We've all been in arguments that, regardless of whether we were right or wrong, we knew we wouldn't ever be able to win. Maybe you spent fifteen minutes trying to convince the cop that his radar gun surely has to be malfunctioning; maybe you know about the lizard people, that the earth isn't actually round, and that all of the answers lie just beyond the ice wall; maybe you're of the opinion that dinosaurs are so obviously a hoax. I mean, since when do lizards turn into birds, right? You see, we'll all argue to the death about something or other that we think we're right about even though we're most definitely, positively, unquestionably wrong. And what about me? Maybe I'm convinced that berms are dumb.
Whoah, hold on on just a minute right there, you're probably thinking: how can anyone say that berms, those sculpted mounds of soil that manage to make every rider feel like a gifted pro, are "dumb"?
Yeah, I know full-well that I'm in the minority on this one, likely a lonely opinion out of a few hundred thousand mountain bikers who feel the opposite as I do, and that's okay. It's not like I truly despise berms; those arching piles of dirt never did anything untoward to me, and I'm sure they've saved my ass more times than I know about. But do we really need berms on nearly every
single corner that we go around? I love ice cream, too, but my teeth will fall out and I'll get diabetes if I put down a pail of the stuff every single day. However, eating a bowl or two per week won't send my blood sugar levels into the red zone, and I'll appreciate that frozen goodness even more because I'm not downing a pound of it each day. I might want to, yes, but I won't. I don't think.
Now, I'm not a doctor, but I will concede that berms probably won't give me diabetes, but when there are enough of them that they don't feel all that special anymore or, worse yet, they begin to take away from a trail's original identity, I start to get a bit unenthusiastic about what should be one of the most smile-inducing features on a trail.
Berms can be face-meltingly fun, but they can't be the damn solution for any corner that presents a challenge, can they? Crazy as it may sound, I don't think that the answer is to simply build a banked wall of dirt, no matter how much fun said walls of dirt can be.
I'll happily admit that pulling Gs through a massive berm is a sensation unlike any other, one of invincibility that makes you feel as if you could do no wrong. But that's part of the problem: you can almost do no wrong when you're sailing through a berm. That perfectly angled pile of dirt is doing the work for you, and that's quite an amazing thing in the right place and at the right time, but it shouldn't be every damn place and time, should it? No, of course not.
If nearly every corner had a berm on it, they'd be like what Tinder is to meeting potential partners: often a near meaningless encounter that, while sometimes fun, doesn't stand the test of time. Much like Tinder, or whatever dating app you might have on your phone, berms make it easy to feel like you have more skill (or charm, in the case of dating) than you actually possess. You can see what's coming, the line you need to use, and you probably know the likely outcome as well, which is often a slam dunk of sorts, be it railing through that berm or, well, whatever you consider a Tinder slam dunk to be. It's easy, and almost anyone with some common sense and one iota of skill or charm can pull it off.
To me, a rooty, loose, or off-camber and completely unaided corner, when ridden well, makes carving that Tinder-inspired berm seem not so special. The former is digging deep for the courage and charm to take the risk and ask out your crush face to face; the latter is, at least to me, sending a cheesy pick-up line you saw on Instagram to ten Tinder matches at once in the hope that one of them is feeling lonely enough to reply to you. Both have their place, of course, but which one is going to mean more to you at the end of the day? Actually, don't answer that.
I know that a berm can be exactly what's required for a particular section of trail; you can carry some much-needed speed through a corner that might otherwise not work, especially if there's a move afterward that requires a good head of steam. That speed shouldn't always be easy to find, however, and that's what a berm does: they make it easy for the very large majority of riders to fly through a corner much faster than if it wasn't there to support them. And that's great, but sometimes it isn't.
It takes a decent amount of skill to ride a mountain bike well, something that usually only comes after investing a lot of time, effort, and sometimes flesh. Those three things buy you the ability to go faster, and usually with less effort, especially when it comes to the riders who have the know-how to rail through a tricky corner unassisted by a berm. But install a berm through the same corner and there's a good chance that any rider with some courage will be able to go through it at a similar rate of speed, skill be damned. I know that mountain biking isn't all about being better than other people, especially your friends, but let's not kid ourselves here: most of us are competitive beasts who sometimes (not all the times) want to leave our riding buddies in the dust.
