Photos and Intro by Garth Milan
Taking all of the parts of a modern motocross track into consideration, berm turns have to be the most fickle and inconsistent. You know how it goes; your favorite railing turn is epic in the first moto, but then the inevitable happens: It gets blown out by some kook in the 250cc Novice class with whiskey throttle a few races before your second moto.
The fact of the matter is that the beauty of berms is also the Achilles’ heel. The reason berms are so fun to hit is because as dirt gets piled up higher and higher, you and your bike are offered more support and traction. The bummer of the deal is the age-old adage of “what comes up must go down.”
If you were to look at a berm from the side, you’d notice that it’s very wide and won’t move at the base, but once it gets near the top the berm gets thinner and thinner until it forms a peak. When there are several riders on the track hitting the same corner in the same spot eventually the peak is going to break away, taking your berm-blasting experience from hero to zero in a matter of seconds.
Team Red Bull/KTM’s Grant Langston says that one of the trickiest parts of motocross racing in general is knowing when to change your line. This is critical, because if you wait too long and keep taking the blown-out line things will get worse and worse. Not only will you be losing time to your opponents by losing rear-wheel traction, you risk going completely over the turn and crashing. At press time our boy Grant had just moved into the lead in the 125cc National points standings, so we figured he knows what he’s talking about. Take it away, Grant…
MAKING THE DECISION
“The first thing you need to know about changing lines in berms is how to read the upcoming turn for when the right time to make your move is. When I know that a berm is just on the verge of blowing out (from seeing its condition the lap before), I try to scan ahead on the straightaway before that corner on the next lap to see if the berm has indeed blown out. As is the case with riding in general, your head should be looking as far forward as possible. Once you know it’s been ruined, it’s time to make the decision to change lines. Not only will you keep better traction by doing this, but you’ll also be protecting your inside line.”
“Now I know I have to change my line, so I swing my bike a bit more to the outside in order to square the turn off like a race car driver. I end up converging my lines towards the beginning of the berm, and once I pass my old line I begin a hard pivot turn. This brings me down towards the base of the turn where it’s safe, then I use the end of the berm to gradually drift towards the outside as my bike gains acceleration.
“Basically what ends up happening is that your bike makes two turns in one. The first part of the turn is a sharp pivot at the beginning of the corner, and the second is a long, smooth arc out. Each berm will be slightly different, but basically you want to make the majority of your turn prior to the apex or center of the berm. This will keep you low in the turn and away from the edge, where you could go right over.
“The toughest part is making the tight pivot portion of the turn. For this, I come in hot with both brakes, but as I enter the turn I release the front brake and keep the back brake on while at the same time turning hard on the bars. This makes the back brake lock up and causes the bike to swing around, setting you up perfectly at the bottom of the corner. Another tip, depending on the track conditions, is to enter the turn a gear high so that you can slip the clutch to help bring the back end around with your throttle at the same time. This move takes practice to do smoothly, but once you get it down you’ll be glad you did!”