Figure 8’s on dirt: Weighting the front end?

OK, I have a silly question for you. I’ve been practicing my figure 8’s on our gravel road and I’ve noticed that my front wheel washes out before my rear wheel even though I seem to be weighting it pretty heavy. Even though it feels scary, should even be putting more weight on the front wheel? Because doing this would really take me out of the “attack position.”

Me with the neutral attack position and weightless hands. Check out the Tea Party fingers.

Hey Nate,

That’s not a silly question. You are treading into advanced territory!

Me, in safety orange, exaggerating front-end loading for a tight turn. All the way forward, initiate the turn, PUSH HARD! This takes power and sensitivity: like bench pressing 200lbs while knitting your grandma a scarf.

Figure 8 drills are an awesome way to improve your cornering skills. When you do them on pavement, the consistent traction lets you repeat perfect turn after perfect turn — and that’s how you reinforce the key movements:

Get low.

Look through to the next turn.

Lean your bike.

Pivot your hips where you want to go.

And, essential to this discussion:

Let the bars do what they want. If you relax, you’ll see that your bar angle changes naturally with your bike’s lean angle. If you turn the bars less, you go straight. If you turn the bars more, you tuck or wash. It’s an awesome Zen practice; the more neutral you are, the better it works.

On pavement or good dirt, you can corner very well in a neutral attack position with your hands weightless. This is the way to learn (see the photo above).

Figure 8s on dirt add a huge variable … dirt!

When the turn is tight, the speed is high and/or the traction is limited, you must weight the front end to make it stick.

But: You must maintain that relationship between bike lean and bar turn; don’t turn too little or too much. This is very subtle. To load your bars heavily AND carve a perfect turn is a very advanced, highly refined skill.

So, yes, to corner on loose dirt you should be weighting your front end pretty heavily. But before you do that, make sure your Get, Look, Lean, Pivot and Let are dialed.

I’ve been saving this information for coaching clients, but I hope it helps. Tell me how it goes.


— Lee

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