How To Turndown

How to Turndown
A true BMX classic! The Turndown remains one of the most popular and stylish tricks to date and has become a mainstay in the BMX community. Every rider has their own unique style, and the Turndown really highlights those individual characteristics.
Now, if you look online there is some controversy about who invented this trick and people discussing the differences between a Turndown vs a Lookback (more on that later), but in general most people can agree that Harry Leary really pioneered this trick. Originally called the “Leary”, the Leary would eventually evolve into what is now the modern–day Turndown.
One of the most difficult aspects of learning Turndowns is understanding the proper motions of the trick. Think about it. Look at a photo of a Turndown and it looks like the rider is halfway tangled up in the bike. So first up let’s cover the basic mechanics of the Turndown and how to get you and your bike in the correct position.
Have you ever laid down on your back while holding your bike straight up in the air? I’m pretty sure every rider has done this at some point, right? To be honest it’s more of a fun way to fantasize about learning new tricks than actually HELPING you learn new tricks, but the Turndown may be an exception. By holding the bike upside down on your back you can practice the Turndown motions in the comfort of your own home. This may give you a better understanding of the trick and how to move your legs and arms in the proper directions.
wrong direction backend bike kick

For example, one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is kicking the backend of their bike out in the wrong direction. You want to kick the bike towards your back foot, not your front foot. This allows you to get your bars in the correct position and really start clicking those Turndowns later on. If you go towards your front foot, sure you can do it, but that leg really starts getting in the way of your bars and makes things harder.

bmx bike icon
The “correct” way is to kick the backend out towards your back foot at a 90° angle while simultaneously straightening your legs out. While doing this, turn your bars 180° in your lap to where they are facing backwards. Your bars will end up against your leg or knee area. As you straighten your legs, you’ll notice your cranks turning as well, don’t fight it! Straighten your legs and let the cranks turn as they should. Practice this motion over and over to where you can easily understand how your body and bike work together.
Side and back view of trick
Once you’re comfortable with the basic motions now it’s time to try on a jump. Find a jump you’re comfortable with that gives you a decent amount of hangtime. The more time you have in the air the easier it’s going to be. You likely won’t send a full Turndown on your first few tries, if so you’re probably some sort of BMX savant. Most likely you’ll need to practice by kicking the backend of the bike out a little bit further each time. Do this while simultaneously turning your bars in further each time. Eventually the Turndown will start to take shape.
front view of bike trick

The key is to stay over the top of the bike and push your legs out as straight as possible. This allows you to turn the bars further in your lap to the proper 180° position. It will take some practice, but luckily this is a trick that you can work on at your own pace, getting further and further each time.

bmx bike icon
Now earlier I discussed Turndowns vs Lookbacks. They’re essentially the same trick, but with a Turndown you’re pointing the backend of your bike down towards the ground. On a lookback your bike is more parallel or even pointing up a little. Overall, they have the same basic mechanics. I mention this because for me personally learning Lookbacks was actually a little easier. This is due to the fact it takes a little less effort to kick the backend out to the 90° position by taking advantage of the bike’s momentum. For example, if you can find a hip to learn Lookbacks, you’ll notice you’re not having to kick the backend out as much to get in the proper position. Since you’re already turning your bike in the direction of the hip, your backend is much more willing to come around with you.
backend view of bike trick

Landing a Turndown or Lookback is the easiest part of the entire trick. Simply bring your bars and bike back forward as you naturally would. Try to land rear wheel first and roll away smooth. I would advise against wearing extra baggy shirts or tank tops with extra-large arm holes; just to keep your bars from getting snagged on your clothing.

bmx bike icon
Once you’ve mastered the basic Turndown (or Lookback) that’s where the real fun begins. Try turning those bars further and further each time, past the 180° mark as far as you can go. A nice, clicked Turndown just can’t be beat. One of the best features of the Turndown is just how versatile this trick really is. It’s a great standalone trick that requires nothing extra, but on the same hand you can do Turndowns in and out of other tricks, in spins, grinds, whatever you can think of, and that’s one of the many reasons they remain popular today to this day. Not to mention they just look really, really good when done right.
bmx rider doing an air bike trick