Flat turns are the kind of turns 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 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 is to understand 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 on your bike, dropping your outside foot, pushing your hips to the side, and lowering your chest. You want to lean your bike more than your body in a flat turn. This way, you can drive your side knobs into the ground for additional traction.
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 it up. You want to make the widest and smoothest arcing turn 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 to 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 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 play a huge factor and how you turn
Newly built and loamy trails are much easier to dig your tires into. While grave 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. The 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-degree flat 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. Use your best judgment and try not to get hurt.
So yeah, that’s how you ride flat turns.