Before my mountain bike ride today I read some pages in the magazine Mountain Bike Rider (MBR) about riding skills, particularly on the subject of jumping the bike. Jumps can be intimidating to riders and way back I’m not sure if the majority of riders, including myself, had much in the way of technique. I really have found some useful information about how to take jumps in the pages of MBR. Better technique not only allows you to make higher and longer jumps but it greatly improves safety. You don’t want to be flying into the air then, through the wrong method, find yourself falling to the ground from a great height.
I decided to make today’s ride into a refresher course in the skills needed to take jumps but also to concentrate on the surprisingly similar skills needed to get maximum grip on corners. For both types of obstacle you need to lower your body weight towards the bike by bending your arms and legs and lowering your torso. This should be your position every time. Today I rode to Healey Nab for its purpose built trails because despite overnight rain over the past few days I knew that the trails would be well drained. I started from the trail head after my first climb and the trail drops towards the first left hand corner. The surface is loose on the exit but firmer on the first half of the bend. This is therefore where you’ll find most grip and want to do most of your turning. You need to assess each corner like this and decide where the grip points are. Your weight is close to the bike and on the grip points you should extend your arms and legs to push your weight higher. This pushes the tyres hard into the surface and greatly increases grip. You can try to do your turning at these point and allow the bike to take a less tight line where there’s less grip to be had. I turned hard on the first half of turn one and let the bike drift out on the exit. Needless to say you don’t want to be pushing away from the bike on loose or gravelly parts but only on drier and grippier ground.
I continued around several more corners and looked for the grip points to push my weight away from the bike and do most of the turning, then I approached some jumps. I adopted the same low position and on the up slope of the hump pushed my weight away. It’s just like jumping from the ground without a bike. You’re pushing your weight away as the ground rises so when you reach the top of the slope the bike continues to go up. This will give you the highest, longest jumps. Don’t be tempted to try to pull the bike upwards by bending your knees. You won’t jump any further but could lose contact with the pedal. If you just push, the bike, including those important contact points, will come with you. I rode 3 laps, always thinking about my technique and found it to be a valuable refresher course. One thing I did notice on lap 3 was that I was more tired and perhaps not concentrating as well so I was more likely to miss time my pushing on both corners and jumps. It takes some practice but these are skills well worth the learning.