When cornering, your weight should be firmly planted in the middle of the bike, distributed evenly between both wheels. Many cyclists with poor cornering skills tend to hang too far off the back or place themselves too far forward. A video taken by a friend can often be a useful method of analysing your position.
Try and maintain a low center of gravity by bending your knees and arms. It often provides better control when attempting to muscle the bike around a corner when the need arises.
Finally, when you’re in the corner, try and apply your weight more to the outside pedal. This will help the tyres dig in for better grip while also keeping the inside pedal up with less chance of it striking the dirt and bringing you down.
Those with poor cornering skills generally focus on their front wheel. As you approach a corner, you should be focused on the apex. And once you’re in the corner you should be focused on the exit point. The faster you are travelling, the farther ahead you should focus.
Trust in your senses, and avoid trying to consciously navigate every small obstacle just in front of your wheel. Start slow and gradually gain the confidence to try the technique at higher speeds. With enough practice you’ll develop an almost instinctual reaction to picking the best line at speed.
To avoid overshooting or running wide on a corner, you should brake before entry. Carry too much speed into a corner and you’ll lose time overall by locking up or running wide. It’s much better to brake on approach and choose a line with your gaze fixed ahead.
When it comes to cornering, one of the primary factors is exit speed. Focus on maintaining a consistent speed through the corners. Even if slow at first, mastering the technique of braking beforehand and smoothly navigating the corner will lead to a better, faster technique sure to improve over time.
It may not be the fastest technique, but drifting can be fun. More importantly however, learning how to drift properly is the best way to instinctually learn how your body weight affects the bike.
When you drift successfully, it’s a sign that your weight is optimally distributed. The more you practice, the more confidence it instills.
To hone the technique, choose a wide open corner, come in at speed and touch the back brake slightly. Let the bike step out and work with it. If you have flat pedals, you can hang your foot off for extra reassurance and apply minor corrections if needed.
Optimal exit speed should be the main goal when it comes to cornering. One way to scupper the benefits of good cornering technique is to be in the wrong gear as you try and accelerate out.
The secret is to anticipate this before you enter the corner. Ideally you should shift down to an easier gear on the approach so that when you apply power on the exit, you have no loss in efficiency.
In conclusion: Confidence is the name of the game when it comes to optimal mountain bike cornering. By intuitively understanding how body weight, braking, and the focus of your gaze affect cornering, you will gradually develop an instinctive relationship with your bike.
You may come off on occasion as you perfect your techniques! Just ensure you're wearing a helmet and enjoy the learning process. It all comes down to practicing these fundamental techniques over and over, beginning at lower speeds until you gradually build your confidence.