Q: How can I become a better mountain bike rider and carve up the turns?
A: To rail any corner, there are essentially four steps involved in the turn. They are:
1) Set-up the turn: Picking the best line is crucial to any turn and begins well before the turn. Look at the lines that already exist, and quickly assess if you will take the same or another line. While still proceeding to turn, judge your speed and do any necessary braking prior to the turn so you can carve the turn and exit at maximum speed. Think brake hard and late so as not to waste any momentum.
2) Enter the turn: You’re not still on the brakes, are you? At the very least, let go of the front brakes. No fear. Next, focus on leaning the bike into the turn as opposed to steering the bike into the turn. Steered tires slide, leaned tires rail. Don’t be the guy in the forums talking about how crappy your front tire is because you over steered and didn’t lean. You love your front tire. Be sure to flow with your eyes, throughout the turn, instead of fixating on every little obstacle.
3) Make the turn: Body posture time. You have now set the bike on its course through your desired line. At this stage, it is up to you to help the bike “do its thing.” Keep your arms and legs loose. Point your head and torso in the direction you want to go. Lower your center of gravity by dropping your head and/or butt down and distribute your weight appropriately. What do I mean by “appropriately”? If your front is sliding out, lean more forward to give it weight (let the tires do their job). If your rear tire slides, shift back to give it more weight. If the rear tire goes, lean forward to keep the front tire tracking. Pushing down on the bike is another great tip. Downhill skiers push down on moguls, for traction, and the same principle can be applied to bikes.
4) Exit the turn: Exiting the turn is all dependent on how well you did the previous three steps. Fine tune steps 1-3 and soon you will be shooting out like a rocket, ready to nail it into the straights.