Mountain Biking UK
Jump gaps with style
Pro coach Olly Morris gives the lowdown on mastering this higher-level skill
“Do one thing that scares you every day” is what they say, right? Finding a gap to jump is a great way to do just that, especially if it hasn’t been jumped before. There’s that excitement you get when you first spot the gap, then a wave of fear as you realise it’s on and you’re going to hit it, and the stoke you feel (not to mention the relief!) when you land it. To find a good gap on the trail, you need to be creative, look for an interesting point to take off from and somewhere to land that will help keep things smooth. There are many types of gaps, but here are a few to get you started with.
01 technical gap
Tech gaps are fun and certainly add to the pre-jump anticipation because the take-off isn’t always neat. On this one, I had to use the side of a stump to jump from and couldn’t see the landing. The trick with a tech gap like this is precision. Your wheel placement needs to be perfect so you don’t slide and can land the gap smoothly. Not being able to see the landing means you have to react and make minor adjustments as you’re taking off, to ensure you don’t case it or go too long.
Potentially a slightly easier gap, but still good fun. The step-down can provide a bit of a ‘case pad’, so if you come up a little short you might still get away with it. This does lower the first-jump fear, but doesn’t remove the fun. Stepdowns are fun because you get an instant feeling of airtime straight off the lip of the jump – lots of air for little effort can only be a good thing! I often use step-downs to help riders practise gaps where there isn’t a take-off.
Going as long as you want makes fly-offs really fun and means you can get away with building up how far you jump. There is, however, often a point where you need to land to turn it into a gap and make it smooth. Fly-offs can give you a nice take-off, so you can push hard off the lip, get the front high and enjoy the time in the air. Then you just have to plan how you want to land – rear wheel first and slap the front, or nose the front in.
04 race gap
It isn’t always easy to see on TV, but in World Cup DH there are plenty of these and they certainly separate the pack. Race gaps usually come out during the weekend – as riders increase their speed, they realise that gapping a section will help keep things smooth and shave time. These gaps are always more about the landing than the take-off. The racer will find anything to jump from to make sure they get a landing that helps carry their speed. The one we did here had a pretty steep landing, so after getting the original height you need to squash into the landing to ensure you don’t go too long.
05 no take-off
These are some of my favourite gaps, mainly because they can provide a good challenge. Because there’s no take-off, you have to do the work to get over it. Effectively, this type of gap is like a massive bunnyhop, due to there being nothing for the front wheel to push off. These can be trickier to find but are really rewarding to nail.
06 gap tips
Gaps are an advanced skill, but don’t let that stop you learning them. Start small, practise your bunnyhops and build up. Here are some tips for making it easier…
Get the front high: The higher you get the front wheel when taking off, the further you’ll go.
Drive through the legs: It sounds obvious, but your legs are strong, so use them, by pushing down hard on the take-off.
Hips forward: If you want more height, drive your hips forward as you take off – this will bring your weight even higher and the bike can follow. It’ll also help get the front wheel higher.
Make adjustments: Getting gaps smooth is all about ‘in the moment’ adjustments. It’s at the point of taking off that you know the most about whether you have the speed, so adjusting the effort you put into the first three points is vital for a clean landing.
Timing beats speed: Clearing gaps isn’t always about going as fast as you can. Timing where you take off should be the priority.