Have you ever been on the trail or in a bike shop and overheard mountain bikers talking? Sometimes it sounds like gibberish! As with any sport, there’s a lot of lingo. When you don’t know the language, it’s easy to feel left out or frustrated. We’re here to help you dissect the chatter so you can join in!

Trail Conditions

Moon Dust: This is when there is a lot of loose dirt on the trail. This makes it slippery under your tires and a bit unpredictable as you try to brake without your back tire sliding out. It’s a very powder-like trail surface and occurs in more arid locations.

Hero Dirt (aka Loamy): This is what all mountain bikers hope for every ride. Hero dirt or “loamy” is the perfect consistency for any type of riding. Not too dry, not too wet, Goldilocks would love it! The surface is tacky, not slick or building up on your tires, weighing you down. This type of traction encourages faster descents and getting a bit more SENDY.

Baby Heads: Large round rocks on trails that are not stable, and move while riding over and around them. Some may also describe this as “chunky”. This can be a really fun and challenging trail, but VNTRbirds highly encourage front wheel fenders and knee pads since your bike tires can kick these rocks back towards you!

Flow: This term is used to describe a trail that is made of dirt, but smoothed out like pavement. They usually consist of berms and rollers (see definitions below) to keep consistent speed without needing much assistance from pedaling. They have minimal technical features like rocks and roots. You’ll FLOW like water through the trail.

Riders following each other through a flow section of the trail

Features: anything on trail that increases difficulty + Fun (i.e. rocks, roots, wooden obstacles)

Rollover: A fun feature on the trail that you can bike up and back down without needing to catch air for the landing. For “rollable” obstacles you can slowly cruise over them keeping both tires on the ground. You can find rollovers while descending or climbing.

Drop: A trail feature that usually has a flat entrance and unlike a rollover, you do need to bring both of your bike tires up off the ground to get back to the landing. If a rollover is too steep to actually connect back to the trail without scraping the frame of your bike or if the feature drops away suddenly, this is a sure tell sign you need to “drop”.

Berm: A corner (turn) on the trail that has a manmade wall to help the rider take it at speed without going off route. You might hear phrases like “rail a berm” – biking through the corner at very high speed or “this trail is bermy” with lots of switchbacks all walled corners going back and forth.

Techie: This is just a shortened phrase for technical. Techie trails are commonly rated as black diamonds with lots of drops, jumps, wooden features, steep and chunky or all of the above!

Rider Athena Vlahos smiling wide on a berm


Hike a Bike: Not something we look forward to at VNTRbirds, but once you’ve been biking for a while it becomes inevitable. If the terrain becomes too steep or too technical to stay on your bike pedaling and you then take your bike for a walk. Sometimes it’s just rolling beside you while you push and other times you need to carry it on your back.  

Session: This is to repeatedly practice a section of trail. VNTRbirds always encourages progression sessions and going over a feature at least 3 times successfully before moving on.

Track Stand: A technique where the rider comes to a “standstill” while staying on their pedals of the bike. This is a great action while assessing if a feature is a rollover vs. a drop or if you are stopped at a traffic light. A track stand takes time to master, but is great to practice as it helps the rider with balance, counter-balance and bike/ body separation.

OTB/ Endo: Over The Bars – a crash that involves going over the bike’s handlebars involuntarily, though not sure when you would opt for this type of dismount otherwise. Usually happens when the rider grabs the front brake too hard or hits the brakes while rolling over a feature inhibiting the wheels from continuing to spin through the terrain sending you “ass over tea kettle” as VNTRbirds coach Emma Dunn likes to say.

Bail: Unlike an endo, to bail could be both voluntary or involuntary. Bailing might consist of the rider jumping from their bike to minimize injury if continued on route or a crash that takes the rider by surprise. Either way hopefully it isn’t too bad and the rider can dust themselves off to continue sending it!

Rider Sarah Laughlin using a rock feature to get some air time

Hopefully this vocabulary lesson helps you the next time you’re getting out on your bike or navigating the chatter while shopping for new components for your bike!

Words by: Kelley Wren @krellbird

Photos by: Cort Muller @cortwuzhere