How To Corner On A Cyclocross Bike | Emma Does Cyclo-Cross Episode 3

How To Corner On A Cyclocross Bike | Emma Does Cyclo-Cross Episode 3


– Here we are, it is lesson three of my attempt to learn cyclo-cross. What’s up next, Si? – Well, today we are gonna be looking at how to control a bike in
loose and slippery conditions. It’s one of the big
fundamental differences between road, where hopefully
you almost never lose traction and off-road, where hopefully
you lose traction quite a lot because actually, that’s
part of what makes it so fun. – Right, so the fact
that when I lose traction in any kind of situation,
I panic and scream usually. Not a great start? – No, it’s a perfect place to start, because with one or two
key skills you will learn not to panic and then potentially… – Not to scream?
– Start to enjoy it. Yeah, no screaming allowed, please. (energetic music) Before we venture too far, Emma, I think we should remind the viewers of one of the things
we covered in week one, which was about looking
where you’re going. Obviously, you gotta do it on the road, but off-road, it’s really important because you’ll then be able to select the best places to ride. And when it comes to finding grip in loose or slippery conditions,
it’s every bit as important. So even right here on this gravel track, which is not particularly
cyclo-cross, but anyway you’ve got this bit here,
which is really loose, like kinda marbles, and
then right next to it you got this patch here,
which is like hard pack and will give you loads more grip. So obviously, when you’re riding along it, you can see that bit is gonna
be difficult to brake on, it’s gonna be difficult to accelerate on and you definitely don’t
wanna corner on it, whereas that bit is absolutely fine. And then, if you’re in more
typical cross conditions, like muddy paths or like a brown stripe through an otherwise green grassy field, the same principle applies. Normally, towards the edge of the path, – [Emma] Right. – [Si] particularly in cross
races, where green means grip. – Okay.
– So search for the grass. – [Emma] So like ride
on those few remaining strands of grass that are left. – [Si] Basically, yeah,
annihilate all grass, yeah. – Okay.
– Now, it is bad for trail erosion, so know you
probably wanna think about it if you’re riding somewhere sensitive but if you’re after grit. – When I do come to race,
I will be at the back, so I will have the least
grass left, probably. – Well, you do laps, so
everyone’s on the same boat. – Well, except that if you’re
at the back of the lap, then it’s even worse, right? – Well, what you could do is hold back, get lapped, then you’ve got one less to do and technically you’d be
in front of the leader. – [Emma] I’ll pretend it’s on purpose. – [Si] There’s no way
you’re gonna get lapped. – I’ll pretend it’s on
purpose when I get lapped. Right, it was just so I could
ride on the grass, guys. (techno music) – So, hopefully, that kind
of illustrates the point about where to ride, but
what it also does is flags up terrible braking technique. So, just grabbing hold of the back brake is not very effective,
it’s slowing you down. So, as on the road, your front
brake is your best brake. The only kind of thing
that you need to remember when it’s loose or slippery is that your front wheel
is more likely to slide, so you need to be your
own kinda ABS system, and just get ready to let
go of that front brake when it goes– – So have the confidence
when it starts sliding, let go a little bit of the front brake. – Yeah, you won’t be able
to slow down as fast, but you won’t be on your
bum so that’s a good thing. And, you have disc brakes which is great, ’cause you get so much
modulation from them, that the more you ride in those conditions the more you feel when the
front wheel is about to go so you don’t even need to
get to the point of sliding and then letting go, you kind of just, sort of feather it a little bit. – So, a bit like on the
road where you’re scared and you feel like you’re gonna slide, grabbing the brakes is
the worst thing you can do ’cause then you probably will slide. – Absolutely, yeah.
– Okay. – And, it’s kind of instinctive, until you override that
instinct with a bit of practice. – Yeah, okay. Right. Better practice then. (groovy music) Are you supposed to keep
your bum on the saddle? – It depends, actually. Because if you wanna slow
down really, really fast on the road, you get your
weight back, obviously, but off-road, if you
haven’t got as much grip, then it’s kind of less important. But, yeah, generally weight back – Weight back.
– is a good thing. – But on the saddle. – No, behind the saddle, I think. If you wanna really slow down fast, you gotta get behind the seat. (lively music) – Right, so before we leave
this beautiful gravel corner– – It’s nice, isn’t it? – By this bubbling stream and everything, can I ask you a few questions
