Overcoming fear of jumps

Hey, I was wondering how I could ever face my fear of jumps. When I was 12, I ate major sh*t and got the breath knocked out of me for what felt like an hour. Ever since then, I have always been hesitant do jumps/drops. I know I have the skill to jump, but I can’t overcome this fear inside me. How should I get back in the air?

Good basic jumping technique.

Hey Joseph,

That’s a common theme. So many highly skilled mountain bikers turn useless when they reach jumps. The funny thing is, jumping is technically much simpler than, say, riding a steep switchback with drops in it.

Keep in mind:

– Fear is a natural response to getting your breath knocked out for an hour. Actually, death would be the natural response.

– You cannot ignore that fear.

– If you man up and huck your carcass, chances are you’ll stiffen up, make a mistake and crash again. That will create even more fear.

– You cannot ignore negative thoughts, but you can replace them with positive ones. To do that, find a easy/safe jump and practice perfect technique.

– Roll in slowly. Push your bike into the lip. Bring your bike close to you in the air. Extend for landing. Keep your hands light and your entire body loose.

– You have to operate at a level where you feel no apprehension. Take it super easy. Focus on perfect technique, and pay attention to the way good jumping feels.

– This methodical approach is fun, and it gives you confidence to gradually step up the speed and size of your jumps.

Finding a jump
Beginner jumps are really hard to find. That’s because the people who dig dirt jumps are no longer beginners.

You need a mellow tabletop jump. If you can’t find one, make one.

Or: Have you seen those plastic skateboard ramps at sporting goods stores? They have perfect angles and radii for beginners. Set one a short distance from a downhill landing and rock it.

Take it one small step at a time. Have fun!

— Lee

Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition has tons of info about jumping.

Know more. Have more fun!

Join the leelikesbikes mailing list:

17 replies
  1. Rob says:

    Great question, I think all riders doing djing regardless of ability and skill go through the same thought process, experience creates confidence which creates experience.

    I have been going through the same issues, as a couple of years ago I managed to eat a number of djs very hard and I am still gaining my confidence back.

    Time and practice will create confidence

  2. Mike says:

    I am 43 year old dad and severely broke both legs, once while riding. I thought I would never jump, but my 15 year old has given me confidence and advice. I hit a gap this spring and never ever thought I would do it! i started working on bunny hops and getting air off of small stuff. I found a nice step up that really got my confidence up and then just went for it! I have crashed since and it hurts when you are my age; aches and pains last much longer! However, right after my crash, I got up and hit it again and landed it smoothly! I really want to be in one of Lee’s skills classes but live up in Canada so I don’t know if it will happen. I am going to a camp in Whistler this summer for adults. I am nervous but I will do what I can. By the way, riding with my son is the absolute, most favourite, fun thing in my life! i would not trade it for all the money in the world!

  3. aussie chris says:

    I found BMX tracks were a non-intimidating way to gain confidence in the air – they are more forgiving when you case since there are no lips for the back wheel to hang up on.

  4. Lisa says:

    Drops and jumps are my main goal for this riding season. Still trying to figure out what I did wrong recently! Went off my biggest trail drop, probably close to 4 feet with a flat landing. It felt awesome, and my husband said my form was perfect (rear wheel landed first)! But I hyperextended my ankle somehow from the impact of landing (didn’t crash or anything). Thoughts?
    Oh, and by the way, the guys that watched me said I blurted out just before I went off, “It’s just like my ramp.” I love my little driveway ramp my husband built for me! 🙂

  5. aussie chris says:

    Lisa, I tweaked my ankles once or twice but now before I do a drop I move my foot forward so the pedal is under the arch instead of under the ball of my foot – this puts less leverage on the ankle. This works fine when you ride flats and you know the drop is coming.

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    >> I hyperextended my ankle somehow from the impact of landing …


    – Maybe landing with stiff knees and hips. Not absorbing the impact with the big muscles.

    – Not having enough eccentric strength to handle the impact. Remember that pedaling and lifting don’t directly prepare your body for impact absorption.

  7. Rob says:

    The best thing to do when starting and when progressing to the next level / size it to practice and hit up tables.

  8. jezza says:

    oh and drop your seat, i feel way more comfortable jumping my street/play bike than my xc bike

  9. Lou says:

    I started jumping about a year ago. I’m another one of the 40 year old with kids guys. I set up my single speed to drop the seat and got some flat pedals and a shorter stem. Now it’s a fun DJ/pump track bike but if you raise the seat and change the pedals in the parking lot you can do XC too. Dropping the seat is key. Another thing that no one has mentioned are pads. I have some soft shin, knee, and elbow pads that give me some confidence to commit a little more. I started riding our local pump track until I could really rail it (THANKS LEE!). Then, its just a matter of accentuating the motion over a set of small table tops which are just bigger rollers. When done right you are only a foot or so off the ground. Don’t try gaps until you are completely confident that you can land them clean. If you can build 2 or 3 small table tops in a row it really helps to build a sense of flow and how a good smooth pump and landing sets you up for whatever comes next. Luckily we have a local park with some small well made jumps that are good to learn on. Check it out. Safe and fun. http://www.youtube.com/watchv=La4cP9o6CDE

  10. Lisa says:

    Thanks for the tips, Lee and Aussie Chris! I just wasn’t sure if I had my foot in the wrong place in the pedal or what. Also, my fear is that it might be a strength issue as well, because I’ve been working way too much, which means a lot of sitting. And also, having the ACL surgery on the same knee that I hurt the ankle, I’m afraid my leg is still weak. Just want to know what I did wrong so I can correct it and not do it again!

    Thanks for the forum and advice, as always, Lee!

  11. Super Uncle says:

    Here’s just some two-cents from me:

    1. The type of jump makes a huge difference. In my experience, even better than a table is popping out of a gulley to flat or a step-up. One of the biggest elements to messing up jumps is the need for speed to clear something, whether that be a gap or just the table, itself. With more speed things happen more quickly and mess-ups and impacts carry more energy. Popping out of a gulley negates the need for speed, other than just trying to get over the lip, and if you do get any air, the distance down is minimal. The biggest problem is that gullies and step-ups are the least common type of jump.

    2. Jumping is totally psychological. When I’m tired, mentally or physically, I start making mistakes, so I tone my riding down.

    3. I find that the fear of casing a jump is one of the most overrated fears out there. Of course, there are gaps, and there are gaps. Sure, at higher speeds and with more acute landing ledges the risk of crashing and bike damage is more likely, but even at slower speeds and on smaller jumps the fear of casing the far edge of the pit can totally throw you off. There is only one way to get over the fear and that is to intentionally case a couple jumps. BMX tracks have rounded jumps and are the most forgiving when cased. Lee, you even have an article on this: https://www.leelikesbikes.com/how-to-case-a-jump.html

  12. Peter Smith says:

    I spent my 41st birthday riding Whistler. One full day of Crank It Up and I gained the confidence to stop checking the rear break & let it fly. Two more days to get it down pat. I was comfortable on the tables but the gaps still scared the hell out of me. Maybe next time.

  13. jimmy says:

    i cannot seem to get over my fear of mud jumps since i crashed i just want some tips to get me back mud jumping if u can give me any tips just post them on this website and ill read them

Comments are closed.