The best way to learn how to jump on your mountain bike is to approach it with confidence, and proper protection will help provide that confidence. So before you start down the path of future freeride superstar, be sure to get the protection you need to continue the learning process when you are out practicing (and for most of us, inevitably crashing). Depending on how big the jump is and your skill level coming in, a full face helmet, neck brace, knee guards, elbow guards, and upper body protection are all a good idea.
Now that you’re padded up and ready to ride, check out this video to start learning the basics of jumping your mountain bike.
When starting out, set your suspension to rebound a click or two slower than normal. This will help with the learning process by preventing the dreaded buck. A slower rebound setting will also help to tame a rough landing.
As you approach the jump take an attack position on the bike with your arms and legs flexed. At the base of the jump, called the transition, weight your pedals and load the bike. At the lip of the bike, smoothly unload all your weight off the bike and transfer your energy from the ground to the air. Keep your weight centered between the wheels.
Once in the air it is important to keep your arms and legs loose. Don’t tense up, or you will tilt off axis and land crooked and off balance. The bike needs to be able to float underneath you so that it can naturally straighten out, even if it left the lip of the jump slightly off axis.
After you’ve passed the apex of your airtime, relax your arms to allow the front wheel to drop and meet the landing while extending your legs slightly to prepare to absorb the landing. As you touch down, focus your center of gravity on your pedals to avoid putting too much weight on your handlebars and front wheel. Use your legs to absorb the landing.
Visualizing yourself using these techniques and completing a successful jump can really help with the learning process. Keep practicing on small jumps and remember that jumping is a skill that requires finesse. It’s all about subtle, controlled movements, and this takes time to develop. But it’s worth it. You’ll be safer on the trail and have a lot more fun.