I wanna ride like a spring-loaded gazelle
What’s up Lee!
Hope you’re having a good winter season and thanks for all the information you have been sharing.
I have been working on DH skills for some time now but I can’t figure out how the pros seem to bound over any obstacle like gazelles. My pump technique feels like it is improving but when I look at videos of myself I look like I’m glued to the ground instead of the spring-loaded/light-as-Gwin style I hope to achieve.
It was suggested by a friend that I work on learning bump jumps in addition to figuring out what’s going on with my pump technique. Since his technique looks just as crappy as mine I figured I’m better off asking you for advice. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the excellent question. That Gwin can ride a bike, can’t he?
What level rider are you?
Level 1 riders are stiff and timid. They hold on for dear life, waiting for bad things to happen. This is how most people live on their bikes. I mean, seriously, most riders really suck, and they have no idea.
Level 2 riders are looser and more confident. While they don’t lay power into the bike, they are loose, and they let the bike do what it wants. For many years I thought this was the best you could get. Everyone above me had magic powers and/or bigger balls.
Level 3 riders actively work the terrain. They use their full range of motion, and they push and pull to stay in phase with the trail. If you are pumping, you are in this club.
When I proposed these levels in the first edition Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, I had a feeling there was a higher level; it just wasn’t visible to me at the time. Well, in working and riding with top BMX and MTB racers, and as my own riding progresses, I have seen the next level:
Level 3+ riders take the dynamics of Level 3 and add a huge dose of power and aggression. Filming AA BMX pro Danny Caluag for Pro BMX Skills changed my riding forever. He looked as smooth as any good rider, but his power — the sheer violence — was startling.
Top level mountain bikers like Curtis Keene and Aaron Gwin are in the same club. They use the same range of motion we all have, but they do it with way more power. You can see this in the way they pump corners and bumps, and in the way they hop over obstacles. It’s like they’re riding a sine wave with a longer phase and a higher amplitude than everyone else. That’s where I’m working these days, and it’s so rad.
Watch Keene ride his bike. He’s definitely in the 3+ club.
Here’s what we’re talking about
Check out this video of Gwin, then check out the analysis below:
1:13 – Gwin pumps that berm hard enough to fly all the way to a sweet transition.
1:19 – He takes a really hard hit, then returns the energy to hop into a nice little pocket.
2:20 – Whips a big hop over the rock, lands then turns that heavy load into a nice unload, which he then uses on the next backside.
2:27 – This happens really fast. Gwin loads his bike sharply into the ground then hops over that wood. This gives him an awesome entry into the next corner.
2:28 – This is super subtle. Gwin could plow right across that little dip, but instead he snap-pumps it for even more control and speed.
2:50 – Not only does he pump the dip behind the rock, he uses the resulting light moment to lean the bike in the air and crush the next corner.
3:01 – He snaps the right and falls into the left. This skill right here, which you can practice in a parking lot (or pump track) is manadatory for high level riding.
3:37 – Very heavy before the rock, very light over the rock, very heavy into the corner. Braaap!
3:42 – Whoa! Awesome pump in that rocky madness. Learn this skill on a pump track, take it to a World Cup.
How do you do this?
• Remember the best riders are using the same basic skills we all have access to. They just do it more creatively, fluidly and aggressively.
• Keep working on your pump and other core skills. Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition is a good resource. A clinic with me is a proven ticket to braaap.
• Get fitter and stronger. You can’t even imagine how strong someone like Keene or Gwin is. When they push or pull, it’s with way more force than most of us can generate. I’ve seen Keene basically bunny hop a Honda CRF250R on trail. Gwin is no joker; that guy trains endurance, strength, everything. With John Tomac for goodness sake.
• Practice riding the pump track as fast as you can. There’s no better place to build the skills, neurology, power and confidence to accomplish Keenesian and Gwinian feats.
• Practice pumping bumps, pumping corners and hopping obstacles. Do these faster and bigger, and gradually work those moves into your trail riding.
• See the big picture. Try to connect backsides, whether they’re vertical or horizontal. Watch the vids of Curtis and Aaron (or, for a more human perspectice, ride with me). See how they read the trail? Practice that.
It is so freaking awesome.
Level 3+ baby!
Know more. Have more fun!
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I got such a laugh out of that Curtis Keene video. Sure the Stumpy EVO is a great bike, but the idea that it will allow me to ride anything like Curtis is hilarious!
Ha! But we can all strive to ride in a more Keenely manner.
I’m reminded of the time I started 2nd to last in a Northstar at Tahoe time-trial Super D, and he started last. I was just crushing it on my Enduro, and I passed the entire field so I was going to be the first finisher. Stoked! I was entering the final pedaling section when I heard him laughing and calling my name. Uh oh. I looked back, and he was reeling me in on his V10. I have never pedaled so hard in my life! He didn’t catch me, but he won the race — and I got to stand on a podium with him. That was a special race.