cornering at high speed - Criteriums

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by BullGod, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. BullGod

    BullGod New Member

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    I have never really learned proper high speed cornering technique….until I came to "crits only" land this wasn’t too much of a problem, but now I’m finding I lose ground on the pack on every bend. This used to mean I could never finish a crit as I would be spent after 15 minutes from chasing down a 5m gap at top speed every 20 seconds, but now I’ve actually managed to become fit enough (the 100 sprints in 90 minutes training ride;-)) to compensate for my self inflicted handicap and finish the races in the main pack.



    However, I know I am using so much energy in doing this, and I also find that most of the other riders want to ride in front of me as they are nervous about the gaps I allow to open in the corners. This means that when the race is really hard and weak riders ahead of me crack I get left with the stragglers….



    If I could make the corners as fast and efficiently as the best riders I could use my fitness to actually go with the leaders and get some good placings, rather than yo yo off the back constantly….



    A guy told me after a crit yesterday that I would have to ride for 5 seconds at 5km/h faster than the others immediately after every bend, considering we made 240 corners in the race it was quite an achievement that I finished with the main pack….he said if I could corner properly I would be one of the strongest there.



    I told him I had never been taught how to corner at speed, and he gave me some tips, but I was pretty cooked and couldn’t really understand Dutch at that stage. He seemed to be saying that I stayed in the leaning posture too long and thus couldn’t resume pedalling early enough.



    Can any experienced crit rider give me an idiots guide to cornering at speed? I need to know if and when to brake, when to slow down, stop and start pedalling, when to lean, what line to take through a 90 degree bend etc. At all the crits here the speed is so high that the bunch is always spread out in a long single file line. If you’re at last wheel losing a few metres on every corner can get pretty tiring.

     
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  2. carpediemracing

    carpediemracing New Member

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    just curious, you in holland or somewhere else?

    I wouldn't call this an idiot's guide but I'll give it a go. I was in the same situation as you - I was afraid of cornering but was strong enough to last a little bit of time nonetheless. in one race a teammate who got dropped with me told me to try and fall over every corner (he was getting a bit impatient with my cautious cornering). it worked.

    I see a lot of potential problems with your cornering descriptions.

    1. you must be able to sit on wheels in a corner. if you got by on your superior fitness till now, you'll have to learn to ride closer to other riders. that is a matter of getting used to the speed.

    2. you've noticed by now you have no choice in choosing your line if you're in the field. trying to get yourself room to manuever is a typical but mistaken tactic.
    - instead, simply follow, inch for inch, the line taken by the rider in front of you.

    3. the speed differential you're describing between the straights and the corners sounds significant. say the straights are averaging 50kph but the corners bunch at 40kph. it may be the case that you're braking aggressively in order to stay "in the draft" as you enter the turn. this will force you to accelerate hard to return to the 50 kph speed on the straights. heaven forbid someone attacks and you have to accelerate to 60-65 kph to simply hold onto the wheels.
    - instead of braking so hard, start easing up approx 50-75 meters from the turn. let yourself drop back as much as 5-10 meters (2-5 bike lengths). DON'T brake too hard - in fact you may not need to at all. then coast into the turn at 45 kph and allow your speed to carry you back into the pack. as long as the guys in the back stay on, you can do this indefinitely. this is true only if the field is bunching up in turns.

    4. pedaling etc. depending on crank length, bottom bracket height, etc., you should be able to pedal through a variety of turns. the only way to learn your limits is to try. digging a pedal will not crash you unless you have a weakened rear wheel, a poorly mounted/glued rear tire, underinflated rear tire, etc. you can lift your bike quite high and recover. scary but you and all the peloton will be upright.
    - go to a parking lot and practice cornering, maybe doing loops in a quiet section or in a quiet neighborhood with curbs. first, while off the bike, put your inside pedal down and see how far you can lean before it hits. it leans really far doesn't it? :) you have to be going race pace so it could be part of a sprint workout (say you dive into a turn, sprint out of it for your sprint interval). "attack" into the turn, pedal through it, and sprint out of it.

