Beginner MTB Cornering Tips: How to Corner on a Mountain Bike

Mar 20, 2024 BY AWE365 Team

Want to know how to corner on a mountain bike? Then read these beginner MTB cornering tips to quickly improve your off road riding.

Louise mountain biking in Arc 1950, France - Beginner MTB Cornering Tip

Road biking is a simple sport. The slow, undulating, smooth pavement gives a perfect focus for the rider. As the road turns, so do you. As the road climbs, so do you. All you need to do is keep pedalling.

How to Corner on a Mountain Bike

As I found out it is very different riding off-road on mountain biking holidays, or near your home. Navigating a narrow single track that zig-zags around trees, up and down steep terrain, or across various obstacles is another challenge altogether!

Like many beginner ‘mountain bikers’, I come from the comfy world of road cycling. I then spent years doing off-road rides, but never leaving the ease and comfort of a double-track forest paths, wide bridleways or safe dirt roads. While this is still a type of mountain biking, this kind of trail riding is at the very easy end of the sport.

However, as soon as you take your bike onto single track trails the difficulty, and fun, increases exponentially. However these narrow tracks offers many challenges, so you need to know how to corner on a mountain bike.

Beginner MTB Cornering Tips

In this beginners guide to mountain bike cornering we look at how to get around those pesky corners! With the below tips even a novice can learn how to ride single track corners on a mountain bike. Not only will this increases your off-road fun, but makes you a safer rider.

How to Corner on a Mountain Bike Flickr CC image by Etrino of MTB in Ballinastoe, Ireland


Look well ahead of the curve. Mountain biking is about planning – even if some of it is last minute. Your eyes will not only give you the direction you need (and thus the bike will follow), but they tell you what is coming up. A branch, a rock or a ditch are all obstacles to think about as you climb or descend.

Look where you want to go, not where you don’t. It is amazing how turning your head to look at the end of a sharp corner, for example when riding berms, really helps you take the right line.

Never focus on a rock or tree etc, as the chances are you’ll hit it. Look around obstacles and plan your turns ahead to give you time to get your body in the right position.

Cornering on a Mountain Bike

When you first start just ride single track take it slowly. Just turn the handle bars as you would in any bike cornering situation. You will get around most bends no problem, but you won’t be flowing or holding much speed. To do that you need to learn how to corner on a mountain bike.

And this depends on what kind or trail, and what direction your heading in. Climbing tight turns is not the same as screaming down them at top speed. Ascending and descending require two completely different bike positions. And confusing them could mean exhausting yourself or flying over the handlebars.

Northshore during Saalbach mountain biking review Photo credit Matt Ray @adventurefella

Weight (Ascending)

If you sit in the saddle in your normal position when riding uphill you’ll notice the tendency of the front wheel to come off the ground. So you need to keep your torso forward so your body weight is centred on the bike relative to the slope.

This means the steeper the slope the further forward you need to be. Help this by sliding your backside forwards so you are riding on the tip of the saddle in really steep sections.

If you need to stand, be careful not to put your weight to far forward as this is when the back wheel will lose traction. When riding slowly uphill you don’t need to shift the weight left or right a great deal when cornering. But start corners to give yourself more space in the turn to keep pedalling.

Weight (Descending)

Traditionally you’d get your backside behind the saddle and over your back wheel on the way downhill. You’d also favour your rear brake to let it drift into the corner. This kind of riding is a lot of fun, but its not the most efficient way to corner on a mountain bike.

Both bike geometry and riding styles have changed greatly. These days it’s accepted that you need enough weight on the front of the bike for the front tyre to grip when cornering, where as in the past this could lead to going over the bars it is much less likely with modern bikes.

Beginner MTB Cornering Tips: How to Corner on a Mountain Bike Steinberg line by Fox in Leogang Epic Bike Park

So stand in the saddle with a neutral position relative to the slope and your bike geometry. This takes practice, but after a while you can swap bikes and quickly get a feel for it. Now keep your arms bent so you can absorb unexpected bumps and apply both brakes equally to slow down before the corner.

Keep applying your brakes, until you feel safe to release them so you accelerate out of the corner to help maintain your speed. On banked corners lift the outer elbow, and turn your head to look along the path. Use the bank to your advantage, it requires less sharp turning the further up the bank you are.

Feet (Ascending)

Maintaining a constant pedal stroke will help you keep your balance when riding uphill. So keep your feet in the most comfortable and efficient position to pedal.

If you can master the track stand (sitting on the bike in a stopped position) it is very useful when hitting switchback turns at 180 degrees. One of the top beginner MTB cornering tips is to keep an eye on obstacles such as roots, ruts and rocks to avoid hitting your pedals against them as you corner.

Feet (Descending)

On downhill sections it is good to move your feet slightly forward of the most efficient pedal potion, almost as if your toes overhand the front. This is because you have less stability through the toes than the rest of your foot. Now push your heels towards the floor, this gives you more traction on the pedals.

Hinterglemm mountain biking review Photo credit Matt Ray @adventurefella

As you approach a corner get your speed is under control. On flat turns start the turn wide and close towards the apex. On banked corners try to start high, or if not possible ride up it so you are well on the bank through as much of the turn as possible.

Depending on the bike, the inside foot (the one closest to the apex) should be raised so your outside foot is down. This helps you to avoid catching the inner pedal and provides more grip on the outside of the tyre where you most need it. Downhill bikes typically have more clearance and bigger tyres so level pedals are fine.

In extremely tight corners, push the bike towards the apex (literally down towards the ground) and shift your body weight the opposite direction onto the outside pedal. This will help you stick the tightest turns while maintaining your balance and speed.

We hope you found this guide of how to corner on a mountain bike useful. If these beginner MTB cornering tips have you inspired to improve your riding then check out these mountain biking courses worldwide to learn more.


Cycling, eBiking, Mountain Biking
Beginner, DH (Downhill)

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