Chris Case //

117 // The Art of Cornering and Descending, with Emile Abraham

You might not think of cornering as science—after all, the title of this episode is the art of cornering—but today we’ll try to hit the subjects of cornering and descending from many sides. Obviously, there’s plenty of physics involved in making a bike arc through a sweeping bend. We’ll tell you all about the forces at play as you drive your bike. And then we’ll tell you to set that all aside, and join us for a discussion of the nuances and, yes, art of cornering: body position, weight distribution, the eight—eight!—stages of cornering, where your eyes should be, where your hands should be, where your mind should be. All that and much more on today’s episode.

We’ll also talk a bit about some of the skills specific to descending, like the supertuck. Should you risk it? If so, when and how? I once did an experiment on the supertuck with Lennard Zinn, so I’ll talk about that harrowing experience. I’m still alive!

Our main guest today is Emile Abraham, someone you may not have heard of, but who has racked up numerous wins because of his cornering and descending prowess, having grown up riding the twisty, steep roads of Trinidad and Tobago. Emile is a 12-time national road race champion of his home country, as well as a Pan-Am Games silver medalist in 2007. Through his coaching business, emileabrahamcoaching.com, and his current team, the North Georgia Cycling Association (http://ngca.us/,) he provides a platform for the development of riders from around the world but especially those from the Caribbean. He’s also the event director for the two-day Mobile Cycling Classic. More than a few times today you’ll hear Emile talk about dropping Trevor like a sack of anvils at the Tobago Classic, which they’ve raced together many times. And anyone who drops Trevor, either going up or down a hill, is a friend of mine.

Also in today’s episode, we hear from our friend and podcast colleague Colby Pearce, Petr Vakoc of the Alpecin-Fenix pro team, professional mountain biker Payson McElveen, and Kristen Legan, a coach and former cycling tech editor.

Now, get ready to hit that apex. Let’s make you fast!

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SUBSCRIBE

REFERENCES
  • ​Bulsink, V. E., & Koopman, C. M. B. and H. F. J. M. (n.d.). CORNERING IN BICYCLING: COMPUTER MODEL SIMULATIONS.
  • C.R.Lommers. (2015). Descending: Measuring and comparing descending technique and performance in professional road cycling.

TRANSCRIPTION

(Please excuse any typos as this transcript is generated automatically through A.I.)

Chris Case 00:12
Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance. I’m your host, Chris Case. You might not think of cornering as science, after all, the title of this episode is the art of cornering, but today we’ll try to hit the subject of cornering and descending from many sides. Obviously, there’s plenty of physics involved in making a bike arc through a sweeping bend we’ll tell you all about the forces at play as you drive your bike. And then we’ll tell you to set all that aside and join us for a discussion of the nuances and yes, the art of cornering: body position, weight distribution, the eight – yes eight – stages of cornering, where your eyes should be, where your hands should be, where your mind should be, all that and much more on today’s episode. We’ll also talk a bit about some of the skills specific to descending like the super tuck. Should you risk it? If so, when and how? I once did an experiment on the super tuck with Lennard Zinn, so I’ll talk about that harrowing experience. I am still alive today to talk about it. This episode of Fast Talk is brought to you by Whoop. Whoop is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on the performance of your sleep, how recovered your body is, and how much stress you put on your body throughout the day from your workouts and the normal stressors of life. What’s great with Whoop is that every day when you get up, you get a recovery score based on your HRV, resting heart rate, and sleep performance that can be used as an indicator to how to approach your day. The Whoop app has built in features like the strain coach which actually gives you target exertion goals worked out optimally for the level of intensity your body is signaling it can handle. Perfect for working out at home. And based on how strenuous your day is the app has a built in sleep coach, which actually lets you know how much sleep you should be getting so you can wake up and be recovered based on your performance goals, which you can sent.

Trevor Connor 02:14
Whoop is offering 15% off with the code fasttalk, that’s fa s t, t a l k at checkout. Go to Whoop. That’s w h o o p.com and enter fast talk at checkout to save 15%. Sleep better, recover faster, and train smarter. Optimize your performance with Whoop.

Chris Case 02:36
Now, Trevor, I know you’ve convinced some athletes that you still coach, that Whoop is a valuable tool, so maybe give us a little overview of how you use Whoop for the art of coaching.

Trevor Connor 02:49
It’s just like use it the other metrics. I want to see how hard they’re trading. I want to see the work they’re doing but I have learned with my athletes, that’s an incomplete picture and I have some athletes that have real good stamina and can push through things until they cook themselves. I’ve other athletes that can’t handle it very well. Getting that whoop data from them every week is remarkably valuable. You know, I asked them to send me the summary of the week and I want to see, on Whoop there’s this week view, where it shows you your strain every day and shows you a recovery level every day. For a lot of my athletes, I want points in the week where recovery is higher than the strain and vice versa. But it is actually a very valuable metric that I can’t see anywhere else. And it gives me a complete picture of their week that I can’t get just from the trainings.

Chris Case 03:50
Our main guest today is Emile Abraham, someone you may not have heard of, but who has racked up numerous wins because of his cornering and descending prowess having grown up riding the twisty steep roads of Trinidad and Tobago. A meal is a 12 time national road race champion of his home country, as well as a Pan-Am Games silver medalist in 2007, among many other notable wins. Through his coaching business, emileabrahamcoaching.com and his current team the North Georgia Cycling Association he provides a platform for the development of riders from around the world, and particularly those from the Caribbean. He’s also the event director of the two day Mobile Cycling Classic. More than a few times today you’ll hear Emile talk about dropping Trevor like a sack of anvils at the Tobago Classic, which they’ve raced together many times. And anyone who drops Trevor whether going up a hill or downhill is a friend of mine. Also, in today’s episode, we hear from our friend and podcast colleague, Colby Pearce, Petr Vakoc of the Alpecin-Fenix pro-team, professional mountain biker Payson McElveen and Kristen Legan, a coach and former cycling tech editor and new addition to the fast labs family here on fast. Now, get ready to hit that apex. Let’s make you fast.

Descending stories from the Tobago Classic

Welcome to Fast Talk Episode 117. We’re going to sit down today and talk, share some stories about the art of cornering and descending and I know Trevor, you’ve had some stories, some battle wounds have been inflicted on you by some nasty dissents in your life. But we have a friend of yours a colleague of yours on the race seen a Emile Abraham, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your descending history or at least I know you’ve got a story up your sleeve about you and Emile that explains why meal is a great resource for our discussion today.

