It’s not how high you can hop but how you’re getting off the ground that really counts
Learning how to bunny hop and quickly create lift will allow you to smooth out trails by using obstacles to your advantage, as well as impressing mates.
Hopefully you’ve had time to practise your manuals in the last few weeks. This month we’re going to cover a fairly easy one and a slightly harder one. The humble Bunny Hop comes in many shapes and sizes. There are lots of different versions, and loads of different ways of applying them all out on the trail, but once you master a few basics a lot of the more difficult aspects of the technique will fall into place. The secret is to not be put off by how quickly you make progress. It’s not how high you can hop but how you’re getting off the ground that really counts. Well, that and flat pedals. Let us explain more.
Bunny hops are a lot more than getting your wheels off the ground. Once acquired, the bunny hop allows its user to not only clear obstacles, but also to be able to generate a huge amount of stability in places before you miss the choppy stuff. If you can push away from the ground properly, and with enough drive to give you lightness without pulling, then you have a powerful skill that will allow you to read the trail very differently. It’s not just the act of getting your wheels off the ground. In fact it’s almost detrimental to think of it this way. It’s more about starting low and generating so much push that once your tyres are free you can float in the air, and time your landings to coincide with more smooth ground.
This is actually two hacks. The first is a recommendation and the second is how to get more out of it. Firstly the recommendation is that you use flat pedals. Flat pedals are much more than getting your feet on and off in a hurry. They are the principal behind how you weight and unweight the bike and underlie everything about how you control your body weight on a trail. If you’re clipped in and have been for ages, then your SPDs are probably no longer an advantage to you. They’ve become a necessity. The majority of SPD riders say that when they do ride flats that their feet just come off. This is because they’ve become so used to being clipped in that they’re actually pulling on the pedals without even knowing it. Ditch your SPDs for a while and get back into flat pedals. Your flow and confidence will blossom and you might never look back.
An extreme version of someone using SPDs is that they ride everywhere with their feet pointing down and their knees bent. The next time you’re coasting on your bike try dropping your heels as far as they go and straighten your legs completely. If your hamstrings are tight then you rarely make the right position.
The advice for using flats is to move your ankles more. Drop your heels and straighten your legs. This should be your starting and finishing position every time someone tells you you should be pushing. If you want to generate a hop, start with your heels dropped and your legs straight. Bend your knees so you can start to build up the potential energy needed to push away from the ground, but when you drive yourself back to the straight legged position make sure you hook your pedals with your feet by driving your toes back under your pedals. Your thumbs will be holding onto the bars with your hands and it might feel like you’re pushing forwards on the bars at the same time, but really drive your trailing foot especially back into the pedal so you become jammed in there.
Types of bunny hop
The term Bunny Hop covers a lot of different versions. There’s the Speed Hop or English Hop where you lift both wheels at the same time. The Bunny Hop or American Hop where you lift your front wheel then your rear. And the Lateral Hop is where you generate a sideways jump to change your line. They all have their uses, and can be used in any manner of combinations, but we’ll take you through the three main types so that you can get your head around what makes them different and how you can master each of them.
Start low, drive your weight away from the groundThis is the easiest to do from scratch. As its name would suggest, it’s one where you need a little speed in order for it to be useful. It’s probably the most useful in order of what it allows you to do out in the real world, but it is also the lowest in terms of the hight that it will allow you to gain. The trick with the speed hop is to preload your bike with your weight down low, then think about driving your suspension out of the way by pushing down with your arms and legs at the same time. Once you drive through all that travel you’ll be pushing away from the ground. That’s why you have to start so low. You have to get all that travel out of the way first before you have any real lift off from the ground.
As you push away hard with your legs remember and scoop your feet on your pedals to bring the bike with you. Your hop should be 90% push and only 10% pull. If you’re doing too much in the air then you’ll just be lifting your bike up underneath you with a ratio closer to 50/50. More push less pull is the key.
How to bunny hop
This one is a little harder. The classic bunny hop is more like a manual to begin with, and its the one that allows the user to gain the most height. It’s also the one that everyone thinks of when you mention bunny hops and can be very useful if you need to clear something large, or if you need to step up on top of a feature or camber. The crux is learning to stagger the movements needed to get it right. You want to start off by getting low, after all the range of motion that you allow yourself here will dictate how high you can boost, throw your bike forwards and your weight back very similar to a manual.
But before you loop out you need to drive all your weight back up as if you’re trying to header a football. It might even look like you’re humping the bars, but if you pull yourself up on the bars and drive your legs down into the ground powerfully enough then you’ll be able to stop up at the top and the bike will come with you. Again, this should be mostly push and hardly any pull.
If you can master this one then you can think of extending it further with a bit of a pull, but we’ll get to that later.
This one is an extension of the bunny hop. You will use this a lot more than you think you will once you have the hang of it, and you can use it to get out of ruts, change your line on the trail, or even hop from one grip point to another.
The easiest way to practice it is rolling along a smooth road or grassy slope at walking pace. Counter-steer away from the direction you want to travel in to create a tip in the right direction.
Once off balance drive your hop right into that angle and look to where you want to land.
At slow speeds this is sometimes easier if you can land frond wheel first because you can then pivot a little and bring you rear wheel back in line.
This is built on top of the Bunny Hop from earlier so we can’t overestimate the initial principals enough. Once you have the hang of driving your weight back, then yanking it up the way, as you stop at the top you can pull the bike up underneath you and throw the bars forwards.
There. I said it. Pull the bike. But remember you have to have already driven away from the ground with a powerful push.
To use the bunny hop out on the trail remember and preload your hop first. That way you can generate weight on the smooth bits by being heavy as you push away, then go light on the rough bits by floating there. You’re not trying to lift your wheels over the roots, you’re trying to link the smooth bits together by pushing on them.