Riding off-camber trails, corners and other features is always a topic that comes up for MTB Skills Clinics. There is a fair bit that goes into making those side sloped surfaces work for you, and we are going to run a short series of articles to try to explain the intricacies of good technique.
This article might seem like it is about cornering rather than off camber riding, but there’s a good reason we are going to start here. And it’s because the technique is pretty much the same, and used for much the same reasons.
We’re showing a reasonably flat corner here – it doesn’t have much bermed support at all, and at speed there are some pretty significant challenges to maintaining enough traction to keep momentum high. At the core of maintaining good solid grip when on those sloping surfaces is how you manage your traction, while milking every last bit of grip from your tyres.
It would be pretty easy to simply match the angle of the ground at a right angle between the bike’s wheels and the ground with this corner. And in that mode the rider would usually be pretty much in line with the lean angle of the bike. This does work, but relies on a slightly different and very specific technique with how the outside leg provides bracing (to be covered in a subsequent article).
For this example, to really wind up the amount of bracing you can generate against g-forces that are pushing the bike and rider outwards and off the corner, especially as speed increases, requires sideways separation between rider and bike. Those g-forces are tending to make the bike and rider ‘high side’, and anyone who has ever experienced this will know it’s not much fun!
So, dropping the outside foot, and shifting body weight to that outside foot does three key things:
It allows the rider to brace strongly against those outward pushing g-forces
It also allows the rider to push the bike into more of a lean if needed, into the corner, and importantly,
this opens up the grip characteristics of the tyre into the side knob zone
The side knob zone of your tyre has got to be one of the most underutilised parts of your bike. There is a very good reason side knobs look chunky and aggressive, even on a fast rolling style of tyre – that’s because they are designed to grip, and grip well. If you can use those side knobs as they are intended, you’ll discover a whole new world of traction management! And off camber riding is very much about utilising those side knobs while carefully controlling the lean angle of your bike.
In this cornering example, you can see just how much lean angle can be added in to increase traction and maintain momentum. It’s also important to make sure that with your body weight shifted to the outside foot, body position on the bike is still well centred between the wheels, giving pretty much even grip front and back. More aggressive cornering in this mode responds well to biasing a bit more weight into the front of the bike, but at the very least make sure body weight is centred. If you feel yourself leaning back, you know what you need to do to counter that. This example shows pretty clearly that the bike is pushing through this curve on the side knob zone of the tyres, and it’s making serious grip.
One key thing to look for with all of this is that unless weight is transferred to the outside foot, then dropping that outside foot is going to be next to useless, and will only serve to unbalance the relationship between the bike and rider.
We’ll continue this theme in the future with some more specific examples.
Words & Images: Chris Mildon & Dave Chadwick
Originally printed in Issue 87 of the NZ Mountain Biker