If you’ve been following my articles you will have read about how important this technique, or that technique is, and in this month’s article I’ll make a similar statement about the cone of movement – it is another core technique that if you can master, which is really easy, and employ correctly, which is slightly more difficult, will transform your riding.
In essence cone of movement is about moving around on your bike, or more precisely, allowing your bike to move under you. Unfortunately my artistic skills don’t extend to being able to sketch well, so bear with me whilst I give you 2 verbal descriptions, which you can try on the bike and see the differences they make. I’ve included photos throughout the article to help illustrate the positions involved in the technique.
Before I give you these descriptions ask yourself this question, do I spend most of my ride seated when I’m descending, cornering and climbing? If the answer is yes, you probably aren’t employing the cone of movement.
Firstly visualise yourself (or better still go and do it) sitting on your saddle on your bike with your hands on the handlebars. Now try to move around on the bike and move the bike around you without lifting your bum off the saddle. Tough, huh? I’ll bet you weren’t really able to move much other than maybe moving your upper torso forward and back a bit and you’d have achieved almost no side to side movement. Now imagine yourself standing up out of the saddle, starting in the “attack position” that we covered last month (if you are trying this on your bike, get someone to support the bike if you are stationary but if you are moving you should have no real problem). Now try to move around forward to back and side to side. Do this by pushing you bike away from you or pulling it in towards you. If you are doing this correctly you should have found that you are able to create much more movement of your body relative to your bike. In its simplest form this is a cone of movement.
If you were to go back to your seated attempts and imagine you had a marker attached to your bum and the front, back and both sides of your helmet. Your attempts to move would have drawn a fairly small cone shape with the markers, centred with it’s pointed end on your saddle and with a narrow diameter wider section around your helmet. Now imagine a similar situation where you are standing, the top markers are in the same place but the lower one is now split onto each foot. Do your movement and you will create a much taller cone with a substantially larger diameter top.
Moving around like this will give you more control of the bike in numerous situations.
The diagram above shows the main directions of movement. It doesn’t really matter what you call the points but by convention forward and back tend to be numbered 1, 2 and 3, with 1 being forward, towards your handlebars and 3 being backwards, behind your saddle. The side to side movements tend to be lettered A, B, and C. It doesn’t matter whether A is left or right as long as it is opposite C. Position 2 and B are the same point (or body position) and it is basically the attack position again. I know, a single point on the bike known by 3 different names, radical! (It actually has a fourth name as well, but I’ll not go there).
Position 1 – Hips to Handlebars
Look at the photograph above, this is an exaggerated position to illustrate the point and it is good practice to be able to move around the bike to this extent. The rider’s hips are right forward, almost touching the handlebars. Her body from the knees up is straight and tall, she is looking well in front of her wheel and her feet have rotated round the pedals.
If you have stiff hips you may feel this position a little uncomfortable, so build to this level over time. The important thing is to move your weight towards the front of the bike.
Obviously, it would be fairly unlikely that you’d need to ride in this position on the flat or on a descent; however, if you see the photo below you’ll see when it should actually be used is mainly in climbing steeper or possibly more technical slopes. This body position allows the front end of the bike to remain planted to the ground. It generates good power through the legs, as can be seen in the photograph and allows the bike to move freely under the rider if needed.
If the rider is too far forward for the grip levels of the surface it is possible that traction may be lost at the rear tyre. However, as the rider is standing the body and hence the rider’s weight can be moved back quickly to reweight the rear wheel and regain grip.
Position 2 (and B) – You Put Your Whole Self In
This position was covered in detail in last month’s article, but to recap, standing on the pedals, relaxed knees and bent elbows, back close to horizontal, heels dropped and head up.
This is your default position at any point you are standing, and not using one of the other positions. It allows you to move quickly and smoothly to any of the other positions as the trail requires and also allows you to absorb all manner of trail chatter.
Position 3 – Your Bum is that Shape for a Reason
An exaggerated position 2.
Again, the photo above shows an exaggerated version of the position, but it is really good to be able to practice the position to this extent to get comfortable with being well outside your normal riding position.
The photograph clearly shows the rider getting their weight back well behind the saddle. They have bent their knees to lower their centre of gravity and have extended, but importantly, not locked their arms. Heels are dropped and once more the head is up and the rider is looking well forwards. They are nearly sitting on the rear wheel, but be careful, you really don’t want to touch down on your moving tyre if you can help it, even if your bum is that shape!
So when would you use this position? Yes, that’s right, on steep descents, rolling drop offs etc. If you look at the photo below you will see that the rider’s position is less exaggerated and more suited to the angle of the slope that is being ridden. Obviously, the steeper the slope the more pronounced the change in the rider’s position relative to the bike.
Position 3 best used on steeper descents.
Position A – You Put Your Whole Self Out
Position A – detaching from the bike.
So we’ve covered the front to back positions, now it’s time for the side to side positions. As I’ve mentioned above, it doesn’t matter if position A is left or right of the bike, all that matters is that it is to the opposite side from position C.
In this case I’ll follow my diagram and position A will be to the rider’s left. The rider is off the saddle again, her left foot is down her left elbow is bent and her right elbow almost straight. Her right leg is bent over the cross bar and her hips have moved to the left side of the bike. Her upper body however is in almost the normal riding position for position 2, or B. Her head is up and she is looking forward and obviously delighted to be practicing her skills.
This position and position C, which is a mirror image of position A, are slightly harder for most people to get right in practice I have found. To a greater or lesser extent we are all used to, and comfortable, moving front to back on our bikes. However, moving side to side is something completely alien to many riders.
This position will mainly be used in faster flat or off camber corners where the rider wants to keep their body vertical but wants to generate traction and grip on the edge of their tyres to deal with the centrifugal forces of cornering. See the photo below for an example.
Position B (and 2) – You Put Your Whole Self In (Again)
Really just as described and shown for position 2 above.
Position C – You put Your Whole Self Out (the other side)
A mirror image of what is described for position A. Everything holds true, just substitute left for right and you’ll have it. Or at least that’s the theory. The reality is that everyone will probably be better at one side, or at least more comfortable to one side, than the other. Why? Because we all have a chocolate or favoured foot which we tend to lead with and this translates to some extent into our dropped foot and which corners we find easiest. I would expect most people to probably find cornering to the left and detaching from the bike to position C easier than the other side.
Get Your Moves On
I’d really encourage you to practice these positions and become uber comfortable with moving around on your bike. It is easier to practice on a gentle down slope that has a relatively smooth surface. This allows you to concentrate on striking the pose, rather than on keeping the bike moving. Remember to cover your brakes though. Have fun with this practice, if you are out as a group take it in turns to shout a random number (1 to 3) or letter (A to C) and try to get into the position as quickly and smoothly as possible and exaggerate the movement.
The Theory of Relativity
Now I run the risk of confusing you! In practicing these moves as I have described above, you are mainly moving relative to the bike, particularly on the forward to back positions (1 & 3) However, as you will have seen from the photos of those positions being used in a real setting, it is actually the bike that moves relative to the rider as the slope dictates. The rider is trying to keep their weight passing through a point midway between both heels. I appreciate that this may not make sense and without actually seeing it in action it is difficult to explain well, but the photos with annotations below may help.
Note the line between the centre of the hubs matches the slope and the vertical line is the riders centre of mass passing through a point mid way between their heels.
By Jim Barron
Chief Instructor & Coach