It’s both fun and scary with an unrivaled adrenalin rush, so how do you get your bike to fly without coming crashing down to earth? Ben talks us through the basics.
Probably the most fun, but also most daunting part about riding a dirt bike is jumping. From table tops to triples and doubles, for a lot of people jumping can be very scary and hold you back from either enjoying the feeling or becoming a faster rider. With these tips and a bit of practice, you will have the confidence to conquer whatever jump is in front of you and let you experience that oh-so-good feeling of floating through the air.
#1 Body Position
Probably the most important part to be able to jump safely is your body position. The key is having a nice neutral position to help keep the bike level and not tilting when you’re in the air. In order to keep control while in mid-air, you want to be gripping tightly with your legs against the bike to keep it straight and maintain control. This position is similar to the standing attack position you should be adopting approaching the jump, with strong elbows and your head over the bar pad to keep the bike stable.
#2 Throttle Control
Next is having the right throttle going up and over the jump. Things go wrong when you let the throttle off halfway up a ramp, or come into a jump way too fast and hold the gas on full throttle. After being over the jump a few times and getting a feel for it, you need to determine the entry speed to the face of the jump. Once you reach the up ramp of the jump, you want to hold the throttle wherever it is all the way up the face and until you are in the air. A problem a lot of riders have is that they let the throttle off at the top of the ramp. This causes the rear end to lift up and turn into an endo, which is not how you want to jump. By keeping the same throttle speed all the way up the jump face, it’ll keep the bike balanced and level.
#3 Eyes Open
The third tip is where you should be looking. You want to be looking at the up ramp as soon as possible, scanning ahead to see where the best line for take-off will be. You’ll want to avoid hitting any bumps in the face or possibly the lower line of the ramp to give the bike the smoothest take-off. Once you’re in the air, you then want to be looking where you are wanting to land, and not looking around for other riders or at spectators, as these distractions can cause big accidents. Your control while flying high is limited, so don’t panic if you see a better landing spot than is within your reach, as this too can cause you to come in for a hard landing.
When it comes to returning to the ground, you want to get your chest and torso as far away from the handlebars as you can. This will make sure you don’t have the wind knocked out of you, meaning you can pin the throttle and head to your next target. Landing the bike itself, you generally don’t want to land with both wheels at the same time (unless you’re doing some serious speed!), as this will send the shock straight to you and probably throw you off. Land slightly on your front wheel if you’re landing on a ramp, or if there is no landing ramp, land on the rear wheel and position your feet with the arch on the footpeg, so that the shock absorber of the bike and your legs take the impact.
Putting It Into Practice
So now you’ve got the basics, the next step is to put it all into practice. So where do you start and what do you do if things start to go sideways?
Start With Table Tops
Tabletops are the best jump to start on, as you can work your way and progress a little further each time until you nail it. They are much safer than hitting a double, where you either jump it or you don’t, usually with quite serious consequences. Tabletops are good for gaining confidence and working your way to jumping bigger and bigger each lap. Once you’ve gained confidence with the safer jumps, you can then progress onto more technical jumps such as doubles or even triples.
If Your Bike Endos
An endo is when the front of the bike is dropping below the rear. Unless you know how to correct this, a lot of the time it ends with a crash which isn’t what you want. But a few quick tips are all you need to stop you from crashing and keep you upright and racing. If you feel the front of the bike dropping, you want to get your weight as far back as soon as possible. Also, twisting the gas full on at the same time and holding it is another trick to get the bike to rotate backwards. This is called a “panic rev” and uses the momentum of the rear wheel to rotate the bike and lift the front upwards mid-air. It’s a technique commonly used by all riders to stop the bike from flipping over the front on landing, and you’ll often hear bikes on their rev limiter at a motocross track as riders try to correct their position mid-jump.
If Your Bike Air Wheelies
A wheelie on the ground is good fun, and sometimes even useful. But if your bike starts lifting the front too high while you are in mid-air, you will quickly find not all wheelies are awesome. If your bike starts to wheelie after you’ve hit a jump, again your body position will need to change, with your weight moving forward as far as possible. At the same time as leaning forward, you need to try and tap the rear brake to help to bring the front wheel down. It sounds ridiculous but it really works, using the opposite of the panic rev to provoke the bike to change its geometry mid-jump.
Jumping is fun and is also a necessary part of racing motocross, so you need to have it sorted. Practice is the key to success when it comes to jumping, with special attention needed on the technique for correcting the trajectory of your machine while in mid-air. Practice a panic rev or dabbing the rear brake and see what happens. You’ll soon discover that these are your most valuable assets when jumping and you want them to become second nature.