Jumps - stiffen up or loosen up?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Jumps - stiffen up or loosen up?

    I'm fairly new to this jumping thing since I started mountain biking last year. Some kids at our local forest patch had built jumps and lucky enough for me they had small ones made too for old farts like me. They've given me the usual advice, pedals level, have enough speed, commit...then comes the part where it gets shady for me at least. When I see them do jumps, it's hard for me to catch them at what point do they "relax" and let it flow.

    Here are my questions: Just before my front tire leaves the lip of the jump will I stiffen up or loosen up my arms and legs? I find it contradictory especially when they say I should relax...would that be when I'm airborne or when I am just about to hit the jump? Also, why do I sometimes land unevenly, like I tend to land heavily on my right side, meaning i don't land with the bike straight up? I had a couple of crashes already because of this, sliding out or hitting the ground hard. What am I doing wrong? BTW, my chocolate foot would be my right. Your tips would be helpful...thanks!!

  2. #2
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    Loosey Goosey. The stiffer you are, the more awkward you fly. I know when I first hit a new jump, or at the beginning of the day I'm more stiff and I tend to have more awkward situations. Once I get used to it and relax, everything smooths itself out.
    My advice is just keep jumping and you'll get comfortable and more relaxed. If you keep falling to the right, consciously lean a LITTLE to the left till it works itself out. I can't think of any time it's good to feel stiff on the bike.
    Check out Bryan Lopes Mastering Mountain Bike skills if you want some really good advice on pretty much every aspect of riding. It'll probably make you have more fun on the trail, and that's what it's all about.

  3. #3
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    I recently made the transition in to taking more jumps too, and at first had the same problem with unwanted tail whipping to my right side whenever I took to the air. Mostly because I was trying to aggressively to pull the bike up when I went over the jump.

    Things became much easier when I just relaxed and let the bike do all the work. At least until you get comfortable in the air, loosen up and let the bike flow with you through the jump.

    Once that feels natural you'll be able to start pushing yourself a little by going faster, higher, and moving the bike around in the air.

  4. #4
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    definitely keep it loose and relaxed... avoid the Captain Stiffee/dead sailor manoeuvre at all costs, that is a recipe for disaster.
    At the risk of being heckled i'm gonna say this - before hitting any jumps, do some stretching to make sure that your body is loose and limber.
    Remember to breathe when you jump - i've seen a lot of guys literally hold their breath when they hit a jump, which only adds to the feeling of stiffening-up.

    As far as your landing being biased to one side:
    for getting down the basics of jumping - focus on keeping your elbows UP and OUT, and keep your elbows and shoulders even with one another. If you leave the lip of a jump with one of your elbows or shoulders lower than the other, you WILL drift to the direction of your lower elbow/shoulder.
    Later on, when you get the basics dialed and move onto adding steez to your jumping, that's exactly how you throw mad sideways whips and scrubs over jumps - you drop your shoulder and elbow and whip the bike in that direction.

  5. #5
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    blender gives great advice. Stiffening up in the air = hospital trip. You can push the bike into the lip by extending your arms and legs but bend those suckers in the air; that also helps you re-position the bike for re-entry because you can't make adjustments if your dead sailing (that's how you can tell the kooks).

    Have FUN!

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  6. #6
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    Thank you folks for the advice, it will definitely help me moving forward. Loosey goosey is the verdict of all...I guess I also need to be conscious of my posture on the bike, I think this is one element I am missing once the ramp is closing in on me. I tend to stare at the jump and forget my positioning or having the right posture, I am more concerned of how I would land. I like the advice of the elbows being up and out, never noticed if I do that when I do jumps. I assume that my knees should also be bent and sticking out a bit, not pinching the saddle, am I right?

    Definitely, I'll do more jumps till I get used to it and I didn't know that Lopes has a book on mountain biking, thanks for the info! I'll check my local bookstore if they have it.

