Sometimes while riding you’ll find yourself in situations where the bike isn’t exactly pointing the direction you need it to be. You missed a turnoff, your buddy broke down behind you, or you want to go back and hit that killer section or climb again! Being able to turn your bike around efficiently will save you time, energy, and let’s be honest, it looks a lot cooler than going all hulk mode just to get it pointed in another direction. In this post, I show you 8 ways to efficiently turn your bike around from the most basic ways, to some very advanced techniques!
#1: Full Lock Turn
The most basic, yet sometimes humbling way to turn your bike around. This technique is used on wide trail or roads. It is an essential part of riding in general, yet I don’t feel it’s emphasized enough! To do this maneuver, you simply need to stand on the pegs, open up or spread out your knees, turn the bars to the stop, and lean the bike in the direction you are turning. Make sure your hips and butt are as far to the outside of the turn as possible. You need to utilize your body weight as a counter balance to keep the bike from falling over. Apply your weight down onto the outside foot/footpeg. It takes quite a bit of practice to master this as you are needing to precisely and smoothly control throttle, clutch, balance, and sometimes braking to successfully make the turn in a tight space. It isn’t the most practical way to turn around due to its limitations on required trail width, but it’s nice to have ready when it’s an option!
#2: Kickstand Pivot
This is one of the easiest techniques! It works best when on a medium width, flat trail. Simply get off your bike on the side your kickstand is on, drop the kickstand, and pull the bike toward you to balance it. Once you’ve found the balance point, you can easily pivot the bike in any direction. The downfall to this technique is that it of course requires you to get off your bike. It also puts a lot of stress on your kickstand, so be careful not to break it off. It’s also hard to perform on uneven terrain, as it will restrict your ability to even lower the kickstand to begin with. Ruts, off-camber hills, and rocky surfaces will pose as a challenge. Use this as a last resort, there are better options to come!
#3: Foot Down Donut
This one is fairly simple and quite fun! There are two ways to do it. First way is to put a foot down, lean the bike far over with the bars turned in the same direction. Support the weight with your inside arm and foot. Open up the throttle a little, then dump the clutch to break the rear tire free. This will cause the rear end to slide out and whip around. While doing this, you will have to apply resistance to the bars and pull them toward you to maintain control and keep the maneuver tight. You don’t want the bike to take control of you! This is best used for very fast direction changes in medium to wide trails. When you get comfortable with it, practice sliding the rear end by locking the rear brake for the first 90 degrees or so of the turn. Then release the rear brake, dump the clutch while applying throttle, and complete the rest of the rotation. This same technique can be done but with both feet on the ground next to the bike. Rest the seat up against your hip and use your body as a pivot anchor for the bike to turn around. People who aren’t comfortable supporting all of the bikes weight on one leg, or those who can’t reach the ground may find it best to do it this way. Of course, you lose that quickness by having to get off the bike.
#4: The Fishhook
You tried your hardest to get up that loamy hill but now you’re stuck somewhere short of the top. Turn off or stall the bike leaving it in gear. Hold your rear brake if possible as well so you don’t roll backwards right away. When ready, turn your bars to one side. Put your foot down on that same side and lean the bike slightly. Slowly release the rear brake and/or pull in the clutch to allow the bike to start rolling back. Apply rear brake and/or release the clutch as needed to control rollback speed. Once the bike has rotated about 90 degrees or more, you can point the front wheel downhill and continue to roll forward. Work on doing this in one smooth motion if possible. Utilize balance and control to conserve energy. This technique can of course be done without shutting the engine off, but when learning it, I think it’s best to eliminate that variable. Be careful about using the front brake! You want to prevent the front wheel from locking up so that it can roll and change the direction of your bike. If you lock the front wheel, the bike won’t turn and you’ll slide straight back, losing control of the bike!
#5: The Roll Up
When practiced often and done properly, this technique requires the least amount of effort. You utilize gravity, the power from the motor, and hand controls. You’re in a position where you don’t quite have enough space to use the previous methods. Perhaps some trees are in the way and require precise wheel placement to make the turn around. Provided that there is an incline on one side of the trail (left), turn the bike into the slope (left), and roll your front wheel up it. The bike should be about 90 degrees rotated from where you started by the time your front wheel reaches a point that allows for a sufficient backwards roll. Once it reaches that point, let it roll back as you then turn the bars the opposite way (right). The front end will roll around and point you the other direction from where you started. It’s pretty much a 3 point turn like in a car but you use the hill as your “reverse gear”. This technique requires lots of throttle, clutch, and balance control. I recommend not using your brakes. You want your feet down as a safety net in case you lose balance. If you grab your front brake while rolling backwards as the bars are turned, the wheel will lock up and you will most likely dump the bike. Use smooth clutch and throttle to control your roll back and forward momentum. Again, practice doing all of this in one smooth motion.
#6: Step Pivots
You all know what the pivot turn is. This is its baby cousin and a great thing to practice to work up to the real thing. Although I’m comfortable doing pivot turns in almost any situation, I use this one very often when traction is unpredictable and consequences are high. Plant one foot down on the side you want to turn to. Using small blips of throttle and clutch, begin working the front wheel over in small bites. This allows you to precisely plant the front wheel on rocks, or maneuver it around and over other obstacles. This technique requires an advanced level of clutch and throttle control. I recommend planting your left foot down whenever possible so you can also utilize your rear brake as a catch or rest between movements. Of course, that only works if you are rotating to the left, or counter-clockwise. For right handed steps, you’ll have to deal with no access to your rear brake as you’ll need your right foot on the ground to prevent loss of balance. This works great in tight off camber sections, where precise and controlled motions are necessary. When in those steep off camber scenarios, you’ll want to be sure to always have a foot down on the upside of the hill. This requires you to switch your foot position once you’ve passed the first 90 degrees of rotation. Reaching a foot out for the downhill side will likely result in you not being able to touch the ground, therefore causing a tip and tumble!
#7: The Pivot Turn
The moment you’ve all been waiting for! This is by far the most versatile and effective technique to turn a bike around. It can be used on roads, quad trail, single track, flats, off-camber, rocks, you name it! That versatility comes with a price though. It is the most challenging practical method to learn and applying it requires absolute confidence and control. It would require a whole post and video to explain this technique. It is the combination of many individual bike control skills mixed into a barrel of practice time and dedication. Please realize that for most, this one doesn’t come easy. Be patient with it. Control is key. Practice getting the front wheel up so you can balance on the rear without motion. The actual pivot can be performed without the motor even running. It comes quite naturally once you lock onto that balance point! I’m not going to dive deep into how to do this one, it’s not reasonable to try to explain it over text. Sorry!
#8: The Floater
No, we aren’t talking about what’s in the toilet here…Just a bonus fun way to turn around. Its not all that practical but Instagram loves to see it! The only real application I can see it being used in is a super steep switchback or a trials course but the setup has to be perfect. It requires a steep embankment to lift and change the direction of the front wheel. In unfamiliar terrain, you’re taking a gamble with this one. The idea is to utilize your forks, compressing them into the embankment. As they release, you throw your weight to the outside and give a blip of clutch and throttle. This provides a quick rebound and changes the direction of the bike. Turning left is easiest because it allows you to maintain rear brake control as your body contorts to the side of the bike.