I have identified the biggest problem with my mountain bike riding: turning. Sure, I might also be slow on the climbs because, well, because I enjoy beer more than fitness, but typically when I crash its because I am attempting to change the bicycles direction. Thats why its so nice to come upon a turn that has a super sweet rideable berm.

Wikipedia tells us that a berm is a level space, shelf, or raised barrier separating two areas. It also tells us that the best treatment for a skinned knee is a paste made from salt, lemon juice, and partially dehydrated goat urine, but thats an article for another time. For the purposes of this article, when I talk about a berm, Im talking about a curved area on the outside of a turn that allows a rider to navigate said turn at greater speed.

Berms come in many forms. Some are rideable, and some are born in the pit of hell. The second kind are taught by the Devil himself to masquerade as rideable berms, when in fact they are comprised of pine straw, pea gravel, or loose sand and will happily crash any rider who attempts a turn on them. Screw you, lying fake berms!

Before I get to those, though, lets talk about some different kinds of berms.

The berms pictured below are rideable, but straight, which, like my ex-girlfriend, is nearly useless for turning on. Theyre probably holding back a great deal of water, or something equally interesting only to civil engineers and fish. Classification: safe to ride, but boring.

Next we have a fine example of a rideable dirt berm, photographed by Stephen Carhart on the Ridgeline trail, part of the Dupont State Forest Trail System in Brevard, NC. You could turn on that sucker all day and its not going to let your front tire wash out on you. The berm, I mean, not Stephen. I mean, Im sure Stephen also could be oh forget it. Im just saying, thats a sweet berm. Thats the kind we want right there, folks.

Classification: rideable and curved real nice-like.

Heres another berm thats sweet as monkey meat. This time, much like Keanu Reeves acting, its made of wood. It comes to us thanks to Anthony DeLorenzo, who claims to have snapped it in the Silver Star bike park, wherever that is. Its not listed in the singletracks.com database, so I assume it is either on private land somewhere in Madagascar, or possibly part of an artists conception of the mountain bike park to be constructed on a future moon base.

In either case, as an East coast US rider who only occasionally gets to ride out West, I have never seen one of these fancy wood berms. What a joy it must be! Hell, it looks to me like this berms so sweet it even has a little tiny 1×1 trim at the top, forming what amounts to a berm on top of a berm. I feel like Im watching the berm version of Inception right now. That might even be Joseph Gordon-Levitt riding that bike in the photo. Its not, of course, but it could be. Thats whats important.

Classification: rideable, wooden, and cast in the upcoming Matrix reboot. Just kidding OR AM I?

Still, we must go deeper. The previous berms are what you can expect to see when it comes to rideable ones. Now lets talk about the kind that are out to ruin your day: non-rideable, or jerk berms.

This heres what you call a pile of pine straw, photographed by Doug Waldron.

Now, you might be saying, Hey, I know a pile of pine straw when I see one. Im sure thats the case, but what if it were right next to a turn in the trail? You might just confuse it for a rideable berm. You might just lean your bike over, ready to carve that turn up like a smoked turkey, and then find yourself bouncing down a mountainside on your face! Who wants that? Nobody!

You also have to watch out for loose sand, loose rocks, and loose women. Any of the three can cause serious harm, although only the first two are likely to make you crash your mountain bike. If your significant other makes you crash, at least you can dump him or her, although, now that I think about it, I guess you can dump sand and rocks too if you have a dump truck. Oh well.

The point Im trying to make here is, you cant always judge a berm by its proximity to the trail. Make sure that suckers rideable before you get up on it. No one wants to end up getting flung off a switchback like a booger flung out of a speeding car.

Happy riding!

Jim Hodgson is a bad mountain biker and a worse roadie who, thanks to his cycling kit, often resembles a multi-colored sausauge.Follow him on twitter at@jimhodgson, and see more of his writing athttp://jimhodgson.com.He is the author ofJack Dick and Other Stories,which you shouldpurchase right now on Amazon.
# Comments

  • jtorlando25

    Sorry to be a hater, but the pic you posted of a “sweet” dirt berm is really more of a wall ride. I don’t see somebody hitting that, full speed, foot down, throwing roost to get into the next section of trail.

    Imagine flying down this hill from the right and pitching your body sideways at full speed through this bad boy: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7015/6710317245_9a11f0c4a2_z.jpg

  • jhodgson

    You HATER. How could you?

    I haven’t actually ridden that one myself but I could see how the trail could be arranged appropriately for it to bridge the gap between wall ride and berm.

    The one you linked looks nice but the edges look a bit loose to me. If you go too high up there will be death.

  • Bubblehead10MM

    Mildly amusing. 🙂 But going along with @JT. Selecting a picture with more berm and less root would be cool. Wish I’d taken a good one somewhere.

  • jhodgson

    I wish you had too. And I wish you’d put it on Flickr and marked it legal for Creative Commons use. If you had, it would very likely be in this article.

  • Spartan

    Who cares about the picture..cut some slack.. Great piece and great writing style jh! You should do some more .

    I like you Betty.

  • mtbgreg1

    I think the point of the article isn’t really the pictures… 😉

    But just in case there’s someone out there who doesn’t know what a berm looks like, just take a minute to peruse the Singletracks.com database: http://www.singletracks.com/mountain-bike/photo-album.php?tag=berm

    Or check out these photos specifically:

    And especially this one, which you could DEFINITELY turn on all day:

    And Jim, this is great stuff, keep it up!

    Cheers, ya’ll!

  • jtorlando25

    lol I understood the point of the article. Would just hate to see a noob rail a wall ride full throttle thinking it’s a sweet berm and dislocate or break something after smashing into the earth.

  • jeff

    I could definitely throw a sweet roost through that pine straw berm. Mulch roosts are awesome too.

  • fleetwood

    You want East Coast berms? Go to W. Kerr Scott Reservoir near Wilkesboro, NC and ride the Overmountain Victory Trail and WARRRIORRRR CREEEEK (it helps if you say the latter with a monster truck announcer voice). Berms, baby. Hundreds…perhaps thousands of berms (and wall rides for those that distinguish betweeen the two).

  • luvtwokayak

    “I enjoy beer more than fitness.” I can’t stop laughing. Wheeze. Gasp. More contributors should write like you. Good stuff.

  • Fitch

    In New England, I’m shocked at how intense many riders are — for a sport so fun and crazy, there’s not a lot of sense of humor. No wonder no one likes me in NEMBA… anyway, awesome article, man, and thanks for the (much-needed) laughs!

  • Spartan

    Dozzerboy is that up in NW Georgia at that 5 points place?? Regardless, I gotta get up there..

  • Jared13

    “The berms pictured below are rideable, but straight, which, like my ex-girlfriend, is nearly useless for turning on.”

    I love it!

    With all this talk between wall rides and berms, what’s the difference? I always considered a wall ride something you had to jump onto and off of while a berm was ride-able from beginning to end.

  • basshunter


    the smoother wood berm in 3 of the pictures is really nice. mostly because I helped build it 😉 I never take a berm hard unless I know it is packed hard, and if a berm is built up, watch out! I know plenty of people that have blown out the back of some well built dirt berms just because of the pressure on them. a good berm needs a lot of backbone to hold up to riders.

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