I know that I can't win this argument and that berms are a hell of a lot of fun no matter where they are or how many there are, but I also believe that they're used far too often. It's one thing when your flowy jump trail is full of banked corners that make sense, but an entirely different situation when a tricky corner, one that rewards a rider who rides it well, is berm-ified so that everyone can ride it well. We mountain bikes need to embrace the challenge of the flat corner, whether it's technical or not and depend on our skills rather than a banked pile of dirt to get us through.
Hell, at least I'm not trying to convince you that the lizard people are ruling over us or that the earth is flat, right? Although I might have better luck with those arguments than trying to persuade people to build fewer berms, an opinion that I can't shake despite knowing that I'm most definitely, positively, unquestionably wrong.
You ride your bike almost every day (Mortals / non-bike journo's get to ride maybe once a week)
You live in Squamish, and have access to the shore, Squampton and Whistler - world class trails
I live in Melbourne, where I have to drive for an hour to get to a hill that is a 12min pedal up and a 2min decent, mostly made up of flat turns, and it's the same 3 descending trails that I get too ride every week.
I make an effort to drive further to ride, but sporadic days off makes it very difficult.
As everyone says, perhaps you have too much choice, you should go ride some old busted up trails that don't have a trail crew?
Its that or plenty gorge and lysterfield
Anything else you need a shuttle fund and the fuel to drive out of Melbourne
When I first really wanted to improve my riding, I bought "Mastering Mountain Bike Skills" by McCormack and Lopes. Yes Lopes' writing style is hardly Harper Lee, but there is a fantastic chapter on Cornering where they show you a whole variety of skills you can apply to a huge variety of corners, flat, banked, off camber, loose, rocky, you name it corners.
Berm EVERYTHING and there is no need for that chapter, and no more mountainbiking except 'park'. And do we all really want to be that guy who 'only rides park'?
I LOVE park, don't get me wrong, but last week, a buddy and I went to our local trail (30 mins up, 10 down) and he took the flow trail down. Me? I took the Goat Gully style version and had a blast covering half the distance, at half the speed and twice the technicality of my buddy.
My buddy doesn't like the Goat Gullies of the world, but he, like Mike, knows that there need to be corners that are full of all the stuff Lopes and McCormack were trying to help us rail, to make us feel like true bosses.
I wouldn't consider berms any sort of problem myself.
I'm sorry if you only get to ride once a week...that sucks man
I lived in Squamish and Kelowna for 3 years.
But when you are forced to live somewhere that lacks mountains, you make do with what you have.
I hate the city, I hate Melbourne, I hate traffic. But saving the money here means hopefully I can buy a place in Rotorua, and move there one day.
And yeah, Youies.
As for headed to other places around Melbourne, would you drive from the Williamstown to Red Hill or Kinglake in traffic after work? I'd love to but it's unrealistic
the answer shoudlnt be that he should move away from his homeplace to find more flat corners;
rather people in a booming mtb community should realize berms are not always in good taste.
I like trails that require you to think about how to ride them. I like berms that are built by wheels, after dozens or hundreds of times of railing that particular corner. If you like big dirt walls built by a machine, then more power to you, but please don't come dig on what I build.
It created discussion among commenters, therefore more visits, which result in more $$$$ for the website.
The whys and wherefores of that opinion would take way more space than a Pinkbike comment should be asked to hold, but machine built trails with wall-berms in every corner are the harkening of the ghettoization of mountain biking-but that's just my opinion.
it really depends where you live
Personally I believe this whole problem is indicative of a much greater social phenomenon whereby people are becoming so pathetic and mollycoddled that they can't stand having the big scary mountain bike trails be a little bit hard for them to ride, better bubble wrap that trail and make it easier for their trail crushing carbon 29ers to ride through.