Trevor Connor 06:02
When it comes to Tobago and Emile, I’ve got a whole bunch of stories that I can share. So I have mentioned this race many times on the show, this is my favorite race in the world. I have been down there 10,11 times, which means I have the second most attendances, I think. So the first time I ever did the race was 2008. And this was my experience with you as a descender. And I should just give some context, I have riden a lot of mountain passes, I have riden a lot of descents, I have never seen anything like the descents in Tobago. And I can’t tell you how many people I have taken down to that race, I’ve tried to explain this, they go”whatever, I’m from Colorado, I know descending,” and then they get down there and they just go “You didn’t tell me it was like this!” It’s, you can’t describe it until you get there. Or actually, the best way I can describe it is I wrote with a European team a couple years ago that has raced everything in Europe. They just went for a cruiser ride around the island a couple of days before the race because they got down there way early. One of the guys couldn’t make it around. He had to take a taxi home. So, 2008 my first year down there, I had had a crash on the first day and broke my front brake lever and we couldn’t fix it. So I only had a rear brake. So I was having a bit of a tough time on the descent. Lesson number one when descending- Always have two breaks. I have learned ever since then I bring down to that race, everything to basically build a whole new bike because you just never know. But I was probably on the best climbing legs of my life. So I had this weird thing that – so it’s just a whole series of these 10, 15, 20 minute climbs. And I was catching the leaders, like I was the first one to the top of every climb. But then we get to the descent, I would only have a rear break and everybody would blow by me and I’d get killed. You had been dropped on the first climb, but then on that descent, you caught past me, you caught the leaders, and we kind of had this yo-yo thing that I would catch all of you on the climbs and then you would just blow by me on the descents. And we went back and forth like that for a bit. Until there was just one time it didn’t catch you on the climb. Never saw you guys again. And you won the race. You won that final day that year and it was on your descending skills.

Emile Abraham 08:49
Definitely. And I’ve had a few of those. I remember too one year in Dominican Republic in the Vuelta Independencia, it’s an eight stage tour day in February, and I was wearing the yellow jersey I had won the first stage and I got the yellow jersey and this was about states four now and we went over a pass going towards Santiago, and it was a probably about a 7K climb or something. And I lost the group probably about two quarters of the way up. And I lost about three minutes within that last 3Ks or something, but the the sense on the other side was a much longer descent and the climb going up. And so when we got over the top, it started raining and everything and I just started to descend and I just, I was going and I started closing the gap and then there was a guy one guy with me at that point and he tried to keep up and there was this one time where all I heard was “ahhh” and he basically he tried to follow me in the descent and he, I think, he went straight and he went into the bushes and over barbed wire fence and I just disappeared. I’m like Oops and by the time we got to the bottom of the dissent, I was within 20 seconds of the front group, which I eventually caught, caught them about a minute or so after and then I went on to stay with the leaders on that stage and tape in my yellow jersey. Later on in the tour, I ended up losing it and the power of a co which is like a Killer steep climb, which there’s no way a sprinter is gonna climb like that. But yeah, I mean, there’s some good stories there on descending for sure.

Trevor Connor 11:13
I still remember 2012 on the final day, you were in the lead group. I was there with my teammate. And I still remember seeing the look on my teammates face. He tried to stay with you. I had learned my lesson of “No, don’t try to stay with Emile,” that’s bad idea. So he tried to stay with you, you guys separated from us a bit. He crashed on a descent took all the skin off of his kneecap and and ground down half of his kneecap. Yeah. And I caught him just as he he’s sitting. Looking at his knee. He has his hands on either side of his leg and he’s just screaming, screaming.

Emile Abraham 11:56
Yeah. Wow. And I just remember I remember that but

Trevor Connor 12:00
He was behind you. And that happened. But I just remember looking at going, yep, don’t go with me. That was collateral damage.

Chris Case 12:06
He was he was beat in the rearview mirror from you a meal. So you wouldn’t have seen. Right,

Emile Abraham 12:11
Right, right. Yeah, you know, I’ve actually had people who, you know, before the tour have been, you know, hanging out and you know, the talk will come up and be like, when we get to the last stage of the Tobago Classic, whatever you do, do not try to follow me on the descents because you will die.

Trevor Connor 12:38
But this growing up in Tobago, and this is why we want you on the show, you’ve spent your whole childhood learning to ride on some of the toughest descents around. It has made you a great bike handler in corners, itt’s probably, you are a crit rider, it’s probably why you are such a great crit rider because I’ve seen you cornering crits. And you have built those skills and so, the rest of this episode we’re going to talk about how to corner we’re going to go into some of the basics. We are not going to try to teach our listeners how to stay with you and lose their kneecaps, but we are hoping as one of the best descenders I have ever seen that you can really share some good knowledge with people on on how to be a good descender maybe you’re not a crazy kill yourself descender but a good descender.

Emile Abraham 13:30
But at least better their skill level.

Chris Case 13:32
Yes, absolutely.

Physics of cornering

Trevor Connor 13:34
Here’s the important thing you need to know about the physics of cornering; your bike wheels are gyroscopes. So what is a gyroscope? Think back to your childhood when you had tops – or we’re getting old – think back to my childhood we had tops and we didn’t have really cool video games and never played with tops. So a top is this thing that you get spinning really quick, – oh wait beyblades that’s the new version – which is just a top with jagged edges – but you get these things spinning and then they will stay upright on their corner. And the neat thing about them is if you push on a top while it’s spinning, it’ll snap right back up. It actually wants to stay upright. So your wheels are very similar. When they are spinning really fast, they actually want to stay upright, they don’t want to lean over. That’s the first thing to remember. Second thing to know about the gyroscopic effect is that it is magnified by accelerations. And now when I’m talking about accelerations I am talking about not the way we commonly use the term but the way it’s used in physics. So an acceleration has two parts to it: it has both a change in speed and it also has a change, it also has a vector, a direction. So if you speed up, notice I’m not using velocity that’s intangible because velocity also has vectors to it, so if you speed up or slow down, that is an acceleration. But likewise, let’s say you are heading north, and then you turn west, that is also an acceleration because there are vectors so you are slowing down on the northern vector, you are speeding up on the western vector. And that is important because like I said, an acceleration magnifies the gyroscopic effect. So when you go around the corner, you are changing direction. You are magnifying the gyroscope, which is why anybody who, Emile you can talk I’m sure a lot to this, but it’s actually hard to get your bike to lean over when you go around a corner.

Emile Abraham 16:01
Yeah. I mean, if you think about it too, when you are on a motorbike or bicycle, when you corner, you actually don’t even really turn your handlebar, but you corner.

Chris Case 16:17
It’s just a shift weight that leans the gyroscopes, and then it’s all about balancing the amount that they’re falling versus the amount that you’re putting into the bike to keep it upright.

Trevor Connor 16:30
So last thing I’ll bring up about the physics is again, so you think about the things that cause accelerations. So it’s both change in direction and a change in speed. If you’re going into a corner and you’re doing both, so obviously, when you’re cornering, you’re changing direction as an acceleration, but if you’re also in the corner and you’re hitting your brakes, that is again, an acceleration. (Again, when we’re talking about acceleration in physics that speeding up or slowing down) So you are really magnifying that gyroscopic effect and anybody who’s had a bit of experience with fast cornering can tell you, if you hit your brakes in a corner, your bike goes bolt up right and you go off the road.

Chris Case 17:12
Yeah, yeah.

Emile Abraham 17:14
Right.

Chris Case 17:14
And, obviously, when the wheel is off the bicycle, and you’re holding the ends of the skewer, and you spin it, this is when you can really feel the gyroscopic effect taking place. You’ve shifted side to side and you actually feel this force pulling you in the other direction. So if somebody out there hasn’t done that, do that. And you’ll understand a little bit more about what we’re talking about here. And especially if you spin it really fast, you can really feel those forces kicking in.

Trevor Connor 17:46
So it’s a really important concept to understand. Everybody’s really worried about their bikes slipping out. Yes, there is a traction thing. If you lose traction, then the gyroscope is no longer relevant and you slide out but beyond dealing with traction, for the most part, when you’re going through a corner, your bike wants to stay upright. So, I’m going to let you guys really talk about the basics of cornering, but the strange thing here is you actually have to push your bike down, your bike is going to try to stay up right, when you go through a corner, you need to force that bike to lean over. Colby Pearce host of Cycling in Alignment here with us at Fast Labs has a wealth of knowledge to share about the physics of cornering.