    5. you mention things are "strung out". if it's single file, there really is no excuse for braking. your gaps are there simply because you can't pedal through the turn which is typical in a fast, tight crit. so this means you need to be at the other end of the field or at least not at the back end.
    - warm up aggresively, use heat rub or something to keep the blood flowing, line up at the front (even if it means waiting for 15-30 minutes at the line), and go from the gun. I suspect you'll be able to enter the first turn in the top 5 (i.e. 3rd-5th) if you want to. simply follow the rider in front of you, staying 20-30 cm off his wheel. if he eases up, don't brake, just ease up next to him. when he goes again, just follow. get used to sitting towards the front of the field. whatever you do, do not get intimidated off the racing line. you need the line to maintain speed and momentum.

    6. finally, as an exercise, find a few racers (4 or more total) in the same boat as you. practice (on a grassy field is best) bumping shoulders, elbows. practice overlapping wheels, having the rider in front move over, and staying upright. (you can also practice bunny hops, track stands, skids, stops). then do a waterbottle crit - throw out 6 or so bottles, 10 meters or more apart in a circle, then "race" in a low gear (39x19 say, no more than 15 kph or so) while in constant contact with another rider, preferably all the riders will be in one big bunch. slalom through the bottles so the riders on the outside have to push out to clear the bottle. you will have constant pressure on your shoulders/hips/arms from at least one if not two directions. if a rider shys away from being in the middle surround him and force it. this will build confidence in group riding and will have you "up close and personal" in the field in no time.


    good luck and have fun!
     
  3. 11ring

    11ring New Member

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    I have found actually letting a small gap before the corner starts and then accelerating into that gap helps, that way you have more momentum as you exit the corner and have to acelerate less. This is more necessary the more the accordian is pumping.

     
  4. MPCRUSHER

    MPCRUSHER New Member

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    Great post carpediemracing. I agree with everything you have said, and in particular point number 6. When you get confident riding with a bunch of guys at high speed, with elbows and shoulders touching, you will find that staying at the front of the bunch in a crit is so much easier . What you basically have to learn is to stand your ground. Crits can be rather chaotic at the front end and can at times even be aggressive. You will discover that other riders will try and take your wheel off of you (by this I mean the wheel you are drafting) or you yourself will need to move through the bunch to improve your position and will need to slot into postitions that other riders may not want you to be in. This is generally more accentuated toward the end of the crit for obvious reasons.

    My tips.

    1. Stay up the front. You will have to do a few turns, but you certainly avoid the accordian effect. The accordian effect is what really saps your energy reserves. The turns at the front are hard but you decide how hard and how long they have to be. You also avoid a lot of accidents that occur. A worthwhile trade off if you ask me.

    2. learn to counter steer. Countersteering is a technique that motorcycle racers use to turn their machines through corners. Countersteering is where you push on the handlebar in the opposite direction to that you want to turn.

    eg, your riding a straight line and there is a right hand turn coming up. To countersteer through this corner, you push with your right hand onto the bar (usually the drops) as if to point the wheel to the left. the centrifugal force of the wheel will hold the wheel parrallel to the frame and the bike intuitevely turns in the correct direction.

    I find by using this technique, you get better control of the machine and can move more quickly through a corner that you do not feel entirely comfortable about pedalling through.

    3. Look at the location where you want to end up on the other side of the corner. Dont just follow the wheel in front. Your body will tend to adjust itself to the location you are staring at. In motorcycle training, you are taught this in lesson one. Look where you are going. I know it sounds kinda silly but it absolutely works. It makes you smoother as you do not need to make lots of small adjustments to your line and rythm as much. You will hit your brakes far less as well. I have found this technique to be really useful in hairpin corners (switchbacks). By looking wher you want the bike to end up, you can effectively increase the speed you go through the corner at and therefore accellerate back up to top speed more quicly. Descending will improve markedly.
     
  5. BullGod

    BullGod New Member

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    Thanks for the great advice!



