Imagine riding down a familiar trail and suddenly there’s a fallen tree in the way. Instead of stopping and climbing over it, wouldn’t it be much faster and more fun to be able to jump over the whole thing while on your bike? Not only is this faster, but learning how to bunny hop a mountain bike also makes you safer. At some point you will find an obstacle in front of you that you cannot ride around and you will be moving too fast to stop in time, regardless of how good your brakes are.
At The Adventure Junkies we want you to have as much fun on the trail and stay safe, so we have written this article to teach you how to bunny hop, and no longer worry about obstacles that you might encounter.
WHAT IS A BUNNY HOP?
A bunny hop is a method of sending the bike into the air to jump over obstacles on the trail.
HOW TO BUNNY HOP
Ever watched a rabbit jumping in a field? The motions that a rabbit goes through is what you are aiming for. Unsurprisingly, this is also how the technique got its name. Have a look a the little guy in the video below.
Keep the image of this jumping bunny in mind as you work through the steps below. After getting your bike set up properly, you will learn how to get the front and back wheels in the air independently of each other before putting the two together to get your bike in the air.
1. BIKE SET UP
Before you start, you will want to get your saddle out of the way. Lower it with your dropper post or open the quick release and get the seatpost down as far as possible.
It is recommended to learn how to bunny hop on flat pedals instead of being clipped in. This will ensure that you are using the correct technique and getting maximum height rather than relying on the clips to lift the back wheel up. Using flat pedals generally best when learning new skills as they allow you to get your foot down faster in an emergency.
As always, don’t forget to put your helmet on and then find a quiet parking lot or grassy park to practice.
2. USE YOUR FEET TO SCOOP YOUR REAR WHEEL UP
Roll along slowly. Keep your pedals level with each other (one forward and one back, both at the same height from the ground). Point your toes towards the ground and then sweep your feet backwards and up to lift the back wheel off the ground. Focus on not letting your feet leave the pedals by keeping a downward pressure on them. It will help to support more of your body weight on your arms while getting used to doing this.
See how high you can lift up the back wheel.
3. PUMP TO POP THE FRONT WHEEL UP
Once you are comfortable sweeping the rear wheel up, it is time to think about getting the front wheel in the air.
Roll along slowly and use the pumping technique to push down and pop the front wheel up, pulling up on the bars and moving your body weight back. Do not compress your suspension when doing this. Instead think about using the rebound from the front tire.
Keep one finger on the rear brake lever. If you find you have pulled up too hard and that you are going to loop out (fall off the back of the bike), just pull on the rear brake and the front will drop back down again. If you do this too late, you will want to get your foot on the ground ASAP. Lucky you are using flat pedals right?
4. COMBINE THE TWO
Combining lifting the front wheel then the back wheel while keeping the motion of our rabbit friend in mind is how to bunny hop.
Try to do the following in order but also in one fluid motion: Roll along slowly and pop up the front wheel. Once the wheel is in the air, jump by pushing through the pedals to drive the back wheel off the ground. As the back wheel leaves the ground, scoop the wheel up using the pedals.
Watch the rabbit video again and copy him! Front wheel first, jump, scoop.
5. PUSH AND TWIST WITH YOUR WRISTS
When you have completed your first few hops, it is time to introduce one more step to get the maximum height.
As you scoop up the back wheel, use your wrists and arms to twist and push the handlebars forward. By doing both at the same time you will get the maximum possible height from your bunny hop.
James Wilson explains the importance of using your wrists to bunny hop in his blog.
Work on the timing of each movement and get the hop as smooth as possible. Think about the rabbit. Try to combine the individual components into one fluid motion. The smoother the better!
7. PRACTICE HOPPING OVER AN OBJECT
Find something small to hop over. A small plank of wood is perfect. Roll towards the plank, as you get close, time your bunny hop so that neither wheel makes contact with the plank. If you make a mistake, you shouldn’t have any problems rolling over it.
Now you have the timing perfected, try hopping over something a bit bigger and more solid. Try hopping up onto the sidewalk. Keep practicing to hop higher and higher. As a general rule, your back wheel will only go as high as the front wheel has before it. Also get used to the feel of hopping at higher speeds. The more explosive you can make the movement, the higher you will hop!
8. HOP OVER OBSTACLES ON THE TRAIL
Now you are comfortable hopping in the parking lot, it is time to use your new skill on the trail. Next time you see a small root over the trail, hop over it. Don’t like the look of a rock? Hop over it! Next time you see a puddle, just hop over it instead of getting wet, or time your landing to maximize your splash!
It is also possible to hop sideways from one side of a trail to the other, out of a rut, or if you find yourself hurtling too fast towards a rock too big to hop over, you can just hop to the side of it.
9. SWITCH FEET
Feeling confident? Did you learn to bunny hop using the same foot forward each time? If so, start again with the opposite foot forward. When you can bunny hop confidently with both feet forwards you will never be caught out by unexpected objects on the trail again!
If you want to improve your bunny hops even more, add the exercises from this GMBN video to your regular workout.
Want to get more airtime? Combine the bunny hop technique with pumping to learn how to jump your mountain bike.