Basic ATV Cornering Techniques to have You Riding Like a Pro

Cornering is a fun, but somewhat difficult maneuver often implemented by people racing ATVs or by more experienced ATV riders just having fun out on the trail. In the ATV world, cornering is a term that describes a maneuver of taking a very sharp turn at a high velocity by oversteering the ATV.  It typically involves entering a turn while accelerating, braking until the apex of the turn and then accelerating out of the turn.

There is definitely an art to cornering.  There are also several different techniques and personal preferences for how to effectively corner in an ATV.  This page is about basic cornering skills. By getting your technique right, you can quickly learn to nail those corners with speed and ease. From there, you can work on more advanced technique and developing your own personal style that works best for the way you ride.

When you are first learning to corner an ATV, it is better to slow your speed down to focus on the correct technique rather than trying to go all out copying the movements of professional racers and throwing your body all over the place. Over time the speed will come and you will end up being able to corner much faster than if you just learned going as fast as possible without focusing on the right technique and skill.

Just like any other aspect of riding, you need to actually think about what you’re doing rather than just going through the motions. You should break every part of cornering down into steps while you’re riding and practice each step until you get it right. If you can, practice on one particular corner and keep hitting it over and over so you get some kind of momentum going behind your efforts.

It is also important to realize that your technique is going to vary depending on the type of ATV you are riding.  Racing ATVs are all going to have clutches and be fully manual, which will you to take full advantage of all the techniques discussed herein, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get good at cornering in more consumer level basic ATVs, which  may not have clutches and could be automatic or semi-automatic. If you have a consumer level ATV like most people reading this article, just recognize you may not be able to take full advantage of all the advice, but you can still implement all the other techniques, improve your abilities and have fun cornering your ATV.


Obviously, the first step in the cornering technique is approaching the turn.  This could be a corner on a cross-country or motocross track, a tree you are going around or just a bend in a trail.

When approaching the turn, you should be in a slight crouch with your rear end off the seat just a little, and with your body weight shifted back towards the rear. This position puts you in the best position as it prepares you for when you hit the front and rear brakes since there will be more of your weight over the rear wheels where it is going to be needed.

Your arms should be resting on the handlebars, which will provide plenty of weight for pushing the braking front tires into the dirt. If you are riding on smoother track conditions such as you would find on a track or speedway, you can stay seated and just slide your weight toward the back of your ATV to get better rear braking.

As are in your approach, you need to avoid the temptation to start coasting.  You want to stay on the gas hard until the last possible moment when you start applying your brakes.  This is probably the scariest part of cornering and the most difficult to learn as it is a very uneasy feeling to be accelerating at faster speeds into a turn, which often is surrounded by dangerous conditions if you can’t manage to stay on the trail.  Even when you are first beginning, make sure you are learning to continue your acceleration. To do this, begin practicing at lower speeds as you go into the corner. Rather than accelerating to 30 miles per hour and then coasting to 15 miles per hour before the turn, approach the turn at 10 miles per hour and accelerate up to 15 miles per hour before braking.

There are basically two ways to approach a corner on an ATV.   

The first method is to come in tight to the inside and going straight to the outside, and then making a quick abrupt turn.  This method is called “squaring it off.”

The second method is to come in wide and follow the outside edge of the turn with more momentum. This method is called “rounding it off.”

Whether you square off or round off a turn depends on a number of factors.  If you are racing an ATV, it will depend on if you are going for a pass or holding someone off, and if you are on the trail, where the next obstacle happens to be and what the trail conditions are. If the answer isn’t obvious, there is not much advice we can give you for which method to employ, just trust your gut and read the situation as best you can.  The more you practice, the better you will be able to tell which method of cornering is appropriate for each situation.


As stressed above, you should stay on the gas hard until the last possible moment and then, at the same time, be applying the brakes to the maximum. Put another way, the order of business while entering a corner is full throttle, chop throttle, and at the same time full brakes, with no coasting!

The biggest key to cornering as fast as possible is to do most of your braking while travelling in a straight line.  This is because the brakes are most effective when the ATV is travelling straight.

This is where things get a little more complicated, depending what type of ATV you are riding.  If you are cornering with a high-performance ATV, there are more steps you can take to more effectively corner.  This comes into play by using the throttle in combination with the clutch.

While there are different techniques that can be used, most ATV racers pull in the clutch and make their downshifts while they are doing the initial braking, while, at the same time, keeping the revs up with the throttle. It isn’t until the middle of the turn, called the apex, where you start to feed out the clutch, feeling for the rear wheels to get traction before applying full throttle.


