Cornering remains one of the most common skills riders ask me about improving. The ability to maximize your momentum and speed in corners will help you go faster, save energy and look cool in the process, making it a very valuable trail skill.

Being able to move your hips around the cockpit on the bike to maximize balance and control is the key to improving your flow on the trail, especially when it comes to cornering.

At the heart of cornering lies two things – the ability to lean your bike over and, more importantly, the ability to lean your hips laterally to counterbalance the lean of the bike. The lateral hip mobility needed to execute this skill is usually the weak link in the equation and so addressing it it usually a priority.

To do that there are two things you can do with your foot placement and one exercise that will really help with this on the bike.

First, make sure you have your foot set in a –mid-foot position. This means that you will set the ball of the foot in front of the pedal axle instead of right on top of it. This will make it easier to drop the heel of the outside foot so you can sit back into your hip instead of just bending the knees and squatting down.

The second thing you can do is to set your inside foot forward going into a corner. This makes it easier to drop the outside foot and “carve” the corner much like skiing. This also means that you’ll need to be able to ride switch-foot on the trail, which is something you’ll need to practice along with cornering.

Lastly, you can work on using the Rotational Deadlift to teach your body the lateral hip movement you need on the bike. I’ve done a post on this exercise before but I recently shot a new video going over some details and coaching cues that have really helped me teach this exercise even better.

Being able to move your hips around the cockpit on the bike to maximize balance and control is the key to improving your flow on the trail, especially when it comes to cornering. By using exercises like the Rotational Deadlift to improve this movement off the bike you’ll have a much easier time learning how to apply it on the bike.

Try doing 3 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg in one workout for the next few weeks and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s it for now, if you have any questions on this exercise or have an exercise you’ve found helpful for improving your cornering please post a comment below. And if you liked this post please click one of the Like or Shore buttons below to help me spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

2 thoughts on “Use these 3 tips to improve the lateral hip movement you need for faster corners on the trail.

  1. Monica D says:

    So I have been focusing on finding a movement to help with hip rotation and lateral movement. I always feel like my right hand turn is not nearly as smooth as the left and I am slower to counterbalance on that side. While trying different movements It seemed my real deficiency was my outer leg and not my hip rotation. My left leg just felt much less stable than the R does making a L hander. Any ways to address this with the hip rotation? I do single leg balance work. SLDL and other stability stuff. I continue to ride clipped in also and am not ready to change that just yet.

    • bikejames says:

      It sounds like you just need to work on your switch foot riding. Practicing switch foot track stands is also a great way to work on that. While you can corner with either foot forward, it is definitely easier to do with the inside foot forward and as you get stronger with that you will find it easier to apply with either foot forward.

      I will point out, though, that part of cornering is applying rotational energy into the bike through your feet and clipless pedals make it hard to do that because you would unclip. They encourage a “dead foot” type of cornering and don’t allow you to use the hips properly. Again, once you learn how to do it on flats you can apply it better to clipless pedals but it is very hard to learn on clipless pedals. Flats improve your skills by forcing the body to move the right way while clipless pedals cover up technique flaws that can hold you back.

      I’d suggest spending some time on flats – particularly the Catalyst Pedals that I created to overcome the problems of regular flat pedals – and then if you decide to go back to clipless pedals you’ll have better skills to apply to them.

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