Table to gap anyone?
From rooty sections to fallen trees, depressions to drainage ditches – here’s how to jump gaps with confidence.
Jumping your mountain bike is now an accepted part of modern riding. Even on more natural and twisty trails you’ll often find features that are designed to take you on an airborne adventure. You don’t always have to get your wheels off the ground, but every so often you might find yourself on a feature that requires you to clear something on the trail. A gap of some description. This might be to avoid a section of roots or rocks, but it may also me a mandatory gap over something like a burn or a drainage ditch. If you’re not comfortable with getting your wheels off the ground then you’re either going to find yourself walking around it, or in a whole lot of trouble. What are the secrets to clearing gaps then?
This one is easier said than done. A confident rider will be able to judge the gap that they have to clear to and commit to it in an instant. This is likely because they have experience of landing a similar gap or jump of the same size successfully in the past. There’s no easy way around it: if you do jumps all the time then they become a lot easier because you believe that you can do it! If you never spend an time around them then you’re very unlikely to have confidence in your ability to make it over successfully.
Start off small and on a jump that has very small consequences. A small table top jump on a nice still day is a good place to start. You want to be able to clear the flat section and land on the downslope consistently and without having to go too fast. It’s all about starting low to the bike and gradually straightening your legs so that you’re pushing back into the jump for stability. That way you’ll create your own lift with a consistent and powerful drive back into the feature. Coming in fast a ricocheting off the take off is not going to allow you to progress onto larger jumps. Feeling like you have control when you take off will mean that you can take this technique to a larger jump and still have confidence in your ability.
A great way of judging whether or not you can clear a gap is to see if it’s a similar size to something safer that you are already confident on. If for example you are consistently clearing a rollable table top jump at a certain speed, then if you replicate that same speed and confidence over a similar sized gap jump then you should be able to land it just as safely. The more of these features you have tucked away in your memory as positive experiences, the more likely you are to look at something you’ve never tried and think, “I can do that”. The first time you try something like this your heart will be pounding and your palms will be sweaty, but once you’ve cleared it and landed safely you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.
Just don’t think about it
This is a part of the process that comes a lot more naturally to some than it does others. If you have the speed, technique and confidence to clear a gap, then it doesn’t matter what’s in between the take off and the landing. A good way of testing this is to roll up to the jump with no intention of clearing the gap and stop at the top. If all you can see in your minds eye is yourself falling into the abyss then we wouldn’t suggest trying it. If, however, you roll to the top of the take off and you can genuinely imagine yourself floating through the air and clearing the gap, then give it a go. After all, you have no intention of landing in the middle of the two so what’s the point thinking about it.
Line it up
This piece of advice works well on drops with high consequences as well. You want to walk up to the jump and stand in a place back from the take off where the lip lines up perfectly with the landing. You should be able to imagine yourself going from one smooth surface directly to the other. If you’re eyes are able to join the take off to the landing then there is a lot less to think about. A gap jump always looks worse from the side. The space plays with your head and becomes the only thing you can think about. Stand so that your line of sight goes from the take off directly to landing, and you’ll see yourself making it through safely with a lot more confidence.
Remember: Don’t practise till you get it right. Practise till you can’t get it wrong any more.