about cornering technique? Because I think I’m happy now
slowing down and stopping, but that is what I feel like
doing before every corner ’cause I’m a little bit scared of going through loose corners. And this reminds me a lot of road cycling where having started late, I was atrocious at
descending and cornering, and I had to really learn from scratch. So, I’m prepared to learn, but it might take me a bit of time. Can you talk me through
the cornering techniques on a cross bike on loose ground? – I can. Firstly, I’m gonna ask you
what were the techniques that you learned on your road bike? – Literally everything from the ground up. Literally. So, I fell off a few times, got scared. I had to learn weight
distribution to lean the bike, put weight on the inside
hand, outside foot, keep your weight back. Not breaking the corner, and just I had to start very
slowly and build up the speed ’cause I was very scared. – Well, that is absolutely perfect then because all of those points there translate from a road-bike
over to a cyclo-cross bike. So not breaking the
corner, that’s really key. Leaning the bike. When it’s really slippery, you might not be able
to lean it that hard, but then you have to
go slower as a result. And then, dropping that
outside foot, as well, that’s really important. What you do on a cross bike though that you don’t do on a road bike is actually you can
unclip your inside foot, so you have it kind of
dangling out next to you. It’s like a bit of a kind
of, you know, as a safety net almost because when the
bike does start to slide, you can, your foot is
there and you simply like, dab it on the ground, and away you go. – [Emma] Right, that’s novel. – Yeah. So, do you wanna give it a go? Well, yeah, no, give it a go
with your foot dangling out– – Okay.
– to start with. And then, we’ll see how you get on. (playful music) – [Si] Whoa, check it out! Nice! Nailed it! – I’m not happy I’m clipping my right foot when the left one’s still in. – I think the thing
about that, Emma is that, like, you said it was
slow but you lost traction so actually it was as
fast as you could go. (air hissing) There we go. – I did pump not to go on
a road ride with friends, so it got dropped– (brake squeaks)
(laughs) (adventurous music) (bike chain clicking) Oh – Yeah, I mean, it is just
a loose corner, isn’t it? – [Emma] Yeah. – There’s not much more
you can do about that. – Well, I guess that’s kind
of the point of cyclo-cross though, isn’t it? Loose corners? – Yeah, but gravel’s a bit,
gravel’s like crap loose ’cause, you know, it’s a half-way house between grippy tarmac and slippy mud ’cause it grips quite a lot
and then it suddenly goes. – Yeah. And it’s unpredictable. Like you have to know the
angularity of your gravel, the size of the gravel, I’ve
been thinking a lot about this, like it’s all about like
contact points of the tire, and with that gravel you’ve
got lots of discreet points, whereas with mud it’s obviously
a homogenous, at our scale, homogenous entity– – [Si] Emma, you’ve taken cyclo-cross to a whole other level.
(Emma laughs) – [Emma] This is basically
why I did a whole PhD was– – It’s just like this is
amazing, homogenous mud versus– – Discreet!
– Angular gravel. – Discreet angularity of gravel. I did a whole PhD on the
like, size of lumps of soil, so there you go.
(lighthearted music) Funny thing is, I feel like,
it takes me a good half an hour how to get used to not a bike as much as the loose road surface. I have been practicing but
I’ve been on my road bike the last week or so, and
then I’m a bit nervous when I get back onto gnarly territory. And I don’t know, then when
I realize it’s all okay, and that you can actually
ride over most things, – Yeah.
– And I’m alright again. It just takes my brain a
little while to adjust. – I think that’s absolutely fair enough. Like, I find if I don’t ride off road for, you know, a month or
so, then the first ride, I’m never quite as comfortable
as I am the second ride. Just because it is very different and you need to kind of remind yourself. Also I’m feeling bad
that we’re spending time riding on gravel when actually that’s not totally
appropriate for cyclo-cross. It’s a really important
skill to be able to do, to ride off-road, but actually, it is far more unpredictable. So, why don’t we move over
onto like a grassy corner, and then we can maybe, sort of just reassess
what we’re doing on there. Right. Proper cross surface here. I mean, technically it’s
actually not that proper because I’ve only ridden
around it 15 times so far, not 100 people riding 10 laps on it. So, it’s still very grassy, which what does grass mean, Emma? – [Emma] Grip! Grass means Grip!
– Yay, there we go! – Green and grass mean grip.
– Yeah. – What is brown grass?
– Still grippy. – Okay, good, right.
– Grass means grip. Okay, but yeah, so this is gonna
