How to Ride Berms on a Mouintain Bike

I know of two habits in life that can turn you into a hopeless addict in no time. One of these habits is crack and the other is shredding berms. Once you learn how to smoothly carry your speed round banked turns, you’ll want to ride your mountain bike forever.

But nailing berms isn’t easy. There’s always a frustrated MTBer narrating how they keep slipping and falling each time they try.

In this post, I’ll show you how to ride berms in a mountain bike. I’ll also identify the most common challenges that prevent riders from enjoying smooth, clean turns.

If you’re a beginner DH cyclist and master berms, you’ll get over your fear of downhill mountain biking.

At this point, let’s dive right in and learn…..

How to Shred a Berm Like a Pro MTBer

I promised to shed some light on some of the problems riders keep encountering when getting around banked turns.

By the way, what’s a berm in mountain  biking? A berm is simply a banked turn. It’s a raised section of a trail, a trail that slopes gently or steeply. Think of a berm as being a flat trail that’s been tilted to add gradient between the low edge and the higher, outer edge. Here’s picture of a berm.

Berms are one of the most common technical features on local mountain bike trails and bike parks.

A berm on a MTB trail
A mountain biker riding a berm, which is simply a banked turn.

How to Ride Round a Turn Quickly Video

Tackling Berms Right Can Dramatically Boost Your Speed

Berms are easier to ride than flat corners. And that’s because these banked turns give your tires tons of traction and support.

And if you execute your turns smoothly, you’ll likely exit the berm with more speed than you had before entering.

One reason riding berms boosts speed is because they provide lots of traction to your tires. Which means you can ride faster than you would on flat corners.

Plus you’re riding down when leaving the berm. And gravity does nudge your bike to roll somewhat faster.

Another reason  you’re likely to exit a berm with more speed is you’ll probably pump your bike a bit before leaving. Pumping is a well-known way to increase a bike’s speed without pedaling. Watch a few pump track cycling competitions to see how these MTB riders do it.

Two Areas of Focus When Riding Through Berms

When it comes to riding berms, you need to focus on two critical things. The first think to think about is how you’ll lean your bike in. The second consideration to pay attention to is your line.

Let’s now look at each of these two important aspects.

Think About How you’ll Enter and Exit the Berm

Choosing your line correctly when entering a berm is vitally important. It’s best to choose the high line when entering and exit the banked trail on the low line. You also want to get into the berm wide and leave tight.

Don’t go too low, though. Debris, small rocks, and other loose stuff tend to accumulate on the lower edge of a trail.

Sometimes though the only way to get around a corner is to enter low. And that’s OK. But if you’re not careful, you might end up flying over the top of the turn. That’s because using a low line has the berm pushing you up high. And you could end up flying over the berm’s top edge.

navigating a berm
If you choose too high a line, you’d end up flying over the top, and who knows what could happen..

In the end, riding a berm is pretty much like riding a normal corner. You enter the banked turn high and exit low. Also, you want to get in wide and leave the berm tight.

Have the End in Mind Before You Get In

Visualize your line before hitting the berm. Some trails feature series of berms that link to each other. When riding such trails, you have less than a second to choose your line. Which means you need to stay super alert the entire time you’re riding.

Have the end in mind before you hit the turn. See yourself in your mind’s eye leaving the turn low, smoothly. Keep your head up and look forward throughout the turn.

Whether you choose a low or high line, contemplate the exit before you enter the turn. Seeing the end before the beginning is how effective companies execute profit-packed strategies. It’s also how good mountain bikers tackle banked corners at speed.

Avoid Breaking While in the Berm

One surefire path to a crash is to brake down while already in berm. I once did that. And I lost control. And I fell off my bike. Fortunately, my pull-on shin pads and dual-certified Triple Eight Compass helmet didn’t disappoint. Helmet up properly. Wear good shin pads to protect your knees, too.

So, take care of the braking before you enter. And while at it, don’t kill all the speed; you need to carry enough speed into the turn.

Decide How You’ll Lean in Your Bike

How much you lean your bike into the turn and how fast you ride a berm depends on how steep it is. A steep berm gives your tires great traction and support. That means you can get in rolling nice and fast while leaning over with your bike.

But if the berm is more gentle, the best way to hit it is leaning your MTB into the turn. But you also need to counterbalance the lean with your body. The same goes for when you enter the turn slower than you should.

