“I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.” Jumping tips from Ninja Instructor Jeremiah “Scratch” Stone.
My relationship with jumping bikes started young and blossomed over three decades of boosting every single thing I could find or build. As a kid, I liberated wheelbarrows full of dirt from my Mama’s garden to build a jump. From there, I worked up to dirt jumps, table tops and gap jumps. With no instructor to point out my mistakes, I wiped out in every single way possible. I learned how to jump the hard way; with bumps, bruises and broken equipment. Lucky for you, I’m here to help you skip the painful lessons and get right to the good stuff. Here are my 5 Tips for Jumping Success:
1. Bike Setup
Set your sag properly! The term sag refers to the amount of suspension travel that is used when you are on your bike in a riding position. Not sure how to set your sag? Here’s how.
Remember, your shocks, just like tires, will lose a little pressure over time. Make sure your pressure (aka sag) is set correctly periodically to ensure your bike is riding to its full potential.
Next, learn about rebound (the rate at which your suspension returns after a compression) and tune it. The key with this is balance. You want your front and rear suspension behaving similarly. I prefer my rides at about 20% sag with fast rebound action. To check if rebound is balanced, pay attention to how the bike behaves when you bounce it. From there, ride into a section of trail you’re familiar with over and over again. Is the rear end coming up too much? Is the front end diving? If you feel yourself bouncing on landings, your rebound might be set too quick. Think of it like two pogo sticks – get them to work together!
2. Mental Approach
There’s a concept in trail building (and riding) that every feature is there to serve the next. Think about this: that berm is there to serve the next section by redirecting you and giving you the platform to enter it with more momentum. That roller is there for pumping or speed checking or maybe preloading. Don’t fight the flow of the trail – learn to use it to your advantage.
Now, apply this concept to jumping! Most jump lines are ascending, a type of crescendo where each jump leads you into another as they increase in size, hang time, intensity, etc. The face of the jump serves the landing. When I approach a jump, my main concern is where and how I want to land.
3. Control the Bike
Don’t get lazy halfway through. This usually leads to a “dead sailor” or “pencil” effect where pretty much nothing goes right and you look like a dork. Commit to placing the bike on the landing. Think about pumping the backside, pushing the bike into the landing when you get there and rolling it out clean. For me, I commit to a little bit of hip movement from the very beginning. It helps me maintain control, keeps my body and mind in tune, and sometimes turns into a steezy little whip action. From the innocent bystander’s point of view, it looks intentional and awesome. Inside my mind, this little movement gives me something to focus on in flight, which helps my entire body and nervous system do what it needs to do.
4. The Landing is What Matters
Begin with the end in mind (for all my 7 Habits nerds out there). What’s the goal? Hopefully the goal is the clear the jump and make it look effortless (and cool).
Pop Quiz! Where should you be landing?
a) The very peak tip top edge after the gap
b) The edge of the tabletop where it first starts to descend
c) The flat area just past the jump
d) The meaty part of the decline where your whole bike has a great landing surface and nice run-out.
Ding ding ding ding! If you answered “d”, you are correct. If you aim short, you’ll come up short and case the jump (whomp whomp). Your landing is well past that edge or peak.
Put the bike on the landing. Read that again. PUT the bike where you want it. I see so many people think that all they have to do is mash into a jump face and somehow the universe will just take care of them. Remember, the face and lip of a jump is just the beginning. It’s the landing that you need. More details on The What, Why and How of Jumping your Mountain Bike.
5. Be Mechanically-minded
Think about the mechanics of what is going on when you are jumping your bike. Geek out and think physics. Force, inertia, all that stuff. Then you’ll start to read jumps and anticipate how they’ll affect you. Jumps with a bigger face may feel earlier to learn on than jumping with a small face, because your entire bike fits on the face. Small face jumps on the other-hand can feel like you are jumping twice – once with the front end, then the rear. Steep faces will send you up. Mellow faces are usually easier to control because they have less influence on the bike and body. Step ups are more forgiving because they take a lot of the drop out of play, so you essentially only have to get the first half of the jump correct. Step downs are easier to over shoot and therefore need plenty of room to land. If you can consistently clear a 10ft table, you can clear a gap with the same characteristics.
Now it’s time to go ride your bike and have the most fun possible!
He’s a wild man with a wild plan, living the nomad life as a skills instructor and trail builder. With a background in moto and 15 years of mtb experience, he has tips for riders of all levels! You can find him leading Ninja clinics all over the country and on Instagram @vitabrevis
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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