Colby Pearce 18:31
When you’re cornering, yes, we have a giant gyroscopic effect that happens and that will mean the bike will want to sort of naturally upright, also we have some centrifugal force in the corner, right – which is not to be confused with centripetal force two different things – and when those are occurring, basically what it means is the rider needs to actively pilot the bike in corners. Now to differentiate briefly, we’re talking about, sometimes people get confused in two minor points that I think are worth clarifying, there are two different ways to turn a bike: you can turn the bike by turning the handlebars or you can turn a bike by leaning. The majority of our cornering happens in leaning. At least certainly when you’re talking about road riding. In order to make a turn on a road bike, where you’re turning the handlebars, we’re talking about three miles an hour walking speed in a parking lot going around a cone, or cross a crosswalk to go around a cane in the road or something. That’s where you would actually turn the bars, what we’re talking about is leaning the bike. And so when you lean the bike, then the inertia of the wheels will have a big impact on the direction of the bike and the arc of the curve. So when you influence the arc of the curve, the way to do this is, this is a really key actionable concept I like to give my riders when I’m coaching them through how to corner, one on one, outside pedal is down, you’re pushing hard on the outside pedal and hard on the inside handlebar. That’s the crucial component. And that’s also in my experience the component that most rider maybe instinctively have the most trouble sort of figuring out that it’s okay to do that. I think a lot of riders push hard on the inside bar and they feel like the bar is gonna fall out from under them, or maybe the bikes just gonna slide out from under them, but once you start to get a feel for that, driving the bike hard on the inside bar, and specifically, we’re talking about a downhill corner or even a high speed corner on a road bike, I’m almost universally recommending that riders are in the drops – because we want to lower center gravity and a greater leverage point on the steering mechanism and to do that you need to be in the drop. So if you’re not using your drops, or if you’re one of those people who say I never use my drops, go have a bike fit. I encourage you to go have a bike fit because bike fit is about performance as much as it is about weight distribution over the wheelbase and being able to actually use all three parts of your handlebars that’s the tops of the hoods in the drops. So when you push down harder that inside bar and you push hard on that outside pedal, what you’re doing is you’re actually levering the bike over and so when you properly lever the bike over, and you’re pushing hard on that inside bar, the bike should be leaning more than your body is your body will lean over into the corner, but we want to actually push the bike further and this is what drives the contact patch of the tire into the asphalt or into the pavement. And this is what brings the handling of the bike alive and makes it corner or carve around a corner like skis. It also is what enables you to most effectively direct the arc of the turn, given your velocity. Things that can mess with that equation or when the surface becomes unpredictable or slippery. If you are levering the bike hard, you’re pushing it down under you and the angle, the lean angle, the bike is more acute than the lean angle of your body and you hit sand, you’ll go down. If you are on a rainy crit course, an alternate cornering technique may be advice right if the roads are wet. Or if you’re on a cyclocross bike in muddy conditions, for example, etc, or a fat bike on snow, then we might advise either a parallel angle of the body in the bike or possibly even a situation where you’re leaning the body more than you lean the bike, the bike stays closer to vertical we’ll say. Yeah, so we were even reluctant to bring that up on the show, because that’s a really advanced form of cornering, but that’s called the counter steer, where it’s actually you lean fully with your body and you push your bike away from the corner. Right.

Chris Case 22:36
So all of this talk about how the the physics of cornering the physics of the the wheel and gyroscopic effect and how that affects performance, how it affects balance through a corner. These are the types of things it’s good to know them but a lot of the times you don’t want to be thinking about this stuff when you’re riding your bike. You want to just innately, instinctually, make a lot of the movements that we’re talking about, put your body in the position we’re talking about, get at low weight, the outside foot, etc being in the drops all of these things, and that comes with experience, the more you start thinking about what’s going on with your wheel and gravity and these other things, the more you’re distracted from looking through the corner, finding that line, feathering the brakes if need be those types of things. So it’s good to know this basic stuff, but it’s also don’t overthink it when you’re out there. Don’t get distracted by vectors and equations and things like that.

The steps to getting around a corner fast and safely

Trevor Connor 23:47
Okay, so why don’t we jump into it? Let’s throw this to the two guys who are much better corners, descenders, than me and you guys talk about the basics of how to get around a corner. What are all the steps what’s involved in getting getting through that corner fast and safely,

Chris Case 24:05
I might start with something that I’ve stolen from a famous Formula One driver named Jackie Stewart, Scottish guy. This is a great YouTube video and it’s become famous in certain realms because of the way he breaks down a corner. He says when he starts his career, he thinks about corners, having three parts: the entry, the apex and the exit. As he goes through his career, he realizes it’s way more complex than that, it’s got eight parts. And so I’ll just walk through quickly those eight parts and we can then dive into a little bit more on each of those. Hopefully, that sets the stage for what were all the complexities we’re talking about here. So part one being, you’re approaching a corner and on a bicycle, you stop pedaling. This is different from a car where you would let your foot off of the gas pedal. So in this sense, you stopped pedaling. Step two, you start braking on the final approach, and you do this before you’re actually turning. Step number three, is that you begin your turn, you’ve already released your brakes, and you begin to arc at an appropriate angle for the given turn. Number four, you hit that apex. The apex, it depends on the corner itself, some are very consistent in the radius, some are not, but the apex of the corner is generally speaking the center point of the inside of the corner. Number five, you start to exit that corner so you can actually gently pedal again as you return to a more upright position, and obviously we can get into a little bit more about the- in a crit setting you there are corners you want to pedal through, you just have to be careful about pedal strike and all these things, so we’ll get there too. Part six open that angle all the way. Step seven, start pedaling full blast. At step eight, you’re out of the corner, you’re exiting, you’re accelerating away from the group, hopefully, or out of the corner. So those are the, hopefully that all makes sense, those are the, if you really get into the fine details of a corner, the eight different parts or the eight different aspects of cornering. So Emile would you agree with all of that? Is there anything – let’s let’s walk through and you give some more detail about the things that you do when you’re setting up for a corner, how you determine your speed, those types of things.

Emile Abraham 26:54
One of the first things is basically you have to try, you always have to be on the alert. Nowadays, in recent years, we have GPS. So basically, if I am going down the descent now I will have my GPS on the route or the road that I’m on so I kind of know what the road looks like ahead. Now, long ago, we didn’t have that. So what we used to do, and most people, it’s probably not a good idea to look down all the time because then you lose concentration and focus on what you’re actually doing and maybe distances, what you are from the corner and so forth, but as you approach the corner, you need to analyze basically, how much angle the road actually is making the turn, if that makes sense? So the sharper the angle is, the more you really want to break and slow speed. Now sometimes it’s hard to figure out, because some corners may look like it’s not really gonna turn that much and then it just kind of keeps going. Those are the most dangerous corners that put people in situations where they end up, not being able to hold the turn and run wide into a wall or you know, the pavement, you know, or sliding out because they actually have to try to lean more, or break into turn – all these things are what you want to try to avoid. So sometimes it’s better to actually slowly speed a little bit more just to be on the safe side if you’re uncertain of how sharp the turn is. And then you can always accelerate sooner if the corner is not what you anticipated it to be in terms of sharpness. So once you figure out okay, the corner is actually a really sharp turn there’s another factor involved there: wideness of the road. The wider the road is actually the faster you can make a turn because you have more distance to go from outer Apex or outer…

Chris Case 29:23
You can effectively make it a straighter line,

Emile Abraham 29:25
A straighter line as possible. In Tobago, like in the Tobago Classic, generally the roads are not wide at all it is it is just about two columns wide so you don’t have a lot of roads to play with. And there generally you have to be a lot more cautious and slower in your descents.

