Fore-aft balance when jumping

The comments for The end of flat pedals at World Cup downhills? tracked into this subject, and I think it’s pretty interesting. Check it out:

John K. Says October 3, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

Hey Lee I wonder if you would comment on another “weight-forward” situation. I’m a firm believer in the heavy feet-light hands philosophy, and that one tip has taken me further then I ever thought I could go with my riding. So thanks for that.

When jumping, however, I’m feeling more balanced and “poppy” when I shift my weight forward as I approach the jump. It seems that by shifting my weight forward and loading my hands, I can really control the pressure on my front wheel as I ride up the lip of the jump. I still pump the bike with my feet, but by weighting the front of the bike, I’m getting more pop and I’m consistently well balanced in the air.

Conversely, I’ve noticed that if I ride off a jump with no hand pressure, my front tire will sometimes drop as soon as it goes off the lip, while my back tire pops nicely off the jump. This leads to that dreaded forward rotation in the air, and occasionally an OTB experience. I used to think these experiences were a result of being too far forward on the bike, but I’ve now come to realize they are result of not loading the front wheel sufficiently into the lip of the jump.

Anyways, appreciate your observations/thoughts. Cool article for sure.

Hey John,

Thanks for the great question.

I see the dreaded airborne forward rotation every day at Valmont Bike Park here in Boulder, CO. The jumps are built so well, most riders have no idea how close they are to broken collarbones.

So far this year, I’ve taught more than 200 people the fine art of braaap. The more I teach, the simpler I try to make things. Simple is good. Let’s keep this simple:

How it should be

Imagine the trajectory your bike would follow over a big, perfectly shaped roller. Actually, check out the below diagram.

A well built jump is just like that roller, except the top is missing. While you’ll be loading the lip to catch air, your body should have the same fore-aft balance as it does on the roller.

The dynamics get complex, but if the jump is built correctly, sweet jumping technique comes down to heavy feet and light hands — plus some power from your hips.

What goes wrong

Most riders hit jumps too far back. This is a defensive position, and it’s often involuntary. If you do this, the rear wheel will hit extra heavy, and you will get bucked forward.

If you’re going fast and/or the transition is abrupt, your bars will come back toward your hips very quickly. Some riders who reach the jump in a balanced position are too stiff to let the bars move freely. They get pushed back, and then they get bucked forward.

It can help to actively pull the bars toward your hips while you’re going up and push your bars away while you’re going down, but the ultimate goal is a peaceful centeredness. Heavy feet, light hands. Watch the best dirt jumpers. They look lazy in the air, don’t they?

Learn more

Read these stories, and the links on these pages:

For a good overview of riding technique, check out Mastering Mountain Bike Skills.

For a very detailed look at pumping and jumping technique, check out Pro BMX Skills.

For the ultimate kung fu experience, take a clinic with me. I’ll get you dialed.

Rip it!


Know more. Have more fun!

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