Home > Feature Stories

AASQ #146: How does cornering technique differ between Mountain Biking and MotoGP?

bikerumor aasq
Support us! Bikerumor may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question.

Welcome back to the Bikerumor Ask A Stupid Question series. We’ve got a bit of a strange one for you this week; we’re asking how cornering technique differs between Mountain Biking and MotoGP, and specifically, whether the counter-steering applied in MotoGP applies to Mountain Biking, too.

eliiot heap shralping nukeproof megawatt emtb

Of course, we’ve all seen the very Instagram-able “shralp” technique, some delicious examples of which I have collated at the foot of this article for your viewing pleasure. When the rear tire breaks traction, the rider counter-steers to exit the corner (turns the wheel in the direction opposite to that of the desired direction of travel) in order to prevent over-steer, and to prevent the front wheel from washing out too. But, what about corner initiation itself?

marc marquez repsol honda motogp racing
Marc Marquez and his brother Alex both ride a Mondraker F-Podium RR during the off season as part of their training programs; I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a mountain biker use the elbow to corner… yet.

It’s been a little difficult to find appropriate contributors for this one. While both are performed on two-wheeled vehicles, there’s no getting around the fact that they are still very, very different sports. However, I’m satisfied we have reasonable representation from both sides here; we have a mountain bike suspension tuner, who also happens to distribute suspension for motocross bikes, a former MotoGP team manager who has latterly co-founded an eMTB brand, a small Italian Suspension Manufacturer with previous experience in developing suspension for motocross bikes, as well as a much larger, more well-known suspension manufacturer who make forks and shocks for both Mountain Bikes and MotoGP bikes. They are as follows:

  • Terje Hansen, Racing Technician at Ohlins Suspension
  • Pablo Fiorilli, Owner and Engineer at Bright Racing Shocks
  • Nigel Reeve, Owner and Custom Damper Tuner at NSR Racing
  • Livio Suppo, former Ducati Corse and Repsol Honda MotoGP Team Manager, co-founder of THOK

How does cornering technique differ between Mountain Biking and MotoGP?

Bright Racing Shocks: The fundamental differences between a motorcycle on the track in general and a mountain bike lie in two factors that must be considered together:

  • In MTB, you are riding off-road; here, you are on a track that is almost always bumpy and constantly changing
    • On Track Motorbikes (like MotoGP) the track is always the same at each passage and is predictable in most of its aspects because it is unchanged. However, the trajectory chosen by the driver in the same corner can change
bright racing shock f929 next enduro mtb fork
Credit: Blair Kemp
  • In MTB, the relationship of the weight between the bike and the rider means that the rider’s mass is the one that must be supported
    • On Track Motorbikes (like MotoGP) the proportion of the mass between the rider and the motorcycle means that the latter is decisive in the choice of trajectories, for example

In other words, an MTB (like a downhill bike) can be moved at the last moment by the rider to force a particular passage. It is not possible to carry out this type of maneuver on the motorcycle.

bright racing shock enduro mountain bike fork inverted design
We are currently testing the Bright Racing Shocks F929 NEXT Enduro Mountain Bike Fork; it is designed to run a negligible amount of static sag. Credit: Blair Kemp.

When preparing a suspension fork for off-road riding, especially enduro or downhill mountain biking, the huge variability of the track must be taken into great consideration. It must be able to guarantee the rider a certain degree of handling. At BRIGHT, for example, we study in great detail the aspect of Sag management in order to create sensitive stresses even with a reduced static sag. This means that the rider is able to interpret the terrain and the trajectories with greater scope for improvisation, as they have a very reactive suspension fork at their disposal.

For off-road riding, precisely because of the variability of the track, the compromises to be made are very important to ensure great performance.

NSR Racing: Generally speaking, in theory, they are similar – weight the outside pedal/footpeg, apply counter-steer pressure to the inside hand grip, rotate the hips and position the head and torso low forwards, and towards the exit of the corner. In practice, because of the vast differences between the two sports you are not going to confuse the two positions with each other – vehicle weights, speeds, terrain, and corner radius will all combine to make sure you do not mistake your DH bike for your MotoGP bike.

alex marquez riding motogp and mondraker f-podium rr xc mtb
Alex Marquez riding his Mondraker F-Podium RR XC MTB and his MotoGP Racing Bike

THOK: The cornering technique is very different when talking Mountain Biking and MotoGP. The former is of course mostly performed off-road while the latter is a pure on-road on-asphalt activity. When cornering with a motorbike on a MotoGP or with a Bike on a MTB track you can use various techniques.

ducati corse thok emtb designer livio suppo comments on cornering technique
THOK’s Ducati Corse eMTB, designed with consultation from Livio Suppo, former MotoGP Team Manager

With the Mountain Bike you can corner using a banking or you can slide the bike on the gravel; in MotoGP you need to be super precise, you cannot ride banking against something. Also, the position on the [mountain] bike and on the motorbike is totally different, the handlebar is totally different, so let’s say that in both cases you are cornering on two wheels but it’s quite different when cornering with a Motorcycle and when with an MTB.

livio suppo discusses mtb cornering technique versus motogp
Livio Suppo is one of the founders behind the THOK brand. It is thanks to his large knowledge in the motorbike sector that the Ducati e-mtb (powered by THOK) project was born in 2019. As a matter of fact, Livio was -and still is – one of the most influential persons of the MotoGP scenario. A former Marketing Manager of Ducati Corse, from 2003 to 2009 he served as MotoGP Project Manager for the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. In 2010 he joined Honda Racing and became the first European to hold the position of Team Principal of the official HRC Repsol Honda Team. In MotoGP he has been the man behind 6 World Titles: 2 won with Casey Stoner (with Ducati in 2007 and with Honda in 2011) and 4 with Marc Marquez, with the Honda team (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017).

