My full riding tutorial on how to best ride tight, technical switchbacks like these on a mountain bike is posted here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/3-ways-to-33345804
First, a bit of a confession- my style through these kinds of corners is unique. I’ve had coaches tell me that I’m doing it all wrong, but in my heart of hearts, I feel there is more than one way to ride! I’m all about pumping and getting rearwards- NOT getting forwards on the bike, as many others will teach. I won’t say getting forwards is wrong, it just doesn’t work for me. Even if you don’t end up preferring this style of cornering, I’d say there’s value in attempting to learn it, just as I’ve spent some time trying to learn the traditional cornering techniques.
Mentally, I try to think of switchbacks as flat berms. While that might seem like a contradiction, I use a similar body positioning and technique that I employ on berms, but adjust it slightly for the lower speed and reduced traction of the switchback.
On berms, I keep the bike perpendicular to the riding surface, engaging the center knobs of the tire with the dirt. Now on flat turns or switchbacks, which we’re discussing here, I lean the bike down quite a bit into the turn in order to engage the side knobs. I lean the bike less when I’m going slower, and I drop my outside pedal more on the slower, flatter turns.
Delving a little deeper into that mentality of treating switchbacks like berms, I generally use three techniques:
- Pumping the turn like a regular, wider flat corner or berm (my personal favorite)
- Nose wheelie through the turn
- Power sliding the bike through (known as a cutty)
A lot of folks do a Scandinavian flick, but I rarely see that as faster. It takes more energy and will be even less consistent than a regular pump.
Let’s work through the visuals of a turn:
First example is my favorite, which is pumping through the turn (or switchback).
After considering those three steps, decide on the technique that will be best. FYI, I reviewed my general cornering theories back in June here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/27981205.
If you can’t tell already, my favorite of these three methods is to rail and pump through the turns like a berm, with adjustments made to the lean angle depending on the trail speed. This is a very consistent way to corner and the big pump that it generates will help you build a great exit speed. Not to mention it keeps the air in your tires and the trail intact!
Picking the right technique for the turn
The universal steps, regardless of the technique, are:
- Do your braking before you get to the turn. It’s much faster to slow too early and nail exit speed than to tip over and crash. All three techniques will require braking before reaching the turn.
- Analyze the turn. Is it wide enough you can do the best technique of leaning and pumping the bike? Is there an available entrance wall to help begin the turn early? Or is it so tight that a stoppie is best? Is the turn so tight, and is traction so low, that a cutty will be most effective? Frustratingly enough, being able to correctly analyze a turn at speed will only come with more experience. But enjoy it! Learning how to anticipate what will happen in each corner is one of the greatest pleasures in mountain biking.
- Plan for the exit. Once you have your strategy sorted, how can you maximize your exit speed and control?
The nose wheelie is my go to on very tight corners or when I need to scrub a bunch of speed. The nose wheelie tutorial from April is helpful in case you haven’t seen it (https://www.patreon.com/posts/26296762). The nose wheelie means you’ll never come out of the switchback going any faster than you came in, and it can often bring you to a full halt. Not fast. But it looks cool, and it’s an easy way of slowing yourself while finding your line in a very small amount of space.
And the cutty- not my go-to move, but still, quite practical when in a switchback situation, especially one without much traction. Compress the bike so that it’s rebounding while you are turning. Slow before initiating the cutty, use your arms to counter steer as necessary. Keep your eyes looking towards the exit. Weight is centered. Use pressure on your inside foot to push the bike, and be ready to apply pressure on the outside foot to control and stop the resulting slide. Since we filmed this video in Mexico, I actually did a full tutorial on cutties here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/36579859
Stay tuned- lots of great content to come thanks to Jenson USA, and you can check them out here via my affiliate link: https://www.jensonusa.com/blog/rider-profile-JKW
Ever notice that PNW logo on my handlebars? No, I’m not repping my locale that hard- or wait, maybe I am- but that’s actually a company that my friend Aaron runs! PNW Components makes some high end controls, including bars, stems, grips, dropper posts, levers, and a few other awesome items. Have a peek at their beautiful site through my affiliate link here: https://bit.ly/PNWComponents2022JKW
My Patreon tutorials posted through April 2020:
- How to manual: https://www.patreon.com/posts/how-to-manual-37684861
- Cutty: https://www.patreon.com/posts/36579859
- Manual a berm: https://www.patreon.com/posts/35496772
- How to ride in Sedona: https://www.patreon.com/posts/34436065
- Switchbacks: https://www.patreon.com/posts/3-ways-to-33345804
- Nosewheelie: https://www.patreon.com/posts/32742504
- Bump jump: https://www.patreon.com/posts/31881231
- Trials basics for trail riders: https://www.patreon.com/posts/31145344
- Tight berms: https://www.patreon.com/posts/30389457
- Aggressive braking: https://www.patreon.com/posts/29579507
- Confidence for mountain biking: https://www.patreon.com/posts/28817411
- Cornering: https://www.patreon.com/posts/27981205
- Flowing/pumping down the trail: https://www.patreon.com/posts/27288868
- Stoppie through turns: https://www.patreon.com/posts/26296762
- Technical climbing: https://www.patreon.com/posts/25234847
- Boost jumps: https://www.patreon.com/posts/24161821
- Bunnyhop: https://www.patreon.com/posts/23396959
- Utilizing the wheelie on the trail: https://www.patreon.com/posts/23017910
- How to wheelie: https://www.patreon.com/posts/21879606
Big thanks to these guys for making this all possible! Any purchases from these links will directly help support my channel as well:
- Jenson USA: https://bit.ly/JensonUSA2022JKW
- PNW Components: https://bit.ly/PNWComponents2022JKW
- Industry Nine: https://bit.ly/IndustryNine2022JKW
- Shimano: https://bit.ly/Shimano2022JKW
- Kitsbow Cycling Apparel: http://bit.ly/KitsbowJKW
- Kali Protectives: http://bit.ly/KaliJKW
- Ibis Cycles: http://bit.ly/IbisJKW