    Here's another one: I dunno but the kids advice me to steer clear of some jumps, despite it being small ones. They're telling me that it has a certain "kick" to it when you leave the lip of the jump, that I need to practice on the regular jumps first. Hmmm...and I thought all ramps were the same.

  7. #7
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    I agree with what others have said. Especially when it comes to landing to one side. Keep your body square, especially elbows and shoulders. They can easily drift or be off balance and make your whole bike/body go that direction.

    As far as hitting smaller jumps that have a kick...there certainly is some merrit to what they are saying. It is much easier to jump 15 feet on a steady ramp with a smooth landing then it is to jump 6' on a kicker dirt jump with a gap in the middle. If you are having issues in the air as is, the feeling of being "kicked" into the air strait up isn't going to help your comfort level.

  8. #8
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    Imagine yourself pulling the bike up into you as you go airborne. As many have stated you then have control of the bike and can extend your arms to set down the front, your legs down to set the back down or both to bring it in for a smooth landing.

  9. #9
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    Good advice by all - and Gman points out something very important - PUMP into the jump. First of all, yes definitely be loose - BUT that does not mean inactive. You have to take control over the jump and ride it like you mean it, even on small jumps where it is obvious that are easily going to clear it. Push DOWN slightly on the handlebars and pedals (evenly at first) as you come onto the take off ramp, and then sort of stand up/forward as you are leaving the lip (do NOT extend your legs/arms fully though, at least not in the beginning). Then as you go airborne you pull up on the handlebars and push them a bit FORWARD as you are going through the air - this will bring the bike up into your body, and keep it "stuck" to your feet. Keep it smooth, don't pull up like a crazy person on the bars either (SURE way to end up not straight), and look ahead to the landing area. I also find that a lot of people tend to unwittingly refuse the airtime...i.e. they want to do the jump, but they want it to be over just as quickly as possible. This also leads to imbalance, because they don't properly pump the lip, for fear of getting up too high. The point of the jump IS to get high ( ) so you need to embrace that concept, and look ahead/up into the air a bit, because that is where you are going. Then, as you go through the air, look down the trail and ride it out.

  10. #10
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    I'm no air time super star, all the advice given is good so far, I will add a couple things...

    Unless you have ailerons, you cannot control your heading once in the air!

    You can move rider and bike around, but your "lumped mass" ie bike and riders combined center of gravity, follows simple projectile motion, nothing you can do about it. So you have to make sure you aren't adding spin etc to yourself on take off (unless that's what you're going for!). For example if you tend to land leaned to the right, then you weren't straight on take off.

    Regarding some jumps having a certain "kick", not all ramps are the same at all! In fact they can be very different, and until you can "feel" a ramp on take off enough to correct bike attitude its probably a good idea to heed their advice and steer clear!

    In fact some smaller/steeper ones can really throw the rear end up and you'll nose dive if the landing isn't right or you're not careful.

    There are some little rock booters on our trail I won't go near for that very reason, but I'll send 20-30ft tables/gaps on a jump trail, I just really don't like how they throw you. Esp the kind of ones where the front wheel is in the air when the rear wheel hits the rock and it will put a nose dive type spin on you... That's where it comes to knowing this, and absorbing that "kick" with your body.

  11. #11
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    This thread is one of the most helpful Iíve read in a while.
    I didnít start it but Iíd like to thank the person that did and the great advice coming from everyone.

    I do have a question though.

    Iíve been trying to step up to bigger jumps and drops. For me stepping up is from 2 footerís up to 4ís.

    How do I judge my speed to hit the correct landing spot? (like over a gap to a tranny or the back side of a table top)



    Again, thanks for the help.
    next time

    [QUOTE=spazzy] Might as well sell your bikes, E-riding is much more productive.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by WTF-IDK
    This thread is one of the most helpful Iíve read in a while.
    I didnít start it but Iíd like to thank the person that did and the great advice coming from everyone.