Learning a new skill or talent, or [hushed voice] 'taking a risk' is far too dangerous and challenging for today's feeble and hopeless, super litigious crowd. E-bikes are another facet of this trend IMO
In relation to OP at Cannock, the compression section after the campsite on the Dog (Son of Chainslapper?) is where berms work, the rest of the route; meh
me and my son call the son of the chain slapper section, the son of the toll road as its that smooth now
Heh, berms stress the sht out of me. Because I feel that I S-U-C-K at riding them. The ones that are longer than 90 degrees annoy me, deeply. They mock me. They are simple things and every real mountain biker should be able to ride them. FAST. So it's hard to balance this: I should go faster than I think I should and make it alive. Then If you crash on an offcamber corner you will tumble a bit and it will be humiliating. If you go over the edge of the berm, it can be catastrophical. They look innocent, they look like they help but that is only a matter of speed. So I don't agree that they make losers ride fast. They make losers look like losers taking berms. And there's looots to be learned about riding berms, watch the Minnaar or Thimas Vanderham railing a berm and watch Andreu Lacondeguy. Most of us will take a 90 degree + berm on two apexes, somehow Aaron Gwin gets high and then exits low. One clean, mathematically perfect line, not a tiniest slide. Pure speed build up. Watch a regular Fest rider and he just can't do it without Steeze. Yes he goes super fast, yes he is super impressive, but... is he really fast, does he have "the right form"? or does it just look super cool when dirt is flying because most of us have no fkng clue how to ride? I mean even the 45-90 degree ones, can you roll out of them twice the speed you entered? Any idiot can T-bone a berm at insane speed and get a nice shot for instagram but... that's like doing push ups with knees on the ground.
So I'd say both kinds of corners are good at masking suckness and provide canvas for glory. I like all of them. On the other hand there aren't many berms in my area so it's hard for me to complain.
With the odd exception, there's no such thing as berms in California, or the southwest really for that matter. I think it's because it's very hard to build them, and even harder to keep them from eroding into nasty unrideabke piles of shit.
As a result I also SUCK at riding berms. There is skill involved there for sure if you're to carry any real speed through them.
What makes this even more frustrating is that there is already a chicken line to the side of the steep section and another one that negates it entirely and has some switchbacks around it.... they have even plowed through the bush at the bottom and built a straight line exit instead if having to take the rocky off camber turn at the bottom... Basically seriously endangering anyone who rides the trail in order to make the intermediate line easier when there are already two easy lines. I was livid for weeks after and destroyed their log ramp. So frustrating
But variety like I said is the spice of life. Other trails I've worked on - not a single berm on C-Buster or Upper Tall Cans. And only little tiny wee ones on Della.
Second, jump trails like A-line they are the "soul" of the trail. So there they should be plentyful.
Third, on trails they should be put in to help flow in sections you really need some extra speed to make the trail fun to ride or even rideable. A dug berm is the last option to make the section work, not the first.
Reality though people are lazy and want it easy, so they build berms or dont maintain their trails so ruts (berms) form and make corners way easier.
In my book nothing beats a slight off camber corner full of roots or a steep off camber grass corner! Getting sideways FTW!
There's nothing quite like the adrenalin rush provided by nailing an off-camber rooty corner, where lightly feathering the brakes or not touching them at all are the only options. I also like rocks and slippery roots very much... You know, things you should expect on your typical mountain bike ride.
I don't mind so much when they make new trails of this nature, nothing forcing me to ride them, and every now and then I also like something fast, easy and flattering... but when they destroy good hand made trails that have been there for 10+ years to build yet another flow trail, that aggravates me greatly!
Sadly those who control such things in my area simply have no idea. They are calling trails double black diamond, when in reality they'd be lucky to be blue somewhere like Whistler. Sad times...
I would also agree with this article in the sense that small subtly notched snyper berms are far more satisfying overall than rolling around multiple 3ft+ walls of packed dirt.
