The most important part of a corner is the run-in to it. The decisions and actions you make there will determine how smoothly and quickly you can take the bend.
One decision is whether you can take the bend down on your aerobars – a reconnaissance ride is invaluable for this – but, failing this, you’ll have to rely on your experience in training or err on the side of caution and shift to your bullhorns. Do all of your braking while you’re travelling in a straight line and select an appropriate gear for exit.
Good cornering technique can be neatly summed up as ‘enter wide, touch the apex and exit wide’ (see image at the bottom). The aim is to try and flatten the curve as much as possible, taking what is known as the racing line, and ‘carrying’ as much speed through the bend as possible. Keep your body low, on the drops if on a road bike, and, having drifted as wide as you safely can (not onto the wrong side of the road if it’s not closed roads or a blind bend!), focus on the apex of the corner.
It’s only now that you actually turn, not by using your bars but by leaning with your body. There’s no need to hang off the bike, you’re not Valentino Rossi, just lean with it. Have your inside pedal up and push your weight down through your outside pedal. You can also ‘out-rig’ (i.e. stick it out to the side) with your inside knee, which can help with balance.
Aim to cut across the apex and then change your focus on where you want to exit. Always look where you want to go, not at the tarmac beneath your front wheel.
If you misjudged your speed, lightly feather your rear brake but stay relaxed and low and, whatever you do, don’t panic and grab a handful of front brake. Allow your bike to drift wide on the exit and, as you straighten up, put in a few hard out-of-the-saddle pedal strokes to get back up to speed.
If it’s wet, all the above techniques apply even more so, but you’ll have to brake earlier before the corner, lose more speed and give riders ahead of you a bit more space than you would in the dry. Stay relaxed, keep your body weight low and don’t panic if your bike slides or skips slightly, over correcting or panicking will only make things worse.
Also, be wary of crossing painted white lines as these can be especially treacherous. You’ve no doubt seen many a spill in triathlons and during 2017 Tour – think back to the first, wet time-trial stage in Dusseldorf, which took out several riders, including Alejandro Valverde.
If you need to work on cornering technique, try mountain biking. The consequences of getting it wrong aren’t as bad as on the road and it gets you used to the sensation of the bike moving under you.
As mentioned above, the best technique for mastering corners involves three steps – enter wide, touch the apex and exit wide, as demonstrated in the image below. To keep speed through a corner you need to make it as wide and smooth as possible. Unless riding on closed roads stay on your side of the road, but aim to use as much as you can: enter from a wide point skim the apex of the bend, and exit the turn as widely as conditions allow. Keep your body low and focus on the apex of the corner as you carry through. Practise on quiet or closed roads where possible.