From Scotland to Suffolk, trail centres demand a different skill set to natural rides. Here’s how to ride further, faster and safer.
Words and pics: Isaac Paddock
Trail centres are incredibly versatile places, where novices, seasoned pros and Mr and Mrs Average alike, can all have a grew time. They’re also brilliant fun, thanks to a combination of man-made features, such as berms, tabletops and rock gardens.
You can improve your experience no end by developing the techniques needed to tackle these typical trail centre features. It’s something Elliot Heap, downhill pro for Chain Reaction Cycles/Mavic, highly recommends, and regularly teaches through his other job, Ride MTB Coaching.
1. How to ride a berm
Berms are everywhere, so if there’s one technique you should learn, it’s this one. Invest some time in learning how to ride berms and you’ll carry loads more speed everywhere, with very little effort.
When you enter the berm you’ll want to focus on the exit, so don’t look at your front tyre. Lean your bike over, keep your heels dropped and push your weight into the tyres. Only drop your outside foot on flat corners, keep them level when there’s a berm or bank, and try to stay off the brakes. Keep your elbows up; you don’t want to look like your pushing a shopping trolley. If the berm is tight, a crank of the pedal can be useful when exiting to give you even more speed for the next straight.
2. How to ride a steep rock roll
Before you ride the trail, see if the centre has a skills zone to play on – these replicate all the features you’ll find on the trail.
When you’re on the trail proper, if a feature looks daunting, don’t be afraid to stop and have a look first. Just make sure you leave your bike well of the trail. This will give you time to pick the best line. Approach the rock roll at a steady speed and look ahead, preferably all the way to the exit. Drop your heels and keep your body weight low and back for stability. It’s OK to brake steadily with the back brake, just don’t snatch it as this will unsettle the bike and may lock the wheels. Let your bike carry you over the rock roll, then wonder why you never attempted it before. Keep hitting it until you get faster and smoother, and don;y forget to apply this technique to any rock roller you see on the trails.
3. How to ride a table/jump
There are plenty of places to practice jumping, because modern trails are often littered with jumps, gaps, and rollers.
Coming in to the take off, as usual you want to be looking ahead, past the landing. Compress the suspension and tyres into the take off whilst leaning back with straight arms. Once airborne, bring your body weight slightly forward and attempt to land with both wheels at the same time. The crucial thing to jumps is judging the right speed – too little and you wont clear it, too much and you’ll land flat. Practice makes perfect.