Tricks for tight switchbacks

I have an interesting question for you.
You are coming down a single track on the side of the mountain, and there is a typical tight switchback, narrow and 330 degree turn.
How do you tackle this without loosing too much speed and not going down the hill 🙂


Switchbacks are some of the most challenging features to ride because they force the rider to 1) handle a steep downslope, 2) manage speed and 3) make a tight turn all at the same time. If you add a root, rock or ledge, you can add #4 to that list.

That’s a lot of things to do at once!

The most effective way to begin mastery of these skills, short of a class with an LLB teacher, is in the Lee Likes Bikes MTB School. Get the full curriculum I teach in person (at a median rate of $150/hour), for $19/month or $199 a year.

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Some other notions:

The better you get at each individual skill, the better you’ll be at the combined skill. Honestly, very few people ride downslopes, brake or turn well enough to do all three at once. Wax the car, paint the fence, sand the floor and *then* do karate.

As you approach the turn, peek all the way through it, to the exit and beyond. This only takes a moment, but it loads that scenery into your guidance system. While you’re making the turn, try to look ahead but let yourself look wherever you have to. When you get there, it won’t be such a shock. You’ve seen it before!

Slow way down. More than you think you need to. You *will* lose speed as you enter the turn, but if you corner well you’ll exit with plenty of speed.

Enter the turn as wide as possible. Most riders are sheep who follow the median line. Be a wolf. Go wider.

EXCEPTION to the wide entrance! If there’s a usable rut, use it as a berm.

Using a rut to stick into a loose, off camber switchback.

Get into your lowest, most deeply hinged Wolf Attack Position. This is the only way you’ll have the arm range you need.

Most of the time the exit of a switchback is off camber for drainage. Most of the time, the entrance is banked against the hill. Use this “berm” to initiate a late-apex line. The more turning you do before you point downhill, the better.

Ideally you lay off the brakes and accelerate through the turn. If that’s too much, you can drag (not skid) the rear brake to maintain your current speed.

I hope that helps!


Know more. Have more fun!

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