Photo By Mike Emery *Click To Enlarge
Taking The Leap
Jumping With Josh Hill
We've all been there. It's your first time riding a track, you've arrived with the sole purpose of crushing it, you're sure that you'll be the fastest of all your buddies, and then you see a jump that makes your tail go straight between your legs immediately deflating your ego. Motocross can be scary, and that's part of why we do it. Nobody said it would be easy, and it's a rush to overcome that fear of a new double or a big booter. This is something every rider young to old has encountered at some point, and there is nothing quite like launching a good-sized jump for the first time or claiming bragging rights to a big huck.
Enter Josh Hill, the tutor for this month's skills section. Josh enjoyed a career that many kids dream of, with a mix of both highs and lows. Factory rides, Supercross wins, motocross stardom, then an almost career ending injury, and a huge comeback – all done with natural style. Josh was a guy that you could guarantee would be one of the first guys to hit a big Supercross rhythm section on race day, or also find a way to transfer something big at the test track just for kicks to wrap up a day of training. Now that the Washington native has hung up the race boots he can be found at many local California tracks just having fun, and fun to Josh is sending it over enormous transfers that make us mere mortals jaws drop. We caught up with the Monster Energy two-wheeled motorsports manager to have him drop some tips on jumping things for the first time.
Learn Your Bike: Start out on something you're really comfortable jumping, and then figure out how to control your bike better in the air. That's step one. Learn how to pull in the clutch and tap the back brake in the air if needed, work with your suspension and learn how it's going to pop you off the jump and how it's going to land. Controlling your bike is the key point; body positioning, tapping the rear brake, giving it gas, all of that. Think about how the bike is going to react, and how to control it in the air. The key is to be comfortable and in control.
Properly Size It Up: A sight lap is always important, whether it's a new track or one you've ridden. Tracks change, and it's always a good idea to learn the tack. If and when you're sizing up a jump, the first thing to do is ride off the lip and just jump out there. Feel it out, and sometimes you can jump two-thirds or three quarters of the way to the landing to feel the lip out. Then you can say "Ok, I made it this far and if I hit it with this much more speed I will clear it." My dad used to call it "thumping out a jump" referring to the suspension sacking out. You get a feel for the lip, the landing, the distance, and how high you'll go. This is a good practice for most jumps, but there are always some that you have to commit to without being able to fully feel it out.
Confidence Is Key: Confidence in jumping is probably the biggest key thing. You want to be 95%, if not more, that you are going to make that jump and ride away. If you're not confident, chances are you'll go of the jump wondering what's going to happen and be thinking of the consequences and not the reward of it, and things can go bad that way.
Body Position: The best thing I can say about body position is when you are approaching the jump to stand up, knees slightly bent, and try to keep a real neutral body position. Be on top of the bike; you're in control riding the motorcycle, not just along for the ride.
On Pacing: If there's a wide-open jump on the track that somebody else is doing you can pace someone as a gauge of speed, but you are also at the mercy of that rider. It's a tool you can use, but I personally stay away from it because you are then relying on someone else's judgment to make it over the jump and that can go wrong quick.
Go Time: When you finally decide "Ok I'm going to make this jump, I'm doing it." I think it's best to commit early on, like the corner before and already have it in your head before you get there that you are going to jump it. I also think that if at all possible it's always better to overshoot the jump. My rule of thumb is that it's always better to over jump something rather than come up short. I always make sure that when I hit a jump for the first time I commit to it, and I go for it. I think it's better to get as much airtime as you can, so that if something does go wrong and you are going to come up short you have more time to react and prepare for that.
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