|#1 Use the ‘slow in, fast out’ principle to guide your dirt bike turning skills.|
|#2 Keep even power on throughout the turn to maintain speed and stability.|
|#3 Don’t coast into a turn with your clutch in.|
|#4 Don’t break too early otherwise you will need to speed up during the turn which can de-stabilize the bike.|
|#5 Keep your eyes on the turn exit, not on the ground in front of you.|
|#6 Stand up when you are coming into a turn to keep the bike stable when you hit the pre-turn bumps.|
|#7 Sit well forward on the seat to maximize traction to the front wheel during the turn.|
|#8 Keep your inner leg forward and straight out to provide stability and counter balance.|
|#9 Power out of the turn only when the bike is pointed in the right direction.|
Whether your goal is motocross, enduro or trails, you will be encountering all types of corners when you are riding in the dirt.
You will hit tight corners, long sweeping corners, hairpins and everything else in the middle.
What makes cornering on a dirt bike so technical and challenging is that every corner has different features.
There are flat turns, berm turns, rutted turns, turns in sand, mud and hard packed ground and sometimes even a combination of all the above!
In my opinion, turning a bike effectively is the most important skill to learn on a dirt bike.
Anyone can get on a dirt bike, twist the throttle and hammer it in a straight line. My grandma can do that!
But it takes real skill and technical know-how to be able to properly negotiate ANY turn and get in and out of a corner as quickly as possible without any dramas.
If you ever want to enter into a motocross race, the difference between getting a respectable result and coming last will be in the way you can handle cornering on your dirt bike.
From the beginner’s point of view, the expert rider’s ability to handle corners is almost mystical. An expert rider powering through a corner is pretty impressive to watch.
So how do they get to be so good? Well cornering is the application of proven principles.
There might be a bit of improvisation thrown in when a rider comes across an unexpected obstacle like a downed rider.
But for 99% of the time, an expert rider is repeating a method and practicing like hell until it becomes second nature.
In this article I’m going to talk about the one basic secret to cornering and discuss the basic principles that you can easily learn and apply in your riding.
The basic principles will also help you to eliminate bad habits as they come up in your riding.
Finally, I will be writing about how to properly negotiate all the main types of corners on a dirt bike.
If you have ever watched professional riders at work, it seems like they enter into a corner flat out and exit just as fast.
But if you study their turns closely you will notice that they are actually coming into the corner slowly and exiting fast.
A professional rider will set themselves up as they enter into a corner and power straight through at a speed where they have total ground traction.
There is no rush and panic and there is no wheel spin.
This is called ‘slow in and fast out’
It’s the same principle as car or motorbike racing on tarmac.
The driver will position the car, power through the turn at the right speed and then punch the throttle to exit.
If the wheels spin or slide in any way then they have lost time and the turn has been ineffective.
Here is how to perform slow in and fast out on a dirt bike using the basic principles of turning –
The Other Basic Principles of Turning>>
#1 Keep the Power on Evenly.
The best way to keep a bike under full control into a corner is to keep some throttle on.
To do this, dial in the correct speed as you approach a corner and keep the throttle at that speed.
Don’t accelerate or reduce speed during a turn.
Too much power you will crash, too little power and you will need to speed up during the turn and you will de-stabilize the bike.
This takes some practice but coming into a corner with the correct amount of power and keeping that power on will give you a clean entry and exit.
#2 Don’t Coast in Without Throttle.
If you coast into a corner without any throttle and with the clutch in, the bike will be less stable and you may lose control when you release the clutch and hit the throttle again.
Corner with the power on!
#3 Don’t Brake Too Early.
If you brake too early coming into a turn you will lose too much speed and you will find yourself speeding up halfway through the turn which can de-stabilize the bike.
Keep that power on and dial in the right speed!
Pro riders brake well into the turn entry to wash off the speed and dial in the turning speed as they begin their turn.
This gives them a speed advantage and separates the leaders from the mid fielders.
#4 Watch Where You are Looking.
This is another basic principle of riding and racing in general.
The bike (or car) will go to where your eyes are looking.
If you are staring at the track ahead of you constantly then you will not make the corner properly and most likely you will overshoot the track.
Once you have lined up the bike and dialled in the right speed, always stare at the exit point of the corner and the bike will follow.
Ask any road bike racer and they will tell you the same thing.
Looking beyond the corner will also help with obstacles in the corner.
I always used to have a problem with corners that contained deep ruts, they shook my confidence levels and I thought I was going to crash.
After I began to look beyond the corner, I found that the bike did all the work in a rut and the rut guided my bike around the corner like autopilot.
Only after I stopped focusing my attention on the rut and focusing on the corner exit did my cornering improve.
#5 Stand as You Approach a Turn.
There are a couple of reasons to stand up on the pegs when you are entering into a turn.
Firstly, you want to keep as much weight off the front wheel as possible.
Secondly, the entry to most corners are full of corrugated bumps which is created from the pounding of the rear tires bouncing up and down under braking.
These bumps are a real pain in the ass and can dislodge you from your bike if you aren’t careful.