    I have also been reading about a style of cornering where you don’t lean the bike, but move the front of the body into the corner so your head is outside the line of the inside brake hood, then by pulling on the inside and pushing on the outside of the handlebars (firm grip) whilst simultaneously twisting your upper thighs one can literally pull the bike around the corner. This means that the bike stays upright and you can pedal safely through the corner.



    Is this practical? Can anyone do this? Is it difficult? I practiced a bit in Amsterdam last night on my rusty old city bike on the way home from the pub :cool:



    Here in Holland everyone seems to go for the leaning option rather than the “steering”….
     
  6. mikesbytes

    mikesbytes New Member

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    I noticed in the race I did on Sunday that each lap where we went thru a sharp righthand corner that the other riders would coast all the way around the corner, where I would start pedaling as soon as I was half way thru the corner, so I would come back up to speed with less effort than the other riders as I was going faster than them out of the exit.
     
  7. Chris410

    Chris410 New Member

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    Lots of good info in here, I've taken a number of years off from racing bicycles however, I do race motorcycles and while they are very different in terms of throttle control and body position the key for you to corner quickly is for you to gain some confidence. Recently I've decided to start racing again and I find myself having to re-learn quite a bit so here are some ideas which could help.

    Now, how do you gain confidence? There are two parts...first involves learning your limits and the bike's limits.

    What you want to do is find an area with little traffic and some turns (90 degrees), get yourself a cycling computer if you don't have one and start slow and make not of the mph...go through the turns and learn the line so you won't to pay attention to this rather what you want to do is "feel" the bike and if you want, use your computer to record the speed...you'll quickly notice that the amount of traction is far greater than you expected.

    Now, that first part involves just gaining confidence in your bike and your tires...and yourself.

    Next, you need to be used to riding "tight" as others have said so you'll need to practice with some other riders and get used to holding a tight line and bumping as well. If you run a lot of crits you'll need to work on holding a tight line with other riders and standing the bike up and pedaling as soon as you can. When you work the drill do what was mentioned earlier and develop a feel for where the pedal will hit and learn what will happen, usually if you don't panic the bike will move and you can continue with no issues.

    Another key element to cornering quickly is to look as far ahead as you can, you need to work ahead of the bike because this will lead to not only the proper line through the turn (if you even have the chance to choose your line) but it will get you to pedal faster...same as in motorcycle racing, if you look through the turn you typically get on the throttle early.

    Make sure your tires are inflated to proper pressure as well because that will affect your handling, when I first started riding again my tires were low and each time I hit a turn the bike did not feel stable, as soon as I put in the proper pressure the bike felt solid.

    Post up any inputs you have on how your progress is going!
     
  8. bikecoach

    bikecoach New Member

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    Speedplay pedals are great for pedaling through corners as they give you a little bit more clearance on the downstroke.
     
  9. jock.c

    jock.c New Member

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    Cornering, as you have found, is a confidence thing. Confidence comes from practice.

    I'm not going to rehash everything that has been posted previously other than to reinforce the following concepts that you will need to learn and practice:

    • follow the line of experienced rider(s) in front of you.
    • you can lean over much further than your brain thinks you can. So lean. Use the experienced riders to show you how far.
    • look through the corner (past the guy in front of you) to identify the correct line.
    • countersteering is only beneficial on hairpins and tight technical turns, not for flowing corners. Learn how to do it and when to apply it.
    • you can pedal through most corners without clipping, especially if your bike is set up with a raised BB, shorter crank arms, and/or narrower pedals.
    • you still need to be prepared to clip at 60kmh+. this requires you to have your body and head in the same plane as the downtube and seatube of you bike. Lean with the bike, not your body or head, as you enter the corner. Your back wheel will lift and step out. If you just wait for it to come down you can survive even savage clips. But if you really screw it up you will land on your arse. Enter Mercurachrome.
    • Make sure you are in the gear that you want to accelerate out of the corner with before you enter the corner. Watch what other riders are doing with their gearing. Occaisionally they will select gearing 2 or 3 cogs higher than normal which indicates that they are going to launch an attack out of the corner: you have to match their selection if you are going to stay with them.
    • stay off the brakes as much as possible. It's much harder to steer through a corner with the brakes applied. Braking also sends an unwanted deceleration ripple though the pack behind you. Earns you no friends.
    • don't underpass. Sure you can make up lotsa places by doing it, but there will come a time in the race when the outside guys will simply chop your line off and you will lose mega amounts of time and energy trying to get back up to speed.
     
