Foot came off pedal during jump = not good

Our man John fancies himself a smooth rider, yet he lost his pedal on a jump and broke his ankle. He’s searching for meaning in this disaster.

Hi Lee,

First off, thanks so much for your book and this website. I bought your book a few years ago and it’s helped my riding immensely. I am a big believer in your “heavy feet-light hands” philosophy, and this approach has allowed me to progress my skills beyond what I thought was possible.

For the better part of the past two years, I have focussed on dirt jumping. Using your principles, I have been incrementally pushing myself and doing bigger and bigger jumps, while maintaining good skills and safety the whole way. The other night, I was playing on my local jumps and something went really wrong. I was up in the air, when all of a sudden, my left foot drifted off the pedal! This had never happened to me before. I didn’t have the presence of mind to put it back on the pedal, but rather, I landed slamming my foot into the ground REALLY hard. Ended up breaking my ankle, and the next 8 weeks will be spent on crutches.

I’m trying to figure out what lessons there are here. I read your post on keeping the feet on the pedals while dropping. To be honest, I ride really loose and relaxed on my bike, so I don’t think I was too stiff. Do you have any thoughts on why feet might come off pedals while jumping, have you noticed this in your students, and what would you say to cure this? Do you actively try and grip the pedals with your feet while jumping?

Thanks Lee, any thoughts you might have would be really appreciated.

John K.
Seattle, WA

Curtis Keene throws some style in Whistler. Expressing yourself in the air keeps you more active and in tune with your bike. You’re in greater peril when you try to fly straight and stiff.

Hey John,

First, I appreciate your lucidity and punctuation.

OK, foot coming off the pedal:

For that to happen, your foot and pedal must be moving in different directions and/or at different speeds.

I see students lose their pedals in all sorts of situations. The cause is almost always excess stiffness and the inability to move their feet with the bike.

Potential causes of your calamity:

– You were stiff. Sorry, but that’s the cause of 99% of documented pedal losses.

– Maybe the jump was bigger/poppier than you were expecting? Maybe you hit it slightly differently that time? A surprise will create a moment of tension, which is enough to let your pedal bounce off the sole of your shoe.

– You just plain screwed up. Nervous tick, momentary lapse of kung fu, whatever. Stuff happens.

Speaking of style: Few riders are as fluid (or confident) as Elliott Hoover.

– My guess: You were leaning to the left when you took off. If you don’t actively correct your position in this situation, you will instinctively take your downside foot off the pedal. If you don’t take serious action — like get rid of the bike — you land heavily on that foot.


– No matter what happens, keep your feet moving with the bike. Correct your balance. Stay on top of the pedals.

– Don’t try to grab the pedals with your feet. That piece of misguided advice is right up there with squeezing your top tube with your knees (thank you Bicycling magazine).

– If things get out of control, get rid of the bike and run/roll it out. A client and I worked on this yesterday.

– You could always clip in. But: You can still unclip in the air, and that’s even harder to correct.

– While you’re off the bike, watch video of great jumpers. Visualize yourself moving the same way. Chances are you’ll come back even better.

Heal fast.

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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