Overcome the fear of turns


Thanks for your incredible site! I was hoping you could help me turn my MTB. My local trails are hardpack with random patches of gravel. Some turns have sweet berms and most are flat. I really haul on the brakes before each turn, berm or no berm. Self-preservation is kicking in but I know I have tons more speed.

What are some “swing thoughts” to have when approaching turns? My friends are leaving me in the dust!


Hey David,

Let’s attack this from two angles:

Angle 1 – analytical style

Make good turns on pavement — over and over again. This teaches your body the correct movements, and it convinces your brain that you’re not gonna die.)

– Master the basics. I’m serious about this. Until you can consistently, fluidly and confidently rip turns in a safe place, there’s no way you’re gonna rip turns in the fear zone. The more you practice them, the more confident you’ll get. Ingrain those key movements until you trust them.

– Work those figure eights. You can do them anywhere, and they’re a great way to ingrain quality movement. Start on pavement. Work up to gravel-on-hardpack. Videos here:

Video: Figure eights at five paces

Video: Pumping a figure eight

– This site has tons of info about cornering technique. Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition has even more.

– Make sure your bike is set up correctly. If you’re afraid of cornering, I suggest setting your suspension pretty soft and running the biggest, grabbiest tires you can find. Specialized Clutches are slow, but they are extremely grippy.

– BTW: It’s OK to slow down before the turns. Learn to carry speed out of them. Get some pump. Sprint!

Angle 2 – braaap style

You won’t take every turn like this, but practicing off-camber, loose turns in the moto tradition is great for confidence. And it’s fun. (See MMBSii)

– What are you afraid of? It’s time to confront it.

– Are you afraid of being stuck in your pedals when you fall? Rock flat pedals.

– Are you afraid you’ll look and feel foolish? Get over it. Great riders fall all the time.

– Are you afraid you’ll die? That’s actually what most fear comes down to. Put on some pads and fall on purpose.

– Seriously, if you fall correctly (See MMBSii), falling doesn’t have to hurt.

– Go for a new style. Instead of being all clipped in, high seat, tense and ready for calamity, rock the flat pedals, lower your seat and come in foot-out moto style. Reach your inside foot forward, lean that bike and say braaap!

Angle 3 – Get slower friends

Actually, stop riding with your fast friends until your confidence catches up with their speed. Part of your pain comes from comparing yourself with them. Step it down to easier trails with slower people (or by yourself), then come back to the big boys.

Take it one step at a time. Create successes. Have fun!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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