Cornering: Which foot forward?

Hi Lee,

Your website in an invaluable source of info, and thanks to your tips I’ve become a better rider. Lately I’ve been practicing aggressive cornering a lot; as you say pointing your hips in the direction of the turn is key.

I’ve noticed that I can more effectively point my hips in the right direction if I keep the turning side foot behind, ie keep the right foot behind when turning right, and the left foot when turning left. Yet since I’m right handed and my dominant foot is the left, it comes natural to keep the right foot behind even when turning left, which results in less effective hips turning.

Lately I’ve made an effort to “switch stances” when cornering to the left. Am I doing the right thing or should I just keep the same stance all the time? In your pictures I noticed that you keep the dominant/left foot in front when cornering in either direction. Thanks

regards, Vito

Jon Watt shows us the way. Note the diagonal cranks, the way his left knee clears the saddle and the awesome traction he is generating. Waaaattt Waaaaattttt Waaaaaaaaattttt!!!!!!

Hey Vito,

I do tend to corner with my left foot forward, but only when I’m not paying attention.

In a perfect world, you’ll turn with your inside foot forward.

1) This clears your knee and creates more space to lean your bike beneath you.

2) It helps that first pedal on the exit.

3) It helps you advance into cornering with diagonal cranks. Here’s where things get even more interesting. Explained for the first time in history:

Most of us corner with either our outside foot down (when we need to set an edge) or our pedals level (when we’re flowing/pumping through the turn). That’s fine, but there are a lot of points in between.

Once you master the “vertical” and “horizontal” styles, you can relax into more of a “diagonal” style where your forward foot is higher than your rear foot. This gives you the best of edge-setting and flow, and it gives you a great first crank out of the turn.

Cornering with your inside foot forward will require you to open up your hips, and your mind. Try it for a while, and tell me how it goes.

This is just the tip of this particular iceberg. Stay tuned.

— Lee

12 replies
  1. zach says:

    Here is a great technique to practice and not only will it teach you how to switch your feet during cornering but drive more force down on your bottom bracket which will keep your tires more connected to the ground. Head out to your favorite parking lot preferably pavement to start out then move to dirt. Start out by making a lose figure eight and switching your feet; as you start to feel more comfortable make the figure eights tighter and tighter. This is step one into the perfect cornering technique. The tighter you make the corners the more you will have to lay the bike down vertically with the ground and this is when foot placement becomes most critical. Now your foot placement should be inside foot at highest point (crank arms parallel with seat tube) and outside foot at the lowest point. This will allow for maximum clearance when laying the bike over. Also note that you will now be driving the bike with your hips and applying maximum strength, weight and power to the pedals and all this energy will then disperse to your wheels where it belongs. Do this over and over making the figure eights as tight as possible and laying the bike over further and further until the inside pedal starts to scrap the ground. Once you have accomplished this it becomes second nature and your feet will automatically go to the most powerful point of the frame (Lee notes diagonal footing). This simple technique will make you a cornering master and the envy of all your friends. Now go out and RIDE!!!!!!!
    With best regards,

  2. Vito says:

    Thanks Lee, thanks Zach, you guys are awesome, I was doing the opposite of what’s right! The internet mtb community doesn’t get any better than this.

  3. Chris says:

    I’ve spent a LOT of time doing figure eights on dirt and asphalt. One thing I’ve noticed is that, on asphalt, there seems to be a point at which if I lay the bike over any further, my tires slip. That point is nowhere near the angle that Lee has his bike on that ‘parking lot fun’ post with Lisa Myklak (sp?). I’m thinking it could be the tires (Kenda K-Rads, a great urban/DJ tire with a round profile on Giant STP) but I wonder if it is technique. I am seriously weighting the outside pedal (trailing, as per photo above), even dynamically: no use. I’ve got my fore/aft weight where a little more in one direction will send the opposite end sliding. I time myself for ten laps of a 15′ figure eight (cone to cone) and my fastest laps are where my bike is only slightly more angled than my body. Sure, I can turn with the bike at ridiculously low angles, but I can’t turn as hard at those angles. Tires? Technique? Anyone find the same thing? I got no problem on dirt.

  4. Tyler says:

    Zach or Lee, in the figure 8 drill described above it is mentioned that with practice the lean of the bike will cause the inside pedal to scrape the ground…..I was out practicing the drill and, while off my bike, leaned it over so that the inside pedal (while at its highest point) was touching the ground. That is some serious bike leanage! Is it really possible to get the bike leaned this much during cornering? It seems crazy low.

  5. zach says:

    This is a very good question and hopefully it can be solved very simply. (Something to remember: always try to stay vertical with the tread of your tire in contact with the ground). In your instance running a K-Rad tire the more horizontal you lay the bike over the more vertical you will have to become over the bike so maximum traction between the ground and tire is achieved. Essentially you will be standing vertical over your frame as your bike is lying horizontal. I hope this helps; now blow the afternoon off from work and lay down some rubber.
    Best regards,

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    I can’t image you’ll scrape your inside pedal and ride away.

    But it’s a good goal that will open up your range of motion.

  7. zach says:

    In doing the figure eight drill I will hit the pedal to the ground slightly at times when I really dive into the corner. So yes it is possible and it is a great goal to work towards.

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    Zach! Dude, send a photo — we’ll start a new thread –> Bike Lean World Championships!

  9. Chris says:

    Zach I think I know what you mean. I think my centre of gravity is to the inside of the tire patch. I’ll try getting it OVER it. I’ve not tried that technique when trying to set a fast time.

    I remember at one of the Australian National rounds MANY years ago they had a bike limbo contest (see who can ride their bike under the lowest bar). It was civilized at first but then some people started taking seats out, running stems upside down, no tire pressure etc to get the lowest bike-height. Finally someone got the bright idea of leaning the bike but clamping the bar at one end so most of the bar was on the lower side of the stem. Then it got crazy with people taking off tires, pedals, riding with their left foot on the right pedal while the right leg was an outrigger. There was some serious leaning going on.

  10. teddy says:

    hey, i dont coach….but i always have the outside foot down and pressured. its excactly like turning on skis, you turn the bike-skis over to engage the outide edge and carve a perfect turn. goood luck

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