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Logs – they’re a fundamental part of mountain biking in most areas of the country since where there are trees, there are trees that fall. Many riders hate logs and would like to see all of them cut off the trails. Others, like me, really enjoy riding them and are always wondering just how big we can go. But part of enjoying riding logs is knowing how to ride them. A few years ago trek7k wrote a post on a few different ways to ride over a log but in this post I’m going to provide a little more detail and insight into what he called the ‘speed hop’.

When you know how to ride them, logs are an enjoyable part of the mountain bike experience. Photo: Brian Reynolds

The goal here is to get over the log as smoothly and safely as possible. Done right, you don’t even have to slow down – if you’re quick enough and your timing is super precise. This move can be used on all sorts of things, pretty much any time you have to go onto or over something. Rocks, bridges, even curbs in your neighborhood can be ridden in style with the speed hop. You can also ride some really big stuff this way. This is, in my opinion, the best way to get over things tall enough to hit your chain ring. Bashing your chainring into stuff is hard on you, yourbike,and your wallet plus it’s not smooth and it forces you to slow down.

The Approach

You want to be in the ready, or “attack” position: off the saddle, knees and elbows bent, weight centered over the bike, pedals level. Do NOT try to ride over a log sitting down with your cranks vertical. It will not work. And yes, I’ve seen someone try this. It resulted in a 10ft nose wheelie to tuck and roll over the bars. Luckily the only thing damaged was his ego.

First Wheel Up

Pick the front wheel up. Get you weight back over and behind the rear wheel axle, and pull the bars toward your chest.

Set Up The Pivot

Let the front wheel land on top of the log. As it is falling down onto the log move your weight forward and prepare for the hop.

Up and Over

Now hop straight up, not forward! Use the front wheel as a pivot point for the bike. Suck your legs up to lift the rear wheel off the ground, rotating your wrists can help with this too. You want the rear wheel to go over the log, so hop just high enough. No need for a huge hop if the log is only 6″ around. Extend your arms to push the bike out in front of you and over the log, keeping your weight to the rear, just in case the rear wheel hangs up on the log. If your weight is forward and the rear wheel hits the log you might take one of those famous trips Over The Bars.

The rear tire might land on top of the log, or on the back side. That’s fine, you’ll hardly even notice. It’s also okay if it clears the log completely. Generally, the faster you go, the more likely it’ll clear the log completely.

One more tip: if you’re going fast, you’ll actually start to hop before your front wheel touches the log. If you don’t you’ll hit your chainring… which doesn’t usually end well when you’re going fast.

Ride Away

Now just ride away in style, at the same speed you were before, and without hardly even feeling a bump. But be nice – don’t laugh at your friends who had to stop and walk over the log. It is okay to laugh at the guy who just bent a tooth onhis $100+ XTR chainring though. 😀

Moving Pictures

Here’s the video all of the screen shots from above were pulled from.

So how do you feel about logs? Love? Hate? Indifferent? Tell us in the comments section below!

Big thanks to Tyler and David for help with the video.

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# Comments

  • Jeff Barber

    Nice tutorial. Admittedly I’m still not great at this – I tend to pivot once my front wheel is on the other side of the log which limits the size of stuff I can hop. Here’s another video we put together several years ago showing the technique:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZCxgW1RJU8

    (rider: Craig Armstrong)

  • dgaddis

    I was surprised when I saw the video in slow mo at how close my chainring gets…for some reason I always pictured the rear wheel well off the ground while the front wheel is still on the log, but, apparently that’s not what actually happens, at least not at slower speeds on smaller logs like in the video. Maybe it’s different at speed, or on bigger logs. Either way, it’s smoooooth!

  • Jeff Barber

    I ran hurdles in high school and the technique there was to get as close to the hurdle as possible, even if that meant tapping or knocking it down. Based on what mudhunny learned at the Better Ride clinic it’s the same in mountain biking – expending the least amount of effort to clear an obstacle while maintaining your momentum (not to mention the fact that jumping slows you down). So yeah, giving your bike just enough pop to clear the chainring is the way to go, especially if you know what you’re doing. But if you’re just starting out, might be a good idea to give yourself a little more margin. 🙂

  • mtbgreg1

    Nice tutorial. It’s interesting how quickly technique changes as the size of the log increases. I’m not super great at doing really, really big logs… takes some mad skills as well as balls. This is the biggest one I’ve done: http://www.singletracks.com/images/uploads/2009/05/IMG_7623-0.jpg (Crossing to the left side of the skinny). Like usual, it looks so much bigger in real life.

    If you’re crossing a log this size, you have to carry a good bit of momentum, get your front wheel up on the log and keep pedaling, and try to sort of hop your rear wheel up and over. If you don’t have those kind of skills, head at the log, get the front wheel up, and when your chainring hits keep pedaling through it. The teeth of the chain ring will bite into the log, acting like a third wheel propelling you across the top of it. Since your chainring will be bearing most of your weight, I don’t recommend running an expensive one! If you’re running a bash guard, simply make sure you’re carrying plenty of momentum when you get your front end up on the log so you can wiggle/slither/slide your way over.

    My 2 cents anyhow! 🙂

  • maddslacker

    With some practice, you can do this over curbs and stuff, on a fully rigid commuter bike, with 15 pounds or so of laptop and stuff attached to the back. 😀

    On one of my very first mountain bike rides, a log on the Rampart Reservoir Trail totally pwned me. I didn’t dare try it for a number of rides after that but eventually I decided to conquer it. I got going really fast, and did exactly what dgaddis describes and cleaned it no problem.

    Now I hardly even think about it as I cross it, but man did it used to mess with my head!

  • ronyc

    Thank you for posting this, it’s really helpful for a noob like myself. Maybe a weekly “how to” article with accompanying vids? That would be great! Thanks again!

  • jaredmcvay

    Thanks for posting this. It’s always good to get back and think about what we’re doing in order to improve.

  • Bobkillinit

    Good post! However, I still manage to hit my back tire a little too hard and on the side of it causing a trap. I don’t have clips, so I find it hard to really pull my bike up behind me and when I do, I over lean causing the probably header into the trail. I’m still learning, any ideas?

  • GuvmentCheese

    I love logs …AS LONG as they occur on level or downhill conditions.

    If I have to bunny hop something while climbing, it’s usually a struggle.

  • Bubblehead10MM

    Sure looks smooth. I would have thought it was more about weight shift. I have timing problems. There’s some logs I see that are small dead fall, but up off ground so that they are big obstacles I want to try.

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