Just because we're not creating new content doesn't mean there's not still some good stuff on GamJams. Since you come back for the NewsRoll, I might as well fire up the Wayback machine. This one is from 2009.
[Davis Phinney said that cornering well is free speed. After two consecutive years of racing Speed Week and the USA Crits series, Jared Nieters (Haymarket Bicycles p/b Trakkers) is inclined to believe him. Jared shares his lessons from the twisting trenches below, in the lastest installment of the "Not like a wussy" series on GamJams.]
How to not corner like a wussy
by Jared Nieters, Haymarket Bicycles p/b Trakkers
In 2008 I learned to corner at what Gonzalo Escobar called "Crit School." We sent a team down to USA Crits SpeedWeek, and it was a trial by fire. At first, (besides the blistering speeds) we had some trouble with the aggressive riding and hard lines through the corners, but we learned some lessons, and racing has been different ever since. In the end, I have found that guys who can corner well find themselves off the front, and guys who can't corner well find themselves on YouGotDropped.
1. Pick any speed, as long as it's fast.
Cornering properly begins before you even start leaning the bike. First, it is important to enter the turn at a speed you think you can maintain throughout the entire corner, without losing control. Once you begin the corner, it is best not to change your speed. Your head should be up, and you should be looking through the corner, past the exit. If you're a little nervous in the corner and you're not sure how fast you can take it, just maintain the same distance between you and the rider in front of you throughout the corner. Additionally, to ride a good and safe line, use your peripheral vision and maintain a constant distance between you and the rider to your inside.
2. Body position.
When you begin to lean the bike, it is important to have your body properly positioned on the bike. The outside pedal should be down, bearing most of your weight. Putting your hands in the drops and lowering your chest toward the top tube lowers your center of gravity and allows you to take the turn faster. Also, try to center your weight (fore and aft) on the bike. Finally, your inside knee should be tucked in tight to the top tube. Dragging a knee looks cool in MotoGP, but in cycling, keeping it tucked in works better.
3. Using corners to improve your position.
There are a few little tricks you can apply in the turns to take them faster. Typically, people slow more than they need to before the corner. You can take advantage of that by allowing a very small gap to open in front of you shortly before the turn (we're only talking a 6 to 7 foot gap), and closing the gap through the corner. Time it right, and you'll already being going faster when everyone else sprints out of the corner. Keep in mind that if the other riders are cornering hard, you'll exit that turn with that 6 to 7 foot gap and you'll be sprinting.
Nervy riders can also move up in corners. Most pelotons leave small lanes on the inside and outside of the main line. Ride a little faster in those lanes, and you can typically move up a few spots. This might require you to take a late- or early-apex line in order to avoid the group's traditional outside-inside-outside line, but if there aren't riders there, you can move far up the group. But beware, this tactic can bite you in the rear if the lane disappears and you have to slow down, so you should spend a few laps trying to determine whether the lanes exist.
4. Tools of the turning trade.
Additionally, equipment can make a difference. Good wheels and tires are a significant advantage. The right equipment is debatable, but the bottom line is that you need to know what your equipment can do, and have complete confidence in it. I love my Mavic Cosmic Carbones with Michelin Pro3 Race tires, inflated to about 110 lbs. I use this set-up in nearly every criterium, and the more I race them, the more my confidence in them increases.
5. Cornering confidence is a game-changer.
It's one thing to know how to corner, but the next step is knowing you know how. In addition to confidence in your equipment, it really helps to have just plain confidence. Racers who are comfortable in the curves genuinely look forward to races with more corners, preferably close to the finish. (They also don't mind a little rain or rough pavement thrown in the mix). Riding through the turns aggressively and with purpose will allow you to take advantage of the corners, and not just survive them.
Cornering is particularly important in the Mid-Atlantic. We have a ton of criterium races so navigating the turns well can be the difference between success and failure on a weekly basis. Stay relaxed, be properly positioned, and look all the way through the corners. If you don't finish at the front, it won't be because you couldn't make it through turn four well enough.