Trevor Connor 29:53
So you’re calling what you do there cautious?

Emile Abraham 29:57
Well…you see so, a lot of times to go and pre ride a course and do a recon is always the best thing to do, just so that you can visualize and know what you’re up against. So let’s say for instance, if if someone has done a course before, or has done a course several times before and they know it very well, they know okay, this corner is really sharp, they need to brake harder, etc. Which is why most of the times in Tobago going up there and I know the roads very well, I know, “Okay, I can hit this corner hard.” Or I, you know, I have to really slow down. And then a lot of times in the race, what I would do, which Trevor ended up on the floor is, I would, if I know a corner is going to be a little bit sharper and could be somewhat a challenge to the person who doesn’t know I would go into the turn faster brake harder before the turn knowing what it is, but the other person would not really understand that and their reaction and reflex would be a lot slower because you can know what you’re doing. So that puts them in a difficult situation

Trevor Connor 31:23
Which is fair. No I’ve never ended up on the floor trying to follow you, but I did butt slap a car.

Emile Abraham 31:29
Well, I mean that’s that’s almost as bad.

Trevor Connor 31:34
That was pretty bad. It was a really sharp left hand turn and Tobago they drive on the left side of the road so the race is on the left side of the road. You went around the corner I didn’t realize it was as sharp as it wass o I had to go out a little wider, a car came around the other way and I kind of twisted my body and I kid you not I but slap the side of that car.But I managed to stay up.

Chris Case 31:58
Wow

Emile Abraham 31:59
Your first real aspect is analyzing how sharp the corner is and what’s your speed, width of the road, knowing your Apex. And being able to use your Apex because I mean sometimes if you are on a rolling and closer race, let’s say, you don’t, you know, sometimes there can be they can be something there on the other side. But most of the times let’s say that it’s a closed course there’s no cars or obstruction. So you you go on the extreme right hand side of the road if it’s a left turn, and once you have analyzed your turn, you hit that Apex and then on the on the exit, you always – this is another important thing – is you always have to look at where you want to go. If you if you lose your focus, and look, let’s say it’s a left hand bend, and you look at something on the right hand side of the road, not where you actually want to go, you will then put your focus and lose concentration and actually end up going to where you are looking. So let’s say for instance, you’re going through a turn, you hit your Apex, and something catches your attention on the right hand side of the road and you look at it, your natural is is going to happen where your bike becomes a little more upright, and your force then kind of goes towards that way. So always, always look at where you are exiting and going. And that that will find that will help keep your form on the line as to where you actually will end up.

Trevor Connor 34:02
I think that’s such an important point because your bike goes where you look and I would make an argument, a lot of crashes in corners are due to the fact that somebody comes up in a scary corner and what they do is they look at the corner.

Chris Case 34:16
Mm hmm.

Emile Abraham 34:16
You don’t do that you have to always look at where you want to go

Chris Case 34:20
Through the corner. Yes,

Emile Abraham 34:21
Through the corner, and out of the turn.

Trevor Connor 34:24
Look for that line. Try to see the line through the corner and that’s what you look at. Because if you look at the corner and go, hey, that’s really sharp and steep, that’s scary, you’re going to go right off the road.

Emile Abraham 34:36
Another important thing is when you panic, you also lose focus. And that that form of panic usually sets you off in looking in the wrong place or hitting your brakes too hard, which causes you to slide out and stuff like that. So always try to keep composure, easier said than done really, but the more you keep composure, and look at where you actually want to go, and your line of of exit will help you stay upright and make turn even in a situation of difficulty.

Trevor Connor 35:18
I think another really important point you brought up earlier is also that scrub your speed before you get to the corner. It’s easy to accelerate out of a corner, but if you are in a corner going too hot and you hit your brakes, that’s when your bike goes upright, you can’t turn it anymore, and you go off the road. So it’s better to err on the side of hitting that corner too slow, but then going through the corner without touching your brakes, then too fast and having to hit your brakes.

Emile Abraham 35:49
Correct. Because once you end up in that difficult situation, your chance of maintaining control goes down. You always want to try to be in control and not panic when cornering.

How do you identify where to start breaking

Chris Case 36:08
A question I have for you is how do you identify where you should begin your braking. And there’s two scenarios: one is in a corner that, you know, say it’s in a crit, and you’re doing laps and so you can then identify maybe a landmark so you can key off of that, versus a corner where you’ve never been through it before. How do you know when to start breaking?

Emile Abraham 36:34
That’s a good question because everybody is different, right? That’s a really good question.

Trevor Connor 36:41
Well, while you’re thinking about I’ll actually give an answer trying to follow you which is it’s, you want to break surprisingly early. So I remember when I was still learning how to descend, I would follow much more experienced cyclists into the corner. I noticed they would start breaking and I’d catch up to them and go, “Oh, I’m being more aggressive through the corner I’m going to beat them.” But then I’d hit the corner, I’d have to slam on my brakes, it wouldn’t get through the corner very well. And by the time we are out of the corner, they had a 20 foot gap on me. So I was obviously doing something wrong. And when I learned to break what felt like, way too early for the corner

Emile Abraham 37:22
Forever, yeah, 200 meters before the corner-

Trevor Connor 37:25
Right. That’s when I could stay with them.

Chris Case 37:28
Right. And obviously there’s a lot of factors involved, like you were saying before, sometimes you want to go a little deeper into that corner, scare the bejesus out of whoever is trying to follow your wheel and then take that corner because you know, it’s a reduced radius corner and it tightens up and you can throw them off their game if you do that. Otherwise, if you’re being not necessarily conservative, but just practical about your cornering then you would, it’s this experience thing where you have to brake early, but you judge how much speed to scrub, get to that level, let off the brakes and then you want to carve through that corner without touching the brakes at all.

Trevor Connor 38:13
Right.

Emile Abraham 38:14
Now, also when you’re riding with other people, and, you know, you can also judge by the person in front of you, how they lean and what’s going on with with their cornering ability. So in other words, if you know someone is like really experienced, let’s say that I’m in front of you, and I’m cornering, you can use my judgment, which Trevor didn’t do, right, which he’s saying, you know, sometimes like, you know, he may go into the corner like someone is experienced in front, they slow down, and he’s coming up on them really fast and he’s gonna crush him. No, this is your indication to know that you are going too fast, and you probably should slow as well. So you can always use that person in front of you as a good gauge, but they can also lead you astray in them going too fast, leading you into it too fast and then you both end up in a situation. But a lot of times, like, I’m a coach, and I would ride with clients and if we are going down the descent, I always tell them to just follow my lead on what I do, and try to, you know, never go into the corner faster than I am. And that helps them a lot. You know, you have to use your outer force pushing down. So in other words, if you’re making that left hand turn, you want to be pushing down in your right hand, your left knee, your inn knee and a little bit, but I find that sometimes leaning your knee, you want to do it a little bit, but I find I don’t really do it that much. I don’t really push my knee out a lot. I find I loot my gravitational force tends to sometimes go a little too much on the inner, which tends to make you have too much weight on the inside, you have the centripetal, local, and the real force of gravity. If you drop that knee too far, then what I find is that full gravitational force tends to pull you too much, leaning too much, which tends to make you lose traction. Just because you have too much lean. If you lean too much in a corner, that that tends to make you slide out. Right?

