Switchbacks’ sharpness, steepness, and exposure turn flowy riders into wigged-out stickmen. But remember: Switchbacks are nothing more than tight, steep corners.
Slow WAY down for downhill switchbacks. As you drop through the turn, you want to reach a happy speed, not scare yourself into an unfortunate braking incident.
You almost always want a late apex. For a downhill left switchback, slow down, enter to the far right, square the turn against the bank (see, it’s like a little berm), and drop through to the exit. Early apexes can be deadly—that outside exit line tends to be a cliff.
Do everything right. Low, look, lean, turn—it’s all more important than ever.
Use the ruts. When a rain channel cruises around the outside of a wide switchback, rail it just like a berm. When the rut carves a tight line across the inside, drop your rear tire into the rut and track your brakeless front tire around the outside of it. When the rut runs around the outside of a tight switchback, let your rear tire follow it and steer to the inside. A little rear brake keeps your rear meat in the track (only on closed courses, of course).
Pull out a foot. Sometimes it pays to drop your inside foot and whip your bike around a super-tight corner. Steep exits bring you right back up to speed. In flat exits, you’ll lose some time finding your pedal. The San Juan Trail in southern California has dozens of steep switchbacks. When we follow people down and they pull their feet into the turns, they might gap us a little, but we’re back on their tails within two strokes.