MTB Cornering and foot position

I am working on my turning skills on the mountain bike and believe I have a good idea of what I am doing and not doing. I am very comfortable in left hand turns, but not so much right hand turns. I have not been able to figure this out until today. When approaching a turn I am in my ready position with pedals horizontal to the ground. I ride with my right foot back. So when I enter a left turn it is very easy to drop my right foot and weight the outside pedal if needed. But when I go into a right hand turn, my left foot is forward and this makes it difficult to drop the outside foot if needed as it will require a forward pedal rotation. So this usually means I don’t get the left foot down even if the corner requires more outside weight.

Any suggestions on how to better handle this, should I try switching up my foot forward position for left versus right turns or is there something else that will help?

Yes, I swap feet as appropriate. Give riding goofy foot when turning left a shot.

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This sounds like a basic skills issue. You just need to work on that. There’s minimal reason that rotating forward 90* should be minimally difficult compared to backward 90*.

The only real limit is if you happen to be in a taller gear, slowing, and then need to roll that foot forward to corner foot down. In that situation, the forward roll may be delayed from the tall gear and resistance via the chain. In that case, it’s still skill related because you can plan ahead to act sooner and drop the foot as needed.

This is a perfect time to employ some sessioning on a particular section of trail to repeat as needed to learn and dial in the skill.

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I practice turns leading with different feet. So for you with a left hand turn lead with the left foot and when you do a right turn lead with the right foot. Practice makes perfect…sometimes.

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You want a gentle sloping grassy field (preferably bit damp for soft landing) and some cones.

Layout a long slalom, now start slaloming until you’re bored! Try different turns, distance between cones and entry speed. I think I’d run flats for some foot flat out action too.

Bonus points if it’s muddy and you can rope in some other people to all get muddy with.


Thanks for the tips. I definitely need to do some skills work. I am going to start with trying to switch up my leading foot based on the direction of the turn and see how that goes.

That’s a pretty awesome skill you have! Very few riders, even at the professional level switch feet like that. The only one who comes to mind is the cornering master himself, Sam Hill.

The rest just drop the outside foot, no switching. It’s also normal that you’re better at cornering in “your favorite direction”.

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I struggle with similar skills issue cornering the mtn bike. FWIW, almost everyone will have a dominant side, or direction of turn, they prefer. On skates, bike, motorbike and skis, I’m better carving a turn to the left than the right.

It’s good to have an extra set of eyes and to go out and “session”. Repeating the same movement over and over and over is necessary. The extra eyes come into play because often we feel we are in a good or aggressive position but we aren’t. Feel and perception of the rider can be misleading.

Get a buddy and go do purposeful practice together and you’ll improve more rapidly.

Also… in practice you are going to fall. Don’t be too cool for pads and even a full face helmet if it will help get you into the movements. I’m a roadie and lycra guy but protection on the mtn bike has changed my life. And saved a lot of skin

Level 1 MTB coach here. So definitely not an expert, but have some training in this.

Dropping your outside foot is considered a more advanced technique. The point of dropping your foot is to lower your body weight/shift it to the outside of the bike. What I was taught in my PMBIA course, and have observed in myself and others, is that the first thing you should focus on when cornering is dropping your chest/chin down towards your stem to create the same weight lowering effect. This also puts more weight over your front tire (where you want it in the corner). This is cornering 101.

Once you master that, then you move to things like dropping the handlebars to the inside. Then maybe after that you drop your outside foot (the teaching program I went through never got as far as dropping the outside foot).

Good luck! I experienced the same sensation as you regarding dropping the front foot in corners. Your weight is all wrong and it doesn’t feel right.

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Dropping your outside foot (in a flat corner without berms) is a very basic cycling skill.


Yeah, considering that is left out of a level one training is confusing to me :confused:

You don’t HAVE to drop the outside foot, but it is so much better overall, especially when including the down focus on the bar as the other half of the leverage equation, it seems that would be a 1 + 1 = 2 companion skill.