  10. mikesbytes

    mikesbytes New Member

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    Yes the Speedplays do have better corner clearance. I'm using look on 170mm cranks and a standard road bike. It doesn't seem to worry me overly when they do scrape, they don't seem to catch or upset your balance.

    You can get criterium bikes, where the botom bracket is higher to improve clearance.
     
  11. helmutRoole2

    helmutRoole2 New Member

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    This is a good one. Let me add one thing. When you're going through a corner, it's good to establish a focal point. I use rear hubs. DO look around when you're in the corner as needed, but continuously bring your eyes back to the focal point.
     
  12. Rhubarb

    Rhubarb New Member

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    Good post carpediemracing. This was the big one for me. Learning to pedal through the corner. I was losing ground because I started pedaling pretty much when I was back up right after a corner, instead of as early as possible. A lot of 90 degree corners you should be able to pedal pretty much through the whole corner.

    I can't recommended enough that you go to some quiet streets or a carpark early in the morning and practice to see where your limits are for pedaling through different corners.

    For me it was a matter of learning the limits and also training my brain / body to keep on the gas as much as possible through corners, as I had developed the habit of coasting through corners.
     
  13. meb

    meb New Member

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    This will help if pedal strike is the issue, but if not there won't be any gain.
    Some people specifically elect shorter cranks for crits to avoid pedal strike.
    What size cranks are you using?

    If you are running single file, you could try late apexing so with the increasing radius you follow in the turn you can start accelerating out of the corner sooner.

    Are you possibly turning into the corner too soon? If you turn too soon, you are forced to make a shorter radiius turn.

    If you are in packs, you probably would best keep the same radius as the guy with the tire in front of you.
     
  14. helmutRoole2

    helmutRoole2 New Member

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    I haven't seen anyone do this in years, but back in the 70s -- I know stevebaby can attest to this since he was racing in the pro peloton back then -- riders used to grease their tires before criteriums to enhance the cornering. It's not done as much now, but if you google or go to your local bicycle shop and ask, I'm sure you find a big tub of tire grease at a reasonable price.

    The front tire is most important, but the rear tire should also have liberal helpings of tire grease applied. Also, it's important to hang the tires up in a closet or a dark area and let the grease work its way into the tires before putting them on the rim and reapplying more tire grease.

    It works best in the rain.

    When I was racing and missed a couple paydays, i'd just opt for Cresco. Works just as well.

    Good luck with it.
     
  15. jock.c

    jock.c New Member

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    I'm running a book on how long it'll be before someone posts saying they tried this at home and ended up in mercurachrome heaven :D
     
  16. mikesbytes

    mikesbytes New Member

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    Thats a new one on me. It sounds ridiculous. Helmut have you got a link to something that will explain that to those born post that time?
     
  17. MPCRUSHER

    MPCRUSHER New Member

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    I really hope there are no beginning cyclists that read your post that are also new to the english language. I reckon there is a real possibility that it could be taken seriously.
    God Help them.

    Helmutrule you truly are eeeeeeevilllllllll he he he he.
     
  18. jock.c

    jock.c New Member

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    HL&S mike. :rolleyes:
     
  19. mikesbytes

    mikesbytes New Member

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    I thought it was BS, but there have been stranger things in the past. tyres are made from oil, could of been some sort of impregnation of the rubber thing, provided the extra was completely wiped off, so I wasn't going to say "thats BS" and then get proven wrong. Hey I've already had to eat my words about where I said Bayliss would come in the motogp race.
     
  20. jock.c

    jock.c New Member

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    Who could blame you after his disastrous season in 2004 where the stupid mechanics were clearly not applying enough tyre grease. How many times did he end up playing in the sandpit that year? Just about every race, and all for the want of a little bit of goo.
     
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