Angle of your head in berms


Dear Lee,

I’ve noticed two styles of keeping one’s head while cornering. Let’s see two examples on Pinkbike:

Brian Lopes – with his head more or less in-line with the body

Jared Graves – with his head almost always perpendicular to the ground:

Is it just a matter of style and habits, or is there an advantage in keeping your head vertical in turns? Should I focus on it while training?

Cheers,
Jakub


Hey Jakub,

Thanks for the interesting question.

As you know, Lopes and Graves are the elite of the elite. They are both very, very skilled riders. I’ve ridden with both of these guys, and it’s a lesson in great riding technique.

If you rotate those photos so the horizons are level, you’ll see very similar head positions. I won’t post them here out of respect for Pinkbike and the photographers, but you can check them out here: Lopes, Graves

In general, it’s best to keep your head as vertical as possible. Another way to say this: Try keep your head perpendicular to the horizon.

I said horizon, not ground, because the ground is doing all kinds of crazy things. In my coaching, one of the main goals is to send your head and torso as straight and level as you can. The more vertical and unperturbed you can keep your head, the better your vision, balance and control.

You’ll see variations due to strength, mobility, riding style, fatigue and just plain randomness, but if you look at skilled riders their heads tend to be pretty upright. If you’re in a low attack position and/or pulling a mega lean angle, it’s impossible to keep your head truly vertical, but you’ll see the best riders are definitely not dropping their faces into the corners.

Some examples:

Curtis Keene
Fun Whistler trip in 2005.


Gee Atherton
Check out this sick shot on Pinkbike.

Heather Irmiger
During our skills sessions, shortly before she focused on enduro racing.



During one of our skills sessions, shortly before she focused on enduro racing.

Judy Freeman
When we first started doing skills together.


Evan Powell
Summer 2006 in my back yard. Evan is now a fast pro.


Chris Powell
Low attack position and big lean angle, but keeping his head up as much as he can.


Lee McCormack
I’m not an elite rider, but it’s my site!


Riding fierce at the Fox Racing Shox pump track.

Railing the pump track we built for a Giant Bicycles dealer meeting.

Oh, sorry, that’s Brian Lopes. We look the same with our shirts off. My old back yard.

Don’t strain your neck, but — yes — practice keeping your head as vertical as possible. Everywhere.

Lee


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5 replies
  1. Jakub says:

    Hi again,

    Thanks for such quick and detailed answer! I’ll try to focus on how I align my head next time I hit the track 😉

    Reply
  2. Gille says:

    I think the differences between most of those pictures comes from the length and radius of the berms.

    It looks like graves and Atherton are riding tight short berms in a succession. I think they might be looking at the next berm (opposite direction )to prepare the entry.

    From the picture of Lopes and Keene it looks like they are riding long berms with a larger radius…so they are probably looking at the exit of that same corner instead since they have more time throught the turn.

    Reply
  3. Richo says:

    Credit to the pros (and yourself) for being able to angle their heads at those G forces.
    Experienced this last month riding a trail called Corners with over 100 bermed corners. They were tight (10 ft radius) and most were banked up to vertical. It was the first time in 20 years riding that my speed has been limited by ability to control the bike in strong G forces.
    Had to put 10psi more in the tires, then more psi in the suspension and was still bottoming out!

    Reply

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