Editor's note: Whether hopping over a log or hopping a tabletop on Whoops Trail, jumping (or hopping) is a necessary skill every mountain biker needs to master. For a little confidence boost—and some technical know-how—we connected with jumping pro Lindsey Voreis for a how-to.
Jumping bikes is fun! But getting your wheels off the ground safely can be challenging. Most people can catch air; it's the landing that causes problems. When the wheels are up it's easy for the front wheel to turn, which can cause a not-so-fun crash. Here's what to do:
Preload: As you enter the center or pocket of the takeoff, load both front and rear suspension like you're crouching to make a jump shot. Practice by standing on your own two legs. Squat down like you're initiating a jump shot in basketball. (As you jump up your head pops toward the sky and the ball comes up with you until you release and shoot. It's a similar motion on the bike.)
Bunny hop: A jump is essentially a giant bunny hop, where the front end rises first and the rear end follows into the air, creating an arc. The rear wheel must leave the ground while the front wheel is still in the air. Practice bunny hopping first.
Rising out of the transition: Use the power from your feet and jump up, leading with your heart and your head. Keep the bike with you as you go up and scoop your pedals back. This will make the rear end arc like a rainbow.
Spot landing: Once you're at the top of the arc, spot your landing and then throw the bike out in front of you with a slight twist forward with the wrists to point the front wheel toward the landing. (Imagine a surfer jumping into the ocean with her board: She puts her board out first to reduce the weight transfer so as to absorb the impact with her arms before landing on the board.)
Landing: As the bike approaches the landing bend your arms enough so you can "snap" the front wheel down, suck it up and lightly absorb the landing. Equal force on the handlebars helps keeps the wheel straight. Push down and out of the landing.
Reminder: Start small. Jumping is complex but gets easier with patience and practice. It's fun to learn to jump your bike but the risk factor increases any time your wheels leave the ground. Everything happens in stages, just like life. And the more you do it, the more you will find your flow.