Something I’ve learned over the years of trying to become more proficient at cornering my mountain bike is that there is a big difference between just riding on top of your bike through a corner and being able to drive your bike into and pump out of the corner. I’ve seen riders who are able to literally gain speed coming out of a corner and you can see that a lot of this comes from how they use their hips to steer the bike.
What I’ve also learned is that it isn’t as simple as “point your belly button where you want to go”. While this advice isn’t untrue, it really isn’t descriptive enough as there are a lot of different ways to turn your hips. Like I pointed out in this video, there is a specific way that we need to turn out hips on the bike and it focuses more on laterally moving the hips than just twisting them.
While trying to refine this concept even further I’ve been working on using my rear leg’s internal and external hip rotation to help me steer my bike through corners. And what I’ve found is that this is one of the keys to efficient and, more importantly, aggressive cornering technique.
When you start in a neutral attack position over your bike and internally rotate your trail leg it will drive your hips over to that side. When you externally rotate the trail leg it will drive your hips back over the center of the bike. And it is this lateral movement of the hips that allows you to drive your bike through the corner and to gain some speed by pumping out of it.
On a side note, this also underscores my point about the need to ride switchfoot and come into a corner with the inside leg forward. This leg position has the outside leg as the trail leg, which means you can drive your hips to the outside to the corner using internal hip rotation.
Since you have more range of motion and strength in that direction it is easier to get your hips out to that side. While you can pull this movement off from the external rotation of the trail leg, it is harder to do and isn’t as efficient.
Now that I understand this concept I also know exactly how exercises like the KB Windmill and the Stick Windmill apply to this movement. While exercises like this are tough for most riders, a lack of mobility and strength with them signals a problem with movement patterns you need to corner properly.
Now, I know that all of this probably doesn’t make much sense at first so I shot this video to show you how this works in action. I’ll show you exactly how this internal and external rotation of the trail leg drives proper hip movement and how you can improve it with some targeted stretches and exercises.
So what does all of this “internal-external rotation” talk have to do with you? First, if you want to improve your cornering then your program should be working on this movement pattern, particularly as it applies to cornering our mountain bikes. Like I’ve said before, if your program isn’t addressing everything you need on the trail – including the movement patterns you need to improve your skills – then it really isn’t a mountain biking program.
Second, focus on applying this when you ride your bike. You have to have rides or specific times during rides when you are focusing on applying specific skills to the trail and this is a good one to start using. Use the exercises I talked about to get a feeling for the movement and then apply that feeling to the bike.
Like you, I’m always looking for ways to help me ride with more speed, endurance and confidence on the trail and I’m always excited to share new things that I’ve found have helped me. Hopefully this movement tip will help you unlock some things that will help you improve your cornering.
Until next time…