It can often seem like mountain bike culture in South Africa revolves around stage races. At their best they are incredible riding experiences where you can slip away from the busyness of the day-to-day grind and just enjoy riding your bike with your mates on exclusive trails with great hospitality.
Over the years, a lot of South Africa’s stage races have been evolving their routes to include more and more singletrack riding and we are not complaining! This is certainly true of the KAP sani2c, highly regarded for its 3 day route that features expertly crafted trails with hundreds of switchbacks that take you up, over, down, and around hills and valleys that you would otherwise never get to see, let alone ride!
While there is often a lot of talk about ‘training’ for a stage race, and for good reason as it is a crucial piece of the performance puzzle, we often find that working on one’s skills gets overlooked. With stage race routes getting increasingly technical to ride, having the basics such as braking and cornering technique nailed down has become all the more rewarding!
With that said, let’s kick off the Stage Race preparation journey with polishing up 2 of the most essential skills for riding mountain bikes, braking and cornering!
Proper Mountain Bike Braking Skills
Nobody will argue against the importance of being able to stop effectively on your bike but we seldom appreciate the value of good vs ‘ok’ braking skills.
If you ride a bike, you’ll know how to slow down and come to a stop (ideally by use of the brake levers and not by colliding with objects in your vicinity) but there are a handful of bad braking habits that we pick up as we go along that we need to consciously work through.
Proper braking technique allows you to reduce fatigue on long descents, preserve your brake pads, increase your control on the bike, and thus increase your confidence on the bike. Give the video below a watch though and note what braking skills you could spend some time working on when out on your next few rides.
Braking Skill Takeaways
Use your front brake more
Use on / off braking technique
Brake early for a corner
Get off the brakes while turning
Just use your back brake
Brake while in a corner
Drag your brakes
Proper Mountain Bike Cornering Skills
Now that we have slowing down covered, let’s take a look at going around corners. While every corner is different there are a few basic skills that you will apply to any corner in order to ride it better. There is a bit of overlap here from our braking skills as slowing down for a corner is one of the most common reasons we brake.
If you can get your cornering skills up just a little bit you will be carrying more speed out of corners and saving precious energy not having to pedal up to speed again. Your overall confidence will improve and you’re guaranteed more fun on the trails! Give the videos below a watch and note some cornering skills you can work on when you’re out on the bike.
Cornering Skill Takeaways
Stay off the brakes in the turn
Look for the exit
Brake late in the corner
Enter on the inside
Keep your eyes down
Unclip your outside foot
In the build up to the 2023 KAP sani2c on 26-29 April we will be covering various topics on Stage Race preparation. Keep an eye out on our channels each week for more insights into getting ready to ride a mountain bike stage race!