What is an initial steering angle?
(Concept adopted from Ron LeMaster.)
As we’ve been discussing, it’s generally better to carve corners than to steer through them. But sometimes the turns are too tight, or the transitions between the turns are too short, for pure carving.
Imagine a set of perfectly interlinked corners. Their radii match the natural cornering radius of your bike, and the riding line forms a smooth, continuous wave. This is pure joy. And it’s pure carving.
If you’re a skier, this is like carving perfect turns on a blue groomed run.
Now imagine a trickier scenario. The turns are stacked close to each other, and their radii don’t meet. In this case, you need to actively steer into the entrance of each corner, then set your edges and carve through the exit. This is common on steep trails and in tight woods. The moment between turns isn’t smooth and easy like a pure carve; it requires a moment of powerful work.
If you’re a skier, this is like attacking a very steep pitch where you have to hop/turn your skis into the entrance, then set an edge and carve through the belly to the exit.
This is sometimes called a step turn:
The amount of steering you need to do before you set your carve … let’s call that the initial steering angle.
Following are three ways to create an initial steering angle, each with its own merits.