Pumping flat ground in the real world

Hey Lee,
I’ve been following your career for awhile now, and am always impressed by your pump track advocacy and advice. I have the book you wrote with Lopes on my kindle. I’ve built my own stuff on private land.

Here’s my question: tons of people talk about good cornering technique, and then I saw your video about pumping on flat ground. It’s awesome! I’ve been practicing it the past couple of days, as I’ve always been nervous in corners, and I’ve found that I can go from a track-stand to around 10mph uphill and down. Now my question is this: How practical is this drill for trail riding? It seems super practical, easy and fun to me, but I’ve never seen it before and not many people seem into it. Is it because the same rules don’t apply as much at higher speeds?

Thanks for taking time to read this!


Hey Philip,

Thanks for writing, and for the interesting question.

What are we talking about?

How to pump a flat surface

Video: pumping a figure eight

This video is old, and my technique is a lot cleaner now, but here’s the idea:

And a more advanced version:

Again, I’m a lot cleaner now. I’ll post fresh videos when I can.

Goals of this drill:

• Learn to move your bike independently from your body. This helps all aspects of riding.

• Intentionally control the pressure between your tires and the ground. This helps increase traction. Have you wondered how some riders can snap turns in the loosest conditions? This is how.

• Learn to pump in the lateral plane. A turn is just like a hole in the ground — just sideways.

• Be rad.

Real-life application

I employ this skill every time I ride trail.

• The act of engaging with the turn increases traction and control in every situation. This isn’t just for slalom-style turns; you can work the edges in single long-radius turns too. Watch the Danny Hart video below.

• The more energy you press into a turn, the more energy redirects the bike into the next turn. And the more energy you direct into that turn, the more energy redirects into the next turn, and on and on. Great riding is cyclical: up and down, side to side and all over the place — a big, beautiful sine wave of love.

Watch seconds 22-26 of this video. This is the Fox pump track, but the skill applies to any tight, curvy trail.

Watch seconds 17-20 of this video:

And then there’s this! Danny Hart uses bits of this technique all the time. Obvious examples at seconds 15-16, 36-37, 2:10-2:12

I’m sure the kind readers out there can post more examples in the comments.

I hope this is helpful. Rip it!


Know more. Have more fun!

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18 replies
  1. Jim says:

    Oh, so this is like turning with a capital “T” in skiing? Controlling the ski to accelerate out of a turn to spring (not skid and slow down) into the next one! I get it now.

  2. M-S says:

    Philip thanks for asking this question and Lee thanks for answering it!

    This is exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for. I just spent a half hour working on it. I’m not looking as fluid as Lee but I’m able to move on flat ground.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Yes! I meant to post that one.

    1n 1992 Lopes and I were riding down the road on the way to an XC ride, and he pulled that move through some traffic cones. I was pedaling, and he was pulling me. At the time it seemed like black magic.

  4. M-S says:

    What I really like about this is that I don’t need a pump track to practice. Lee- I don’t recall this being talked about much in your book. Maybe you could mention it in the 3rd edition? I’m so stoked I saw this facebook update.

  5. leelikesbikes says:

    This is getting into the highest levels of kung fu. One day I was out practicing flat turns with a pro DHer, and we noticed we hadn’t pedaled in a while — we had transcended the pump track!

    Teaching Mountain Bike Skills gets into this a bit, and this skill is one of the cornerstones of my clinics. It teaches a very high level of bike control.

    Yep, third edition … and the video series, which is a high priority.

  6. M-S says:

    I spent some more time on this instead of working today. Flow is defenitly better and I can make it up some inclines. I’m reminded of the technique Simon Lawton talks about in his “Fluidride Flow-Tonic” DVD. He’s kind of talking about the same thing but also combining a downward pedal kick with the outside foot at the apex of the turn. This technique is kind of a missing link.

    Lee- you’ve done a lot for my riding. I’ll defenitly buy what ever next edition of book you come out with or and DVDs. If you are ever in the Los Angeles or Ventura County area I’d love to come to a clinic.

  7. Philip says:

    I lowered my seat, shock and pumped up my tires yesterday and it was on! It is a really a fun feeling, you can almost picture the holes you are pumping in and out of as you turn. I’ve also noticed that you can figure out pretty quick which side you favor. I generate almost twice as much power on one side – so I’ll be getting faster as I work that out. I can’t believe there’s not more on this on the net.

    It seems that you just adapt this skill to terrain, rather than terrain dictating the skill. Danny Hart’s run is a prime example, he’s popping out of every turn he can find. And did he slide out? No, because he was centered almost the whole time. I’ve heard some say that this doesn’t apply to berms, but just watching Lee above and Danny’s run is enough proof for me.

    Lee would you say that if you were allowed just two skills to master before you hit the trail it would be this and bunny-hopping? My hunch is I’m right. I don’t want to knock all the videos that go in depth breaking down the skills to correct cornering, but this drill seems to just put them all together seamlessly.

    Here’s another example: I used to play a ton of soccer through college. And when I was about 13 I started juggling and working on cutting the ball back and forth. I have a high tolerance for repetitive drills (I’m different that way :)). But I boiled the sport down to two skills and it took me really, really far. Then I just had to learn to adapt the skills in all the different situations. I built up a ton of muscle memory that to this day, whenever I play, I can fall back on.

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    Philip: Yep, pumping flat ground and bunny hopping over things would give you a pretty useful skillset — and you can do these drills anywhere.

    We practice a lot of this stuff in my clinics.

  9. John says:

    Lee – Weighting & unweighting in all planes has been a revelation to me – it has improved the intensity of my riding (providing more confidence in corners etc.)Watching the video of you pumping on the flat it is difficult to understand the physics of it – when you say keep light hands and don’t force it as the bike will react in its own way – is this based on the principle of counter- steering to facilitate cornering wherein you push left with your right hand and the bike will lean right? Have ordered your Mastering MB Skills book – awaiting delivery to Aussie – would be good to see you down here for a skills clinic – Thanks for this site it is keenly followed

  10. leelikesbikes says:


    Yes, I believe some counter-steering is happening, but:

    The real trick — the paradox — is to maintain weightless, neutral hands WHILE pushing and pulling really hard. Chew on that one!

  11. Philip says:

    John, I’ve noticed that as well. I think you have to let it all flow so that you’re not gripping, pushing or pulling too tightly. It’s sort of like when you pull into a manual well, you can pull really hard but all the pulling is coming from your hips. This is kung-fu stuff. I like Lee’s answer.

  12. M-S says:

    Hot diggity dog guys. This little technique has been tremendous for my riding. Just in the last week I’ve been practicing it 30 or so minutes every day. Not even lowering the seat, just really concentrating on pushing down hard through those turns and un weighting at the right moment.

    A few days ago I combined the technique with a short pedal stroke that got the outside foot down. Really focusing on pushing the bike down with arms, outside foot, and inner chakra. Pulling some mean G’s and getting the bike down super low in some sharp turns. Just on the street in front of my house!

    My trail loop yesterday was crazy. Carried some serious speed through all the corners, max speed went from 20mph to 30 mph, and I finished the loop in 35 min instead of 40.

    I LOVE that I don’t need a pump track to practice this.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] discovered MTB coach Lee McCormack‘s blog posts about pumping a flat surface (here, here, and here) where there are lots of pointers and helpful discussion.  He links to a video but it’s in […]

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