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.
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two....
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two. Being able to get instant feedback from the instructor (s) in this case Richard La China and his assistant is invaluable. From getting the correct riding position to improving the skills necessary to have a fast flow through the trails builds confidence and is the key to having more fun when mountain bike riding. Also I've taken one-on-one lessons (with Richard La China) and it really speeds up the learning (in my case it was basic jumping) in any area where you deem to be weak in or just need improvement. ~ Thad G.
I would recommend this to riders of all skill levels and ages.
I want to thank the Ninja Mountain Bike Camp and instructor Richard La China for a great weekend on April...
I want to thank the Ninja Mountain Bike Camp and instructor Richard La China for a great weekend on April 22-23rd. As an 59 year old ex-MX racer and 28 year Mt bike rider, found the personal instruction and group demonstrations were instrumental in my growth as a rider. You can teach an old dog new tricks. The seeing "new" lines, different jumping techniques and cornering skills all helped me open my eyes to a world of riding I had not experienced on my own. I want to all of the attendees for a great experience. I would recommend this to riders of all skill levels and ages. ~Joel Palmer
I went to the clinic that was offered April 6-9 at Mulberry Gap in Elljay Georgia. The coaches were awesome!...
I went to the clinic that was offered April 6-9 at Mulberry Gap in Elljay Georgia. The coaches were awesome! I was riding faster with more control than ever before! If you want to get better take one of their camps! ~Bill S.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part thpugh was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
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