Weight distribution when cornering

Trevor Connor 40:45
Right. So that brings us to the next really important question, which is the, where’s your weight? So we talked about you push down on your inside handlebar, you push down on your outside pedal, and I would also argue that unless you’re going through a big sweeping corner, you don’t really lean with your body, you keep your body more right above your center of gravity and it’s the bike that you’re actually pushing down underneath you.

Emile Abraham 41:14
Right. Correct. You know, and another important very, very, very, people tend to overlook this a lot, but I think a very, very important factor in cornering is tire pressure. Because if you have too much tire pressure, what happens is that you have less traction because they there is less a rubber of tire that’s actually on the floor. And the harder the tire is the easier it is the bump off the ground.

Chris Case 41:54
Yeah, it’s not as supple, it doesn’t- the contact patches and smearing.

Emile Abraham 41:58
But then again, you don’t want it too soft so there’s a fine line right there, right? Because if you make it too soft with too much traction, then you can be actually putting out more wattage like if you get a flat tire, you know, you’ll find that it’s harder to push the bike, because there’s too much traction. To me 100 psi, or 90 to 100 psi, especially if you’re lighter, 100 psi is more than enough. And, you know, once you start to go over 100 psi, you tend you tend to be going in a little too much pressure to be able to corner at high speed, you know. My go to pressure is 95 to 100 for crits for for road races for whatever. Now, if it’s a time trial or something that’s not technical, you know, a road race that has no sharp corners, I may go up to 110 just because you know rolling resistance is probably gonna be a little less. But for the most part 100 is my go to PSI for for crits and cornering.

The necessity of right equipment when descending various terrain

Trevor Connor 43:11
Dirty Kanza silver medalist, coach at Rambler Rising, and former cycling tech editor Kristen Legan points out the necessity of having the right equipment depending on the kind of road you’re attempting to descend via smooth tarmac, or loose fire roads.

Kristen Legan 43:27
Descending with different conditions, having different tires, different pressures, different compounds can really make a big difference in just how stable you feel in those corners, how fast you can go in and out of those corners, and keeping everything up right. So for you know, for a road race that’s on a really, you know, perfect tarmac, your traction is going to be you know, it’s going to be a little bit better than say, let’s say going down a super steep fire road coming through a corner and you know, in that situation having a bigger tire or something with more grip to it, maybe even some side knobs that are going to be able to catch you a little bit if you start to go a little bit too far, that’s a good way to just help you get through the corner, but also just help you feel more stable because I think a lot of us don’t push our tires to the limit, we’re just naturally going to pull up before we actually get to that breaking point just from being scared of going down. So the better tires suited for that situation, the more you can kind of push that limit and start to learn where and how it feels when you’re about to slide out.

Trevor Connor 44:36
So I was in a race a few years back where I nearly crashed myself in a corner and I was running the cheapest I think it was $9 performance bike special tire with Mr. toughies pumped up to 120 psi. Can we dissect if I was doing anything wrong there with my…

Kristen Legan 44:58
What were you pumped up to?

Trevor Connor 45:00
120

Kristen Legan 45:00
Oh good. Yeah, you know, I don’t ever want to say, you know, way more expensive product is the way you’re supposed to go but there are benefits that come from some of these more like highly engineered products. And tires can be one of those. They can be, you know, obviously more puncture resistant, that kind of stuff, but also grip is a big factor in that and just the compound that’s used in the tire development can play a big role. So yeah, so when you’re on some cheaper tires and you know, maybe have them pumped up a bit too far you’re gonna lose some of that traction. So, you know, like any race or ride if you look ahead and you see these, these pretty big corners coming up that you know are going to be a make or break situation. You can set your pressures and think about, you know, the tire selection for those situations because that could again, it’s it’s better to be a little bit slower through those corners because you have a little lower pressure or you maybe your tires aren’t like the super fastest possible tire, but they have a little bit more grip in them, you’re going to be much faster getting through that corner slowly, then you are going down through that corner.

Trevor Connor 46:16
So I know it feels fast and scary for all of us but outside of pros who really do cut corner, are most of us ever really going through corners that fast, that hard that the traction is critical?

Kristen Legan 46:31
Yeah, I think so. I mean, especially on – this depends on the road surface. And you know, a lot of us ride in places where it’s mixing between, you know, there’s sand on the road, there’s cracks that are gonna jostle you a little bit. So, I think in the real world that you know, we’re not going as fast as pros, but I do think we’re also our skills aren’t as good to be able to save a you know, a slip. So having that traction i think is definitely worth it. Just depends on your level of what do you want to spend on those tires and how far are you really pushing them.

Chris Case 47:11
This episode of Fast Talk is brought to you by Whoop.

Trevor Connor 47:14
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Following the line through the corner

Trevor Connor 47:40

One last element to talk about in the cornering basics here is the line through the corner. And I’m just going to start it off by saying one of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make is to start cornering too soon.

Chris Case 47:55
Absolutely.

Trevor Connor 47:56
Because if you think about it, if you draw a line between where you start cornering and the apex of the turn, if you start really early, you’re not gonna be able to turn very much and then when you hit the apex of that corner, you are pointed towards the woods or a cliff or whatever happens to be there.

Emile Abraham 48:13
Because you have to straighten up. And once you straighten up and lose your line, then that gravitational force is going to send you in the wrong direction.

Chris Case 48:23
You hear the term diving into a corner sometimes and it really, when you see the best descenders or best corners out there, they are staying upright until that last moment, and then they’re diving and hitting that Apex rather than making this very mellow turn through the corner, because that helps you, basically it helps you miss earth. It increases the chances that you’re going to miss that Apex or come out from the apex in a wrong direction than having to overcorrect or oversteer or do some of these other things that will slow you down, throw your off, throw your off your line, or disrupt everything and make you have to make an a more aggressive move, which is leads to the increases your risk of crashing and other things so.

Emile Abraham 49:17
Now if you’re going down the descent, and you hit a hairpin turn, that is a good time to dive, you know, to dive the turn, because, I mean, basically, the corner is so sharp, I mean, of course, you have to be slowing down to a reasonable speed. But when you have a hip and turn the corner is so sharp actually almost like 180 degrees, you know, more than 90 of course, and you kind of have to divert them, because in order to make that turn, you have to hit it sharp because the corner just kind of goes back on itself.

Trevor Connor 50:00
is a strange concept, but the sharper the turn, the longer you should wait to actually start your turn.

Emile Abraham 50:08
Yes, yes.

Trevor Connor 50:09
So we’re talking about all the different elements of the corner and Chris just gave eight sides to it. But if there’s one way I could personally summarize this, of how to improve your cornering is people who are inexperienced and just learning how to corner they tend to start turning too soon, and they break too late. So they’re breaking while they corner and then they get to that apex of the corner, they’re pointed in the wrong direction. They’re slamming on their brakes and they have to almost come to a stop to get around. To corner better you want to brake early, before you’ve even started your turn, get rid of all your speed, and then wait till almost the last minute to start your turn.

