With a bit of practice, you too can step away from making these common mistakes and dial in your skills to suit a huge range of jumps! Once you nail the technique on small jumps, work steadily up in size, scaling up your technique and speed as you go! You’ll soon find that this one skill is applicable to a huge range of jumps.
Here’s how to do it
Armor up and prepare your bike
Wear some knee pads, gloves and a proper helmet. Dial everything in your bike and make sure everything is tight and close to perfect. Lower your saddle, open your suspension. If you’re doing big jumps, add air to your tires and add a little bit of compression and rebound damping to support you.
Scout the jump Know exactly what you’re getting in to. Is that a tabletop or a gap or a stepdown? Does it have good visibility or is it blind. Is the takeoff and landing wide or is it narrow? Are there any obstructions at landing that can get in your way?
Then examine the lip of the jump. How steep is it and is there a defined lip. The lip of a jump is a squarish edge that allows you to transfer forward momentum to upward energy. A well defined lip allows you to transfer the energy easily while a rounded lip requires more of a lift or pop from you. Note the exact location of the lip as that is where you unweight each wheel as it passes that point.
If there is a root or a bump on the lip, take note as that can grab your rear wheel, lift it and pitch you forward into the ground. You need to make an adjustment to compensate for that by tilting more up or not hitting the bump hard with your rear tire.
Before attempting a jump match it up with other jumps you’ve done before and recognize if it’s right in your wheelhouse or bigger than anything you’ve ever done.
Be confident and smooth. If you have no confidence that you can do the jump, do not do it. Come back another day.
Understand the speed
Understand what speed it takes to clear a jump safely and land on the landing. A tabletop is more forgiving as you can hit it a lower speed and land on top of the jump with little consequence.
Get up to speed, either speed up or slow down 10+ yards before the jump. Do not brake check right at the base of the jump. Tempting as it is, this will slow you down and tilt your bike forward.
To get the front wheel off the ground, you need to preload all your weight into the bike, unload and punch. As smoothly as you can, push your feet and arms upward and throw your weight up and back away from the bike. Do this at the lip of the jump to allow the transfer of energy from forward movement to upward.
In the air
In mid-air relax and center your body with the bike and keep looking forward to your intended landing spot. It is at this point that great jumpers start moving around in mid-air with the bike. Aside from looking good, an active mid-air jumper is in control of the situation, the bike attitude, and tilt. Anything that affects the bike like a bad take-off, big puff of wind, landing obstacle can now be corrected if the rider and bike are moving around in mid-air. The opposite of this is the classic “dead sailor” where the rider is stiff as a board and at the mercy of the stars aligning to land correctly. Extend the arms and legs to get ready to absorb any impact upon landing.
Match the slope of the landing so both wheels land at the same time. Also, land softly and don’t slam your bike and body into the ground. If you and the bike weigh 200 lbs, you can impact the ground with a force of 100 lbs or a force of 400 lbs depending on how you slam or absorb the impact with your joints.
Dirt jumpers and BMXers become great jumpers because they are great ‘practicers’. They hang out and do the same jump over and over. They watch others and critique each other. This is the mindset you need to learn. Very few are great jumpers by birth. But anyone can become a great ‘practicer’.