Why does jumping look so easy on youtube and feel oh-so-hard in person?! Jumping takes nearly every mountain biking skill and puts them all together into one beautiful harmony and with so many moving pieces, it’s easy to miss a note. Let’s do some troubleshooting and figure out why your jumping might be a little off key.
1. Feet coming off the pedals
Most often we see feet coming off the pedals when a riders body is coming up faster than their bike, or the body is too stiff and ends up pushing the bike away from the body.
When jumping, you have to allow the bike to travel upwards towards your body by bending your arms and legs and drawing the bike up towards you.
Also consider your equipment. Good shoes and pedals are vital for maintaining contact with your bike. Purpose built bike shoes work far better than any kind of tennis or skate shoe and mountain bike-specific flat pedals (not the $10 plastic platform pedals) are a MUST for jumping. If that doesn’t seem to be the issue, get familiar with your suspension and consider making some adjustments (checkout Suspension Setup in 4 Easy Steps).
2. Front wheel turning in the air
Intentionally turning a front wheel in the air for a little added flare is admittedly pretty cool. Unintentionally turning your front wheel in the air is bad! Landing with a twisted wheel can end in disaster.
When jumping, you should be guiding the bars up but not tugging. A turning front wheel happens what you are tugging on the bars and pulling more on one side than the other. Focus on guiding the bike and handlebars up, but not tugging.
3. Landing feels rough
What type of landing are you on – descending or flat? If you are working on a descending landing, you should be landing front wheel first. If you are instead landing rear wheel first, the front of the bike is likely to pivot forward and slam to the ground, thus trusting 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 and landing rear wheel first allows you to use your legs to absorb the majority of the landing force.
No matter what type of landing you are working on, remember to use the “free” compression in your legs. Don’t be stiff!
Practice what it feels like to land “light as a feather”. Stand on flat ground (without your bike) and pretend someone is dangling a $100 bill over your head. Now jump up and reach for the bill – note the sound your feet make when you come back down to the ground. Now do the same thing again but this time, specifically focus on trying to make zero noise when you land. Notice the difference? On the second jump, you used your legs as suspension and gracefully soaked up the impact. You want to do this exact same thing when landing a jump.
4. Not clearing the table
Don’t go blaming your speed or suspension just yet. Start by taking a good hard look at your compression.
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. Compression is merely the action of stomping your feet quickly and then allowing the bike to come up under you. So stomp down on those pedals like you mean it. Get aggressive. Grrrr!
Start your troubleshooting by focusing specifically on adding a bigger compression and using that momentum, to help you clear that table. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can play around with adding a little speed (and adjust the necessary compression accordingly). It’s a fine balancing act!
5. Overshooting the landing
Chances are, you’re letting the bike determine where it wants to go instead of you telling the bike where you want it to go. You’re the boss!
Where you land is up to you — jumping and hoping you land in the right spot is a risky proposition. When you’re in the air, LOOK down and spot your landing. Assuming you are on a descending landing, tell that front wheel where you want it to go by extending your arms and PUSHING your front wheel down towards your desired landing spot.
To practice, set a leaf (or something highly visible) on the jump landing where you want your front wheel to land. Ride the jump, look for that leaf, and PUSH the front of your bike down aiming to hit the leaf with your front wheel. Move the leaf around to a few different landing spots to practice hitting your target.
If this doesn’t solve the issue then slow down your speed a bit, you speed demon you!
Now that you have the tools to troubleshoot the most common jumping mistakes, you can take the next step toward conducting a beautiful symphony in the air.
I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo!
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop falling down during each mtb ride. The class was small and super fun...and the instructors (Richard and Kris) were informative and dynamic. The clinic was small enough for each member to practice each learned skill and receive immediate feedback. I learned many new skills on that day and felt much more confident with my bike-body connection. I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo...the 55 mile route! Woohooo!! The next day, as I was road biking (training for the Solvang Double Century), I dodged a bullet on the Snake/Mulholland by applying my learned mtb skills--a long towing truck went over almost half of our lane on a blind turn as we were descending. Instead of fixating on the truck, I remembered the importance of looking for a clear path and keeping my eyes on where I want to go....Now I understand what people meant when they said that mtb will help improve my road riding skills too! I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn, and I look forward to the next clinic! ~ Uyen N.
I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails.
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails. There is one drop and one off camber downhill section I never have had the courage or skill to ride until today. It was so fun to ride them and not get off and walk. Richard La China and Courtney Cowan were fantastic instructors. Not only did I up my technical skills in Sedona it was also a ton of fun! ~Patty Elliott
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though I always knew I didn't really understand the mechanics of it, so it was a kind of "huck and hope" affair. The result was that I didn't land about 1 in 5 attempts. The clinic with Aaron was great! He explained the mechanics of how the bike is handled coming into, through and out of the jump and starts with individual small skills progressing step by step in a very manageable way (even for me, and I started this stuff at 45 and I'm not very coordinated). What I feel sets Aaron apart is his ability to communicate his explanations and demonstrate movements in a way that makes them easy to learn even for someone with little experience. He is also very patient and encouraging, which helps when one is starting out and struggling a little with some movements. I definitely intend to do more clinics with Ninja MBS. I feel like it will save me a lot of time and frustration as well as possibly a lot of money in medical bills! ~Jill M.
I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
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