Emile Abraham 50:51
And always try to use as little braking as possible when actually turning

Chris Case 50:57
Oh yeah, for sure.

Trevor Connor 50:59
It actually, Chris, I think mentioned this earlier, but I did find one study that was done with giant alpecin with a lot of the riders on their team. Where they actually had a course in Europe that was just designed for practicing cornering. And they tried to see the difference between people who are cornering really well versus guys who weren’t cornering as well. And the thing they emphasize in that study was you saw the the best performers, they hit the brakes early, they actually hit them hard and they were not on the brakes for very long. So they would scrub their speed quite quickly. And then they would go through the corners without touching the brakes much because there’s just this inherent understanding that when you’re on the brakes, you don’t have a lot of control of the bike. So get your speed down quick and then just go through the corner with with minimal braking.

Emile Abraham 51:51
Andm but that takes experience though. You know, that is something that I would not suggest an inexperienced rider to try to mastering. I think that really takes a lot of years of practice to treally execute that. It actually can really backfire on you super easy. But yes, I mean, I do tend to corner a lot later than earlier. But if I’m uncertain of what the corner is going to be, I always break earlier. Get control because remember one of the things is always be in control then and accelerate sooner out of the turn, than putting yourself in difficulty going too fast through the turn. Safety is the name of the game.

Trevor Connor 52:47
If you are too fast in a corner and having to hit your brakes while you’re cornering, that’s when you get in trouble. That’s when you go off the road. That’s when you crash. It is better to hit the corner to slow and accelerate out.

Emile Abraham 53:00
Yeah, correct.

Trevor Connor 53:04
Red bull rider, mountain bike marathon national champion, and host of the adventure stache podcast, Payson McElveen knows the ins and outs of descending not only for mountain biking but also on the road.

Payson McElveen 53:16
Line choice still trumps all. I mean, you can be the best bike handler in the world, but if you hug the inside of a turn, you’re just not going to go as fast. Just the rules of swing wide, cut the Apex, swing wide really holds true. One thing also that I mean if you want to get really nerdy about it, studying other sports can be really beneficial, whether it’s BMX racing or f1 or Moto GP, taking cornering to a completely new levels of speed… I mean Supercross – like so many of my friends that are mountain bikers are crazy about motorcross racing and following Supercross, because it’s like mountain bike racing. It’s like a short track racem but at higher speed. Experimenting is important and also knowing that every corner is different. Obviously, in mountain biking, if you’re going through a corner and there’s rocks and roots in it, you have to make decisions based on your line to get through that corner. But the same goes for the road. I mean, no road is truly perfect. If you’re really pushing the limit, you don’t want to hit a little crack. That might happen to be, you know, the, quote unquote, perfect line. Also, this is way more specific, but I think a lot of people forget that braking early is is super crucial. A lot of people brake as late as they can and ride the brakes through the corner, but you’re losing traction when you’re on the brakes like that. And if you can get your braking done, and this is where it gets, you know, in the Danny Hart, Sam Hill black magic sort of stuff, but if you can get to the point where you get all of your braking done before the corner, and you are so good at judging the speed that you can get through a corner to where you’re actually not even touching the brakes at all through the corner, that’s the Holy Grail. And the same goes for on the road. And that’s something that when you’re watching on TV, you know, going back to nearly, if nibbly is going down the backside of the passaggio, I guarantee you that guy is not really touching the brakes in the corner, he’s touching the brakes a lot before the corner. And that’s not something that many people would would pick up on, on TV, for example.

How to descend through a pack

Trevor Connor 55:39
So, I want to switch topics just slightly here. Everything we’ve been talking about, I think applies to everybody. anybody listening to this, who doesn’t even race, just want to be able to get down a mountain pass safer and a little bit quicker. I think all this applies to everybody, but let’s jump to actually talking about The race scenario of you are descending in a pack where you had talked about Ideally, you want to make the corner as wide as possible. So you want to go hit the corner wide then go as wide as you can come it out. You can’t do that if you’re in a pack, you’re going to cause a crash. Sometimes you just the line you have to hold this line you have to hold you don’t run into other people. So thoughts and suggestions about cornering in a in a race in a field,

Emile Abraham 56:28
you definitely have to hold your line. I think one of the biggest things with especially like in crits is guys not holding the line and going straight in a corner and I think a lot of the times that’s what causes crashes because guys tend to to turn and straighten and turn and you know, they panic too much and they’re not that comfortable. If everyone was to hold the line going through the corners, I think it will make for a smoother transition, you cannot change your line. If you’re on the inside you have to stay on the inside. If you’re on the outside you have to stay on the outside. Now being on the outside is somewhat more dangerous than being on the inside because if someone on the inside can’t hold their line and they dress wide, they will come in to you. So you always have to take that into consideration in cornering, but if you’re on the outside on the outside, you know. It is better to to slow down a little bit and let a couple guys go by and be safe then try to hold your line and then end up in a situation because I’ve seen that many times before too. Where guys guys forced themselves you know, into situations where if they just relax, I mean you know there’s a straightaway coming. You know if you lose a couple bike lengths of guys passing you in return I mean, it’s okay. You don’t have to, you don’t have to force yourself into a hole that’s not there. You know, you can make it back up in the straightaway.

Chris Case 58:10
This is where it’s helpful to speak up. Sometimes if somebody is drifting into, you can say something, don’t be shy about that.

Emile Abraham 58:19
But there’s also the way in which you say it, too, because a lot of times they’re, you know, you’re in race mode, you’re in aggression, and, and a lot of the times, guys would say things too aggressively, when they’re just trying to bring out the point. So always take into consideration how you speak to someone when trying to correct them for something. Now, I never end up in situations where if you see me in an argument in a race, something’s definitely going on. You will never see me in conflict with anyone in a race.

Trevor Connor 58:59
I’ve never seen it, you’re right.

Emile Abraham 59:00
Yeah, I mean, I never get in conflict because when I speak to someone in a race, I always speak to them in a non aggressive way. And I think that’s just because it’s, I think it’s just because I’m such a relaxed rider too, you know. But always remember how how it’s not what you say it’s how you say it and that’s an everyday speech. So, you know, you might want to just correct the rider in how they go through a turn that cornering, but you may say it in the wrong manner, and then that person tends to retaliate. In the same way in which you put it towards them. So and then and then you know, and then later on, you know, that that rider it, it builds up you know. So I’ve seen that happen so many times at different races and you know, and I will go and tell the same person, the same thing. And they’re way more receptive to it, you know. And, that’s just and these are experienced people too. These are these are guys who were racing year in year out, that tends to still do stuff like that. That’s just something that I think needs to be more put out there in terms of of how you speak to people during a race.

Trevor Connor 1:00:29
I have seen races where riders will forget that there’s a race going on, and they are just out to get one another mm. One guy did something to really upset the other and they just get into this battle of back and forth, screaming at one another, chopping one another’s wheel

Chris Case 1:00:48
right and they’re endangering everybody else.

Trevor Connor 1:00:51
One of the things you could do in a race that, first time you experience it it’s a little disconcerting, but it quickly just becomes a normal thing is – if you are drifting into somebody line an experienced rider is just going to tap you on the side of you.

Chris Case 1:01:06
Yep, just a light touch on the hip or back or somewhere. Not you don’t want to push the person.

