With women’s road races becoming more popular many coaches are now hosting women’s only workshops to help novices master the skills required to ride in a bunch in an environment that’s friendly and welcoming.
The skills practiced are those which become particularly crucial in a racing environment, but they’re still equally applicable to those simply looking to improve their overall bike handling too. If you're looking for one such day in the near future, London Women's Racing have one in their calendar on Saturday February 11.
To develop our skills and bring you advice, we rocked up at a race training session run by Kerry Bircher and Holly Seear of Revolution Cycling coaching. The three hour practical skills training epic addressed a wide range of topics – one of which was how to take a corner well at speed.
Here’s a look at the guidelines the coaches had for us…
Get ready before the corner
You don’t want to be braking on a corner as this can cause instability, and you certainly don’t want to do so if you’ve got another rider on your wheel, as they might not be prepared for you to slow down. Aim to get your speed down to the appropriate level before you hit the bend.
When riding in a group, the drafting effect will probably mean that you don’t need to pedal and will freewheel around the bend. Pay close attention to what’s going on ahead to determine your speed.
You also want to be in a gear that you can pedal quickly to accelerate out of the corner, and since you don’t want to be changing gear as you turn, get into the right cog (probably a lower gear) on your cassette on the straight before the bend.
Hit the apex if you have a choice
When you’re riding solo, the most efficient way to cover a corner is to approach it wide, cut to the apex, and finish wide – effectively creating the shortest line possible.
Aim to take this approach when it’s safe. The ‘when it’s safe’ part of that sentence is crucial - on the road, you should never go over the white line to encroach upon the path of oncoming traffic, and in a race group situation you don’t want to move into someone else’s space.
On the drops
Riding on the drops can take a little bit of getting used to, and some riders feel a little unsteady riding low. However, in this position you actually have the greatest control, and with your weight over the front end of the bike, you’re at your most stable.
Riding in the drops also means your elbows create a protective space around you, limiting the chances of anyone else coming too close. Add in the aerodynamic benefits of riding this way, and it really is the safest and fastest way to corner.
If you find this intimidating, practice with shallow bends, then work up to tighter bends.
Look where you want to go
Your body will follow the lead of your head. Therefore, if you look out of the bend at the point you want to exit, you’ll have more chance of going there. Look at the verge, grass, pavement, or the tarmac beneath you, and you might well end up there.
Inside leg up, outside leg working
Most riders know that bringing their inside leg up will ensure that the pedal doesn’t hit the ground on a tight bend. What’s too easy to forget is that the outside leg is equally, if not more, important – you should aim to push your weight through it to create stability.
Kerry Bricher, head coach at Revolution Cycling, explained: “People often get that the inside leg needs to be up to get the pedal out way, but what’s more important is putting weight through outside leg to create stability - pushing weight down is what keeps your tyre in contact with the tarmac. That’s not an inactive, passive thing.
“Learning how to use my weight when cornering was one of the things that transformed my riding – I was all about keeping the inside leg up but tended to forget about keeping the outside leg active. As soon as I learned this I got so much quicker on the corners."
Hold your line in a group
When riding in a group, there’s a lot more to think about – as Kerry says: “A bunch changes a corner." What’s most important is that you follow a clear line as you enter and exit the corner – don’t move across the road as you will cause a sudden reaction from the rider behind you (and probably a lot of swearing). This does take practice, as speed can cause your wheel to drift wide – paying attention, keeping your handlebars steady and using your body weight will prevent this.
Practice, practice, practice…
Cornering well takes practice. One of coach Kerry’s top tips is to take your training to a new-build housing estate – she says: “Just because you’re not sweating and out-of-breath it doesn’t mean you’re not having a good training session. Take time to focus on technique. A great place to practice corning is in a new housing estate where there are often lots of tight bends.
“When you’re confident – sometimes the best thing is to just throw yourself into situations that really test you, such as entering races where you know there are tight bends."
We'll be bringing you more practical skills and training theory advice from Revolution Cycling coaching in the next few weeks. If you've got any specific questions, let us know in the comments and we'll put them to the experts...