Conquering berms

Make use of James Thornhill-Fisher’s extensive knowledge to help you conquer one of the most enjoyable technical challenges in mountain biking, berms.

A berm in MTB’ing is just a well profiled corner than allows a more natural riding position. It is a corner that has a banked outer edge that runs the entire length of the corner. This bank allows you to go faster through the corner. You can lean the bike and your body fully into the corner and it pushes back against your tyres giving them extra support through the corner allowing a higher speed than a similar flat corner, without losing traction. Some riders fear them, others love them. They are awesome fun to ride and can be used to speed up or if it’s a short berm you can use it to “bounce” off and change direction quickly. Now is the perfect time to master berms because the trails are damp and grippy.

Get into the Attack position (pedals level).Level pedals in a berm, especially smooth/high/grippy berms, allows for quick manoeuvring of the bike around the corner and over whoops/bumps. If it is a loose or bumpy berm, then your outside foot should be down (the foot on the upslope side), this drives your weight into the ground through the tyres and allows you to gain more traction.

Obey the golden rule of mountain biking: look ahead and as you enter the berm keep looking ahead, focusing on your exit point and then beyond. Then keep your bike perpendicular to the surface angle of the berm, the steeper the berm the more you can lean your body and bike and the faster you will go.

As you gain confidence, look for the grooved track high up on the berm. This is where the more experience riders have worn a groove and is the fastest line through the berm. Pay attention how that line winds through the berm. Some lines enter a berm low and exit high; this is generally when a berm is flat on the entrance and high on the exit. On berms like these you use your speed to carry you up the bank of the berm. However, if the berm is high on the entrance and flat on the exit, you enter high and exit low as this allows you to speed up and catapult you out and onto the trail.

Don’t brake in a berm, choose your line and speed before entering the berm. The faster you ride, the higher up on the berm you’ll ride. Your line will depend on the speed you enter the berm and the angle/shape of the berm.

Keep your arms wide and elbows up and pointing out. Stay relaxed and hold your ‘lean’ all the way through the berm. Remember: practice, practice, practice, and have fun.

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