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 have been riding for 1.5 years and still have a lot to learn but Richard and the team are...
I have been riding for 1.5 years and still have a lot to learn but Richard and the team are great teachers. I have been a bit apprehensive about jumping in the past but after two days of instruction with Richard, Aaron, Daniel, Ivan, and Erin I feel much more confident and won't be afraid to take on jumps anymore. The instructor staff are all very experienced riders and it showed. They are all also very friendly and most importantly patient. They aren't afraid to share stories of their mistakes while trying to explain why not to do things a certain way. You truly are part of the Team Ninja family when you are at the classes and I can't wait to go back to another class! Thank you Richard and all of the other instructors. ~Jonathan R
We attended the 2-Day Mountain Bike Skills Camp in Denver CO. I'm a beginner to mountain biking and the class...
We attended the 2-Day Mountain Bike Skills Camp in Denver CO. I'm a beginner to mountain biking and the class exceeded my expectations. The first day was basic fundamental training from bunny hops to cornering your bike. The second day we put those skills to the test by climbing and downhill at all different skill levels, Richard and Aaron even took video to help improve our skills. Well worth your time if you want to improve! ~Russ Anderson
Highly recommend this class for all ages/skills. I will definitely be taking more classes!
Great class! I wish I took this class seven yrs ago when I started mountain biking. Richard and his team...
Great class! I wish I took this class seven yrs ago when I started mountain biking. Richard and his team was awesome. I learned how to approach uphill switchbacks, how to "pre-turn", and most important, how to descend with confidence. Bottom line: I am more efficient and safer rider. As another review said, "best money spent on mountain biking." You can have an expensive bike, but if you don't know how to ride, what's the point? Highly recommend this class for all ages/skills. I will definitely be taking more classes! ~Rean
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
Probably the best money I’ve spent on mountain biking …
I took the Ninja intermediate / advanced course here in Denver the weekend before last, and it was probably the...
I took the Ninja intermediate / advanced course here in Denver the weekend before last, and it was probably the best money I've spent on mountain biking in quite a while. Aaron tuned the clinic to our skills and needs, putting in extra time and attention where we needed more work and covering a wide range of skills. After mountain biking for almost 20 years, there were still missing pieces (and some bad habits) to my riding that he picked up on, explained, and then showed me how to improve, correct, and practice. Aaron was knowledgeable, patient, and progressed through skills in steps so there wasn't too much to digest at any one time. As the day progressed, he rolled them all together as we moved through different trail features, so I really got a good sense of how to put things into practice. He was also very familiar with the venue, Village Greens Park, so he knew exactly which sections to hit to practice particular skills - it was a great combination of drills and very watchful instruction, then honing those skills on real trail features. And, as we talked about with him during lunch, even experienced riders should consider the "fundamentals" course - I really had no idea that I needed work on some of the basics, like braking. I'm heavy on the rear brake just as a long-established habit - who knew? (Well, apparently Aaron did...) ~Jon Gotow
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