go through. Most riders are good at looking through a turn till it becomes exposed on the exit. For example; if you replay in your mind the last time you went wide what do you see? I’ll bet it’s your front wheel exiting the track or going over the edge. Which make you think, why were you looking at your front wheel? Try and control your speed as you drop in, and take a line that allows you to open the turn up. Next, stay in a confident neutral riding position with your elbows out, your head over the bars, and your hips facing your exit. As you start picking up speed and making your way round you should be looking towards the exit. Trust us. This sounds easy but will take a lot of conscious practice before it becomes habit.

“Going higher on the way in opened up the turn, and looking towards the exit kept that feeling of having time to play with going for a little longer.”

All about the exit

Every time you enter a turn you’re trying to prioritise the exit. No matter what else happens you want to carry speed out the other side. To do this you’re going to have to slow down on the way in. There’s no point in coming in too fast, leaving your braking as late as possible, and stalling on the exit. While riding like this might feel faster because everything is happening quickly. In reality you’re just wasting energy and making such hurried and sped up movements that you’ll never be able to scale it up to riding quicker. Instead, try coming in slowly and confident that you don’t have to brake further round and look where you want to go. If you’re following pals down the trail you’ll find that they’ll get a way from you on the way in, but you’ll always be reeling them back in on the exits. And with no pedal strokes! A wider, smoother line means that thinks will start to slow down for you. You’ll be going faster, but with more time to react and with more control.

Pump it

If you’re getting a feel for having control further round corners, then you can start thinking about using that balance and time to straighten your legs and ‘pump’ your way out the other side. This isn’t a sharp burst with your legs and arms though. It’s more of a gradual straightening of your legs so that you’re using the majority of the power right as you straighten up. Pushing like this towards and through the exit will give you a lot more traction. It will also allow you to control your traction because if you start to loose grip you can always back off from the push. Riding corners with your outside foot down will give you traction to a point, but will totally limit how much you can push meaning that you feel like you stall. Riding with your knees and arms bent so that your body is low, means that you can apply that power through straightening your legs as you start to feel weighted in the turn.

Matt handles the unstable roots and rocks on the way into this corner easily because he’s stayed low and can push for the grip towards the exit.

Grip points

Remember and always look for the grippy bits of a trail. Focussing on the positive features will mean that you’re mind is always going from one solid, predictable part of the trail to another. If there is a loss of control on the way into a section, just stay low and close to your bike, and focus on the next place that you can extend in to causing your tyres to bite. If you can go heavy in the grippy parts, and lighter over the slippy features, you’ll be able to link traction together in a way that gives you confidence and control.


Your homework is to try pushing on the exit of corners so hard with your legs that you cause your front wheel to raise off the ground. This is a Brendog special. You’re going to have to find a corner that has a sharp but trustworthy exit. Preferably one that you know you can ride confidently. Come is a little slower than you normally would and instead of using your speed to take you round, gradually push with your legs so that you end up in a powerful manual position. For a bit of style, if your front wheel is off of the ground try crossing your bars up slightly by counter steering and turning away from the direction you want to go it. The push with your legs should accelerate you out of the exit with a bit of style.