Generally, the faster you come rolling into a berm, the higher lean angle you’ll need.

Regardless how you lean your mountain bike, make sure to have a supportive body position. A good position gives you lots of control when riding through a berm.

The front wheel needs to have enough pressure from your hands. So, keep your elbows slightly bent. Because hat elbow position enables you to pressure the front wheel without trying too hard.

Below are some of the problems MTB riders keep encountering. I bet you’re grappling with some or all of these issues. And I’ve given you suggestions on how to resolve each of the challenges.

Always Slipping and Falling to the Inside of the Berm

You’re trying to get around a nicely packed dirt berm. And while you’re not slipping and falling all the time, you do slip and fall.

Sometimes your front wheel loses traction and slips for some reason. And you crash to the inner side of the berm, scraping your right leg and forearm.

Another common occurrence is that the front end of your bike turns a whole 180 degrees. And you have to loosen the clamp to re-align the front end with the wheel.

This keeps happening to quite a few beginning mountain bikers out there. And after you’ve slipped and fallen too many times, frustration can begin to set in.

At some point, you start asking yourself, why does this keep happening to me? Am I overcooking the speed when prepping to enter the turn?

Could it be that the front tire has too much pressure and has trouble breaking traction?

Maybe it’s because my front tire is too worn down and there’s not enough traction?

Tip: Choose a line that sits no more than two thirds up the berm. And if you feel you’re too close to the edge, squeeze the rear brake to come back toward the center of the berm.

Here are three suggestions that’ll probably have you slip and crash less often.

3 Ideas to Help You Shred Berms Better and Easier

Here are some ideas to explore and give your turns the smoothness and finesse they deserve. Lean into the turn, ride berms with the pedals level, and fine-tune your suspension.

1. Lean into the Turn and Steer Less

One mistake new riders keep making is turning the handlebars too much. But that’s not how turn on a mountain bike or any bike for that matter.

Ever since the German Karl von Drais invented the world’s first bicycle, the pedal-less swiftwalker, riders have leaned into turns rather than steering the handlebars.

So, lean your bike toward the center of the berm’s radius. As you lean into the turn, your outside foot needs to stay down as that helps with balance.

As you all that, transfer some of your weight forward. You want to shift some of your weight to somewhere over the front of your bike.

Also, drop the hand on the inner side of the turn down. Dropping your hand down also helps you keep balance.

There’s one more thing. Point your inside knee toward the turn’s center. Additionally, avoid sitting too far back and leaning back as you enter the banked turn.

2. Keep Your Pedals Level While Going Round the Berm

I suggest that you keep your pedals level when cornering banked turns. If find that turning the pedals to a level position helps improve stability. And stability is something you need enough of when cornering.

It doesn’t matter what pedals you have, but many riders think using flat-platform MTB pedals helps a bit. But does it? Yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t ride berms using clipless pedals.

I personally prefer to ride clipped in, but then I have no trouble clipping out instantly when I need to. If you’ve not perfected the art of clipping out fast or are a beginner MTB cyclist, stick to flat pedals.

3. Pay Attention to Your Mountain Bike’s Suspension Settings

Your mountain bike’s suspension settings is another thing you need to keep an eye on. I found that having too soft of a back end often causes my bike to sink, and that unloads the front.

Too much rebound can also be a problem. In my experience, too much rebound keeps a bike’s front packed and that prevents it to properly follow the ground.

Too little rebound is something you should also avoid. Having too little rebound in your bike’s suspension can and does cause the MTB’s front to pogo out during as it unloads.

How to Ride Banked Turns Like a Devil: Final Thoughts 

I assume you know how to maintain your bike in tip top condition, and that it’s now in great shape. Riding berms is a great way to have fun outdoors, but they’re not easy to master. With proper technique and consistent practice, you’ll learn to ride berms fast and smoothly.

Learn to choose your line and decide how you’ll get out of the turn before you actually get in. Braking while already in the berm isn’t a good idea. Nor is riding through a line that’s too high.

Leaning into the turn rather than steering is the best way to get around a corner at speed. When turning, unclip the outside foot as that helps stabilize things a little. Putting the inside hand down and pointing the inside knee into the berm’s center also helps.

Remember to helmet up and wear protective shin and knee protection and wristguards. Protection may get in the way, but it’s better to sacrifice a little convenience for more protection and safety.