The apex of the corner is the middle point where you transition from going into the turn to exiting out of the turn, back into acceleration mode.  

You want to continue applying the brakes until you have cleared the apex of the corner and are in a position to accelerate again.  Some professional ATV racers even like to drag the front brake slightly in the middle of a corner to get more traction for turning.

When you are squaring off a corner, the key is to stay hard on the rear brake as you start the turn with the handlebars, thereby allowing the ATV to spin around in what is called a “brakeslide.” 

Brakesliding is another cornering technique that you should know and practice.  To effectively brakeslide, you want to enter the corner wide and fast just like any other type of cornering. When you get to the apex of the corner where you can turn your ATV in the direction you want to go, you will turn your handlebars and wheels in that direction.  At the same time you turn the ATV, you hit the front brake hard, and open the throttle. When done properly, this will cause your rear tires to lose traction from the ground. The momentrum from turning will spin your back end around. Once the back end has spun around to where you want it, release the brake and hammer on the gas. Don’t be surprised if your ATV fishtails a bit as you finish this maneuver–just steer into the skid and you will keep going where you want to go. The result is your quad turning quickly around an obstacle without losing much speed. Since you actually want to lose traction when brakesliding, you will want to shift more of your body weight to the front of the ATV, taking the weight off the back tires so they lose traction easier.

Most of these moves at the apex are done with the clutch in and the throttle revved.


Before accelerating out of the turn, you want to move your body weight to the front of the ATV, leaning toward the inside of the ATVas well.  This will give the front end of the ATV a good bite into the dirt, keeping the ATV from hiking up on the outside two wheels, which is both unsafe and slow.   Because you are trying to flip the ATV around quickly, it is important that you shift your weight quickly as you initiate the turn. In addition to leaning your body to the inside of the turn, it is helpful to rise up slightly on the footrests and rotate your hips.

Once again, it is impossible to give precise directions on how far forward and to the inside you should put your weight.  It is going to depend on many factors, including the surface in the corners, the type of tires you are running on your ATV, and the width of your ATV.

For more narrow ATVs, you will have to hang off the ATV more than if you have a wider ATV designed for racing.  On a smoother trail or track, where the outside rear tire is searching for traction, you will not want to be hanging off nearly as much. Feeling and knowing just how far forward and off the side you need to be will only come with more experience. Eventually, it will feel natural and your instincts will guide you through.  Until then, just keep practicing.

While it may be tempting, when you are first learning to corner, to hang way off the side of your ATV to counter the momentum of your ATV, it is not really necessary.  I know I used to hang off with my outside leg in the air, probably looking like an idiot, but in watching professional ATV racers, I noticed how subtle the weight transfers are when they corner.   Rather than throwing their body weight all around, the professional racers keep their weight very low to the ATV, shifting their weight very smoothly and deliberately, feeling what the ATV is doing where where weight is needed to keep the traction.


We have discussed already what you need to be doing with shifting your weight as you exit the corner, but I want to tie it together in one big picture.  As you are exiting the corner, you need to deal with three things: (1) keeping traction on the rear tires, (2) getting your ATV pointed straight down the trail or track, and (3) keeping the front end of your ATV down (wheelies a lot less fun on an ATV compared to a dirt bike!).

The keys to effectively accomplish these goal of exiting the corer are weight transfer, as discussed above, and throttle control.  As you come around the apex of the corner, you will want to ease the clutch out with lots of revs to the point where you feel the rear tires are about to lose traction.  This technique will get you maximum drive so, as soon as you get the ATV pointed down the trail or track, you can hammer the throttle all the way down to give it as much speed as possible.

Having weight firmly on the handle bars will keep the front end of your ATV down, but you also need to worry about losing the traction in your rear wheels.  To avoid this, you need to slide your rear end to the back of the ATV. This is a delicate balancing technique that will take a lot of practice to get to where you can keep your upper body weight on the front end of the ATV and your lower body weight on the rear end of the ATV.  If the weight gets off in either of these areas, you will kill your speed and the whole purpose of cornering. In addition, popping a wheelie or losing the traction on your back ties can prove extremely dangerous for an inexperienced rider.



  • Focus on keeping your weight low to the ground;
  • Practice braking as hard as you can while traveling in a straight line until you can control the ATV and your body;
  • Try to hang off the side of your ATV as little as possible;
  • Put practice time into both squaring off and rounding off, as well as brakesliding;
  • Work on easing the clutch out to gain extra traction; and
  • Practice controlling your body weight while distributing it to both the front end and rear of the ATV at the same time.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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