be a perfect place actually because it’s quite predictable. So, dare I say homogenous, in fact. So you’ll be able to just go around and gradually build up your confidence. It’s a great place to learn grassy patches because should you push it too far, it’s not the end of the world. So you don’t need to
worry about falling off but, let’s be clear, we
also don’t want to fall off. – No. – That’s not the end of the game here. – I do wonder, though, sometimes
whether it might be good for me to have a few
tumbles and like realize that it’s not that bad. ‘Cause at the moment, I’m
a bit scared of falling off so if I were to go too slowly,
maybe I should push it, find the limit, go a bit past it and realize that well,
grass is quite soft, really. – I guess, yeah. It depends on how scared
you are of falling off. So, personally I’m not that
scared of falling off on grass, but equally I really
don’t want to fall off because, I mean I don’t like falling off and actually it feels like
I’ve done something wrong if I do, so I would never advocate that whole push the limits,
and then throttle back a bit. – Okay. – Because the beautiful
thing about this surface, I don’t normally call grass beautiful but, is that you’ve got plenty of warning when you can hear your tires scrabbling for grip on this, so yeah. Let’s give it a go, we’ll
ride around it a few times. Do you wanna follow me around?
– Yeah, please. (soft guitar music) (bike chains clicking) oh, that was bad. Right. So… Oh, I got off my bike the
wrong way, bloody hell. Sorry.
– I did, too. – So the question.
– Yeah. – Were you breaking into the
corner or through the corner, or not breaking at all
and just swooping through? – That’s a good question, actually. So I wasn’t breaking in the
corner, but it brings up the whole question of
entry-speed, doesn’t it? Because it’s all very well sort of trying to go faster
and faster and faster, but there is a limit as
to how fast you can go around corners, about how
good your technique is. And so actually, I suppose, subconsciously you’re kind of making a judgment on you about what grip you
think the corner’s got. – I’m doing it quite
consciously, actually. (laughs) – Well, yeah, I mean that’s great. So you are coming in and thinking right well, you know, I think there
is a lot of grip on the grass, therefore I can bank it
over and not brake too much. So I think, in answer to your question, depending on how much
speed you’re carrying, yes, sometimes I’m breaking
in and sometimes I’m not. So, yeah. But I think it’s also
probably worth airing on the side of caution, because when you do start to slide, here it’s gonna be fine, whereas on the gravel you
lose a lot of momentum when you’re sliding. – And gravel is really
sharp when you land on it. – That’s right. It’s got angularity. Something, rather. – Awesome, well, thanks Si. I think it really helps to have a patient and encouraging teacher. But also, I think– – I’d be rubbish if you were crap, Emma, I’ll be completely honest. – Then, I’ll keep practicing then, eh? But what I do think really
helps on the road is that I did have to learn
on the road to corner. So, I’ve had the experience
of having to think about technique where some
people are so good at cornering, they never have to learn it. And also I know that it’s all
very well knowing what to do but you have to practice,
practice, practice until it becomes automatic because every time when you
time in a corner to think about oh, weight on my left
hand, weight on my right foot, under the left foot, where do I look? Like, it has to be automatic and I’m a bit of a slow learner so I’ll just have to keep practicing. – Yeah, that’s a really
good point, actually. That becomes automatic and then
what you’re always thinking about is where is the best line. Because lines change, laps
and lap in a cross race, or there might be a corner
that you’re unfamiliar with. So, that’s the thing that should
be forefront in your mind, and then, yeah you leave all the technique stuff to instincts. So yeah, definitely. And I also wanna just go back
to that point you said about, you know, the pressure of
going fast versus having fun. At the end of the day, you know, cycling should always be about fun, and so you should never feel pressurized into going too fast or whatever. The only thing is that when you
put all the steps into place to get your technique right, then you will be able to go faster, and still have a grin
on your face, as well without being worried. – Good. I think I go faster when
I smile, so that’s great. Well, thanks for the lesson! Give us a big thumbs up if you liked it. You can check out my
previous cycling lessons, by clicking down here. Don’t forget to subscribe. – Absolutely! There we go! Nice one. Right, lesson number
four Emma, are you ready? – What is this one? We have another lesson? I thought that was it. How can there be more
cyclo-cross to learn? – Ah, so much to learn.

