intermediate level trials training: front wheel hop
Hopping the front wheel is a difficult skill to learn, especially in the middle of a tough section. While not needed in the lower grades, it is a handy skill in the Clubman grade, and becomes essential in C grade. Experienced riders can hop the wheels on twin shock bikes, but generally you will need the light weight and good suspension of a modern trials bike (e.g. 2000 model or later) to successfully hop the front wheel.
It is tempting to learn this skill early, but it's best not to start until you have mastered balancing on your stationary bike easily for extended periods.
Start learning to hop the front wheel on a smooth area with the bike facing up the slope. You may find it easier at first to just concentrate on hopping up and down in the one spot, and leave hopping to the side for later.
The key to hopping the front wheel is balance, compressing your suspension, using your body weight and good timing.
First compress the front suspension. Do this by bending your legs forward, NOT by throwing your upper body forward.
As the front suspension full compresses, straighten your legs and move your body weight backward. The key is NOT to pull on the bars but let your body weight and suspension do the hard work.
This way you will keep better control of the bike and not wear yourself out either. Your legs are far stronger than your arms so let them do all the work!
A note on timing, the common mistake is to move the body too quickly before the suspension has full compressed. Take your time and don't rush, so that it all comes together smoothly. If it seems too hard, then you'll be doing something wrong in terms of timing, not using the suspension, or using your upper body instead of your legs. It may pay to get an experienced rider to provide you with feedback.
In most cases, it is best to keep both brakes applied. Remember in competition you will lose points if the bike rolls backwards. There is a natural tendency to release the rear brake as the bike springs up so watch for this.
As with balancing, keeping the engine running provides gyroscopic force that will keep you balanced easier.
Some riders will also use a small throttle blip and clutch to help bring the front wheel up, then immediately reapply the rear brake.
To turn the bike, keep your body weight slightly to the side of the bike in the direction you wish to hop.
When learning, it's best to move in a series of small hops.
Your suspension is critical to hopping the front wheel easily, so it may pay to ensure your suspension is set up correctly for your body weight and style of riding.
Hop the front wheel with the engine off so it is harder to balance.
Try hopping in a complete circle.
You'll probably have a favorite direction, remember to practice the other direction as well!
Once you have mastered this on smooth ground, try in rough terrain or facing downhill.
Try hopping the front wheel over obstacles in the way like a small rock.
This is the text version, watch our front wheel hop video here.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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