November 9th, 2011
From the manicured perfection of the Beijing Olympic BMX track to the upper slopes of the Fort William UCI World Cup course, the abundance of berms now means that nailing them is an essential skill.
Think of a berm as an old friend. Rarely do they cause you grief; in fact their very presence should mellow you out. Hit them right, and they can add a whole new dimension of flow to your riding.
A well-sculpted berm will allow you to change direction effortlessly and give you a bit of speed too. The flip side is that if you’re unsure of how to ride the
steep sided bank, a berm can look pretty intimidating, as it rears out of the trail ahead.
GO WITH THE FLOW
The best thing to do with a long shallow berm is to let it do the work for you. If the shape is right, the line should feel natural as the gradient holds you in place the full way around the turn. If the berm is big and open enough for you to be able to choose where to go, try and follow the idea that the steeper it is the faster you can go. So, as berms tend to steepen as they rise, a slow pace may mean that you stick to the bottom whereas, flat out, you should be looking to stick to the steeper lip near the top. Even as you hit tighter and steeper berms, you should feel like the dirt is doing all the work.
Aim to make the corner as smooth as possible. If the berm tightens towards the end, adjust your line with it. Likewise if the corner opens up, you should be easing your line out to reflect that. The more consistent your line, the more stability you’ll get and it’ll be easier to start introducing more speed.
Brakes and berms don’t really go together. In fact, the very presence of a berm should relax you and make you feel like you can keep your speed rather than having to slow down. To help with your confidence think of a berm as something positive rather than another trail obstruction. This mindset should stand you in good stead to railing the turn with prowess and skill.
The first thing that’ll happen if you pull on the brakes mid-berm is a sudden change of line. As you’re trying to get your tyres perpendicular with the dirt, any braking force will start to pull you upright making the corner a struggle to get around. Like a flat corner, if you do need to scrub some speed, do it on the way in, while everything is still upright and there’s plenty of grip available.
When you get into the berm, look for the exit. There’s not much else you need to be thinking about. The further you can look around the berm, the more you will carry your speed. Once you are comfortable with the idea that the berm is your friend it will all become easier and you’ll be able to relax and think of what to do next. Thinking a few steps ahead of yourself is the way to ride if you want to get really fast.
With the bank there to support you, it’s possible to put more weight on the front wheel than you could on less stable terrain. As you come into the berm, start putting more force through your arms, as if you’re trying to push the front tyre into the dirt. The steeper the bank you’re pushing against, the more weight you should be able to trust the front tyre with. It should all happen nice and slowly. Remember that flow we spoke about. Riding your bike is a combination of lots of different moves happening together so always let the trail, the grip and your feeling dictate how much you’re going to move. Load the front gently and progressively rather than all at once. It’s only once you start riding like this will you truly be able to notice the difference between suspension settings and contrasting tyre treads.
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
As you get more confident with hitting berms without hitting the brakes, you can start pumping them for speed. It’s incredible how much speed you can get from a berm and just how aggressively you can hit them. Ever seen the images of riders doing a power-wheelie out of a tight berm after hitting them so hard the end of their bar is almost scraping the dirt? Impressive. To begin with, shift your weight forward just like you normally would. However, this time you’re trying to coil a spring and generate inertia that can be unleashed on the exit.
To do this push into the berm harder than before and as you reach the mid-point or where the berm starts to leave you, push the bike away, like
you’re trying to do a strange manual whilst in the turn. If you get the timing right, this quick shift in weight will give you a burst of acceleration that you
will have never had before. It’s one of these things that you’ll know when you get it right.
This post was taken from: Mountain Biking The Manual by Chris Ball