Role of arms in jumping

Andrew poses a fantastic question. Let’s rock this, shall we?

Hi Lee,

I was wondering about the role of hands/arms when jumping.

Like a lot of stuff in mountain biking there seems to be a whole bunch of contradictory information out there.

From your book and forum replies I take it that you are definitely against any hand involvement.

In the West Coast Style DVD they talk about pulling the handle bars into the chest as you explode off the lip and then rolling the shoulders/elbows down to the transition.

I also have a DVD called Fluidride that talks about leading with your hands and others mention getting your weight back and even doing a j-hop!

The video from bikeskills talks about pushing forward on the bars in the air.

Something everyone seems to agree on is that the amount of loading a wheel gets determines how high it will go in the air. On this basis would it be safer for a beginning jumper like me to load up the front wheel to ensure it goes higher, and then level out the bike with my arms?


P.S.: You have the best book on Mountain Biking available, so when are you going to put out a DVD to match?

Me demonstrating neutral form for a client on a learning jump at The Fix. My hands are completely neutral. Note how the bars come up into my hips on takeoff, then the bike levels out, then the bars drop into the landing. I am barely holding onto the grips; if I resisted or exaggerated any of this motion, the jump would not have been so smooth. Braaap.

Hey Andrew,

Thanks for the kind words and the fantastic question.

There are times to push the bars, and there are times to pull the bars. If you push or pull at the wrong time, you can loop out, get bucked forward, clip the landing and so on. Most of us have made these mistakes.

Actively using your arms in the air is analogous to loading your front end in corners. Weighting the bars definitely helps you find traction, get pump and corner faster, but I believe most riders should learn to corner with neutral hands first — then add the forward loading. Learn the basic motion first. Then add kung fu.

Back to jumping

The way I see it, at the most fundamental level, you should be able to ride your bike pretty much without your hands.

Ghost ride your bike over a well-built, neutral jump. The front end comes up, the rear end comes up, the bike levels out, then the front end drops into the landing. It’s a perfect arc. This is the natural motion, and this is what your bike wants to do.

If you push or pull out of synch with this natural motion, (and you’re not an expert jumper) you are risking trouble.

So, in my opinion …

– Learn to jump with neutral hands/arms.

– Start on neutral, well-built jumps.

– Load the lip with your legs. Keep your hands neutral.

– Let your bike fly naturally. I find, on well-built jumps, the less I involve my hands, the smoother I am.

– After you master neutral flight — letting the bike follow its natural arc — you can start purposefully pulling the front end up on takeoff and pushing it down into the landing. This is very helpful on steep jumps and when you’re riding faster than the set’s “natural frequency.”

I’ve taught a lot of people how to jump this way: young pinners, middle-aged trail riders and everyone in between. It seems to work.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

— Lee

I hit some jumps at The Fix today, and it was SWEET!

As for the video: I have one mapped out and ready to shoot. After MMBSii, after the BMX book …

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