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The Art of Picking Good Lines

A guide to help you get your flow on!

Roxburgh Gorge Trail
Geoff Marks

This can also really help reduce wear and tear on the trails, and as the Otago Trails are built and maintained by charitable trusts and volunteers there are a few things we can all practice to help look after the trails better.

Here’s Trail Hub’s resident coach and mentor, Chris “Foggie” Foggin with some tips and tricks to help you get your flow on!

Tight corners and curves are common on the Otago Trails

Mastering corners will help improve your safety and enjoyment

Choosing the appropriate line to ride whether you are on a trail, road or path will depend on many factors such as surface condition, obstacles, width or grade of trail, other road or trail users, two-way trails with blind corners, style of bike, competence or confidence of the rider, tyre pressures and bike set-up… just to name a few!

There lots of technicalities to picking the right line, but for recreational riders out for a fun day with friends, the below points will hopefully help you master the basics.

Cornering Tips & Tricks

PLEASE NOTE: Always ride within your capabilities.

  • Look where you want the bike to go – look for the ‘exit’ and beyond the current section you are riding. The bike will naturally follow your line of vision.
  • On a trail try not to follow the rider in front like a sheep, they may have the whole line skew-whiff (I think that’s a word). 
  • Hold back so you can see the line you want. By holding back, you will also see if the rider in front gets it right or not. A 5m to 10m gap usually allows enough time to react depending on your speed.
  • A worn line on a trail isn’t necessarily the best line; it may be that everyone riding the trail previously have just been sheep! It might also lead you to being in the wrong position on a blind corner and colliding with an oncoming trail user.

However, there may not be an alternative. I often don’t ride the worn line to help spread the wear & tear on the trail. But riding these lines will depend on your ability or what you want to achieve on from your ride.

Don't ride like a sheep!

Here’s a fun way to practice...........

When leading groups, I sometimes ask them to play a game I call ‘anti-line’.

The basic rules are that you can only ride the ‘worn line’ for no more than 10 seconds or 10 pedal strokes. Therefore, you need to ride the ‘anti-line’ for the rest of the time allocated i.e. anywhere away from the ‘worn line’.

This raises awareness, makes you concentrate, spreads the wear & tear on the trail surface, and really helps develop your bike handling skills.

Another factor we see on well-used trails, is that the best line may have been affected by heavy-use or damage. 

The increasing number of heavier bikes, in particular eBikes, on the trails or riders who are less skilled at braking, can cause corrugations and grooves on some of the downhill sections.

Corrugations can make you bounce and throw you off your line.

In less technical environments, or where there are no blind corners, you can try to straighten the trail or road. ‘Cutting the apex’ is often a good line and great fun as it you’ll start to flow through the corners more quickly. In this case always look for hazards on the apex such as holes, loose surface, rocks, roots etc. and be mindful of other trail users; and if on a road obey the road rules and follow the road code. 

The last picture below shows riders following like sheep and on a line which is not appropriate for that particular bend or blind corner. They would be better placed, and have a better view of the trail ahead, if they’d chosen a line starting closer to the left of the trail.

You can practice your lines and get a feel for ‘cutting the apex’ on shallow bends and, as your skill level develops, you can then push to more technical terrain and have fun learning.

Once you find the ‘flow’ it’s a magic feeling. 

Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Flowing down the switchbacks, Roxburgh Gorge Trail

For more great cycling insights, you can follow Foggie and Co. on the Recreational Riders Facebook page, which is a forum to engage with recreational cyclists across New Zealand. The group shares stories, training tips, road safety advice, places to ride, showcases new trail development, advice on buying bikes & gear, promotes ride groups and generally shares a love of cycling.

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