Jumps are great fun but they can also really suck when you land on your face! If you have seen our Donnerdag Thursday reels or any of the infamous Pinkbike Friday fails, you may have noticed that a large proportion of crashes involve a jump of sorts. “How do I stop crashing on jumps” is a not a seldom asked question from the mountain bike crowd.
There are a few classic errors that human beings tend make when attempting to get airborne on their bicycles and in this article, I’ll help you spot a few of them to prevent the impromptu dirt naps.
The Obstacle Is Not Always The Way
The first tip to avoid crashing on a jump is fairly obvious. Just go around the thing, especially if you’re not sure that you can jump it properly. Now that may feel a but lame, and it probably is. I myself certainly enjoy just sending the odd blind jump and the stoke afterwards of realising that you somehow did the maths right but if self preservation is important to you, just going around the jump may be best option sometimes!
If you’re committed to sending it, here are a few common errors and solutions.
Build Up Your Confidence and Skill On Smaller Jumps
First up, don’t go too big too fast, rather start small – get comfortable with the jumping feeling before stepping it up too much and ending up far out of your skill range! My advice is to find a table top jump and practice hitting it faster and faster but squashing it to learn what the takeoff is doing to your bike. When you’ve built up enough speed that it is difficult to squash it, dial back the speed a bit and pump the bike before the the takeoff to start getting some air!
How Leaning Back May Cause You To Crash
The next tip may be counter intuitive but having your weight too far back (which feels safe) can actually result in you getting bucked. This is due to your weight compressing your rear suspension (if you have any) or generally overloading your legs and the rebound effect pushes your weight forward as you’re taking off (this was terrifying to replicate in the video). Confidence and balanced weight distributions are key. Don’t hesitate and shift your weight back. You need to keep your weight relatively central and pump the bike before takeoff.
Pre-Loading Before The Takeoff Of The Jump
If you don’t pump before the takeoff (another common error) the jump itself will compress your suspension which will then kick back at you. Compressing the suspension as your front wheel is about to transition into the takeoff gives you a firm platform to jump off of and a more predictable response from the suspension at lift off.
The Dead Sailor
The Dead Sailor can be a symptom of not pumping effectively. If you don’t compress your suspension and put energy into the takeoff of the jump it will push back at you harder and kick you unexpectedly. Have confidence, lower your speed slightly if you can and commit to pushing into the bike on the takeoff. It also helps to consciously do your best not to go completely stiff in the air, little movements in the air help you maintain active control over the bike. I found this really great article on the Dead Sailor effect that may be helpful.
Saving A Sketchy Landing
If you’re feeling out of shape! All is not lost until you hit the ground, many sketchy landings may yet be recovered so don’t give up! You can absorb a really big case (coming short on a landing) by letting the bike up come into you with your legs. Similar with a huck-to-flat. Practicing hard landings on drop offs can help to get your impact absorption strong for these situations. The key is to be strong on the bike but loose to allow it to find it’s feet as you land.
Follow Your Mate In For Speed
If you’re unsure about gauging the speed properly, follow a mate in who knows the speed to help you gauge the speed correctly and, as with anything other than flat corners, your pedals must be level!
Jumping takes time and practice to get right, as expected with any mountain bike skill! Have good time out there and keep your face off the ground! Find more mountain bike skills tips here.