How To Become A Mountain Bike Cornering Pro

Yep, we’ve all been there.

Lying flat on your back trying to comprehend what went wrong and trying to pinpoint the exact moment that led to your demise.

I’m talking, of course, of mountain bike cornering.

Have you ever wondered how the pro’s do it? Seamlessly rip through turns as if traction could never stray from between the loose terrain and their folded tyres.

I did for a long time.

And no, it’s not the gear they have access to. It’s an undeniably awesome cornering technique that they have learnt from many years of practice.

Learning how to corner on a mountain bike is hard. Far harder than many other aspects of riding. But mastering a great cornering technique is key to your success.

So here are my biggest mountain bike cornering tips, ones that will see you flying around those bends and nipping at the rear tyres of professionals in no time…

Well, maybe.

Smashing a berm in my Am901 SPD Shoes riding around a berm in Glenrock Mountain Bike Trails

Look Through The Corner

The foundation to a clean mountain bike cornering technique all begins with your eyes. Keeping your eyes up and looking around the turn helps you anticipate what’s coming and prepare for any unnoticed obstacles.

Pointing your head in the direction you want to travel also aids in correctly shaping your body. Opening up your hips and legs to point towards the exit.

Lead with your eyes and your bike will follow.

As you’re approaching the corner – well before you reach the turn – you should have the entry line set in your mind. Your entire approach is based around the entry and don’t underestimate how important this is to get spot on.

Upon hitting the entry line – and still before you’ve reached the corner – your gaze should shift to the apex (approximate centre of the corner). It’s at this point a quick decision must be made on whether to stay high or dip in tight.

Finally, as you begin to rail the berm or push the limits of grip on a flat corner, your eyes should be staring down the exit, spotting the best line out and preparing for what’s to come.

This process may sound simple, but it’s far from it. It’s easy to lock your eyes on something mid turn and loose focus of what lies ahead. The only way to overcome the bad habits is practice.

Don’t stare at your front tyre!

You need to trust your body and mind. Together, they have the incredible ability of quickly analysing the situation and remembering exactly where you need to go. Sometimes even without the need of your conscious awareness.

Look where you want to go, an essential mountain bike skill while riding a berm in Dungog

Do All Of Your Braking Before The Corner

If you want to learn how to corner faster on a mountain bike, first you need to slow your arse down!

There’s a common misconception floating around that when entering a corner, you must be hooking in order to maintain maximum speed.

This is complete hobblesquash.

Flying into a corner at a speed far greater than your ability only means one thing, you’ll grab those brakes at the worst possible time. Not only does this destroy all balance and control, but braking mid-turn also has a detrimental effect on your exit line.

Cornering fast on a mountain bike is all about exit speed, not entry speed.

Braking effectively before the corner is by and large a mental game and one that shouldn’t be forgotten when practicing mountain bike cornering. Tyres are designed to gain the most traction while rolling freely and you should never compromise this trait.

Don’t ride your brakes when cornering on a mountain bike.

Riding your brakes as you turn not only causes a speed loss, but the drag introduces force onto the wheel which generally tries to stand the bike upright. Not to mention, riding your brakes places you in a vulnerable position and can lock the wheel, leaving you flat on your face.

Mountain bike cornering on Deadly Bugger in Blue Derby Tasmania

Keep Your Body Perpendicular To The Ground

Don’t get confused!

I’m not saying to stay stiff as a board with your body upright, I’m saying move your body to mimic the ground beneath your tyres.

It doesn’t matter what type of corner it is – a berm, wall-ride, flat – keeping your body as perpendicular to the ground as possible will do wonders for your balance and grip.

For example, if you’re ripping around a berm that sits at 45 degrees to flat ground, then your body should be at that angle. This allows gravity (G-Force) to suck your weight down perfectly in-line, maximising the pressure on your tyres. 

If you stand too upright, your body is going to try and pull the bike higher in the turn. And vise versa, if you lean too hard, you risk the chance of sliding out.

But taking berms out of the equation… what if you’re cornering on flat ground?

Well, the same rules apply for your body but something must be done to counteract the natural balance shift to the outside…

Lean Your Bike

Cornering on level ground at speed is by far the most difficult type of corner to conquer. And if you’re not following the above tips in conjunction with leaning your bike, you’re going to find out the hard way real quick!

Don’t be afraid to dip your bike into a corner, using the correct cornering technique. You’ll be surprised how far you can actually push it.

Keeping your body upright and leaning the bike allows your centre of gravity to push directly down (perpendicular to the ground) over the tyre line, keeping your balance perfectly aligned.

This is true for berms as well as flat corners. If you’re riding fast, it’s better to lean the bike in further than to not lean in enough.  

Flying around a berm with dust kicking up off my tyre on the flow trail in Dungog Common

Weight Your Outside Foot

Weighting your outside foot works hand in hand with both the leaning of your body and bike. Essentially, the closer the bike is to the ground, the more weight you need on your outside foot. And naturally, if you follow this rule, more weight will be placed on your outside arm as well.

This acts as a counter balance method and keeps your centre of gravity directly over the tyre line.

