Big Downhill Ski Jumps With Tommy Hahn
Intro and Photos: Garth Milan
Gigantic downhill drop-offs are one of the most intimidating obstacles on a motocross track, not because of the fact that you risk coming up short and casing out, but due to the high speed that is inherently associated. Ski-jump-style drop-offs like this one at Glen Helen’s National track involve scary amounts of speed, and if you don’t know what you are doing, can bite you in the behind quickly!
We asked Factory Connection/Chaparral/Napster’s Tommy Hahn how he mans up for big leaps down even bigger hills, and he said the secret is to up-shift and pin it. “What?!” you ask. Yeah, we thought he was crazy at first, too, but hear him out and you will soon see why Hahn’s downhill philosophy really does make sense…
Get Ready, Hold On Tight, And Grab A Handful!
“High speed drops like this are easier than they look; they’re just really intimidating until you learn how to jump down them right. Like I do with most downhill drop-aways, I hit this little lip in fourth gear pinned. You really can’t jump too far in this situation, because the following downhill is so long that there is no reason to try and scrub speed. It’s just a waste of energy. Instead, keep the throttle on, look as far down the hill as possible to make sure there are no obstacles that you’ll hit on the landing, and spot the vicinity of where you want to touch down. As you leave the ground, get your weight to the back of the bike by straightening your arms and legs and leaning toward the rear fender.
“Once in the air, move a little bit forward again to the middle of the bike to prevent a boner air, and brace yourself for a hard landing (depending on the size of the jump you’re dealing with). Be careful not to lean too far forward, though; you still want to land with your rear wheel first. Stay nice and centered from side to side, and make sure you are on the throttle at least somewhat when you land or you’ll fly straight over the bars!”
“If you jumped fairly far down the hill, you probably already avoided many of the braking bumps that have undoubtedly gathered from slower riders. Great, but there will still be plenty left no matter where you land, so be ready. To make the shock from these bumps as minimal as possible, shift up one more time (into fifth gear) and let your bike do all the work for you. The higher gear you are in, the less your bike will be affected by the braking bumps, because your shock won’t pack down as much. Now just stay in the attack position, continue looking forward, and get on to the next part of the track—you’re done!”