I definitely need to improve on all aspects of cornering. It is all a work in progress.

When entering a left corner I naturally have my left foot forward and right foot back. I enter the corner with my pedals level. If the corner demands more traction I will allow my back foot to drop and this seems to be very natural and allows me to get more traction if the corner demands. If the corner is banked or leads into another corner I can just stay level on the pedals and make the next turn easily.

When entering a right corner I still naturally have my left foot forward and my right foot back. I still enter the corner with level pedals, but if the corner demands more traction once I am in the corner it just doesn’t feel right to pedal my left foot forward to get it down versus being forward. And I definitely can’t pedal backwards to get it down as that would drive my inside pedal down.

So it seems the only solution is to setup for right turns with my right foot forward or just enter the turn with my left foot already down. Seems like copying what I do in left turns on right turns makes sense, but trying to get my forward/back foot to change dynamically is not going to be easy.

I was watching a video with Lee McCormack yesterday on YouTube and he seemed to be switching his leading foot based on the corner direction. He never mentioned it as a desired technique, but I did notice he was doing it.

If your feet are actually level, pedalling backwards will bring your inside foot up. If you feel it would bring it down, you are probably not level, but unconsciously dropping your inside (strong) foot. If you are level, you are always only a quarter rotation away from dropping either foot.

Try dropping your foot early, and not wait until you are in the corner. You should have your speed and body position sorted before the corner, though you might need to shift your weight once in the corner.

If I am in a right turn with my left foot forward, I can’t pedal my left foot backwards to get it down as this would put the back foot (right foot) down first and it is the inside foot. I probably wasn’t very clear and this is not something I have done or would do. I typically have to pedal my left foot forward to get it down, but that motion just seems to mess up my body position and balance and just creates an unsure traction situation.

Today is going to be a skills only day at the trail. I will try switching the leading foot and just getting the outside foot down early and see which one works best for me.

Just pedal it forward?

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Forget the “attack position”. It doesn’t exist. Mountain biking is so damn dynamic that you will only be in that position when you are rolling 5 MPH in a flat piece of dirt trying to practice a position that you will never use any other time. Practice being relaxed on the bike. The “attack position” just gets you tensed up. You sound WAY too tight on the bike.

I always enter every corner with my left foot forward (dominant foot) unless the terrain prevents it. I then drop the outside foot for EVERY corner. Either pedal forward slightly to get left foot down, or back pedal a little for right foot down.

Thy way I explain it, you want to keep your pedals level with the terrain. You should be leaning the bike into the corner, pushing it down under you. If drop the outside foot the pedals will be level with the ground with the bike leaned over.

Push that bike down. Get that outside foot down.

Probably a million YouTube videos on it…

Keep your ankles down. You should be feeling like you are trying to drag your heel on the ground. Really, this is something I practice in parking lots, get the bike leaned over, and try to drag my heel on the ground. Harder than you think.

Edit: You should be so damn loose on the bike that when you hit something, the bike just reacts UNDER you. You don’t actually do anything but let the bike dance under you. Bikes don’t crash, idiots drag them to the ground. If you are too tense, you will be giving inputs to the bike when you aren’t trying to.

Dropping the outside foot IS switching That was my whole point. The OP says he leaves the same foot dropped in both directions.

  • Not exactly. See the quote below, with bold for what I see as him essentially staying with level pedals, not dropping the INSIDE foot as you mention.

But he still says he leaves the same foot forward when turning in either direction. He’s not switching.

I definitely don’t corner with the same foot dropped in both directions. I just have a harder time getting the left foot dropped on right turns as it is the leading foot. I always enter turns with level pedals and my leading foot is always my left foot. Works perfect for left turns, but makes right turns different from left turns.

So the three solutions are do what I currently do and just move that left foot forward to drop it in right turns, which doesn’t seem to work for me but may just require more practice. Enter the turn with the outside foot already dropped. Learn to switch leading foot based on turn direction.

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