Bike cornering and when to lean

This was brought up during the last episode and it had come up a few times since Nate is usually complaining about his bike handling.

It sounds like Nate is suggesting to get a big lean with the bike in order to get it to corner better. This isn’t always the best way to corner when you are not on pavement if i am understanding correctly. When you have a nice banking, lean the bike pretty aggressively, but on most flat and off camber turns you really want to lean your body more than the bike.

This is covered quite well in the mastering mountain bike skills book, but since Lee McCormack was a coauthor of that book I’m wondering if he’s revised that recommendation.


As you said, leaning the bike isn’t always the best approach, it’s really a case by case situation. Generally, in a CX or MTB situation, leaning the bike over, having your outside leg pushing down on the pedal, and having pressure on your inside arm will engage the side knobs of your tire giving you more traction through corners.

Knowing how much to lean, how much pressure to put, when to initiate your turn, etc. will simply come with experience. A book can tell you how to do it but there is no replacement for hands on experience when it comes to bike handling. My advise in these situations is to read the books, get a general understanding, and then go try it, experiment with it, and find what is comfortable for you.

It’s the opposite. If there’s a bank you don’t need to lean relative to the bank. The Gs push you down into the bank.

If it’s flat you have to lean the bike. The more you lean the tighter you’ll turn.

This is how Lee taught me.

Check out this drill:

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Right, while the rider looks like they are in a 45 degree or more lean, they are matching the angle of the bank and technically not leaning relative to the riding surface but appear to be in a big lean.

I think I was misunderstanding you describe what to do (lean bike more than body) when to do it since if you try to do an aggressive lean (like on the road) without a lot of traction you could be ending up on the dirt and since you were talking about it for cross I thought you were talking about less than ideal traction (grass, wet, off camber, etc…) as leaning the bike too much can create less tire contact with the ground and lose traction.

He does lean the bike more than himself.

correct. bike on more of an angle than rider body. bike/body separation is a ‘must’ in this situation. also helps with bumps and trail condition changes mid-corner

But not as much as the bike, which is what i thought you were originally saying.