The Brake. Steer. Turn. (BST©) Series presents: Blind-sided
One of the two most difficult types of corners for a cyclist to get right is a blind corner. This is where the apex and/or exit are not visible upon corner entry and subsequently a rider is unable to see where they are heading and where they want to ultimately end up. (a decreasing radius turn being the other most difficult)
Roads that are twisting in nature are that way because they were constructed in a purposely built manner in order to travel around objects like dense hillsides, solid mountainous rock and trees. And it is those very same objects that wind up making it impossible to see around said blind corners.
Typically, riders that are unable to see the apex and/or exit, wind up turning in to the corner too early. Turning in too early creates various issues and potential bad outcomes. Another ancillary issue in the mix after an early turn-in is a rider who may then attempt to make multiple steering corrections in such corners trying to ‘find’ the right line, which in itself causes inconsistent or erratic riding. And one of the most common problems is the rider running wide on corner exit, which usually results in riding close to the edge of the road and having to severely slow down or worse, riding off the road.
Along with these common rider errors comes the unknown factors of risk in blind corners and these risks tend to rise when the variables of said risk cannot be seen, until it’s too late to react. Some potential problems might be debris, potholes, gravel or worse, an oncoming obstacle or car in the riders lane. The suddenness of these potential dangers unexpectedly coming into view can be enough to cause a critical mistake.
It is these uncertain scenarios that tend to cause anxiety in many riders, which can make the immediate situation go from bad to worse. But a rider who is prepared to navigate a blind corner, a rider who is ready for whatever may be ahead is a rider who will be able to minimize that anxiety, trepidation AND risk. One of the core skills to be utilizing when encountering a blind turn is situational awareness. Anticipate. Recognize. React. or ARR! A good, safe rider should be anticipating all potential threats and outcomes at all times. And when that anticipation encounters a potential problem, the riders ability to recognize it could grant an extra second or even two, in which the rider will then be able to react.
The How To:
In a turn that is blind due to something blocking a riders view, it is best to take a wider entry (aka- squaring it off) in order to maximize how far around the corner a rider can see. While a wider entry does allow for a potentially better sight-line, it could also leave a rider vulnerable to additional risk. An example would be a decreasing radius turn- meaning if the the radius of the corner should suddenly ‘tighten’ this could pose its own set of problems. But in general the benefits of being able to see farther around the blind corner, (the vanishing point)- provides a rider with slightly more time to react to a given situation.
If this scenario plays out a rider can momentarily tighten their arc, or line toward the inside of the corner. This would be accomplished by slightly scrubbing off some speed with light braking pressure, or trail braking into the corner from the get go. Another possible danger is in right-hand turns, where a wide entry could potentially leave a rider more exposed to an oncoming car.
In order to minimize this oncoming risk potentiality, the method of utilizing trail braking becomes more crucial and offers a rider better control on corner entry and apex. In short, trail braking is the technique of continually braking (lightly) beyond the turn-in point. A rider then gradually “trails” off the brake pressure on the lever as lean angle is added, typically braking until reaching the apex where brake pressure on the lever is then fully released.
Notice trail braking action and pressure on the left (rear brake) lever during cornering.
The Take Away:
Taking a wider arc upon corner entry can provide a rider additional time to utilize the full field of vision through a blind corner to negotiate and react to most riding situations. Also, by ‘setting’ the proper corner entry speed with trail braking, a rider has a better chance to make mid-corner corrections in order to ‘pull’ themselves back towards the inside of the turn if necessary, through both braking and steering.
Now I know this is well and good on paper, but in real world scenarios at speed, a rider only has a second or fractions of a second to make these decisions and corrections. This is why it is SO very important to practice these riding skills on a regular basis. Ignore them and eventually a riders shortcomings will catch up and reap not rewards but losses.