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When you’re new to mountain biking or even for seasoned riders, there can be many aspects that are challenging. From the long, steep climbs, getting over technical features, that whole cardio thing, etc., but one thing that is key to taking your riding to the next level is learning how to properly ride a berm (a banked turn). Even some riders who have been biking for years still haven’t mastered the elusive berm so we’re going to break down some of the essential things to keep in mind for tackling these turns. There are a bunch of advanced techniques that will be necessary to learn, but we’re going to start with the basics for now.
1. Start with trails you’re familiar with: Of course, you can and should practice proper technique everywhere and all the time, but it’s helpful to practice proper cornering in a place where you’re familiar with the trails and know what’s coming next. That way, you can get prepared for each turn and don’t have the whole surprise aspect of not knowing what’s ahead. Flowy, machine made trails are great for practicing berm technique but you can do this elsewhere too.
2. Stay low and loose: When you’re approaching the berm, have your tush up and out of the saddle and your elbows and knees bent in an athletic position, so you’re ready to move and groove through the berm. If you’re locked and stiff, you won’t be able to turn smoothly.
3. Break before the turn: You don’t want to enter the berm going too fast and have to slam on the brakes mid turn because you could lose traction and get out of control. When you’re learning the proper technique, brake gently before the turn so you can go through it smoothly. You don’t want to be going too slowly either, so find a happy medium speed you’re comfortable with so you can practice these tips and get the feel for the proper technique.
4. Look where you want to go: As with biking or most sports in general, one of the most important things is to “keep your head up and look where you want to go,” says enduro racer, Clair Sick. If you look down, chances are you might end up there. It’s essential that you’re looking ahead and to what’s next. This sounds simple but it’s more challenging than it seems for new riders, where the tendency is to look down right in front of the tire.
5. Rotate your hips: Once you’re starting to feel more comfortable riding berms, the next tip is to rotate your hips in the direction you want to go, along with your head and gaze. Clair recalls advice she got when learning the technique: “envision you have lasers coming out of your belly button and point them toward the exit of the berm…it sounds crazy, but to this day, I remember this and it forces me to rotate my hips.” However you want to remember to do this, doing so will help you through the berm and to have a smooth exit.
There are a lot of other techniques for how to ride a berm that cover berm entry and exit points, assessing the severity/steepness of the corner, foot positioning and pressure, line selection, etc. but these are some good basic ones to get started with. Once you master these, you can move on to some more advanced techniques.