The best way to deal with these bumps is to hit them standing up for the extra stability.
#6 Sit Forward on the Seat.
After you are through those nasty bumps, sit on the seat and shift your body weight forward so you get your weight back onto the front wheel for maximum traction.
Then tip your bike into the corner and make sure you are looking toward the exit of the corner as I described earlier.
#7 Use Your Inner Leg as Stability.
Keeping your inner leg up and forward will counter balance and stabilize yourself into the turn.
Keep your leg up high enough so it doesn’t get snagged on any dirt clumps.
Common leg and knee injuries are caused by crashing a dirt bike while the leg is forward in a turn.
As the bike falls to the ground, all the weight and pressure goes onto that leg, bending it the wrong way.. ouch!
This is why I highly recommend motocross knee braces to keep your legs and knees from hyper extending during a crash. They are not cheap but totally worth it.
#8 Power Out of the Corner Properly.
Make sure you have exited out of the turn completely before powering away.
If you power out too early while you are still in the corner, you may shoot your bike off the track or the back wheel will wash out or you will crash.
Make sure the bike is in a straight line to the track before powering away.
Good riders like to get the bike upright quickly so they can accelerate as early as possible.
Beginners often sit the bike up too early, getting their exit direction completely wrong.
If you are starting out with this technique, let the bike do the work and power away only when you are in the full upright position and the bike is pointing in the right direction.
#9 Berm Corners.
A berm turn is a corner that is usually on a closed circuit motocross track.
A berm is a mound of dirt that runs along the outside edge and raises the corner.
A rider will use the berm to ride against as they ride around. This allows them to move a lot faster around the corner than a flat turn.
Berms can be as high as a meter while others can be naturally occurring and can only be a less than a foot high.
The berm creates an outside line to get around the corner.
The berm line may not be necessarily quicker, but it is pretty spectacular to watch and they are heaps of fun to ride on.
Well used berms have a main deep rut from prolonged use and so you will need to use the rut to your advantage.
How to Ride a Berm Corner>>
After you have used the basic principles as described previously, follow these steps.
a. Steer the bike into the rut of the berm.
b. As the bike tips into the turn, sit in the center of the seat and lean with your bike.
c. Extend your inside leg and carry it above ground high enough so it doesn’t snag on any dirt clumps. This is done for stability and balance while the bike is tipped at speed.
d. Keep your elbows held high and your weight well forward so you are placing as much weight and pressure on the front wheel as possible.
e. Let the berm rut carry the bike around the turn. Don’t fight against the rut, just let it steer the bike for you.
f. Upon exit of the berm, have one or two fingers on the clutch so you can use the clutch to maximize traction and minimize wheel spin.
g. Try to use the highest gear you can get away with and use the clutch to control the power delivery.
The problem with lowering gears is that although it gives explosive power coming out of a turn, that power can cause the rear wheel to wash out.
#10 Flat Corners
The flat corner is probably the most difficult to master because there’s no berm or rut to assist the rider.
A flat corner is where the terrain neither slopes toward or away from the apex. It’s just flat and pretty slippery.
How to Ride a Flat Corner>>
After you have used the basic principles as described previously, follow these steps.
a. Stay well forward on the seat to position your weight to the front of the bike.
b. As you turn, let the bike lean over while you remain upright on the bike.
You need to be sitting on the outer edge of the seat. If you are turning left, you will be sitting on the outer left side of your seat.
c. Place as much pressure as possible on the outer peg. This will drive the bike into the ground providing you with maximum traction.
d. Be careful with the throttle. Any sudden burst of acceleration will wash out your bike in a flat turn.
You need to keep the acceleration on evenly and control it with smooth clutch work.
e. Only throttle hard again when you have exited the corner and the bike is pointed in the right direction.
Video courtesy of Enduro Champ Johnny Aubert
How to Ride Off Camber Turns>>
An off camber turn is where the terrain is sloping away from the apex and they are a real pain in the ass to master. Here are my tips –
a. Don’t rush them! They are very slippery and crashes are common on these turns.
b. Don’t rush at the corner. The best line for an off camber is around the inside.
c. Make sure you get your speed right as you are coming in so you don’t have to break hard and wash out halfway through.
e. As with the other turns, sit way forward to keep maximum traction to the front wheel.
f. Keep the breaks on all the way through the turn until you have exited and are ready to accelerate out of it.
g. Use the flat turn technique of leaning the bike but sitting upright and on the outer edge of the seat to.
Drive your weight onto the outside peg and keep your leg up for counter balance.
h. Keep enough throttle onto drive the bike around the turn but be lenient with it so you don’t wash out.
i. Keep the throttle and clutch balanced and don’t do too much of either. Any wheel spin will wash the bike out and you will end up sitting in the dirt wondering what went wrong.
As with any good riding skills, the trick with cornering is practice.
Also, try to practice with little pieces at a time instead of doing it all at once.
Once you’ve mastered a piece of it, move onto the next piece and you will be hitting the turns like a champ in no time at all.
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