    I do have a question though.

    Iíve been trying to step up to bigger jumps and drops. For me stepping up is from 2 footerís up to 4ís.

    How do I judge my speed to hit the correct landing spot? (like over a gap to a tranny or the back side of a table top)



    Again, thanks for the help.
    A guy I met at a skills park said you'll make the jump when you think you have to much speed and its true. When I went and did some table tops when i thought i had enough speed I cased the jump but when i thought I had to much speed.

    And about being relaxed yes go relaxed. I don't even notice it but when go of the lip my bike just automatically moves and lands perfectly but I do sometimes land on my right side because i'm to tense or just took off wrong so to be safe ride relaxed and commit. Don't be afraid
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  13. #13
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    Treat it with caution, and apply some common sense... but that saying "if in doubt, go flat out" holds a lot of truth to jumps. Much better to over shoot and land a little hard than to come up short on a consequential gap for example.

  14. #14
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    Bunnyhop but time it perfectly so both tires bounce off the lip, make sure you pull straight up.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by essenmeinstuff
    Treat it with caution, and apply some common sense... but that saying "if in doubt, go flat out" holds a lot of truth to jumps. Much better to over shoot and land a little hard than to come up short on a consequential gap for example.
    This mantra has gotten me pretty f**ked up over the years. I'm fine on smaller jumps, however as soon as I see anything with a big gap I charge. On several occasions I've overshot/lawn darted bad enough to keep me off the bike for a few months.

    I've also gotten f**ked up by coming up short....so damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    The best thing you can do if you're unsure about speed is to follow someone else who knows the jump well.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gurp
    This mantra has gotten me pretty f**ked up over the years. I'm fine on smaller jumps, however as soon as I see anything with a big gap I charge. On several occasions I've overshot/lawn darted bad enough to keep me off the bike for a few months.

    I've also gotten f**ked up by coming up short....so damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    The best thing you can do if you're unsure about speed is to follow someone else who knows the jump well.
    Yeah hence the "Treat it with caution, and apply some common sense" disclaimer!

    What it comes down to really is that if you get it wrong it hurts.

  17. #17
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    To add... for all jumps/drops/gaps/step ups etc, there is a "right speed", which has some +/- range. For some that range of speed is wider and for some that range is narrow... one of the "skills" you need to pick up, is deciding what you're looking at!

    Look at the take off, the landing, whats in between, what comes after the feature, that will all add up to how much room for error there is.

    The best thing is to find features where that range is almost "infinite", there are some sweet senders where a beginner can simply roll it, or some nutter can fly off at mach chicken and land 100ft down the trail all perfectly safely.

    That is the best kind of thing to get used to jumps. Find something like that, and log some flight time!

    When following someone in for a speed chaeck, thats dangerous too, because different bike behave very differently, like the speed a DJ HT would need to clear a jump is quite different than the speed I need to do the same on my 8" DH bike...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by essenmeinstuff

    When following someone in for a speed chaeck, thats dangerous too, because different bike behave very differently, like the speed a DJ HT would need to clear a jump is quite different than the speed I need to do the same on my 8" DH bike...
    Good point, and something to be aware of. You also need to know who you're following - ie if the person you're following pops/boosts off the lip and you're just riding straight off they may clear it while you come up short.

  19. #19
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    I'm a noob to jumping so take this for what it's worth but last night I was hitting some jumps and was landing off line, harsh landings, just generally not jumping as smooth as I had the last couple of times that I had gone.

    By the end of the night I was jumping smoother and for me it came down to remembering a couple things:
    - I wasn't jumping in an attack/anticipatory position. I was riding a little too high on the bike. When I got a little lower on my bike as I hit the face of the jump and kept my elbows out in more of an "attack" position my takeoffs were more predictable.

    - I wasn't absorbing the landings with my body as much and let the bike take up too much of the landing. When I stayed relaxed in the air and absorbed the landing with my legs and arms it was way, way smoother.

