For several rides it seems like I’ve only ridden single track and bermed (banked) manmade trails. Of course I enjoy this kind of riding but my favourite trails tend to be natural trails with flat corners. Here I can reach what, to me, is the nirvana of mountain biking. That moment when you reach the limit of grip of the tyres and start to slither around. It’s death or glory at this point, or at least you may slide to the ground, which whilst it’s hardly death it is at least something to be avoided. So why am I showing a photograph of a well crafted berm at the top of the page? Read on.
I’ve ridden a small area at Birkacre since 1992. It was the site of a mill until just before World War 2 and retains the tracks and paths which wound around the buildings, on a fairly steep slope. For many years I’ve often ridden a circuit with 2 descents and 2 climbs. I refer to it a a figure of 8 but in truth it’s nothing like that kind of shape. In it’s defence it has around 15 corners on the downhill sections which makes it exciting and addictive. I rode by a mainly off road route to Birkacre, once again on the recently acquired Trek 29” wheel full suspension bike. On arrival I tested trail conditions using a 3 corner segment which I can loop around. I found that the front wheel of the Trek was starting to loose grip well before the back so on my second and third laps I made sure that I put pressure down onto the handlebars to increase the available grip. It seemed to work and I found that by sliding forwards on the saddle things were better balanced between front and rear grip. My son changed the handlebar stem to a fashionably shorter one which may not be ideal since this pushes weight distribution backwards. The bike is also a size large which makes it too long for me. I’m better suited in general by a medium frame size. With a bit of thought and adjustment of my body position I felt better about the handling.
I rode to a flat area at the highest point of my circuit and decided to add a little excitement by timing a full lap. I had no target because trail conditions make a massive difference to lap times but the mere clicking of my stopwatch was an immediate motivation. Recent wet weather has left the trail slippery but with no deep mud the riding was good. On a corner mid lap my front wheel hit a muddy patch and slid out. I was riding this corner in a motocross style, sat on the saddle with my left leg extended. My foot tapped the ground, lifting the weight off the rear wheel as it hit the wet patch. The rear wheel slid whilst the front regained grip. In the blink of an eye it was over and I was back in control, only losing a little speed. I slithered round the rest of the downhill and climbed back to the start. 7 minutes 10 seconds.
After a short rest I thought I’d ride another lap. No major slides this time and by the end of the lap I could feel I’d ridden closer to exhaustion than on the previous lap. My time? You couldn’t make it up. It was 7 minutes 10 seconds! I decided to ride the section of jumps and corners which also leads away from the high point, on my way home. Since last time I rode here a lot of work has been done on the unofficial, multi line manmade trails. What a treat! A new line of sinuous berms has been crafted and it’s sumptuous.
It was so good I had to ride back to the top for another go. Did I say something earlier about preferring flat corners. I’m not so sure.