“I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.” Jumping tips from Ninja Instructor Jeremiah “Scratch” Stone.
My relationship with jumping bikes started young and blossomed over three decades of boosting every single thing I could find or build. As a kid, I liberated wheelbarrows full of dirt from my Mama’s garden to build a jump. From there, I worked up to dirt jumps, table tops and gap jumps. With no instructor to point out my mistakes, I wiped out in every single way possible. I learned how to jump the hard way; with bumps, bruises and broken equipment. Lucky for you, I’m here to help you skip the painful lessons and get right to the good stuff. Here are my 5 Tips for Jumping Success:
1. Bike Setup
Set your sag properly! The term sag refers to the amount of suspension travel that is used when you are on your bike in a riding position. Not sure how to set your sag? Here’s how.
Remember, your shocks, just like tires, will lose a little pressure over time. Make sure your pressure (aka sag) is set correctly periodically to ensure your bike is riding to its full potential.
Next, learn about rebound (the rate at which your suspension returns after a compression) and tune it. The key with this is balance. You want your front and rear suspension behaving similarly. I prefer my rides at about 20% sag with fast rebound action. To check if rebound is balanced, pay attention to how the bike behaves when you bounce it. From there, ride into a section of trail you’re familiar with over and over again. Is the rear end coming up too much? Is the front end diving? If you feel yourself bouncing on landings, your rebound might be set too quick. Think of it like two pogo sticks – get them to work together!
2. Mental Approach
There’s a concept in trail building (and riding) that every feature is there to serve the next. Think about this: that berm is there to serve the next section by redirecting you and giving you the platform to enter it with more momentum. That roller is there for pumping or speed checking or maybe preloading. Don’t fight the flow of the trail – learn to use it to your advantage.
Now, apply this concept to jumping! Most jump lines are ascending, a type of crescendo where each jump leads you into another as they increase in size, hang time, intensity, etc. The face of the jump serves the landing. When I approach a jump, my main concern is where and how I want to land.
3. Control the Bike
Don’t get lazy halfway through. This usually leads to a “dead sailor” or “pencil” effect where pretty much nothing goes right and you look like a dork. Commit to placing the bike on the landing. Think about pumping the backside, pushing the bike into the landing when you get there and rolling it out clean. For me, I commit to a little bit of hip movement from the very beginning. It helps me maintain control, keeps my body and mind in tune, and sometimes turns into a steezy little whip action. From the innocent bystander’s point of view, it looks intentional and awesome. Inside my mind, this little movement gives me something to focus on in flight, which helps my entire body and nervous system do what it needs to do.
4. The Landing is What Matters
Begin with the end in mind (for all my 7 Habits nerds out there). What’s the goal? Hopefully the goal is the clear the jump and make it look effortless (and cool).
Pop Quiz! Where should you be landing?
a) The very peak tip top edge after the gap
b) The edge of the tabletop where it first starts to descend
c) The flat area just past the jump
d) The meaty part of the decline where your whole bike has a great landing surface and nice run-out.
Ding ding ding ding! If you answered “d”, you are correct. If you aim short, you’ll come up short and case the jump (whomp whomp). Your landing is well past that edge or peak.
Put the bike on the landing. Read that again. PUT the bike where you want it. I see so many people think that all they have to do is mash into a jump face and somehow the universe will just take care of them. Remember, the face and lip of a jump is just the beginning. It’s the landing that you need. More details on The What, Why and How of Jumping your Mountain Bike.
5. Be Mechanically-minded
Think about the mechanics of what is going on when you are jumping your bike. Geek out and think physics. Force, inertia, all that stuff. Then you’ll start to read jumps and anticipate how they’ll affect you. Jumps with a bigger face may feel earlier to learn on than jumping with a small face, because your entire bike fits on the face. Small face jumps on the other-hand can feel like you are jumping twice – once with the front end, then the rear. Steep faces will send you up. Mellow faces are usually easier to control because they have less influence on the bike and body. Step ups are more forgiving because they take a lot of the drop out of play, so you essentially only have to get the first half of the jump correct. Step downs are easier to over shoot and therefore need plenty of room to land. If you can consistently clear a 10ft table, you can clear a gap with the same characteristics.
Now it’s time to go ride your bike and have the most fun possible!
He’s a wild man with a wild plan, living the nomad life as a skills instructor and trail builder. With a background in moto and 15 years of mtb experience, he has tips for riders of all levels! You can find him leading Ninja clinics all over the country and on Instagram @vitabrevis
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park. We both race and ride at a very fast pace. Getting faster for us is about making sure our fundamentals are solid and we can continue to use those fundamentals to smooth out our flow to increase our skills and confidence. Richard has a way of breaking down all the information to make it very understandable and usable. My son and I have been to other skills classes before and knew what to expect, mostly. Richard was able to coach us to better form riding high speed flat corners! We brushed up on and cleaned up some less helpful habits. We really worked to understand the how and why behind some skills that we already had but didn't know we that we did. All in all we had a blast! Richard was fun and informative. Taylor was helping Richard out for the day. It was fun to watch her demo some skills at speed. Her input throughout the day was informative and light hearted. It was a fun day on the bike with some great people and coaching. This will not be our last Ninja training clinic! Thanks for everything Richard and Taylor! ~Eric Zubick
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding skills (because I had), I began searching for a mountain bike skills camp. I wanted to attend a camp that would push me to be a better rider, but I needed it to be in a great location on actual trails. After a fair amount of searching, I decided that spending a weekend at a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills camp would be perfect. It didn't hurt that the camp was in Big Bear. The condensed review: It took only a few hours of trail riding with Richard and Daniel to drastically change my riding for the better. The long review: The camp was broken into morning and afternoon sessions, separated by an amazing lunch on each day. The morning sessions were, in general, based on technique and riding isolated technical features. The afternoon sessions functioned more like a capstone; we rode incredible trails, like Fall Line and Skyline, and put our newly-learned skills into action. Richard and Daniel were attentive to both the class as a whole as well as each individual. The pacing of each individual lesson (I'm a teacher, so I viewed each piece as a lesson) was wonderful. There were constant checks for understanding as well as incremental assessments of our skills on the bike. We were never once, all weekend, bogged down in repetition, nor were we rushed through a skill or concept. I was blown away by the sheer volume of skills that were taught in such an easy-to-grasp manner. Of course, we were not standing by our bikes the whole time listening to a lecture: we were actively riding while Daniel and Richard looked on with critical eyes. Richard was clear in his introduction...
G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area.
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know. It's a non intimidating environment where mistakes are welcomed so corrections can be made. I own G2 Bike is Aliso Viejo and this clinic has been ran out of the Aliso Woods area and when I interviewed the clients they had all but great things to say. None arrogant instructors and easy to follow steps. The biggest bang for many was meeting new area riders at their skill level, gaining confidence, and getting the bike set up and fit properly. G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area. Thanks Richard for all you do for the MTB community! ~ AJ S.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.