Emile Abraham 1:01:11
But you know, on the contrary, on the contrary, though, I mean, and it’s happened to me too, where if, if someone takes the hands off the handlebar in a turn and touches me, I don’t like that. You know, I prefer that you say, “hey inside,” or something, rather than then touching me, like, don’t touch me, you know, why you touching me? I mean, that’s one of the things that would kind of get me angry, you know, but it takes a few times to really, you know, the, you know, the first time or two times I cannot just look at you like, you know, what are you doing, man like, you know, and I’ve seen riders explode because someone touched them. I think it’s better to say and speak to the person rather than, than touch them. You know, touching is, can be tricky. I’m just putting that out there.

Trevor Connor 1:02:15
Yeah, that is fair.

Chris Case 1:02:17
Everybody responds differently to words and to actions. And correct is the same thing with a horn on a car. You know, some people immediately get their tail feathers in a bunch because of a horn. But the driver, the intention of the driver was I’m here, I’m here.

Emile Abraham 1:02:36
If you, okay, so going to the horn in a car. If you are driving with someone and you go beep beep I’m here. The person will react very nicely because it’s a beep beep. But if you go and if you do that same thing and you go up BEEEEPPPPP then the aggression becomes like what what? Why you blind? You know what I’m saying? So it’s the same thing. It’s it’s how you portray the action. No, that’s fair. And actually, it’s funny you bring that up because the thing I had to get used to the first time I went down to Tobago is people love to do the beep beep as a friendly thing. It says I’m very used to cars only honk at you because they hate cyclists on the road. Well, yeah, it’s the first time I was down there, like for a couple of days. I’m like, they’re the meanest drivers down here until I realized, oh, they’re actually just saying hi.

Chris Case 1:03:31
Yeah, right. Context matters.

Emile Abraham 1:03:33
That’s, that’s our little gesture of saying hello.

Trevor Connor 1:03:37
The last thing I will bring up about the cornering in a group is sometimes somebody gets off the line, sometimes things happen. You’ve mentioned this before about never panicking in a corner the same thing as cornering in a pack. No matter what happens, best thing to do is stay calm. And I still remember one crit, where I don’t remember if I went off my line, or the other rider went off his line, but we locked up handlebars in a corner, in the middle of the pack. And we actually, neither of us panicked. We got through the corner with our handlebars locked up and then gradually slowed down so that everybody could pass us came to a stop got our handlebars unlocked without anybody going down. Had we panicked we would have gone down we would have taken out half the field.

Chris Case 1:04:26
Yeah, that’s that’s something that experience helped you immensely in that situation, a lot of people wouldn’t have had the the calm the resolve to ride it out and in even also the skill to ride it out when you’re locked in together with somebody else’s handlebars so

Emile Abraham 1:04:45
Correct. I mean, it would have meant that neither of y’all actually turned your handlebar either you would have you would have kept a composer, you would have done the lean you would have hooked handlebars, but you kept too lean. You kept your line, you basically was like Siamese at that point. You know, you moved in sequence and in one, and then and that’s why y’all didn’t crash because you didn’t panic. You didn’t turn the handlebars,

Trevor Connor 1:05:13
What we actually did is we leaned into one another. So we leaned on to a, we pushed our shoulders together and leaned against each other to help us keep our balance and not rely on the bikes.

Emile Abraham 1:05:28
Which made you like a Siamese twins.

Chris Case 1:05:30
Trevor, the Siamese twin.

Trevor Connor 1:05:32
I don’t even remember who my Siames Twin was. I should’ve gotten his name.

Emile Abraham 1:05:39
Right.

How to descend in a straight line as fast as possible

Chris Case 1:05:41
Well, do we want to talk about how to descend in a straight line as fast as possible? I know this episodes about cornering,

Trevor Connor 1:05:49
but it’d be worth bringing it up.

Chris Case 1:05:51
Yeah.

Trevor Connor 1:05:51
And I’ll just give you my bias on a 30 seconds to set that’s a 4% grade: don’t tuck.

Chris Case 1:05:57
Yeah, right, right. There’s certain, it’s all relative and there’s certain points in a descent or certain types of descent, where it can be extremely effective to go into a super uckk. Right? If you’re comfortable with that, other at other times, it’s just gonna, the process of getting into and out of the super talk is going to be more dangerous than and slower ultimately, then just sitting on your saddle and being in the drops.

Emile Abraham 1:06:27
Yeah, that the transition in and out of a tuck can be very wobbly, and that it’s the easiest time to really lose control in a straight line. Because when, because you’re changing your point of gravity, and that and I think that’s where the problem really comes in. So if you’re not careful, the transition in and out can really throw you off. And once you start that wobble, you know, it’s it’s somewhat difficult to get back control so unless you’re like super experienced and I would not recommend the super tuck, I’ve seen many guys crash, going in a straight line trying to do the tuck.

Trevor Connor 1:07:13
Just so our listeners understand the super talk, there’s different ways to do it. But the way the most common way is somebody will basically get down and almost sit on their top tube, they will they bring their hand their their arms together. So they’re their arms are tucked underneath their body and then they basically eat their handlebars. You put your face right down on the handlebar. So you are Yeah, curled up into a little ball basically on your bike.

Emile Abraham 1:07:38
Yes, sitting on the top tube and your chest is on your hands on the on the handlebar.

Chris Case 1:07:44
And I have a lot of experience doing this for for several reasons.

Trevor Connor 1:07:49
I’m still bitter about this.

Chris Case 1:07:51
You’re still bitter about this?

Trevor Connor 1:07:53
I’m coaching him at the time. We’re trying to get him ready for an event and then he says via Ziva is like Trevor, I did something that wasn’t quite on my plan today, which involved clot do it a climb, what like 50/60 times?

Chris Case 1:08:07
Probably even more than that. Yeah, I think it was more like 100 times, a short, a short, steep climb. I went out there with Leonard Zinn somebody who, hopefully everybody listening knows who Leonard Zinn is, has worked for at venues for 30 years, tech guru, author, so forth, we were doing this little experiment on which super tuck position is the fastest. And so we thought we’d do some roll down testing myself, plus a control subject that sat in the same sort of upright position every time and there’s a lot of different variations of the super tuckk, you can have your hands together on the tops of the bars. You can have your hands still in the drops while sitting on the top tube. You can have your chest up and over the front of your handlebars. So Marco Pantani was famous for resting his chest on his saddle and his butt was way behind. You see this also with people like Cadel Evans. So anyways, we took all of these different positions to the Hill, we had, I had photos to look at in reference before I did these different runs of the super tuck and super tuck and I would go up the mountain and we do multiple runs and multiple runs. And Leonard had this laser on his leg that he put out by the side of the road, and he measured the distance or the time between the two riders, and we made some determinations. So point being fast, super tough positions, and there are actually very slow super tuck positions. People think they’re going faster but they’re not. They’re just making it more dangerous to ride down a hill. I also find it easier when you have a bike with a slightly sloping top tube to tuck yourself in and under the saddle and onto the top tube and I’m very comfortable and get into super tuck position quite a bit. But don’t try to go through corners that way. You’re balanced is all thrown off, your braking ability is all thrown off, you want to extract yourself from the super tuck position well in advance of a corner. This is more for straight parts of a long descent where you can really pick up a lot of speed if you get low, and get tight and turn yourself into a bullet.

Trevor Connor 1:10:27
So which position was fastest?

