To really become good at jumping your mountain bike you must first understand the various types of jumps and related terminology. From there, it’s time to understand the what, why and how of jumping. And once you’ve got all that dialed, learn how to apply your new understanding of jumping mechanics to all the different types of jump features you might encounter on a trail. Learning how to jump isn’t a straightforward journey – it’s takes time, practice, and a good guide. That’s where we come into play. Let’s get started.
The following illustration breaks down the parts and types of jumps you may encounter on your local trails or bike park. Get familiar with the terminology!
Next, let’s break down the what, why and how to put it all together into 8 steps. The end goal will look like this (see: the human, not the dog).
1. Inspect and Visualize
Prior to attempting the jump, get off your bike and inspect the jump and the landing. Figure out the best angle for approach and exactly where you’d like to land your bike. Then, visualize yourself successfully completing the jump. A simple rule that will keep you safe: if you can’t visualize yourself successfully completing the jump, don’t jump it. Perhaps the jump is too big? Or the face is too steep, or you’re unsure of the landing? Skip it and work on jumps you feel more comfortable with – then work your way up to the more difficult jumps.
Once you’ve visualized yourself jumping successfully and have determined the best line, it’s time to jump.
2. Get Ready
Ride towards the jump in a high ready position on the bike. Stay focused, present, and positive–a little positive self-talk is a great idea here. Once you reach the point of commitment (your last opportunity for bail-out), stop pedaling and raise up a little — relax.
Next, as you transition down into your ready position, compress your bike with the goal of your compression ending on the face of the jump. Ideally, this should be a short / powerful compression initiated with your feet — think STOMP. Your elbows should be out and your knees bent.
Your compression (stomp) will result in an equal and opposite explosion / rebound thrusting your bike into the air. Let your bike fly! Be as light as you can at this point and allow the bike to rise into the air. If your compression timing is correct, you will sail right over your jump.
Pro Tip: You can clear a gap/table using speed and/or COMPRESSION. Just because you are clearing a table with speed, doesn’t mean you’ve got the compression right. Slow down and try to clear the jump with compression (rather than speed).
Perfect the timing – figuring out when to compress can be challenging. Start by rolling the jump the feel when the bike naturally compresses – mentally mark that spot- and then focus on compressing then. Don’t pull up on the bike, rise up with your bike!
The biggest mistakes we see riders make when trying to jump is the lack of compression on the take-off (face) of the jump. If you don’t compress your bike will behave very similarly to a rock. Gravity will get the best of you (and your bike) and you will promptly get pulled back down to earth a la Newton’s apple. So stomp down on those pedals like you mean it. Get aggressive. Grrrr.
Note: You don’t need suspension on your bike to compress it — compressing is merely the action of stomping your feet quickly.
4. Take Off — Go for height!
Once you’ve got the hang of you timing and are clearing the gap / table, try putting a small object such as a few sticks piled up to practice clearance. More compression = more height!
Once you’re flying, relax and resume your ready position and keep looking forward to your intended landing spot. Push your bike down onto your desired landing spot to increase. Your arms and legs are your primary suspension when landing so keep them relaxed enough to absorb the impact, but sturdy enough so that you don’t lose control of your bike.
Where you land is up to you — jumping and hoping you land where you’d like to land is a risky proposition. When you’re flying, look down and spot your landing. Tell that front wheel where you want it to go – set a target (“x”), extend your arm pushing your front wheel down and try to hit it.
If the jump has a descending landing, land on your front wheel right before your rear wheel. This will give you more directional control and smooth out the landing. If you land rear wheel first on a descending landing, the front of the bike is likely to pivot forward and slam the ground thus thrusting your weight abruptly forward and potentially over the front of the bike.
If your landing is flat, land with your rear wheel first. Landing on flat surfaces is more abrupt than landing on a descending landing. Landing on your rear wheel first allows you to use your legs to absorb the majority of the landing force. Relying on your suspension solely tends to cause a hard landing and a potential for loss of traction.
Land light! Practice landing light like a feather.
6. Roll Out
As you touch-down and resume your ready position, bring your head and eyes up looking down the trail.
You’ll find that if you add more speed and more compression, you’ll fly higher and further. It’ll take some time to calibrate your brain, body and bike to take off and land precisely as you intend. Experiment with controlling your landing – rear wheel first, front wheel first, both wheels and then play with your distance and height.
Table-top jumps are the most forgiving and one of the best places to take your jumping skills to the next level. If you short a table-top (don’t make the landing), there isn’t much of a consequence, just land on the ‘top’ of the jump. Unlike a double where you have to make the landing spot or you risk casing your bike.
Try applying these skills to different types of jumps (gaps, doubles, steep face, steep landing, flat landing etc.). Make a note of how your compression and/or speed varies depending on the feature.
As your confidence (and skill) increases, pick bigger obstacles, going up and downhill while jumping, experiment with your air-time and HAVE FUN! If you’d like to learn more and practice jumping in a safe, controlled environment with real-time feedback, join us for a Jumping Fundamentals Mini-clinic.
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Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a...
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a few seasons of cyclocross under my belt. I was a novice mountain biker with just enough confidence to get myself into trouble on the trails. I started by attending the free Tuesday night mountain bike workouts at Balboa Park, led by Coach Richard. While these are primarily geared toward building fitness, we learned some skills tips and I met some cool folks. Since then I've taken the intermediate and advanced skills clinics, as well as raced a couple times. Coaches Richard and Kris are great at instruction, which is not easy. Most great riders cannot teach others to do the same, but these two are exceptional at it. They've helped build my confidence and competence. In fact they have taken time during weekday and weekend rides to help give me pointers! I joined Team Ninja to train and race with this fun crew and would highly advise you check them out! ~Henry H.
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This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed,...
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed, and specific, so that I could start to get the feel of how to work effectively on trails instead of asphalt. Jeff (a former elite cyclocross racer) also joined us and added some solid hints and comments. All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic. ~ Mike Sofen
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I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never...
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never had any formal training. I just finished the weekend skills course in Irvine, CA with Richard, Randy and Daniel as the instructors. They are excellent instructors breaking every fundamental skill down, demonstrating the skill and then evaluating your practice runs with constructive criticism before applying the skills on the trails. Even though I have been riding single track for a few years, I quickly found out that I have been doing many things if not everything wrong, which means the people I ride with are doing it wrong too. Richard, Randy and Daniel are very patient and professional encouraging every student no matter what the age or gender (our class had males and females from late 20s to late 50s). They went over everything from bike set up, basic position, turning, high speed cornering, wheels lifts to you name it. If you have a desire to improve your skill then Ninja Mountain Bike Performance are the team to go to! I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more of their camps in the future. ~Kyle Kimm
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed....
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed. The preparation and lesson planning is great. Instructors seem to be everywhere providing input and excellent advice. Both groups had a wide range of skilled riders, but the team made everyone welcome and everyone learned important new skills. This training makes everyday more fun on my bike. DAY 2: Just rode one of my "regular" morning workout routes. 2 PR's - and I thought I was just cruising. I was making no effort to ride fast... just smooth like I was taught. ~Peter O.
….and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)!
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a...
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a great environment for learning . Your professionalism, skill and experience in teaching, choice of terrain to teach in, and enthusiasm all made this a totally worthwhile experience. I would do it again and again as you never stop learning. ....and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)! ~James Crawford
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