One of the hardest things about coaching is to teach skills that won’t get taken too far, or be applied to the wrong circumstance. A difficult one has to do with getting wide before a corner, which this article will focus on.
If explained properly this could be the door to a whole new world of speed and safety; for you or the rider you are trying to help.
I write this because I taught this to some young guns in North Auckland recently but am pretty sure I didn’t explain well enough, plus I didn’t gather the parents in for the talk so that they could reinforce it properly.
In the points below I hope to be more clear about exactly how to put this potent skill to practice, laid out in the clearest way I can without video or actually being on the track with you.
I want to be clear from the start that what I am about to outline should only be a tweak to whatever is the fastest line that you are probably doing already. By “getting wide before a corner”, I do not mean that you should choose a berm over an inside line.
What I hope to explain is how to use the first half of your turn more effectively. Using the lessons below, a change in your approach to a turn or how you use it can make a massive difference.
I. The Reason
This has everything to do with opening up the tightest part of your turn so that it isn’t as sharp.
The tightest part of your turn is usually what limits your speed the most. The goal is to share your hardest turning load over a longer patch of track, doubling or even tripling the dirt that your tyres can use for traction.
The benefits are huge;
It may be scary because you start the proper part of your turn earlier (as I will explain soon), but by spreading the load you could go the same speed as before with far less chance of falling.
2. Corner speed
Because you are safer at your normal speed, you will not need to slow down as much. This means you can carry more speed through the turn.
B. A Better Exit
By giving yourself more room early in the turn, you are better able to get the worst of your turn done earlier. This by itself has many benefits, with at least three options;
1. Faster exit
- More speed through the turn means you are already going faster before you start powering
- You will be able to get on the gas earlier because your wheels got most of your turn done earlier
- You will be better able to set up to do the same thing in the next turn
2. More options
You are better able to choose where to go, using smoother parts of the track that others are unable to use.
This helps you;
- Conserve energy
- Be safer, because you can dictate how you hit the bigger bumps
- Be safer because you have the option of drifting wide if your turn didn’t go quite as planned
II. How to get it done
The key is to set up while braking so that you will start your turn a little earlier than usual. This is only possible if your wheel is wider than your usual line at some point. How wide it gets will depend on the circumstance. Lets break that down.
A. Other Riders
1. Someone right behind you
You may need to restrict how wide you get when coming into your line if you risk making it easier for the person behind you to make a pass.
2. No one close behind you
This is most often the case, and what you should practice the most. There should be nothing but fear to hold you back.
3. Setting up to make a pass
This is a great time to exaggerate these skills, so long as there isn’t someone right behind you as well.
B. The type of turn
You should do this on every corner, at least to some degree. It will be more effective and easier to see in some turns than others, so lets break this down.
1. Flat turns
Here you have the most options, whether to make this obvious from outer space or something so small that you need a ruler to measure how much of a difference this is to normal.
You can choose to stay straighter for longer than you would normally want to, then making a more sudden start to your leaning phase.
There are two terms for this that road racers use that I would like to explain in regards to this;
a. “Going in deep”
On the road racing circuit they would call this “going in deep”. It is scary because of the more aggressive lean, but is key to getting more turn done earlier in the corner or spreading out the hardest part of your turn over more ground.
b. “Late apex”
If the “apex” is the point where you are closest to the inside of the corner, most people have an early apex because they drift wide.
“Going in deep” should mean that you are getting more turn done earlier in the corner, which hopefully means that the moment when your wheels are closest to the inside of the turn (the apex) is after the halfway point of the corner. That means you can power earlier than you otherwise could have.
2. Dirt berms
These are the best for this skill because they really reward an early start. They usually offer something of a safety net as well, just in case you got too keen.
When it comes to the more friendly dirt berms, most people need to set up to really commit to using the first half of the turn more. This may mean getting their wheels wider (or higher) through that first half. It is usually a little scary, but so worth it.
The most advanced level is starting to lean right into the turn before they even reach the berm. You can see this quite a bit in AMA Supercross. Their wheels are often brushing the “Tuff Blocks” before the berm, giving them the best chance to carry speed and get on the gas early, or cut down early to set up for a big jump or pass.
3. Sandy berms
Unfortunately these often limit your creativity. The line choice that most people have means that you are limited by their ability, usually leading you to do all your turn late in the corner.
Getting your wheels wide in the early part of the turn is often impossible without making a completely new line, something most people will be too nervous to do.
These are your options;
a. Keep your eye out for a wider entry that someone else has made. This happens often, but unless you are looking out for it then you may be missing out.
b. Be brave enough to make a new line yourself. This takes patience, so try to ease off enough to make sure your new line doesn’t end badly. Keep in mind that this patience usually pays.
Your ability to open up the corner is also limited in ruts. There are at least two options, but be warned that they are both quite advanced;
a. There is often turning you can do before entering a rut, so long as it starts late enough in the turn. Using the skills outlined above to get the turn started before you enter the rut means you can get on the gas earlier than ever, because you will be able to use less of the rut for your turning phase and more of it to hold your rear wheel as you power out.
I remember watching Ben Townley do this at a Summercross on one of his trips home from Europe.
b. The other option is similar to the note above that I wrote on sandy berms, in that you can make your own line or skip across other ruts to achieve this. An Australian Junior named Cody Dyce was incredible at this during the Woodville GP this year. It is very advanced, but surely if an Aussie can do it….
Hopefully this didn’t seem too much like school work, but even if it does, the speed and safety that this skill can encourage should make it worth the mental effort.
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