Peter Dennis recalls railing corners and picking lines during Autumn last year. Some inspiration for those looking forwards to some drained roads, drier trails or donning their ski's....
The glorious autumn colours and the falling leaves at this time of year have reminded me of something that happened to me on a bike ride several years ago. I was descending a hillside near Pitlochry on a mountain bike at a similar time of year, and riding close to the wheels of the person in front.
The trail descended across a grassy field, encouraging a speedy approach to the following banked right-hand corner, which was covered in dry, autumn leaves. As the rider in front pitched round the turn, their perfectly aligned wheels disturbed the leaves, revealing their damp and therefore darker sides.
Suddenly, as if drawn by an animator in real time, the ideal line through the corner was ephemerally present in front of me, highlighted by the trace of the overturned leaves.
Such a fleeting, transient moment was special enough to still be etched into my mind’s eye, but for most cyclists every corner brings an opportunity to seek out the joy of manoeuvring their bike through the turn.
From a racer’s point of view, time can be won or lost with good or bad cornering technique. But regardless of trying to gain tenths of seconds, the sensation of a well-executed turn with the bike and rider at their limits is rewarding in its own way.
Or a road bike it’s sometimes possible to hear the tyres squealing as the tiny patches of rubber in contact with the tarmac are fighting the forces of physics to maintain grip. For mountain bikers, they more often encounter the banked, or bermed, corners that help maintain speed through the turn. In either case, gliding through an ideal line that clips the apex of the turn before speeding out of the exit can be a real thrill.
Cyclists often talk of railing a turn, where their wheels pursue the ideal line as if fixed on tracks, or carving it, akin to skiers on their edges. Though another side for mountain bikers is known as drifting, where both wheels are encouraged to slip sideways across the mud, dirt or gravel. The excitement comes from judging the perfect sense of balance between the cornering and the sliding motion, and exiting the turn fast and upright.
How joyless it would be to only ride on straight roads and trails. Luckily such thing is a rarity, and the line in the leaves from my ride several years ago serves as a reminder of the joy and satisfaction to be gained from executing a perfect arc.
Photo 1: Katrina Brown picks her line around a bermed corner at Grantown bike park.