100 comments

  1. Are you following along with this series or trying cyclo-cross for the first time yourself? Let us know! 👇

  2. It's amazing to me how much Emma over-analyses everything. I release my mind and my legs follow, riding isn't as theoretical to me but I come from a BMX and MotoX background. I think she was on to something with falling to understand the limits, perhaps extreme corner 😜

  3. Nice discussion about cyclocross riding being a perishable skill, much like snow/ice driving is. Just goes to show the need for practice. Good job again guys

  4. Is Emma going to attempt the 3 peaks race next year then ??? That'd be a good video….

    I personally learnt all the basic techniques of off-roading on a rigid MTB some 25 years ago (and I still trail ride on my hardtail front suspension MTB's as I like that)….I bought a CX bike some 4 years ago and still use the same techniques when I'm riding it and it's all to do with your centre of gravity, line choice, braking, using your arms and legs as suspension and generally getting used to gnarly stuff with the odd crash here and there….I do find that I have to ride on the hoods when I'm off-road, and I did notice that Si is on them but Emma's on the drops….!!!

    Perhaps the fellas from GMBN could give some advice and some crossover ?

  5. I was mountain biking yesterday (crazy I know) and I finished the ride just before a cx race started on that trail. Looked very cool. I can fit 30s on my road bike so I ride cx occasionally but never raced 😀

  6. I remember a fairly old GCN vid on bike handling skills where Dan advised skidding around on wet grass. I'd certainly start with that before actually going for proper corners and definitely before pratting around on gravel! Consequences for falling there are so much worse than grass!!

  7. Emma is comfortable enough to show her fear. I have no doubt that this will probably not be her "first love", but, Emma is game to give it her best shot. GCN should not leave us viewers in the dark as Emma improves her skills and puts her power to Terra firma! Her power to weight ratio will make her a contender in no time!! By the way, nice looking dog at the end of the video!

  8. Great videos! But those GCN bibshorts are quite atrocious. It almost looks as though Sy has on a jock strap or a medieval cockpiece under the shorts. Dear God please tell me he doesn't!

  9. Great series. Great job talking your boss into letting you go to exoctic locations to find gravel and grass too!

  10. Now I imagine Sven Nys sitting in front of his television and frantically scribbling along to catch all the real science lingo! Haha!

  11. My be further in the series si you will explain braking in the corners whilst still peddling. & peddling round the corner with inside foot un clipped!

