No longer the sole preserve of the BMX track, berms are increasingly cropping up on trails around the country. Built well, and tackled with the right technique, they make it possible to negotiate corners with little or no braking — allowing you to maintain speed and flow throughout a section of trail. Above all, though, they are great fun, which brings us neatly to our first piece of advice; don’t forget to smile!
For this demonstration, Andrew chose this relatively tight radius 180-degree berm on Laggan’s Wolftrax trail. It may look easy, but to maintain his speed on the relatively flat terrain, Andrew has to negotiate the corner perfectly.
Use your approach to assess your speed and the severity of the corner. You’ve only got a short time to make this calculation and modulate your speed before initiating the turn. Braking through the corner is a no-no, because the bike will want to right itself, meaning you’ll run wide. Once you’ve got all your braking done, keep a finger covering each lever just in case.
Keep your eyes fixed on the line you want to take through the berm. In most cases the best option is to enter slightly above the centre line of the banking. Too low and you’ll hit all the loose gravel that’s been swept off the surface, and you won’t get any traction benefit from the camber. Stray too close to the top though, and you’re left with little option to adjust your line if you’re going too fast. There’s also a risk that the dirt could crumble as this is always the weakest part of the berm.
Tight berms can be ridden with the inside foot off the pedal, motocross style. This allows you to really force your weight through the outside pedal via the tyres into the dirt. You can also stomp a foot on the ground to regain balance should your tyres begin to slide.
A sharp hairpin berm following a high-speed straight can be tackled with a similar technique, but rather than doing all of your braking before the corner, use the berm to help slow down. Enter the corner fast, and brake hard, slamming or sliding the bike into the banking and pulling back off the camber in the direction of the next straight. This technique is often referred to as ‘squaring off’ a corner.
For the full article, pick up a copy of MBR on 07/02/2007