There are just 2 weeks now until the 2021 KAP sani2c events take place and we are onto our 3rd edition of the Pre-sani blog. The link to the previous two can be found below and in this edition we will be looking at how to ride switchback corners.
Pre-Sani Blog 1 – How To Setup Your Bike For The KAP sani2c – https://wildair.co.za/setting-up-your-bike-for-the-kap-sani2c/
Pre-Sani Blog 2 – What Is The Correct Bike For The KAP sani2c – https://wildair.co.za/what-is-the-correct-bike-for-the-kap-sani2c/
If you’re familiar with the sani2c, you’ll know that there is plenty of single track to be enjoyed along the 3 day route that the events follow. It is common knowledge, or at least it should be, that in order to make the most of the beautifully crafted and natural trails requires a fair bit of technical skill. Developing your mountain biking skills takes time, more for some than others. It will often require you to step back, take a look at your riding and progress at a measured pace with certain principles in mind that you want to put into practice (not just throwing yourself at any obstacle you can find). The rewards for this are very worthwhile! Developing your skills on the mountain bike will allow you to ride safer and faster (if you want to) on any terrain, and generally allow you to enjoy riding your bike more!
Speaking of technical riding, switcback corners can be particular tricky and on the KAP sani2c there are lots of them. Think of trails such as OGs and the renowned Umkomaas valley descent! Being very sharp corners, they can require the most of you and will test your skills in braking and setting up for the corner. There are a few basic things to keep in mind and apply when approaching a switchback, or any corner for that matter, and in this article we will look at 3 of them and try to keep it simple; braking, line choice or setup, and spotting the exit.
Good balance on the bike is key for feeling comfortable when cornering. If you struggle to balance with skills such as the track-stand (standing stationary on your bike), then click on this link for some tips on improving your balance on the bike.
Let’s start with looking at braking for the corner. You ideally want to do all of your braking before entering the corner, this will allow you to let the bike accelerate freely out of the corner and you won’t be needing to pedal as much to get back up to speed and you will save energy! Win win win!
As you approach the corner be aware of how much you will have to slow down for it, generally the sharper the slower, and bet yourself to a comfortable entry speed. Try your best not to think about going around the whole corner as fast as possible, as we said, it is your exit speed that matters when it comes to keeping flow, conserving energy and keeping the average speed up. If you can get off the brakes at the latest after the apex of the corner, you’re on the right track.
Line Choice / Setup
Next let’s talk about setting up for the corner. The general principle applied to cornering is to enter as wide as reasonably possible. The wider you enter the corner, the less sharp it becomes, your turning radius increases, and it will be easier to carry speed around the corner.
With that in mind, when you are approaching the corner, look for the widest part of the track and get yourself onto that line (remember your braking as well, don’t come in too hot). Once you are on that line do your best to get as much of your turning done before the apex of the corner. This should allow you to get off those brakes for the exit and let the bike roll freely out of the corner with good speed and saving you energy!
Head and Eyes
Now letting go of your brakes to accelerate out of the corner isn’t going to feel very comfortable if you have no idea what the exit of the corner looks like. So, once you have got on that good wide entry line, turn your attention to the exit of the corner. Looking ahead on the trail (in any situation) gives your brain more time to interpret and react to the terrain. If you’re staring at your front wheel you won’t be comfortable to let off the brakes because you don’t know what lies ahead.
You may have also heard it said that your body will follow where your eyes and head point and this does hold true. It can be very tempting to look at the outside of the corner to see what you would crash into if you were to miss it, I’ve been there, but this isn’t helpful. As best as you can, try to turn your attention to the exit of the corner by looking with your eyes and turning your head once you are in the corner.
These principles, particularly entering wide and looking to the exit, do apply for uphill switchbacks as well. The inside of the corner is usually the steepest so going wide on the uphill switchback makes the gradient more manageable. Balance can come into play a bit more on the uphill switchbacks due to the slower speeds so be sure to give the balance video a watch to learn a couple tips to enhance your balance if it is something that you struggle with.
A final tip for descending switchbacks, do your best not to unclip your outside foot if you’re feeling unsafe. If you have to, unclip your inside foot rather and drop your seat post or sit on the top tube to lower your weight and feel safer. You can tap your way around the corner with your inside foot and easily pop back onto the seat and pedals once you’re through!
Where can you practice these skills? Obviously finding a good switchback out on the trail that you can repeat is the real deal but you can also practice on your driveway, road or car park (mind the traffic). Mark a point as the apex of the corner and practice braking early, setting up wide and spotting your exit!
There is, of course, much more to talk about when it comes to cornering such as leaning the bike, dropping your outside foot etc. but these points we have given you are a good place to start. Make sure to give proper time to developing your skills. They make you faster, safer, and more energy efficient!
Now go out there and give this a bash! It will make your sani2c and any trail riding you do all the more fun! We look forward to seeing you cruising through the switchbacks with big smiles at the event in 2 weeks time!
Cheers for now,
from the WILD AIR team!