With the correct knowledge and the right approach anyone can get air
With the correct knowledge and the right approach anyone can get air. There’s no trick to jumping, anyone can go big with the proper technique.
How to jump a mountain bike
Sailing over jumps on your mountain bike is one of the best feelings you can master. When everything goes well it should feel like you’re floating effortlessly from one part of the trail to another. Why is it then that so many riders don’t feel confident on them. Or why even when it goes well you can’t put your finger on why it worked or how you can replicate it on something larger or unfamiliar.
We’re going to take you back to basics, show you how to identify what kind of jump you’re on, how to control it, and look at specific go to control mechanisms that will allow you to practise the right thing on the right jump.
Watch: 6 jumps with Danny Hart
Jumps are not only fun: they are the perfect place to practise how to use your weight on a trail to generate control and stability. Once a rider masters the technique of balancing or opposing the added weight that goes along with a larger shape like a jump or berm, they can then use that same technique on other less obvious shapes on the trail. Learning how to jump properly doesn’t have anything to do with fitting in with the kids: it’s all about becoming a well rounded rider that can use your body position, range of motion, and confidence to go heavy and light where you decide to. Not where the trail throws you.
Your starting and finishing position here is going to be the same as usual; legs straight, elbows bent, and head over the bars. Remember this is the shape that you always want to snap back into when you catch yourself feeling stressed or out of your comfort zone. In this article we’re going to be talking about pushing back into the trail to generate consistent stability. This doesn’t mean bending then straightening your legs suddenly. It means sinking down into a lower attack position with your legs and elbows bent, then slowly straightening your legs so that you end up back where you started with your elbows bent and your legs straight. Your back should be the same angle to the ground the whole way through this range of motion and none of the movements should ever look jerky or sudden.
When a more confident rider explains how to do a jump they often tell their pals to push off the jump, or to push off the lip. While this is true, it often doesn’t fully capture what the less experienced rider should be doing the whole way through and most riders will push with everything they have way too early making a mess of the jump. What you should be doing is slowing it down. As you roll through the shape of a jump you’re going to feel like you get pushed into the ground and that it gets heavier as the jump gets steeper. This is because your body weight is no longer moving forward but is getting pushed in a new direction as the trail changes shape. The push that you do should feel like you’re opposing that extra weight as it squashes you down. The longer, more consistent, and smother you can make this feel, the more control you’ll have once your wheels come off the ground.
Pushing off the lip
What does this mean exactly? The lip is the top of the jump where the part of the trail that’s now pointing you up suddenly disappears and falls away. Some jumps have more of a lip than others. This will allow a confident rider the ability to ‘pop’ off the top of a jump and get more time in the air and off the ground. You can only use the lip to aid your jump if you’re still going heavy over it though. If you’ve backed off further down the jump then the lip will always feel like it’s clipping your back wheel and sending you over the bars. This is often what people are afraid of when it comes to jumps and they control for this by backing off even more! To control the whole jump properly you have to commit to going heavy through the whole process. That means driving the bike down right the way through the lip at the top as well.
Taking off too early
By far the biggest thing we have to correct on a clients jumping technique is the timing of where they do their push. As jumps get bigger or more aggressive people tend to do too much too early. They push hard with their legs using all their available range of motion, and end up having to pick the bike up over the last part of the jump. For this technique to work they have to go faster and faster to clear the jump, and end up ricocheting off the take off with no real control. Remember and slow the push with your legs done so that you’re not ricocheting off the middle of the jump. Your jumping technique should feel smooth and controlled giving you time and consistency.
Roll into the jump with enough speed that you can make use of the shape of the trail. You want your body position to be low with your legs and elbows bent and your head close to the bars. As the trail starts to change shape and you feel that you’re rolling on to the transition, balance that extra weight by pushing through your legs. This isn’t the time to push with everything you’ve got though. Instead try and tense your core and oppose the downward force by being strong with your legs. From the outside this will look like nothing’s happening as you’ll effectively be still, but you’ll be resisting the collapse with a strong body position that gradually becomes exaggerated to straight legs till you’re right off the top.
Hold it down
Another way of saying all this is that as you roll through the jump the shape of the trail is trying to make your arms and legs collapse. Don’t let that happen. Instead: drive back into that shape and hold the bike on the ground. Do this properly and the noise will be the give-away to how much weight is going through the jump. Your body will go heavy right through the whole shape, there will be no jerky or fast movement, and the shape of the trail will feel consistent and balanced. All under your control.
What goes up must come down. If you’re working to straightening your legs off the top of the jump, then you’ll need to keep them straight in the air for a while as well. Try working on being in the perfect attack or neutral riding position in the air. Your legs should be bent but your arms will still be bent at the elbows. As you feel you’ve reached your highest point of the trajectory and you’re starting to come back down to land, this is where you can soften your legs and prepare for the landing. Look where you want to come down and don’t rush it. The bigger the air the slower the movement.
Doing it wrong
Left to Right: 1. Come in Low. 2. Push too early. 3. Go soft off the top making the bike collapse. 4. extend in the air and fill the gap. 5. Pull up for the landing.
Doing it right
Left to Right: 1. Come in low with all your potential energy stored in your legs. 2. As the trail changes shape oppose that extra weight by powering up your core and driving in with your legs. 3. Build up to straight legs and keep that push going right off the top. 4. Stay in your attack position with your arms bent. 5. Prepare for the landing after the highest part of the jump is over be gently bending your legs.
One of the most powerful and important things you can have as a rider wanting to progress is feedback. To complete the feedback loop we don’t mean the kind of “what the hell was that?” comments that your friends will throw at you. We mean good video footage that you can review objectively. If your pal wants to be helpful, they can film you from the side and you can both review the footage. Look for straight arms in the air, pushing too early off the jump, and pulling your bike up underneath you once off the ground. These are the three most common mistakes people make on jumps. If it’s done smoothly it should look like you’re floating. If you need examples to compare yourself to you can always download the Dirt School app, and Coaches Eye is also a good platform allowing you to scroll through your footage, pinch to zoom, and really look at your timing.
Being able to control jumps by giving yourself more time and making them smoother will then allow you to apply that same technique to cornering. We’ll be looking at this in a lot more detail in a couple of months, but if you follow these articles regularly then you’ll know we always say that a well supported turn like a berm is basically a jump lying on its side. Apply the same thought process to a corner and you’ll have way more traction, time to react, and be exiting with momentum.
In the current issue of mbr we look at scaling up your jumps safely in in a way that will give you more confidence.
We look at gaps, larger features, how to session a jump line, and how to add a bit of style in for good measure. Get out there and grab a copy.