  12. Practice in a figure of eight pattern choose wet grass or loose gravel also do some mud the faster you can go will help and Yes sticking your leg out for balance is spot on also learn to kick out back wheel use a touch of brake or lean back and out in a jerk manoeuvre the more upright your bike is while doing this the better it is and yes entry speed does count also learning to skid helps a lot

  13. just a suggestion where you rider /practice in such lovely areas perhaps you could add the location in the info to the video or a GPX ref

  14. oh Emma, i love you for this one "i'm not hapy unklicking my right foot when the left one's still in". everybody keeps laughing at me because i'm usually not happy either…. thank you so much for being honest!

  15. God love Emma when her thinking goes off at a tangent. God love all her companions for staying patient whilst she waffles. So so funny – but very informative

  16. I think shes got saddle too high, and bike is too big for her. Image if she ride on 650b Connondale Slate or something like this (i mean size of bike, not fork)

  17. not sure cyclocross was invented to ride in the dolomites. Seems like more a UK or Belgium kind of thing–more rain and mud. 🙂 great videos.

  18. I didn't hear anything about fore-aft weight distribution in a grassy corner. You want the rear tire to break lose before the front. I find if you're too far back your front will break loose first which usually leads to a crash. Any thoughts on that, Si?

  19. Coaching breakthrough, Si !!! Well done! You got Emma to tell you how to corner rather than you telling her. That's a great example of an athlete-centred approach to coaching. Keep asking open questions that make Emma think (she doesn't does that a lot anyway) but try to use them to focus her thinking on what's important. When you tell her "That's brilliant, you nailed it," ask her to tell you what she did to nail it. Then you're being a better coach and she's getting better, more specific information. I'm enjoying your work!

  20. I noticed that Is is almost always on the hoods and Emma is in the drops. Does it matter or is it a matter of personal preference?

  21. Even though I have no desire to try cyclocross I am enjoying this series, both Emma and Simon are inspirational, they just inspire me to get my bike out and ride. Thanks both.

  22. Love these 3 films so far and replacing my Mtb with a cross bike .( keeping the Mtb But gonna ride the crosser more )

  23. I notice Emma ride in the drops in a lot. I find I usually do too. My hands are small and I don't feel like I have enough control in the hoods. I wonder if this is a short person / small hands thing?

  24. Some great moments in this video! Love the genuine beginner questions (e.g. bum on saddle, talking through corners, etc). Brilliant!

  25. Watching this makes me think ALL roadies need to get out and learn how to mountain bike, so they can learn proper bike handling skills…

  26. Good stuff, but I don't think Si and Emma can comprehend quite how hopeless some of us are. Heretical tips from a fat lad at the back, which have meant I've moved from being a bit frustrated last season to having a blast this year are 1) I dropped my saddle by 1cm from my road position. Thinking about going even lower 2) Ditched the SPD's for MTB flats with studs, and fell running shoes (Inov8 Mudclaw…others exist) 3) Stopped carrying my bike. I wheel it; it's a great support on off-camber, takes weight off my feet running uphill, and in all other circumstances makes a rather fetching zimmer frame. 4) Going to single speed shortly. I only need 4 gears anyway; twiddling, pushing, freewheeling and running.

  27. Emma and Simon have a great chemistry and professionalism for video.That is quite helpful to both experienced and novice riders.Loved Emma's cyclocross learning experiences.

  28. It would be nice, if you would do more color grading. There are some shots here where the grass looks really dull and almost greyish and others are just absolutely amazing.

  29. I'm a beginner in the mountain biking and cyclocross scene where cornering and descending still freaks me out. Seeing a superhero like Emma admit her fears and willingness to start completely from scratch is really helpful to me

  30. Looks like Emma could do with dropping her saddle a bit on a Cross bike….even 1.5cm would make dabbing a little easier.

  31. I just keep watching these over and over, they are so good! I did my first two cx races in 2018 and already bought my license for 2019, so it's a done deal, I'm racing the whole season!

  32. I wish this had been published in the summer – I came of my cross bike turning onto some gravel from the road and broke my collarbone in 2 places!

  33. Where on Earth is that fantastic mountainous training ground, it doesn't look like Derbyshire or Wales to me? She is really good, I like her!

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