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

10 replies
  1. Simcik says:

    I have worked alot with Lee on this. When I felt forward, I wasnt. This really became apparent to me when riding moto. On a mountain bike, you control the bike strictly with body position, not throtle. For a while concentrate on over exagerating the forward lean. You will eventually find a happy medium that is more forward than you are now and traction wont be a problem. So long as your front wheel is biting, you will keep turning and heading where you want to be even if the rear end is barking like an angry German Shepherd.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Lee, this was excellent! I am recognizing what Simcik said – When I think I’m forward I’m really not that forward. Your photos helped.

    Flat slalom has become my favorite after dark oxygen fix (set the cones up in a lighted parking area and practice flat corners for awhile). Alas, no practice for a bit as we are getting buried under snow again…


  3. Eric says:

    I was noticing this motion a lot watching videos of fast guys on pump tracks. Mark Weir looks like he’s squashing the heck out of the front end entering each turn.

  4. Nate says:

    Lee, Thanks for the info it helped. I’m not over steering. When I practice this drill, it seems that the bars and lean both work them selves out(I don’t have to think about them). I guess I’ll have to get over the feeling that I’m to far forward.
    Thanks again.
    This site really does go to eleven.

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  1. […] using your arms in the air is analogous to loading your front end in corners. Weighting the bars definitely helps you find traction, get pump and corner faster, but I believe […]

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