Rutted corners are a pros friend but they can be a beginner’s nightmare. The pros like them because they offer excellent traction. The beginners usually have a difficult time with them because they can’t stay in the rut. One of the most important factors about going fast on a motocross track is traction, especially in the corners. If the ground is pretty hard it’s going to be on the slippery side and not very good for building berms. But even then the good rides will have some small berms in the corners that they will rail through for improved traction which translates directly to more speed. Sometimes these hard berms can be so small that a beginner rider won’t even notice them. If you’re not noticing them and trying to turn across them you’re really going to be missing out on some available traction. In this case it would be something like going over a railroad track at a 90 degree angle. When the ground is softer and the berms are more noticeable (I mean if you can’t notice them you shouldn’t be on the track) the traction is 10 times better than not taking the berm. This usually makes a lot of berms in the corners with no other choice than to take one. How can one expect to be a competitive motocross racer if they can’t rail the berms. Like many things in motocross to do it really well it becomes an art.
Let’s get the terminology right so we’re all on the same track. Just what is a rutted corner? Well of course it’s a corner with a rut in it. Instead of a straight rut it’s an arched rut. Most pros call these type corners bermed corners. But some beginners get bermed corners confused with banked corners. So when you think of a bermed corner think of a rutted corner. There are different types of bermed corners. Some have a hard berm, some a bumpy hard berm and then there are the beautiful cushion berms. That’s the nice soft topsoil that gets built up as a sponge type soft cushiony berm.
When entering a bermed corner verses a flat corner the biggest difference is making sure both the front and rear wheels check into the beginning of the berm. When entering a flat corner you want to drift slide the bike into the corner. If you do this too much as you enter the berm the rear wheel may miss the berm and slide out. One thing that will work in your favor here is that when there are bermed corners the ground is going to be on the softer side so you’ll be less likely to be drift sliding as much into the corner anyway. Soft ground also means bigger braking bumps so make sure you get your butt off the seat and stand up.
As we’ve been learning so far your control comes from two categories; maintaining the center of balance with your body movements and using a combination of all five controls (front and rear brakes, clutch and throttle and the gear shift). In order to pull off smooth, fast bermed corners it takes a combination of these two main categories and the individual techniques that go into them.
Here’s the list of techniques for bermed corners. Then we’ll take a closer look.
- Look ahead and see the beginning of the berm as soon as you can.
- As you approach the berm stand on the pegs with your body position working from the rear of the M/C, downshift into the gear you’re going to use through the corner and slow down with the front and rear brakes.
- Now that you’re in the beginning of the berm look out and over the arch of the berm so you see where it’s going. Don’t just look in front of your fender. Look out around the berm a little ways.
- Once your rear wheel is in the berm you can pull the clutch in and lock up the rear wheel if you want maximum braking in the berm, even if you're still going straight, in the case of a long berm.
- At the "Transition" (where you go from braking to accelerating) come off the brakes as you begin to accelerate with the clutch and throttle.
- Continue to look ahead and stay on the line you want out of the corner.
Now for a more in depth understanding.
As you’re approaching the corner, as early as you can, spot the beginning of the berm and aim about six inches to the inside of it. This way you can check into it as you get there and you won’t overshoot it. Spotting the berm early not only lets you set up for it better but also gives your depth perception longer to work so you can come into the berm at maximum speed. One thing you have to get really good at is controlling your speed and momentum all the way through the berm. This is done by first controlling the front and/or rear brakes and then by controlling the clutch and throttle. Remember, this is where more than half of your control comes from (60%). The other 40% comes from maintaining the center of balance with your body movements. Make sure to keep the bike leaned over the correct amount for the speed you’re carrying. While your front wheel is in the berm you can use the front brake as much as you need to. It won’t slide out because it has traction down in the berm, like a slot car. But don’t use the front brake if the front wheel starts to come out of the berm because that would make the front fold or slide out real quick. As soon as you are able let go of the brakes and begin to exit the berm with the controlled use of the clutch and throttle. Let your finger slip off the front brake as you open the throttle. Don’t let go of the front brake before that time. This doesn’t mean that you have to drag the front brake or even use it all this time but you should at least keep your finger on it in case you do need to slow down a little more. Remember, that slowing down in this situation with the front brake not only slows the M/C down, it will also shorten the rake and trail making it turn sharper. Man, do the controls of the M/C give you more control or what? It's almost like magic.
If you have the bike leaning over too far for the speed you’re carrying you will have to step with your inside leg in order to keep the bike up. If this situation is really bad you may get one or two step attempts in before you fall over to the inside. If the bike is not leaning over far enough for the speed you’re carrying through the berm the front wheel will come out of it (to the outside). This is why you have to lean over the right amount and continue to control your speed and momentum.
The two mistakes mentioned earlier of not leaning the bike over far enough or leaning it over too far are the most common mistakes for amateurs along with not using the controls properly. Most beginners will use the brakes to slow down for the bermed corner and then just as they get their front wheel in the berm they will let go of the brakes. They are not accelerating yet with the clutch and throttle so they end up coasting at the most important part of the corner, the "Transition". The only control they have at this point is their body movements that have just turned into a statue since they just have given up the other 60% of their control, the front and/or rear brakes and the clutch and throttle.
Another thing to be aware of as you pass through the "Transition" and begin to use the clutch and throttle is that you are going to be picking up speed which means you’ll have to lean the bike over even more. Make sure your inside leg is in a position that allows you to do that. In some berms the bike will lean over so far that the clutch lever will drag in the dirt. If you have your inside leg in the way it will limit how far you can lean the bike over. Make sure you either have your knee behind the handlebars so your knee can come up behind the handlebars or you have your leg up very high and straight so it can still fit between the ground and the handlebar.
Like any of the aspects in motocross (jumps, whoops, starts or corners) riding bermed corners really well takes a lot of practice time. So don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come to you as soon as you expected. Understanding the proper techniques is the first step, being able to do it correctly at a slower than maximum speed is the second step and doing it repeatedly day by day, week by week, month by month is the final step that will allow you to do it really well.
Competitive motocross takes MIND, HEART AND BALLS!
For an in depth look at how to master Berm Corners go to my 2011 Volume 3 DVD #5. See a free DVD.
All the best!
Professional Motocross Trainer
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