Learning to ride berms well is a key mountain bike skill, once mastered it will unlock effortless speed and zen-like flow on the trails. In this tutorial, we’re going to take you from novice to an expert berm rider in no time!
Berms are turns that have dirt banked up around the turn to give the rider support. Berms are one of the most common trail features that can be found at most bike parks and trail centers. The purpose of berms is to provide extra grip and support for your tires and can ultimately help the rider flow much better through the trail. Once you have learned to ride berms correctly you can actually use berms to generate speed and improve flow.
Note: The goal of riding berms well is to carry speed into the next section of the trail with confidence and flow. A berm-ridden well often feels like being you’re being fired out into the next section of the trial.
How To Ride Berms Like A Pro
Step 1: Brake early
You should NEVER brake in turns, and definitely not berms. It’s good practice to start the berm much slower than you need and get into the habit of not braking. Then slowly increase the speed, you should feel the tires supported in the berm without losing speed. Remember always cover the brakes with one finger in case you desperately need to brake quickly.
Step 2: Choose your line
Berms come in all shapes and sizes, however, as a general rule, it’s often good to pick a high line on entry to reduce the amount of turning you’re doing. However, some berms are long and high speed which don’t offer much line choice, whereas other berms will have obstacles like holes, roots, and rocks (which are best avoided if possible). If the berm has good support all around the turn, try to use ALL the berm making the turning curve as shallow and as smooth as possible.
As you gain more confidence and speed you will naturally start to ride higher up the berm where it’s often steeper, the centrifugal force will keep you glued to the berm and fire you out the other side.
Step 3: Spot the exit at the beginning of the turn
Always, always focus your attention on the exit of the turn, at the turn at the beginning of the turn. Looking at the exit will help naturally put your body into the correct position, and will help prepare you for what is coming next.
Step 4: Set your body position and weight
Your body position should depend on the type of berm:
Long fast berms–
On longer/faster berms you will only make slight alterations from the default attack position. The main thing to focus on is leaning the bike into the berm, keeping around 60-70% of your weight over the front wheel to help improve grip. Also, remember to hold your arms strong with your elbows out.
Short tight berms–
Come into the berm high, and turn your hips around the turn before you hit the turn. Try to do this in combination with leaning the bike into the turn. This combination will help put the tires on their turning edges to give improved grip and also prepare you for any slides. Another tip is to push down on your heels down in the apex of the turn, this should also help drive the tires even more into the dirt providing grip when you need it the most.
Fast tight bike park berms–
Fast bike park berms are normally very hardpacked and don’t offer as much grip. So it’s also worth moving your hips around the turn, but be careful how much you lean the bike
Flat/loose berms- Flat berms are berms that don’t offer much or any support. These berms you should ride similar to a flat turn – lightly leaning the bike into the turn, with 10% of your weight on the outside pedal. This should help drive the tire into the dirt for grip, and allow you to dab your inside foot should the bike start to slide.
Step 5: Prepare for the exit
Once you’re about to hit the apex of the turn you should be well and truly prepared/looking for what lays ahead after the berm. You should be ready to shift your weight from the over the handlebars back into the attack position, with your pedals level.
Questions and answers
How do you ride berms on a mountain bike?
The basic technique to ride a berm on a mountain bike is to: brake, choose your line, look for the exit, lean the bike, and move back into attack position for the exit. If you practice these basic skills you will be shredding berms in no time!
How do you ride a tight berm on a mountain bike?
Riding tight berms is all about moving your hips around the turn before you start turning. You should combine this with leaning the bike and putting most of your weight on your outside pedal.
How do you ride loose berms?
When riding loose berms it’s important to keep focused on the exit from before you start the turn. Also try to keep most of your weight on your outside pedal, which should help drive the tires into the ground, and help you dab the inside foot should the bike start to slide.
What does berm mean?
In relation to mountain biking/BMX and motocross, a berm is a banked turn designed to give the rider support in the turn. A berm can also mean a narrow shelf, path or ledge, or the should or a road.
Other skills you may be interested to learn :
- How To Wheelie A Mountain Bike | MTB Skills Guide
- How To Bunny Hop On A Mountain Bike | MTB Skills
- How To Manual A Mountain Bike | MTB Skills
- How To Ride Roots On a Mountain Bike | MTB Skills
Redbull has a good video on how to ride berms here