Jumping technique: Help, I’m tilting sideways

Hi Lee,

I’ve been mountain biking for years, but I just generally ride xc. After a trip to Whistler (I’m from New Zealand), I’ve got the DH bug, but I find I have real trouble jumping. Well, it’s getting sideways when jumping that’s my problem. I feel like I am hitting the jumps nice and square, but sometimes when I jump the bike starts to drift sideways in the air. I don’t feel like I do anything different when this happens, and it’s not constantly to one side or the other. The fact that I don’t know when it’s going to happen makes me nervous to try and progress to bigger jumps as the longer I’m in the air, the more sideways I’ll get. It seems to happen when I pop off the lip as well as just letting the bike drift off so to speak, but I think it happens more when I try to pop.

I know it’s hard without seeing me, but are there any things I should look for when jumping that may be causing me to drift sideways?

Thanks for any help you can provide. Cheers, Mark.

Basic jumping technique on a basic jump.

Hey Mark,

Thanks for writing, and congratulations on the jumping virus. Riding is about to get even better.

You’re smart to take a pause. If you take off leaning to one side, you’ll land sideways. The longer you’re in the air, the more sideways you get, and the more likely you’ll suffer. Better to know you can consistently nail small jumps before you step it up.

I’m not surprised this issue is more pronounced when you try to pop off lips.

Here’s what’s happening:

– When you pop the lip, you’re pulling with your arms.

– You’re pulling slightly harder with one arm.

– The bike takes off tilting to one side.

– You stiffen up — probably with straight arms and legs — and you and your bike continue to rotate sideways in the air.

– You land with your bike tilted sideways. If you’re sideways enough, you crash.

Try this:

– Keep your hands neutral and load the lip with your legs. This is just like jumping without a bike. It’s all in the legs.

– Your bike will likely stay straight.

– As you arc through the air, bring the bike close to you, and keep your hands neutral. This gives you the balance and range to make small adjustments in case you did take off funny.

– Extend for the landing. Absorb any impacts.

– Repeat every chance you get.

Also read:

Jumping: Big rider with suspension

Pumping with suspension

Controlling mid-air rotation

Oh yeah: And rip it!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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11 replies
  1. electric says:

    I’d also add (anecdotally) that popping manuals and wheelies can help you to sort out handle-bar balance… when you push down on the bars and snap up it is immediately obvious if you’re pulling too hard or leaning to one side. Maybe your arms are even different lengths! Yes yes… that is it, cursed arms! 🙂

  2. Ariel says:

    @electric: so true.
    My left arm is 2cm longer than the left one. There is no way on hell I can do a manual 🙁

  3. Jameson says:

    I used to have a similar problem (dead sailor). What I found that really helped me was planning a little maneuver for the air. In other words, a little bar twist, a slight tail whip or even a simple pump and I landed everything. I think it forced me to get comfortable moving the bike in the air… which in turn meant I had way more confidence placing the bike down in the right place for the landing.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Great stuff.

    Arms: Heck, my right arm isn’t properly attached to my body (no clavicle).

    Mid-air moves: Definitely. If you’re busy doing something — anything — you’re not being tense.

    Was up much of the night with The Twins. Some jumpy-jump sure would be sweet right now.

  5. Dan says:

    This last year I bought a P3 and learned to jump, every aspect of riding improved this season as a result. I had the same problem with being tense in the air which resulted in tilting to one side or the other. I still don’t ride big jumps, but I’m comfortable in the air. My advice is start with very small jumps to build confidence. before hitting a jump force yourself to relax and breath, this also means heavy feet and light hands. I always try to think of Lee’s ‘tea party hands’. Holding the bars very lightly forces you to relax and put weight in your feet, so you don’t actually pull up on the bars, you let the bike float up towards your body in the air and then push it into the transition on the back side of the jump. If you have been riding xc as long as I did, then you have the skill, all you need is tons of practice and confidence.

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Amen! Rejoice!

    XC riding is WAY more technically demanding than dirt jumping. If an an experienced XC rider can just relax and stay balanced when he jumps, it’s on like donkey kong.

  7. Mike says:

    I am 42. I love the idea of jumping and hitting drops. I love smaller ones but lack the nerve to bigger. My 15 year old son says my technique is fine and I just need to go for it. My fear is that I will endo. I bought a bike with slacker angles and that helps a bit but I have not tried it on a bigger jumps lime whistler. That will have to wait till next year. Any advice?

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    Get small jumps consistently perfect.

    Gradually build up to bigger jumps.

    Gradually! You need to hit the next-bigger jump with the same grace you employed on its little friend. If you get scared, you get tense. If you get tense, the endo is soon to come.

  9. Joe Sharratt says:

    Ive just been reading about your problem and i used to get the same thing happen to me. I find that if you tweak your jumps e.g do a small x-up, a small kickout or a small tabletop it helps you to stay stable in the air. This works for me and i hope it helps.
    Joe SS

  10. Adrian says:

    Hi there,
    I have the same problem. I recently had a bad crash and suffered an AC shoulder joint seperation. As a result, my right shoulder blade has dropped (didn’t have operation) with the result that my right arm is over an inch longer than my left arm. My problem is also that I tend to pull on the handlebars and as a result I tend to tilt to the right. I’m trying to avoid pulling with my arms and rather compress with my feet. It means I have to mentally re-program myself as I fell into a bad and incorrect habit/technique. I’m 45…talk about teaching an old dog new tricks?! Also, I now try to do something in the air as mentioned. This all definitely helps. Slowly but surely I’m getting there and enjoying my riding a lot more. For me at the moment, it’s baby steps. It’s strange how one thinks you’ve got it dialled, and then all of a sudden you realize certain aspects of your riding isn’t as dialled as you think and because it’s so ingrained, one has to go all the way back to the basics in order to make the necessary progress. But once you start noticing that the new technique is working, it’s so worth it!
    Thanks Lee for all the great advice and to all the other guys who contibute to the discussions.
    Enjoy your riding all,

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