Ohlins: Two completely different styles of riding. A MotoGP rider is hard on the brakes before a corner, steer in, open throttle power slide or accelerate out of the corners. For MTB, since you don’t have the power from the engine it’s important to maintain speed through the whole corner which is tricky, not too fast or too slow going in because it’s your speed going into the corners that will decide the speed out of the corner.

loic bruni specialized demo ohlins prototype active mtb suspension
Ohlins has been running electronic suspension damping for years with the TTX 36 EC shock absorber seen on high-end motorbikes such as the Ducati 1199 Panigale S and Multistrada 1200S; earlier this year we spotted what could be the brand’s first attempt at electronic suspension for mountain bikes on Loic Bruni’s Specialized Demo

In MotoGP, some of the riders counter-intuitively steer away from the direction they want to travel in. Does this ever happen when cornering a mountain bike, or even a regular road bike, at high speed?

NSR Racing: Counter steering is a product of steering geometry and is used to help initiate the lean of the bike into a turn. Since both motorcycles and bicycles use the same basic concept of steering geometry this technique exists on all motorcycles and bicycles.

pole voima emtb cornering

The key difference is due to the weight difference between a 16 kg DH bike vs a 157kg MotoGP bike – the required amount of counter steer on a bicycle is barely noticeable because of the relative weight advantage the rider has over the bike, whereas the MotoGP bike has more mass in general, but also a huge amount more rotating mass (wheels, crankshaft etc.) which is rotating much faster. Therefore, the required counter steer input required to help initiate lean is more noticeable & deliberate.

THOK: If I understood correctly the question, I would say that yes, that’s true for the MotoGP but this is not a conscious movement that the rider is doing. It’s unconscious. So I would say it could be something typical of any rider on two wheels, either on a motorcycle and yes, on an MTB too.

Thok MIG E-MTB, side

Ohlins: No, in MotoGP they are sliding their bikes as a part of their cornering and therefore need to steer away.

2022 mondraker foxy carbon rr low geometry setting
The 2022 Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR is spec’d with an Ohlins RXF36 Fork and TTX Air Shock

Got a question of your own? Click here to use the Ask A Stupid Question form to submit questions on any cycling-related topic of your choice, and we’ll get the experts to answer them for you!

And now, some choice shralping and counter-steering for your viewing pleasure…

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Antoine Martin
Antoine Martin
2 years ago

Disappointing article on an interesting subject. I very consciously countersteer the mtb and i guess most decent riders do so. The main difference i guess is in the body separation. On the mtb i works very well to incline the bike a lot in the corner while on a motoGP because there is much more grip the bike looks already inclined to a geometrical max and the rider has enough grip to move his body inside so opposite of mtb where you stay atop.
Where it does become really puzzling is on the road bike because the grip is so unpredictable. What i found is low is good, put that chest as low as possible but should the bike be more inclined or the rider ? You can witness and use both techniques and it’s hard to tellwhich is the best because pushing the limit of a road bike is always a problem. A motor bike or mtb has some sliding before a crash (and mtb crash are mostly no big deal) but road bike crash are bad and mostly unpredictable.

Chris Stenger
Chris Stenger
2 years ago

Moto cross, sure, Moto GP…??? IDK… this one kinda does seem like a stupid question. 🙂

Andrew BICP
Andrew BICP
2 years ago

I agree with previous post. Disappointing article. Interesting topic.

Two wheeled vehicles turn at speed by leaning with a few exceptions. Street moto are limited in lean angle due to pegs and other parts. Center of mass must remain over tire contact (BOS) which as speed and centripital force increase, more lean is required. The rider positions their body to the inside of the turn increasing the effective lean angle. The smooth, predictable track makes this position safe enough.

The schralped turns shown poorly represent mountain bike turns. The mountain bike is not significantly limited in lean angle based on pedals and engine heads striking the ground and therefore can be leaned sufficiently. The unpredictability of the terrain is more concerning. The bike should actually be leaned way more than the body. The body is then positioned above the bike somewhat (body COM over bottom bracket) allowing the rider to adjust balance as traction slips, bumps are hit etc.

Counter steering does happen but is not the focus on the mountain bike. Correct bike lean, body bike separation and body position will handle steering without the rider micromanaging it.

2 years ago

Both sports use “bike body separation” but in opposite ways.

2 years ago

Sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more with the previous comments!! Counter steering is NOT a conscious choice, it is an automatic, subconscious and required reaction within the riding technique. If not employed when necessary, I am afraid the rider would crash!!

Also, I would like to say how interesting and thought provoking I found the article, so much so that it has sparked great debate with my friends from both the cycling and motorcycling world.

Well done Bikerumor for yet another brilliant article!

2 years ago

Should have used motocross bikes as a comparison, if you wanted a motorized vehicle.

Moto GP bikes on the track have no comparison to anything else.

Gregory Gilbert
2 years ago

This article makes absolutely no sense. I understand it’s about suspension but at the very least compare MTB suspension to MX.

2 years ago

I think in the answers to the countersteer question the experts mixed two different topics: countersteer before entering the corner, which is a proven phenomenon, completely unconscious: the rider moves the bike “away” from the corner, to initiate the lean. The other countersteering is when necessary to recover from the rear wheel slipping due to too much power being applied when exiting the corner: this rarely happens with an MTB and mainly because of too much brake rather than too much power.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.