October 31, 2012

The Art of Cornering

I’ve been racing cyclocross in the Masters category for the past four seasons. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, but wanted to get back in to racing and felt ‘cross would be a good place to start. Cyclocross requires a mix of fitness, bike handling, and technique. Just as Stephen pointed out before, being strong across all aspects of the race is important.

In the past I’ve been a decent bike handler, but starting late last season I started to slip. I was losing too much momentum in the corners and just not hitting them right. I was all over my front brake and couldn’t hold my line. Just like descending on a bike, cornering won’t necessarily win you the race, but it can sure make you lose the race. I was just making too many mistakes and needed to fix the problem.

I read up on technique. Watched and re-watched videos of the pros doing it right. Finally, I went back to basics and practiced, practiced, practiced. There are few things that will make a grown man as self-conscious as repeatedly riding in circles, over and over, in a muddy park. “Oh, don’t mind me, I just have too much free time on my hands.” Ultimately I realized that one of the bad habits I had fallen in to was watching my front wheel track through the line, and trying to adjust as I cornered. I forgot the secret to good cornering:

You should be focused on where you want to go, not where you are.

When you are watching where your wheel is, you can’t help but try and correct as you corner, and the smallest change causes you to lose your line, which causes you to adjust more, spiraling into a cycle of an ugly corner and lost velocity. You need to trust in your tires, trust in your bike, and trust in your skill of setting yourself up in to that corner. Mid-corner is way too late to make changes, you need to commit and focus on the outcome.

In my role at Substance, I often find myself looking closely at where we are. Fortunately, we have such a great team here that I can trust in them to carry us through the corners, moving us forward with velocity. My job is to keep our collective heads up and focused on where we want to go, not where we are. Not that I’m looking to find business metaphors every time I hop on the bike, but it’s always good to be reminded that success in recreation and in business are the results of practice, good habits, and discipline.

I almost neglected to give credit to the various people who make my racing more enjoyable.

My teammates at Super-Relax Concept for having the best looking team/cheering/heckling squad out there.
Molly Cameron and the fine team at Portland Bicycle Studio for bike fit and tuning.
Icebreaker for the best base layers in cycling, or any outdoor sport for that matter.
Giro for keeping my head safe and my hands and feet warm.
Rapha for not only keeping my legs toasty warm, but making me smell good on the starting line.
And finally, a great big “thank you” to my Substance teammate Isaac Viel for the great photographs and making me look way faster than I actually am.

1 Comment…

  1. Nice article. Metaphorically and literally, I can relate. I had to learn the same thing when riding a motorcycle, otherwise you’ll bail quickly.

    Also, this resonates to the “artists perspective” of backing away from your work that Frank Chimero talks about in the Shape of Design. Incredibly important, but difficult to switch between perspectives consistently.

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