Left, Right... I Don't See What The Big Deal Is.

As I mentioned Monday, I'm not 100% confident in my ability to make sharp turns at speed. I'm certainly not 100% confident in other people's abilities to do so. Again, part of the risk/reward calculation thing.
 
For me, a lot of this is between the ears. When I'm not completely confident, I don't aggressively dive into a turn. I back off a little to allow for the unexpected, because even in the best of conditions things can go sideways. The best riders in the world end up in the ditch or in a broken pile in the middle of the road all of the time. Quick- name the last World Tour race that didn't have a rider eat it on some nondescript piece of road. Tough, isn't it? Those guys' depends on them always going for it and taking those chances. Me, not so much. I usually run the numbers. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I feel confident and really go for it. Sometimes I eat it like I did at last year's Tour of Fairbanks.
 
Turning technique is a different matter. That's actually something I focus on quite a bit, which probably dates back to my ski racing training. I may not always be using the technique effectively, but that's because what's between my ears is telling me to back off when the most effective thing to do is charge on in. Intellectually I know it, but the risk/reward battle screws the mix up at times. Still, you race how you practice, so I keep consciously hammering away.
 
Towards the end of our digital debate, Joey threw out a step-by-step guide to turning. Because I'm a complete, self-centered asshole and this is my blog, I'll add my comments below each step. I don't disagree with the core of what Joey said, but rather I differ with the mental focus of how to achieve it. If one explanation rings true with you and it gets the intended result, do that thing. A lot of this is perception and semantics. Play around with different concepts (outside of group rides and races) and see what works for you. We've always just intuitively turned since we were kids, but the act of actively thinking about technique will do wonders for your riding.
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Turning:  
1.   "As you start to enter the turn, keep the bike upright and lean your body into the turn (steering)."
   
First off, where does the turn start? Most people would put it at a point much later in the process than it actually occurs. 
  
In skiing, a carved turn is initiated when weight transfers from one ski to another. You project your body towards the center of the arc, which causes this weight shift from edge to edge. If the turn was a doughnut (I like doughnuts), you'd be shooting for the hole.
  
In cycling, we're just shifting our weight from one side of the tire to another, which does more than it would seem on a single track vehicle like a bicycle.
  
In skiing, steering is a rotary input along a vertical axis- twisting your foot to affect direction change. It does accomplish this, but at a certain speed it results in decreased speed and control. If you initiate a turn with a rotary motion, you constrain the options available to you for shaping the turn after that point.
 
In cycling, it's essentially the same- turning the handlebars in the direction you want to turn. Again, at a certain speed this becomes an ineffective and limiting way to change direction.
Rotary inputs at speed are used more for fine adjustments once the turn is initiated.
 
If you don't believe me, start riding in a straight line at 20MPH or so and then quickly turn your handlebars 30 degrees in either direction (rotary) while sitting straight up and down. We can discuss this further when you get out of the hospital.
 
How you begin affects how you end.
 
2.   "As the turn tightens, bring the bike in line with your body (leaning)."
 
But, how do you lean a bike as you're riding it? By countersteering. Here's a pretty good written description, and here's a video for you millennials out there. If you activate your Google box, you might find a few million more. In a nutshell, you turn left to go right. To lean your bike, you're actually in the initial stages of countersteering.
 
"But, but, but... I can ride in a straight line with my bike tilted!" Yes, but you're actually employing a little steering correction to make that happen and your weight is not to either side. And thanks for muddying the waters, asshole.
  
3. "Finally, at the apex, straighten your inside elbow and push the handlebars down toward the ground, leaning the bike into the turn and keeping your body more upright (Countersteering). You'll feel the line change as you move from steering to Countersteering. Practice that, master that, and you'll be able to thread any needle you want in a crit." 

 
This is where I have a bit of an issue with Joey's description.

   
In skiing, at the apex of the turn (and actually earlier than that) you want to be balanced on the outside ski's edge. That's where your weight needs to be. If your weight is excessively inside of the turn at this point, gravity will pull you towards the ground in a spectacular fashion. Of course, you have an inside ski to fall back on as a prop if this happens.
 
In cycling, unless you're rocking training wheels, you only have that one edge. If you're not balanced on it, you're probably going to lose some skin.
 
To put the weight on the outside ski (or pedal), I tell people to level their shoulders with the ground. To accomplish this, one arm is going to be straighter than the other (as Joey highlights), but the focus is on keeping the weight over the tires.
 
Simultaneously, you would be pressing forward on one side of bars to go in that direction. Progressively press the left side to go left. If you press down on the bars, you're concentrating your weight inside of the turn instead of over the tires.
 
At this point, if you're properly balanced over the tires, you have all sorts of options with steering, countersteering, and weight distribution to shape the turn further. If you've set up the turn right, you have nothing but options for how it ends. If you've limped into it because of whatever lies your grey matter has told you, your options have been decreased.
 

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All of this seems probably like nitpicking, and do what works for you.
 
The biggest thing I can add is to look where you want to go. Don't look at where you are or where you don't want to be. It's amazing how things seem to fall into place when you focus on where you're going, and how quickly they fall apart when you fixate on the thing you're trying to miss. When tree skiing, you focus on the spaces between the trees instead of the trees themselves.
 
If you disagree, I'm good with it as long as the result is the same and we don't end up crashing.

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