This article is going to be it’s all about going DOWN those pesky switchbacks. In case you missed our article on the art of climbing UP a switchback, check it out here!
Let’s jump right into the 5 important steps to successfully (and smoothly) navigating a descending switchback.
1. Brake For Speed
Setting your speed before you get to the switchback will greatly improve the likelihood of riding the switchback clean. When it comes to a smooth switchback, faster is not always your friend. Entering a switchback with controlled speed means you don’t have to hammer on the breaks in the middle of your turn (psst – same is true for high speed corners). In the end, braking before the switchback will actually allow you to exit with greater speed.
2. Pre-Turn to Get Outside
On a lot of trails, you’ll see the most well-ridden section of a switchback is down the middle or on the inside line. Don’t be tempted to follow the same line as everyone else! There’s a line that more experienced riders are taking and you should follow their lead…
Use a pre-turn to set yourself up for success. This is done by approaching on the inside of the corner and then swing way wide to the outside of the switchback to set up for the corner. Putting these two turns together, the first being a “pre-turn” and the second being the direction of the switchback, makes for a very smooth and controlled line. Get more in-depth with the pre-turn here.
3. Go Early
The apex of the switchback is often the roughest part so make your pre-turn early to bring your apex closer to the entrance of the switch-back. It’s best to get as much of your turn as possible done at the entrance (or the easier part of the switchback) allowing you to take a straighter line through the rough stuff.
4. Get Low
If you have a dropper post, drop it! Get your center of gravity low by bending your knees and elbows and lowering your body towards the bike. For tight and steep switchbacks push your hips back and swing them out slightly towards the outside of the corner. This hip rotation will help to bring your body and the bike around the apex with you.
5. Braking Strategy + Look Sharp
Make sure you are looking into and through the turn and use your rear brake to control speed through the corner. Be very careful about using your front brake here – too much front brake are you are trying to turn is a sure way to disaster. As you come around the apex continue to look ahead down the trail and let off the brakes. If you are struggling for balance here releasing the brakes will allow the bike to gain momentum and balance. Focus on looking ahead to where you want to be.
And with that…we now deem you a switchback Ninja!