INTRO AND PHOTOS BY GARTH MILAN
As if deep, rutted corners and steep-angled berms weren't tricky enough on their own, combine the two and you have a real recipe for disaster. In fact, the more laps that are spun on a track, the more the dirt in the corners begins to vanish. This enigma can oftentimes leave what was once a billiard table-smooth berm in practice looking more like the face of a muddy triple jump by the time the checkers finally wave, and if you're not careful the lethal combo can easily land you on your head.
If you know the tricks to staying in the rut, however, you can actually use a well-worn, carved-out berm to your advantage. Kawasaki's newest factory KXF pilot Paul Carpenter grew up riding ruts, and anyone in the know will tell you that when it comes to railing through grooves, Paul happens to be one of the best in the world. We interrupted Carpenter at the Kawasaki test track in Corona during a day of testing and asked him to share a few cornering pointers with us between sessions. We shot the photos just after a fairly large (and rare!) rainstorm in So Cal, so it was the perfect opportunity for Carpenter's rut-railing skills to shine through. Take it away, Paul…
EASE IT IN
“Ruts in berms can be tricky, but they can also make you faster with the right approach because they allow you to carry more speed through the corner. In most cases, I'd actually rather have a berm with ruts because it's like riding a rail. On this particular bowl turn, I am coming off of a fairly large triple jump. I set up the berm by coming in fast, but not too fast. Try to get most of your braking done just before you actually enter and make your turn, because you don't want to be locking up, skidding, or sliding out of control whatsoever when you sit your tires into the rut. If you do it correctly, you should come into the bowl knowing exactly where both tires are, and they should both be in the same line.”
ROLL IT ON
“I enter this turn in third, which might seem like a high gear for such a sharp corner, but the rut allows me to carry so much speed that it's the best choice. The biggest difference between a berm with a rut and one without is in the clutching and braking. As I mentioned, I come in having most of my braking done so that I can use the entire berm to accelerate.
“One thing that's different here, though, is my clutch technique. I tend to ease my clutch in and out a tad more in a rutted berm. This follows the same reasoning as the early braking we just talked about–you don't want any excess wheel spin when braking or gassing. Basically, if one of your tires doesn't make it in to the rut, or happens to pop out while in the middle of it, it'll cost you. That's why you need to roll the throttle on, and at the same time let the clutch out smoothly and controllably. This also helps keep your bike centered and allows for the most traction on the way out.
“If you make smooth braking and clutch movements, enter with both tires in line and avoid popping out of the rut, you should be able to go faster than ever through rutted-out berms. Just take your time, start slow and work on the essentials, and before long you'll be dragging your handlebars!”