Chris Case 1:10:30
The fastest position is if again, if you’re going in the straight line, the fastest position is seat, or put your butt onto the top tube tuck your butt underneath your saddle as much as possible and put your hands together. You get as narrow as possible and as low as possible. Problem with that is you have, your hands are not on the brakes. So if a deer runs in front of you, for example, on this climb that we were on,

Trevor Connor 1:10:58
I think you’re talking of experience

Chris Case 1:11:00
Yeah, there were deer around this is NCAR for anybody that knows. So there’s a big Meadow up there and deer come out all the time. No braking ability and and your hands being so narrow, not a lot of stability. So straight line is great. You’re going to go 70 miles per hour, and you’re going to probably poop your pants because you’re going to go so fast. The variation that we thought was the best combination of control And speed was, again, sitting on the top to talk back as far as possible hands in the drops and hook your, tuck your elbows in as far as possible.

Trevor Connor 1:11:37
Whic is how I tend to do it.

Chris Case 1:11:38
Exactly, yeah, it’s a sort of a natural starting point for the Super tuck. Because going moving your hands from the drops to the center of your bars at speed is, that’s when the wobbles kick in and that’s pretty nerve racking.

Emile Abraham 1:11:52
Yep. You have a lot less control.

Chris Case 1:11:55
Lot less leverage with your hands that close to together.

Trevor Connor 1:11:58
Going back to what I said at the Beginning if you are on a short descent, I hate it when people get into tucks. Because as Emile said, the most dangerous points are when you’re getting into it and when you’re getting out of it. And if it’s a 30 second descent, the gains are negligible, but you’re taking too big risks. And take somebody else out.

Chris Case 1:12:19
The other thing that you have to be aware of when exiting the super tuck position is to not hook your jersey pocket or something on the underside of the straddle, which you can do and that can really throw you off. And I’ve seen guys do that. And you don’t want to do that. Because then you lose half your kneecap to the ground, or whatever the case may be. Yeah, so be careful when you choose that super tuck.

Cornering in the big leagues

Trevor Connor 1:12:50
Alpecin-Fenix rider Petr Vakoc has more than a few World Tour race corners under his belt. We thought it’d be fun to hear from a pro about what to expect when cornering in the big leagues.

Chris Case 1:13:01
Can you describe to us what you are thinking about or how you look at a descent and navigate it most effectively? And then what are the common mistakes you see people make that should be avoided.

Petr Vakoc 1:13:18
First of all, I have kind of like two speeds for descent. Like when I go in training or when I write in a bunch and nothing is really happening and there is not really worth trying to go fast then I’m really cautious and I like to keep a distance to have like extra margin of safety. But then once it’s important moment to take the downhill really fast or I’m riding for for a victory for a good result or in a breakaway, then I like switch the move when I when I take more risks and it goes Kind of like naturally to, to even like enjoy the downhills more and then really feel the fear or something of crashing. So it’s like interesting thing that that happens to me naturally. For me it’s always to try to exit the corners at high speed which for many people might be a bit contrary, but it’s good to break a little bit earlier, not really having to break in the actual corner but already before just trying to to see if there is somebody riding with you they are ahead of you. Just try to see his line maybe leave him a little bit of space going into the corner. So you can take the corner bit faster and an exit the corner without having to sprint just take the bigger speed to exit the corner faster than the person in front of you. So it’s important thing to leave a little bit of gap to have this possibility to break earlier and and then exit faster it’s about looking ahead in the corner and knowing which would be the optimal angle or I would say to hit the corner.

Chris Case 1:15:24
What are some mistakes that you’ve seen even pros make when when they’re trying to get down a mountain pass fast and they miss judge a corner or they just don’t hit the apex or something. What are some of those mistakes that you’ve seen?

Petr Vakoc 1:15:43
Taking too much of the inside line rather than taking little bit more outside of the line where you can keep slightly higher speed. Not in all cases, but but sometimes it’s better to to take the corner a little bit wider. The biggest mistake I see it’s hitting the corner too fast, getting scared in the middle of the corner and, and just breaking to hard afterwards. Also, when we go really fast in the bunch sometimes happens that that people would leave a little bit of gap. But then on the extent of the corner, they don’t accelerate fast enough. Like once you are leaving the corner, then then it’s necessary to really be in the wheel of the of the person in front of you otherwise it’s it’s very difficult to to close it so i would say that too. They would react too slow on the exit of the corner and then lose the slipstream and and make a gap which is then difficult to close. Some of the basic mistakes I would say it’s Just like people are trying to lean with the bike and not with their body and also not putting enough weight on the on the outside pedal, because then if you push on the pedal which which is on the outside side of the of the corner, then you can have more traction, I would say in the in the corner when you put the weight there then then you have better grip.

Chris Case 1:17:36
All right, Trevor, since you’re the experienced one here, when it comes to one minutes, take homes, why don’t you kick it off and tell us what is the most important message about cornering you’d like people to take home with them.

Trevor Connor 1:17:47
There are a lot of aspects to cornering. So we talked about all the different details but I would say if there is one thing that anybody, I’m not talking to us about racers, but anybody can do to them improve their cornering, it’s break earlier than you think -scrub all your speed before you hit that corner so you can go through the corner without touching your brakes – and start your turn later. Inexperienced riders start the turn soon too soon because they think that’s safer, but then they hit the apex at the wrong angle and that it’s really hard to get around that corner. If you wait a little bit, you’re gonna discover that hey, actually, it’s a lot easier to get around the corner like this. Emile?

Emile Abraham 1:18:30
Tire pressure is one of the most important and fundamental aspects of cornering, as well as having a proper line. So these for me is things that you need to always take into consideration. And last, but not least, is never panic. When you panic, you lose focus, and you lose control. And when those things happen, you’re almost sure to end up in a situation where you would either crash or run off the road? If you run off the road and you can save it, then great, but always break earlier, it is better to be safe than sorry. Get control, keep control, know your line, always look at where you are going and never lose focus.

Trevor Connor 1:19:20
Okay, Chris, you want to finish this out here?

Chris Case 1:19:22
Sure. I have two points. One would be I’d like to reiterate something I said early in the episode, which is there’s a lot of information to take in from this episode, from the physics to the eight different stages of a corner, all that. Don’t overthink it when you’re doing it. Now, if you’re experienced, you know what that means. You know what it’s supposed to feel like going through a corner. You know how much speed you can carry. Hopefully we’ve given you some things to think about that’ll make you even better. If you’re new to cycling or if you’re not a great descender, or if you’re not great at cornering, then what I would say is back up for a step, go out and do think about all of these things at a slower speed as you practice. Find a corner ride it 50 times, think about these things each time, you’ll go a little bit faster, go a little bit faster. Obviously, you don’t probably want to get to a point where you go so fast, you crash because you’re going to lose a lot of skin. That’s going to probably set you back a bit. You might be more tentative cornering, if you do that to yourself, but a lot of these things can be distracting to you if you’re overthinking it when you’re in the midst of a race or in the corner itself. So go out, find some time, find that right corner to practice, and think about all these things there. And then let your mind sort of open up when you’re out on the next ride and I think you’ll see vast improvements because of that. That was another episode of fast talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at fast talk@fast.com or record a voice memo on your phone and send it our way. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Check us out on social media. We are @real fast labs. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talk are those of the individual for Emile Abraham, Colby Pearce, Petr Vakoc, Payson McElvee, Kristen Legan, and Coach Trevor Connor, I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.