    As I said I'm still learning but those changes helped me smooth out things last night.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by essenmeinstuff
    I'm no air time super star, all the advice given is good so far, I will add a couple things...

    Unless you have ailerons, you cannot control your heading once in the air!

    You can move rider and bike around, but your "lumped mass" ie bike and riders combined center of gravity, follows simple projectile motion, nothing you can do about it. So you have to make sure you aren't adding spin etc to yourself on take off (unless that's what you're going for!). For example if you tend to land leaned to the right, then you weren't straight on take off.

    Regarding some jumps having a certain "kick", not all ramps are the same at all! In fact they can be very different, and until you can "feel" a ramp on take off enough to correct bike attitude its probably a good idea to heed their advice and steer clear!

    In fact some smaller/steeper ones can really throw the rear end up and you'll nose dive if the landing isn't right or you're not careful.

    There are some little rock booters on our trail I won't go near for that very reason, but I'll send 20-30ft tables/gaps on a jump trail, I just really don't like how they throw you. Esp the kind of ones where the front wheel is in the air when the rear wheel hits the rock and it will put a nose dive type spin on you... That's where it comes to knowing this, and absorbing that "kick" with your body.
    Wurd. Unless AT LEAST both wheels fit on the tranny at the same time, I tend to stay away. Especially those evil little ones where the booter is tiny, but the face really steep, and to top it all off you still have to clear a big ole gap....

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by gurp
    This mantra has gotten me pretty f**ked up over the years. I'm fine on smaller jumps, however as soon as I see anything with a big gap I charge. On several occasions I've overshot/lawn darted bad enough to keep me off the bike for a few months.

    I've also gotten f**ked up by coming up short....so damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    The best thing you can do if you're unsure about speed is to follow someone else who knows the jump well.
    True.

    For gaps and tables you might get away with charging but you'll be in the hospital if you charge a big drop and land to flat. The key to gaps and tables is to PULL the bike up underneath you after leaving the lip - you'll get a LOT higher and won't need to be charging like a kook. On drops it pays dividends to have or wait for a guinea pigger or just plain roll it at average speed and concentrate on bar pressure as needed for landing smoothly. After a while you'll be able to look at features and know what speeds are required.

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gman086
    True.

    For gaps and tables you might get away with charging but you'll be in the hospital if you charge a big drop and land to flat. The key to gaps and tables is to PULL the bike up underneath you after leaving the lip - you'll get a LOT higher and won't need to be charging like a kook. On drops it pays dividends to have or wait for a guinea pigger or just plain roll it at average speed and concentrate on bar pressure as needed for landing smoothly. After a while you'll be able to look at features and know what speeds are required.

    Have FUN!

    G MAN

    Agreed^^^^ I rode Whistler today with a friend and he acted as a guinea pig as he was fast and he new the trails so I was able to race my confidence level drastically
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  23. #23
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    Also know that step-ups require more speed than step-downs and if you don't know the diff then you probably shouldn't be on that trail.

    Have FUN!

    G MAN
    "There's two shuttles, one to the top and one to the hospital" I LOVE this place!!!

  24. #24
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    Like anything else in life, being relaxed is the key to success. Now that doesn't mean riding your bike as a "passenger". You still need to take control of the bike. But go with the flow of the jump, rather than man-handling your bike. Easier said than done, I know.

    One thing that has always helped me is throwing in a little cross-up while jumping. Bad-a$$ BMXers, Pros, DJers, etc don't think anything of a minor cross-up. And no, you don't need to go for a full on X-up. But i've found that a minor handlebar cross-up allows me to fly straighter, flatter, in more control, etc.
    i.e. I don't turn into a "dead sailor".

    And it isn't the cross-up itself that is the help. It is simply something to focus your mind on while in the air, which in turn makes you more relaxed, and ultimately a smoother rider. It won't give you amazing jumping powers to hit gaps 3x bigger than ever before, but it will help you conquer that jump that is just a tiny bit out of your comfort zone!

