A dictionary guide to trail features

So you have started mountain biking, but understanding the amount of trail jargon is as clear as mud. You don’t want to be in the awkward position, having a post ride drink with your riding mates, and not understanding a thing they are talking about. No more just sitting there and nodding along, whilst stuffing your mouth with fries, here is a quick dictionary guide to some of the things you will find out on the trails.

Scroll down a bit further to see my deep dive through the photo archive to show you examples of all the features.

Trail Features

  • Berm – A corner that is cambered with the direction of the trail. It is built up around the outer edge to support the rider as they turn.
  • Bomb Hole – A descending chute with an equally steep ascent on the other side. It’s how you imagine the landscape to look after a bomb has been dropped.
  • Chute – A steep section of trail, often with a gradient high enough that your brakes aren’t going to slow you down very well.
  • Drop – A feature with a significant loss of elevation. It typically has a flat take off, and vertical back side, that is not roll-able.
  • Flat corner – A turn on the trail without any support.
  • Flow Trail – This is a trail which doesn’t have anything particularly steep or technical. It is characterized by big flowing berms, and rollers, which allow riders to maintain a high level of speed, with little or no pedaling.
  • Ladder Drop – A drop constructed out of wood, often found on North Shore trails.
  • North Shore – This trail style originates from British Columbia, where the trail builders there built wooden boardwalks to avoid the many boggy areas. This name now broadly refers to any man-made wooden sections of trails.
  • Off Camber – Most trails aren’t flat, they follow the contours of the hill. Off camber is when the trail follows the angle of a cross section of the hill. This results in your bike no longer being perpendicular to the trail, which reduces you contact surface and grip.
  • Pump or Rhythm section – An undulating section of trail with a series of bumps that are designed to be pumped through to generate speed. Basically a pump track made of dirt.
  • Road Gap – This is a type of step down feature (where the take off is higher than the landing), characterized by the fact you jump over a road or pathway.
  • Rock garden – These can be as small as just a meter or it can be the entire trail, but is simply a cluster of rocks across the trail, where your going to have to be careful where you place your wheels to avoid a puncture. They can be small or large, lose or embedded in to the soil.
  • Rock Roller/Slab – An exposed rock face that covers the whole trail.
  • Roll Over – A feature or section of trail that can be rolled over without your bikes wheels leaving the ground, and without hitting your bash guard or bottom bracket on the trail.
  • Rut – This is a narrow eroded trench, caused by wheels rolling and braking down the trail. This can be as wide as your bars or as narrow as you tires, depending on the soil type and how much traffic the trail gets.
  • Skinny’s – This normally describes a raised piece of boardwalk, or just a log with a flat top, that is very narrow and requires a lot of balance to ride across.
  • Wall Ride – Normally made of wood, but sometimes it might just be a dirt or rock bank at the side of the trail. this can be a curved extension to the berm or just a straight wall. The aim of which is to ride up on to the wall, normally jumping off the end.

Jumps

As you progress you are more likely to come across trail features that require you getting your wheels off the ground, and with that comes a whole load more vocabulary.

  • Belly of a jump – This is the deepest part of the take off to a jump, where you would expect to be compressing in to, in order to generate lift.
  • Double – This can be as small as jumping from one roller to another, to ‘double them up’, or it can be a more sever gap jump, where rolling through it is not an option.
  • Gap Jump – This is an obligatory jump, where you will have to clear a non-roll-able feature.
  • Hip Jump – Hips occur when the take off and landing to jumps aren’t built in a straight line. They will require you to make changes to the direction you come off the lip and travel through the air in order to make the landing. These jumps can hip to the left or to the right.
  • Knuckle of the landing – The highest point of the landing, this will be the most sever part of it, and is best to avoid.
  • Lip of a jump – The highest point of the take off, this is the last part of the take off your wheels will be in contact with.
  • Step Down – A jump where the landing is lower than the take off.
  • Step Up – A jump where the landing is higher than the take off.
  • Table-top – A low consequence jumpable feature, which has a take off and landing, and a flat connecting section.
  • Transfer – A defined change of direction mid air. This can apply when there are multiple trails or jumps on one area, when a rider takes off on one track but lands on a different track to the one that would have been expected.
Sourced from Pintrest

Bonus descriptions

  • Case – What happens when you don’t jump far enough (come up short), and tag the knuckle of the landing with either your front wheel, cranks, or back wheel, depending on who badly you have done it.
  • Gnarly – This very broad term refers to anything that is difficult. Normally a part of the trail which is awkward and rough. It can also be used to describe a rider, as someone who rides extreme or dangerous stuff, normally to perfection.
  • Huck it – To attempt a feature with lots of speed and courage, but little skill, grace, or regards for your own safety.
  • Janky – A super awkward or rough bit of trail.
  • Over shoot – When you travel to far over a jump and miss the landing, normally landing on a flat bit of track further down the trail, or a bush.
  • Send it – What you would normally shout at a riding mate to encourage them to hit a big jump or gnarly feature.
  • Wash out – When you think you have grip, but you don’t have grip. One moment your upright, the next moment your wheels have washed out from under you, and you now have a mouthful of dirt.

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