mountain bike racer hopping small log

An important skill for mountain bikers, especially XC and CX racers, is being able to hop over a log. At least here on the East Coast, race courses without logs are few and far between.

So check out these tips and video and you’ll be able to clear most logs that the trail puts in front of you!

The Attack Position

First, lets review the attack position:

  • Pedals are level.
  • Your butt is off the saddle.
  • Knees and elbows are slightly bent.
  • Eyes looking forward.

Make sure you’re comfortable in this position as you approach the log at a medium speed.

The Hop

There are three phases of the log hop.

1. Pre-load the front wheel.

As you approach the log, pre-load your suspension by pushing down on the handlebars. Even if you don’t have suspension, it’s the same idea – pressing your weight down into the front wheel.

The higher you plan to lift the wheel, the more you bend your arms and the lower your torso goes. Think of your body like a spring, coiled up and ready to extend.

2. Lift front wheel.

At just the right moment, spring upward and straighten your arms, bringing the front wheel off the ground. (The front wheel needs to come up high enough to clear the log.)

Lightly touch the front wheel on top of the log.

3. Bring the back wheel over.

As the front wheel starts to roll over the log, push the front wheel forward and pull up on the pedals to bring the back wheel up and over. This is all one motion, but you can break it down into segments.

Up front, you’re pushing the bike forward, much like when you’re getting ready to ride a steep downhill. This keeps you in control so you don’t fly over the bars.

For the back wheel, you’re pulling the pedals upward to bring the back wheel up and over the log. As the back wheel goes over the log, you can shift your weight forward to keep your forward momentum and unweight the back wheel, preventing it from slamming into the log.

When you put the two motions together, you hop up and roll over the log smoothly.

Instructional Videos

This video will show you four slightly different ways to hop over a log:

And here are 8.5 different ways to get over a log:

Adjusting for Log Size and Situation

The bigger the log, the higher you have to lift the front wheel at first, and the more of a push forward on the bars and pull with your feet. It’s only natural – the bigger the obstacle, the more effort it takes.

My hop height and exact technique vary by log size.

For logs 12″ or lower, I will generally have my wheels just barely tapping the log (or not even touching it.) The higher the log, the more time my wheels will roll on it.

With the big logs, you can push the front wheel down into the top of the log to get more leverage for bringing the back wheel higher.

The exception is a small log or branch elevated off the ground. Those are the toughest, because if you put weight on them, they bend and throw off your balance. So that’s an example of a high log that you want to clear cleanly.

Adjusting for Wet Weather

Normally, I like to lightly tap the log with both wheels because that gives you good traction going forward.

However, if the log is wet, you don’t want to touch it all – it’s too easy for a wheel to slide out on a wet, slippery log. So you perform the same hopping motion, but go fully over the log without touching your wheels on the top of it.

More Log Hopping Tips

Here are some random tips to help the learning process.

Big wheels. 29″ wheels make it easier to roll over obstacles, logs included.

Keep your speed up. To quote Mike Yozell, one of the smoothest log hoppers around here, “brakes are your enemy, momentum is your friend.”

Try BMX. If possible, learn to bunnyhop on a BMX bike with platform pedals. Learning on platforms gives you a better idea of how to the movement really works.

You have to work harder for it. You have to point your toes down, cup your feet around the pedals, and push them back in order to get the leverage to lift them up. With clipless pedals, you just lift your feet and the bike comes with you. It’s too easy!

Start on small logs. Practice with small logs and work your way up as you need a bigger challenge. You can even start with cardboard boxes if you don’t have logs handy.

One wheel at a time. Also, practice the front wheel and rear wheel lifts separately. The rear wheel takes longer to get the hang of, so ride along and just pull your back wheel up into an endo position.

When you are comfortable with both wheels, put the motion together.

Now get out there and hop some logs!

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