How to Ride Flat Turns on a Mountain Bike?

flat turn explained
Andy Armstrong / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.5
Flat turns are the kind of turns that you will most likely find on mountain trails. There’s no camber or extra support to help assist you. For that reason, these are some of the hardest to rail.

In my opinion doing flat turns fast is one of the most difficult things to do, and no matter how well I do them I never feel like I did right. For flat turns body, position and technique are critical to getting around them. The basic concept for a flat turn is that you need to maximize traction the more weight you have directly over your contact patch of the tire, the more traction you will have.

If there’s one thing that I want you to get out of this post, it understands the concept of how you get the most traction out of the turn
1. So the general idea is to keep your weight on the outside pedal and outside grip

You do this by leaning your bike, dropping your outside foot, pushing your hips to the side, and lowering your chest. In a flat turn, you want to lean your bike more than you lean your body. This way you can drive your side knobs into the ground for additional traction.

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Something you want to try and avoid is leaning too much. That’s because when you lean too far inside it will cause your tire to deflect off the ground and slip out.

2. Line choice is another critical aspect of flat turns

You can make a turn tighter or wider depending on where you set up. In general you want to make the widest and smoothest arcing turn as possible. Doing so will allow you to maintain the most amount of speed. Quite often that will mean setting up outside of the beaten path.

3. Another aspect that goes along with line choice is a visual reference

Now it’s important to keep your head up and look through the whole turn. The farther ahead you’re looking, the more time you’ll have to anticipate obstacles on the trail. Now it depends on the turn; usually, I try to pick a focal reference about halfway through the turn, and before I reach that point of reference, I’m already looking ahead another visual point of reference. Usually that’s the exit of the turn or the feature that comes to me immediately after.

4. Braking is also another crucial part of turning, both flat turns and berms

All your braking should happen before you get to the turn, and while you turn you want to use the least amount of breaks as possible, and ideally none at all. If you lock up your back brake and turn your back end, it will start to skid. While it may look and feel cool, skidding is slower and often frowned upon at most trails.

5. Trail conditions and terrain also plays a huge factor and how you turn

Newly built trails and loamy trails are much easier to dig your tires into. While gravely and dry trails tend to be much harder packed a require a little bit more finesse.

So how much you can push each turn will depend greatly on the situation, and unfortunately, there’s no easy way to learn. That best way is through trial and experience.

Now there are a few ways you can practice flat turns in the comfort of your backyard
a. The first drill is a figure-eight drill

I like to place two objects about 30 to 50 feet apart, and then practice turning in each direction. The figure-eight drill is suitable for practicing tight 180-degreeflat turns.

b. The next one is a basic slalom course.

You can do this on flat ground or slight downhill. Now you can space these out however you want just make sure that when you’re doing it, you’re dropping your outside foot and switching before you get to the next turn.

Once you get comfortable with the slalom course, go back and see how fast you can go. Pushing your comfort level is how you progress. Obviously use your best judgment and try not to get hurt.

So yeah that’s how you ride flat turns.

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Norman Anthony Balberan

Anything out of the ordinary (?) Utopian dream, crashed and merged with unstable consequences causing mayhem...

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