Slamming into berms?

Hey Lee,

I was at Sol Vista a few weeks ago and had a question about proper technique for max speed/smoothness/what-have-you. There are a lot of berms that have what seems like a jump or bump leading up to them. If you go even moderately fast, it seems pretty much impossible to entirely suck up the bump. So, I figures proper technique would be to pre-jump the lip, land on the backside and pump into the berm. However, I saw some people who appeared to be much faster than I am (at least they were clearing long tables that I couldn’t) who looked like they were just blasting off of the initial bump and slamming into the berm.

What’s the right way to do it?

Thanks, Scott

Hey Scott,

What a cool question. This begs for video analysis, but — alas — I can’t get to SolVista today.

I appreciate your inclination to suck up the rollers then pump the backsides into the berms. That seems like the smoothest, most consistent way to go. I would definitely start with that approach.

Sometimes you’re going too fast, and the bump is too big, and you have to let fly. I’d still try to suck up the jumps as much as possible and engage with the berms as early as possible. I’d also look at all possible lines: Is there a path that minimizes the bump and serves you more smoothly into the corner?

These days more and more riders are using the suspension to slam into berms then redirect in new directions. The more travel you have, the more your bike can absorb the impact energy then return it in a controlled way. Call it “new-new-school riding.” A skilled rider on a DH bike can slam a berm pretty hard (and come out with tons of energy/speed).

That said, “hitting” and “slamming” are seldom the fastest/best ways to ride. In one moto clinic I took, the teachers were emphatic: “We don’t slam into the turn. We don’t hit the throttle. … We send it into the turn, and we roll the throttle.” Underneath the seeming violence of the pro MXers was a beautiful smoothness, a real poise.

The right way is the way that works best for you. I say start by smoothly engaging with and disengaging from the berms. Play with compressing the bike harder and harder into the berms, then using that energy to redirect in new directions. As that feels more comfortable, try hitting the berm quicker and harder — until you’re blasting off the bump, slamming into the berm then shooting off in the new direction.

So fun.


— Lee

I’m sure there’s some great video of DHers slamming turns. Anyone want to post a link? Maybe from the Fort William World Cup?

Know more. Have more fun!

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3 replies
  1. Matt says:

    There is some berm smashing in this video!

    Concerning which way is better…When Stevie Smith was filming for the video, Follow Me by anthill productions, they asked him to smash the berms on the trail-they wanted drifty action to massive roost explosions as he slid into the berm. He couldn’t do it. Stevie is a word class DH rider, and he simply wasn’t used to riding berms in that way. It wasn’t the fastes way to ride them. Every shot he would ride through the berm at an astounding speed, using every bit of it to make the turn rather than coming in hot, compressing the bike and pivoting in one little piece of it. It wasn’t what the photographers were looking for, but was it fast? You bet. Slamming berms has its place though, berms that are short in radius, or have little hight beg for a slam or two. My 2 cents.

  2. Jakub says:

    To Scott – did you think about manualling, getting front wheel over the bump and pumping on its backside? I use it pretty often when there is a single roller to hurdle, and it has never let me down.

    I’ve got a problem with FAST turning on tight berms that have little radius and a steep rail (is it a right name to profiled berm? I mean sth like in BMX RC or some 4x tracks). I actually have no problem with riding these (counter-steering, turning with hips, looking throughout the berm – all familiar to me), but they slow me down a lot. Is there any magic technique to carry speed (or even accelerate)?

  3. cmc says:

    Yeah Jakub is right . . . If I imagine what you’re talking about at Sol Vista (I was there last summer and rode Silky Johnson as many times as I could in one day) . . you pick up your front wheel so it doesn’t hit the roller at all, then you place it on the backside of the roller. It’s a real common bmx technique.

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