If you’ve come to mountain biking by way of BMX, you might find it hard to hop around on a squishy bike. After all, shocks are not designed for bouncing, in fact they’re designed to absorb bumps and keep you from getting bucked off your bike.
On a rigid BMX or trials bike, the response is instant. Pull up, and the bike comes up with you. Even on a hardtail, your forks squish when you try to pull up. On a full suspension, you have a rear shock to account for as well, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hop around, it’s all about timing. In fact, hopping around with shocks is a lot of fun, since rough terrain gets smoothed out like a skate ramp.
We’ve talked about preloading before on hardtails, where you crouch down and compress your front suspension, allowing you to spring back up into an American bunnyhop. On a full suspension bike, you need to preload both your front and rear to get up off the ground. Although this is done in two steps, you really need to think of it as one fluid motion. Let’s take a closer look.
First start by directing your weight downwards over the fork, compressing it as much as possible. As you pull back, your rear suspension will compress. Notice how your legs should be bent, ready to spring upwards. Now in one fluid motion, you’re going to jump upwards and pull the bike with you using the handlebars. That’s how you bunny hop a full squish, or any bike for that matter.
The most popular question is, “how do I get the rear off the ground”. My answer? You need to jump with your legs. Don’t focus on your feet and pedals. Making an upside down J with your handlebars is all you need to get your bike up. See here how the bars are what lead the hop. Just like jumping off a diving board, it’s your legs that ultimately help your defeat gravity. So, jump with your legs, and pull the bike up with your arms.
Doing a proper bunny hop comes naturally to some, but it didn’t for me. It was probably about 2 years of riding BMX every day before I could hop high. Of course, I didn’t have YouTube. Just a whole bunch of time, and some friends trying to learn the same thing.
If you’re getting discouraged, keep in mind that I’m a 5’ 4” web developer with asthma—not exactly the profile of an athlete. Nevertheless, I was able to get my 32 pound all mountain bike on to a picnic table with a little practice. It all comes down to repetition and timing.