Friday, May 25, 2012

Bike Handling Skills: Bunny Hopping

Part of my Junior Training Program is to ensure they are taught how to handle their bikes.  It was actually something I was never taught to do even though I started racing at the age of 12.  I want to make sure that these young athletes have the skills to be proficient and safe.  Of course it does not end there, everyone can benefit from skills training.  If you think you need skill training then you probably do.   If you don't think you need skill training, then you definitely do.

The bunny hop is probably the simplest and most critical skill to practice.  I teach it in 4 parts:
  1. Front wheel over the obstacle:  At slow speed approach the obstacle and compress your handlebars down to "load" yourself.  Then "spring" up and take the front wheel with you over the obstacle.  Once this is proficient, we move to the rear wheel.
  2. Rear wheel over the obstacle:  With clipless pedals, the rear wheel could almost be pulled up from the pedals.  However, some of the best bunny hoppers are BMX riders not using clipless pedals, they are using momentum.  So even though the pedals are a tool, try and use momentum.  This is accomplished much like the front wheel.  Approach the obstacle at slow speed.  Ride the front wheel over it, then compress the rear wheel to "load" by standing and bending your legs.  "Spring" up and lean your body forward to bring up the rear wheel.  The wheel only needs to clear the obstacle, not high enough to endo yourself.
  3. Both wheels at slow speed:  When doing slow speed bunny hops, you will do the front wheel and rear wheel separately as stated above, but in one pass over the obstacle.  This is like timing a slow speed climb up on a curb.  Approach the obstacle, "load" and "spring" the front wheel over then immediately "load" and "spring" the rear wheel over.
  4. Both wheels at speed:  Now it is time to put it all together.  Approach the obstacle with enough speed to clear it.  When you approach it you will "load" the front and back wheel at the same time.  This is done by standing with pedals parallel to the ground.  Bend your arms to load the front and your knees to load the rear.  Spring them both up at the same time bringing your body slightly forward for momentum.  You only need to jump enough to clear the obstacle.  No need to get "sick air" here.  Try and land with both wheels at the same time.
Claire pulling too much from the rear and landing heavy on her front wheel.

Claire correcting the problem and landing perfectly.
 You can clearly see the difference in the above photos.  When you load your bike and then spring up and slightly forward, it truly is slightly forward.  To much forward movement will result in the rear wheel coming up too high.  The faster the approach, the less forward shift is needed.  Also you can see in the second picture Claire has returned to a lower position, shifting her center of gravity and thus making the landing safer.  She still has room to compress her landing so she doesn't hit too hard.

These skills, especially with young juniors, are best done in a grass field.  She is still using her road bike to practice.  I use a piece of PVC pipe for her to jump as the obstacle.  In one session she made an extreme level of progress.

Feel free to leave comments, questions or suggestions.
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