Hairpin (180 degree) fire road turns are one of those things which can be a whole lot of fun, or a whole lot of bad news. They are fairly common, both on race courses and fire road links on trail networks and to be honest, sometimes I don’t mind a good slide around them.
If there’s one thing we all know about fire roads, it’s that they are slippery and loose. They are also incredibly easy to overcook and end up out wide in the rough, or over the edge. Braking points and control is key, as is picking the right line. Here’s how to get it done:
Words: Jared Rando Photos: Damian Breach
Step 1: Brake early
Braking early is key to fire road turns. Look up and look for the widest possible entry and also spot the apex of the turn. Standing up and weighting the back end will assist in getting rear wheel traction down and slowing your speed. Quite often you’ll be coming in hot, so remember it’s always better to overbrake and carry speed out, rather than braking late and running wide.
Step 2: Aim for the apex
Once you have your speed washed off, look to aim for the apex of the turn. Quite often the very inside of the turn will be covered in loose rocks and ruts so it can pay to aim a little wider if need be. As you begin to corner, drop your outside leg as you get deeper into the turn and weight the bike centrally for traction. Braking any harder than a light feather will see you lose traction and wash out at this point.
Step 3: Dig deep
As you hit the apex, you should be driving through as much weight as you can to stop the bike from sliding out. Keep your inside foot ready to put down just in case it’s needed and look up to spot the exit as soon as you can. You also want to get off the brakes as soon as possible, so go as far as you are comfortable with in that regard as quickly as you can to give you a little extra traction.
Step 4: Look wide for the exit
As you exit the corner, look up and take note of just how much room you have to exit. This is a critical point which will allow you to carry much more speed out of the turn. On fire road corners, it’s really easy to over turn and not use all the room available. By spotting the wide exit line, you can let your brakes off earlier and carry more speed out of the corner.
Step 5: Run wide if you can
Use the whole corner to exit – this is critical in gaining a little extra speed. Watch Steve Pete race downhill to see the master at work on this tactic. As soon as you can, let off the brakes, run wide and carry your speed out. You’ll be surprised at just how much extra speed you can carry through by doing this – just don’t run too wide!