  25. #25
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    one thing I've learned is "look down go down". What that means is if you're looking down while in the air, you're going to go down. I was hitting this pretty big jump (big for me) and was coming up short everytime (thank God for case guards). I figured I was concentrating on the top of the jump and not thinking about how far i had to jump. Eventually, I started looking beyond the top of the jump and I starting landing further out. Still a little bit short, but the change added a good 4 feet to my distance.

    ditto on the arms up and out. i thought this video was pretty good for jump instruction:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaNEsGD44EI

    couple questions for the others in this thread:
    -one shoulder/elbow lower: is this how you would hit a hip jump so you're pointed in the right direction for the landing?
    -why do you need different speeds for HT vs FS?

    sorry for the hijack...

    -joel

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by jojotherider
    one thing I've learned is "look down go down". What that means is if you're looking down while in the air, you're going to go down. I was hitting this pretty big jump (big for me) and was coming up short everytime (thank God for case guards). I figured I was concentrating on the top of the jump and not thinking about how far i had to jump. Eventually, I started looking beyond the top of the jump and I starting landing further out. Still a little bit short, but the change added a good 4 feet to my distance.

    ditto on the arms up and out. i thought this video was pretty good for jump instruction:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaNEsGD44EI

    couple questions for the others in this thread:
    -one shoulder/elbow lower: is this how you would hit a hip jump so you're pointed in the right direction for the landing?
    -why do you need different speeds for HT vs FS?

    sorry for the hijack...

    -joel

    This brings up some good points namely "Look where you want to go!". If you are looking at the top of the landing hill/pile/ramp thats most likely where you will make touchdown.

    I'm getting into more Djing and am trying to be somewhat careful about it as I'm old and bigger than your average kid. I also spent the last couple years healing from a SuperMoto wreck (caused by the above "where you look, there you go" stupidity). It was a seriously life altering wreck and so while it may seem strange to get into DJing I'm actually jumping on dirt better than when I raced BMX (started at age 27, and rode skateparks).
    A lot of my problems with jumping are mental like I can clear an 8' tabletop but freak out on a 4' gap. Just having that pit in there wigs this old fart out.

    And Joel,

    for hips...to begin with you look where you want to go, start turning before you take off, once you get in the air continue to spot your landing and your bike should follow.
    For the FS vs. HT, the suspension soaks up your energy so you need to work with the bike and use the rebound for help with lift-off. Basically you need a lil more speed and pop to go like you would on a HT (but the landings are more cush on the FS )

    Hopefully someone else will chime in and give more advice.

  27. #27
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    If this thread would be put printed and published, I reckon this would be a bestseller. Thanks all! Having different viewpoints is definitely helpful. I just hit the jumps this morning with the kids and kept in mind what I have read here...so far, no sketchy landings! I hope tomorrow would be a better day. I realized that, and the kids pointed out that I tend to squash the jump ( I am guilty..for the fear of getting big air) so they altered one jump with a "kick" so I could just run over it and get some decent airtime with almost doing nothing because of the good and long runoff. Though, it's a bit taller than the ones I used to practice on, it gave me time to adjust or be conscious of my posture while approaching the jump. I guess that helped a lot because I was kinda able to correct my posture and "relax" as I approached the ramp. Relaxing indeed helps and I had done the breathing thing and it helped me calm my nerves. I'll take into mind all the new stuff being posted...keep 'em coming folks! thanks again!!!

  28. #28
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    Sounds like you have a good bunch of kids willing to help you out. Kudos to them!

  29. #29
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    Indeed! They've been very helpful and also been VERY good hecklers! . " My grandma jumped higher than that yesterday!..." or things of that sort, you'll never hear the end of it. BUT without them, probably I'd be rolling over pebbles instead of learning how to jump.

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