Wait ’til the last roller

In school did you live in constant stress, finish your work ahead of time and get perfect grades?

Or did you enjoy life, do your work when it was time and get by just fine?

In the end, does trying real hard all the time help you, or does it hurt you?

In school, I was the former person. Straight As all the way … and who ever asked about my GPA? Nobody.

I tend to be like that on the bike too. What I lack in talent, I crush with determination! That’s gotten me pretty far, but there’s a limit to what you can accomplish with force.

The most obvious place in MTB where love beats hate is dirt jumping and all its variants. Do you need skill? Yes. Does it help to be strong? Sure. But what’s most important? Absolute confidence and the resulting lack of tension.

Brandon Semenuk is a true professional who takes his craft seriously, but — man — when he rides — wow — the smoothness:

In the words of my buddy Zach Lewis, a pro on both snowboard and bike, the secret to jumping is … being lazy.

Zach is phenomenally strong and crazily skilled. Watch this bunny hop.

Within that strength and skill, he carries no tension. From full relaxation, he expresses full power.

Whoa: Strength and skill make confidence. Confidence makes softness. Softness makes power. The stronger and more skilled you are, the more lazy you can be. The lazier you are, the better you can jump!

Last weekend we had a pump track party at the house. One special guest was James Ontiveros, nickname Bones, who I coached 10 years ago at the age of 13 when The Fix Junior Team kicked respectful ass all over the Mountain States Cup.

James Ontiveros: powerful yet placid.

Bones has always been a great rider. At the age of 23, he is a master with a completely confident, purely powerful and simply supple style. Every time he visits, he rides lines no one’s thought of — and he does it easily.

James with the double double double double. Why not?

Sunday morning I told Bones my goal for the session: to jump this step-down/step-up combination cleanly. I’ve done it before, I told him, but today I want to make it perfect. Easy. Lazy.

Right on! He said, and I started chipping away at my line. Sprint from the top of the track, drill the high slalom line, smash the berm, jump the table, crush the rollers then BOOM! go for the step-down.

I made it, but not prettily, and the sine wave was too crinkled to keep flowing.

“It’s all about the last roller,” Bones said. “Just take it easy, don’t mess up. Pump that last roller and it’s all good.”


By now I know how to ride a bike, and I’ve been working on my strength. I understand jumping is about applying the right amount of pressure, at exactly the right moment. Perhaps its time to trust myself — and be soft in that confidence.

How do deadlifts apply to MTB?

Slowly I wound through the slalom. Gently I pressed into the berm. Softly I skimmed over the table. Lovingly I embraced the first roller … then, in one smooth Sine Wave of Love, I hooked the second roller, carried that pressure through the face … sailed over the step-down, communed with the trough then — like magic — arced across the step-up to perfect backside.

Wow. So good. So easy! A moment of Flow, earned the hard way and enjoyed the easy way.

For the rest of the day I explored new levels of ease while James did magical things to my track.

James with the big transfer and lookback.

Hey Bones, I asked, “In school did you wait ’til the last minute and cram the night before tests?”


James graduated from CU Boulder, has a cool job and rides like a pro. Seems like he applied right amount of pressure, at exactly the right moment.

Have fun and be safe,


Know more. Have more fun!

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