Now, there’s a difference between weighting your outside foot and completely leaning on it. If you lean 100% of your weight to the outside, you’re going to end up with a straight leg and lose all of your balance. This body position makes it extremely hard to absorb impacts and make quick weight shifts when required.

Don’t over think it!

Weighting your outside foot is a normal reaction to leaning the bike and as you begin to corner faster, you’ll notice more and more weight shift to the outside.

You’ll mainly notice this on flat corners as leaning the bike further than your body is paramount for success.

Carving one of the many great corners on Twisties while mountain biking in Newcastle at Glenrock MTB Park

Where Should Your Weight Be For Mountain Bike Cornering?

I’ve already covered where your weight should be laterally. But how far forward or backward should you be leaning while cornering on a mountain bike?

This is something not many people talk about and something I struggled to find help with through the learning stage of my early days riding.

Most answers I received were; weight your rear tyre, but don’t unweight the front…

How confusing is that!?

Essentially, I was told to lean both forward and backward at the same time. Needless to say, I was stumped.

But I have uncovered some great advice that should be applied to every aspect of mountain biking, especially in the corners.

Make sure your head is JUST behind the handle bars at all times.

It’s that simple.

Keeping your head just behind the bars means you’ll never apply too much weight to your front wheel and encourages you to ride in a position of maximum control. And through this increased control, your mountain bike cornering technique will improve immensely.

As you begin to attack steeper terrain, you’ll notice that to maintain the correct body position, you need to lean further and further backwards.

Railing a berm at Dungog Common MTB Park in my Shimano Am901 SPD mtb Shoes

Lower Your Centre Of Gravity

We all know what to do in the event of a fire – Get down low and go, go, go! Well, the same goes for a great cornering technique on a mountain bike.

Lowering your centre of gravity creates a strong stance, one that drastically increases stability and control while maximising your potential to absorb harsh terrain. An absolute necessity while cornering on a mountain bike.

In maintaining a low centre of gravity, you’ll be in the perfect position to make small adjustments and correct any mistakes you make with ease.

Translation – A low centre of gravity allows you to corner faster on a mountain bike!

Smashing Wayne's shit corner at Ourimbah MTB Park

Slow Down To Improve Your Mountain Bike Cornering

I know, I know. Slowing down is boring. I mean, we’re way past this medial level of training… right?


Slowing down is a great way to improve not only your mountain bike cornering skills, but massively increase your cornering speed as well.

Sounds pretty dumb, I get it. But slowing down encourages you to build good habits and follow the correct techniques. In learning these traits – without the fear of dying as you’re flying through a bend – your confidence will quickly improve and so too will speed.

As I mentioned earlier, the secret of how to corner faster on a mountain bike is this: Cornering is all about exit speed, not entry speed. Slowing to a pace that you feel comfortable with does nothing but boost your confidence and ensures you only practice a great cornering technique. And in time, speed will naturally increase.

Mountain bike cornering around a excellent berm at Stromlo MTB Park

Shift Your Gears Before Attacking The Corner

I just spilled the secret of how to corner faster on a mountain bike. And selecting the correct gear before you enter a corner is a big part of it.

The idea is to select the correct gear for the exit of the corner. In no circumstance should you be pedalling through corners while riding downhill, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Shifting to the correct gear depends on the gradient of the run. Essentially, the faster you’ll be exiting the turn, the higher the gear needed. And it’s pretty self explanatory that you’ll be going faster on a steeper gradient.

If you don’t manage to get the gearing right before you enter the corner, the best thing to do is just roll with it.

Do not shift mid-turn. Your gears won’t change until you begin to pedal once again, leaving you with a nasty clunk on exit which could result in your chain falling off. And I don’t think I need to explain why pedalling in the corner is not ok… do I?

In essence, do your best to nail your gearing but don’t dwell on it in the event of a mistake. And as with most other mountain bike cornering skills, the earlier you set up, the easier the turn will be.

Mountain biking through a beautiful green forest over rocks in Glenrock MTB Park

Commit To The Corner!

One final tip I have is to commit. Commit everything you have to the corner and trust the rubber beneath you.

Committing your body and focus to outperform the turn coupled with a superb mountain bike cornering technique will see you ripping bends in no time.

Hesitation and lack of confidence are more than likely the two things holding you back. So on your next outing, dip in hard to those banks… just remember there is a line you can cross.

So How Do You Become A Mountain Bike Cornering Pro?

Like I said at the beginning of this post, practice, practice, practice.

The best way to improve your mountain bike cornering skills is by riding consistently. But even better than the best is by riding consistently with a superb technique.

Incorporate the above tips into an everyday riding regime and get out there and ride your damn bike. It’s how I managed to improve both my mountain bike cornering skill and confidence quickly and exponentially.

As with everything, consistency is the key to success and nothing beats having support to help you grow.

I am currently building a community with the aim to improve both mountain biking skills and experiences exponentially. Every and anyone is welcome and there is no pre-requisite to join.

My goal is to deliver both personal and group training (online for now) in order for you to reach the level of mountain biking that you desire.

If this sounds like a group for you, all you have to do is subscribe below and then our journey to mountain biking paradise will begin!

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