> "but let's not kid ourselves here: most of us are competitive beasts who sometimes (not all the times) want to leave our riding buddies in the dust. "
On a side note tho, I really struggle with berms. Have been practicing the last 1-2 years, and definetely gotten better, but still I feel like I´m nowhere near the speed point grip should break away. Maybe because once I was too fast (or just wrong) and slid out of the berms top, landing on the front side of my body. I can go on a flat turn with much more confidence than approaching a berm. Then I watch DH WC and think what the hell, this one left hander after The Wall section in Lourdes, holy. Its not easy to ride berms well. Practice I guess, as always
To build a trail with lots of berms requires some upfront planning to place the grade reversals/outslope outside the corners which otherwise would trap water and sand.
There's something nice you get from taking an off camber corner properly too, but railing berms is also good too.
Sounds like a general argument about the "bike parking" of trails by removing technical features/gnarliness, making trails super wide and with high berms on every corner, which is great for speed training and jumping practice but doesn't help develop skills for handling low speed technical sections
Berms are awesome, but the finesse of a berm comes when building it, not riding it...I think that is the point he is trying to make.
he has to understand that not only experienced riders go mountain biking, but so do beginners and they could really appreciate a berm to help rather than dabbing with their foot on every flat corner.
Berms are something new to me as where I used to live and ride there was no trail mantainance of any kind, we just rode natural/hiking trails. Almost every turn was flat or off camber, hence riding speeds were lower. I got good enought to ride off camber turns at reasonable speed and then I suddently get introduced to berms. Completely different approach, still working on it. Great fun when i get it right.
That said, when you manage to "flow" through "unflowy" trails it feels like you're some kind of mtb jedi. Not easy though.
I love it all. I think what he's trying to say is....back off the been building. It's getting overkill.
I don't live in Whistler, but I am.lucky to ride and live sure I do. But everything around here is getting to be a grade reversal "track".
The more funding a trail project has, the more the contracted builders will use machines to do the grading and corner work. Unless they are f-ing shredders like the boiz at Empire Of Dirt, it will end up like Alsea falls in Oregon, a pile of berms and rollers with no sense for them to even be there.
More funding = overbuilt, unnecessary trail features and highway width.
downvote over there -------->
Most modern trails head downhill these days so you can still have flow with bermless corners. Berms are good but we really really don't need as many as we seem to want these days. I say learn how to ride EVERYTHING and you'll have more fun....don't cry just cause you come to a corner that has no berm and start bitching about it...take on the challenge and feel sweet as fook when your hearts pounding having blasted that flat corner with more speed than you thought possible.
Great article and convincing point.
Periodically trail reroutes should also include berms removal in order to achieve the goal of sustainable trail developments.
....or you just woke up after hitting your head and feel like taking the trails you ride for granted. Speaking of big wheels, maybe you ought to switch to cyclocross, of course those folks are pretty thankful for what they have....
To me this was a gentle letter to trail builders asking them to refrain from building unnecessary berms. There were a few references made to builders but nothing obviously stated. I ride and build trails so this opinion piece spoke to me. I am currently dialing in a new line that could be bermified or left for those with mad skills to find their line.
I intend on finding a happy medium. Berms where speed is needed to hit the next jump/feature and in other spots I'll leave a carpet of brown gold. In reality, trails are dictated by the trail builders, those with the shovels govern where the line flows and whether it gets a berm or not.
This article is a polite request to hold off on hand sculpting sweet, curvy, mounds of lovely brown dirt that propel you with control and purpose down a trail. It's impossible for me to resist pumping and flowing those sweet, curvy, mounds of lovely brown dirt but trails with a mixed bag of features give me more satisfaction and a bigger pucker factor with the added difficulty they poses.
As long as builders give riders a choice of trail styles people like Mike will remain happy.
"It takes a decent amount of skill to ride a mountain bike well, something that usually only comes after investing a lot of time, effort, and sometimes flesh."
Seriously, this is Pinkbike.
Go sell that, "I hate everything that isn't steel, single speed, or in a PBR can" shit over on Dirtrag.
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