Cornering: Drilling the basics

With our trails covered in snow and the 2007 season looming, pro rider Lisa Myklak and I have been working on the essentials.

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Last year Lisa won the U.S. Open, and she was the NORBA’s overall top-ranked pro female downhiller. Lisa was already very fast, and I predict she’ll be even faster this year. Why? Because she will dramatically improve her basic skills.

You’ve read this here already, but the cornering essentials are:

1. Low – The lower you are, the farther you can lean your bike.

2. Look – All the way to the next turn.

3. Lean – The more you lean, the tighter and faster you can corner.

4. Turn – Pivot your hips where you want to go.

Most of us — no matter how good we are — don’t do these enough. It pays to drill and exaggerate until they become automatic.

Lisa is quite low, and she’s leaning her bike a lot. This doesn’t feel natural at first — You gotta get used to a wider range of motion. You don’t need it for every turn, but if you can’t do it in a parking lot you can’t do it at DH Worlds.

Inside arm straight. Outside elbow up. Loose grip.

My goal for Lisa: To make her comfortable in a wider range of motion. This will expand her power and precision for MSC, NORBA and World Cup downhills.

My goal for me: This year, to let it roll. To have confidence in my skills and fitness, and rock the way I know I can.

Parking lots drills serve their purpose, but it’s time for me to let if flow on dirt.


Lisa finished 2007 2nd in the National series. Pretty sweet.

22 replies
  1. Todd says:


    When you practice these cornering skills, how much momentum are you carrying and how sharp is the turn? Is it better to practice very tight turns slowly or more sweeping turns with some speed? Or do you practice both?

  2. leelikesbikes says:


    Start slow and tight because the Gs are lower. Once you get that, open up the turns and go faster. G-forces increase exponentially with speed …

  3. matt says:

    i tried this a little today, one questions

    im confused about moving the hips around. if ur doing it on pavement would it be good to set up cones so u can look ahead?


  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Yes on the cones. I use $0.06 orange flags. Funnels work too.

    When you initiate the turn, pivot your hips (and the rest of your upper body) where you want to go. There’s a flashlight in your belly button; point it to the next turn.

    This will be very clear in the upcoming DVD …

  5. Chris says:

    Lee, I know how you love having impromptu ‘World Championships”, but how about a REAL World Chamionships that anyone can compete in. Say, who can get the lowest time, ten laps, going around two cones in figure eight? Cones maybe 15 to 20 feet apart?

    EVERYONE in the world could post their time on your site. I’ll donate the first LLB jersey (as a thank you to you fro your book) to the unsponsored person with the lowest time.

    Standing start at the crossover point, to standing stop at the same place. Flat terrain only (carpark, basketball court etc). Both wheels must go round cones/shoes/Mars Bars.

    Winner has to post video on youtube for proof?

    Whaddya think?

  6. Chris says:

    It would also be cool to be able to compare our times to the people we read about: You, Lopes, Weir, Peat, both Watts, Keene, Myklak etc.

  7. Jesse says:

    Hey Lee, do you ever experience knee pain as a result of your cornering stance? I noticed that you and Lisa both have your outside knees bent inwards pretty severely in all the pictures. Lately I’ve been getting a nasty pain in my knees as a result of cornering like this. Changing between flats and clipless doesn’t help. Any thoughts?

  8. Biscuit says:

    Lee –

    First of all, I found that for people who have a hard time rotating the hips to have them point the inside knee where they want to go. If they are low and looking ahead, the knee will automatically rotate the hips.

    Second – How do you view hand pressure on the bars (generally as you begin drifting / rotating corners)?

    I’ve always pushed down on the inside grip and felt it drove the knobs into the ground and helped the bike lean. A friend of mine was telling me that for moto they instructed him to weight the outside of the bar, outside peg, and keep your weight aligned over your axle path (hubs).

    Both techniques seem to work. Is there a better way, or does it not matter?

  9. leelikesbikes says:

    Chris: Great idea.


    1. You have to drive from the hips. Most people who start by pointing their inside knee do only that. Check and issue of Bicycling magazine …

    2. That’s getting into some advanced stuff. In short: corner with no weight on your hands; if it’s loose you can shift your weight forward onto the bars to make the front end stick. Check out the Weight-Forward Cornering section on this post:

    3. I find it best to push the inside grip into the turn. No weight on the outside grip; lots of weght on the outside pedal.

  10. leelikesbikes says:


    1. We are flexible. Don’t push past your comfortable range of motion. Frequent practice will extend your range without injury.

    2. We rotate our hips. If you look, you’ll see my upper leg extends straight forward from my hip, and much of the flexibility comes from my ankle. If you don’t rotate your hips you’ll really tweak your knees.

  11. vapor says:

    Good photos Lee!

    This is all the same stuff for how ski and snowboard turns get done! There are so many reasons that can be discussed for why it works. Props for keeping it simple. The pictures are really money-thats how it gets done on a bike (when your seat is that low). If you can do it like the photos you are at a very high level. Follow Lee, he does know what is up.

    Regarding the moto hand weighting difference: I don’t moto, so I can’t comment on what an instructor might say, but you really don’t have the option to weight the outside bar very much on the mtb. An explanation why would be overdose. I will speculate that the moto does give you the option.

    I can only see the pictures, but Lisa’s angulation looks better than Lee’s 🙂

    Short take on knee pain: Your femur needs to rotate freely in your hip socket for this to work. A little ankle flexibility doesn’t hurt either. I’m not your doctor, but in general, keeping any of your muscles that attach to your pelvis flexible make things like this easier. Some of those muscles attach around your knee and like to rub and/or tug on the bones in your knee joint in bad ways if they aren’t able to give the range of motion you are asking them for. Though like Lee said, everyone has their unique anatomy and possible limits.

    I have a really good example photo of myself in a well angulated cornering position if you have any use for it.



  12. leelikesbikes says:

    Thanks for the great post. Feel free to post a URL to that photo, or send it to me.

    Yes, Lisa does look better than I do … 🙂

  13. T-Heff says:

    hey lisa, i have been riding bikes for my whole life (father road motocross back in his day) and untill recently haven’t been able to get too serrius due to braking bikes and such. now i am starting to have an ambission to race, i have always leaned through the turns and such, and never pointed with my knees due to if i do they just dislocate because they are useless and do that when i walk anyways. but when i lean into the turns should i tilt my shoulders? i seam to do that out of habit. it makes sence to turn with your hips though, because most of the power in the body rest in there (yoga philosiphy) and i will wokr on turning my hips now thank you. last question, do you know anyways to loosen up grip? i seam to deathgrip my bars sometimes. thank you for your time, and patientce with my horrid spelling

  14. leelikesbikes says:

    Lee here.

    On a flat turn, tilt your shoulders naturally, but make sure your inside arm is straighter than your outside arm.

  15. John says:

    It looks like moving your hips is a lot different than counter steering. Or is it? Do you ever counter steer in the turns?

  16. John says:

    Also, is the seat kind of behind and to the side of the inside hip? I just tried this in the street. It seems pretty cool, and tomorrow I’ll try it on the trail. Thanks!

  17. leelikesbikes says:

    Yes, they are different.

    Countersteering — sometimes. But this is very misunderstood. Stay tuned for a post on that.

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