Project airborne

I have a new mission in life: I want to be a jumper.

I have piddled around on motocross tracks once every other month for a few years now, but I am not a motocrosser. When you talk about riding dirtbikes, the one thing everyone want so know is “do you go over those big jumps?!!” My lame response has been “well, no, not really, I’m new, and blah blah blah… wait, where did everyone go?”

Time to fix that. Big jumps: They look so easy and graceful when real motocrossers do them. Oh God, I want to do that. But I’ve been on a bunch of motocross tracks, and my self preservation instinct (limited as it may be) kicks in right before the commit point on the approach to a jump, and I decide a big NOPE sandwich would taste real good right now.

I dream of jumping. Nothing crazy. I just want to clear the doubles with grace. No Superman seat grabs, no sick triples. Just grace and competence without panic and gritted teeth.

I think about the things I would jump:

  • A shark
  • A double decker bus
  • Snake River Canyon
  • Your mom
  • etc.

But how do you get started? Jumping a motorcycle is the kind of thing the Fonz needed to build up to over several seasons of Happy Days. Who am I to think that I can learn to jump motorcycles faster than Henry Winkler? Clearly I need a plan. This is something that I need to work up to. Because I know for a fact that “just going for it” results in ambulance rides and a couple days in the hospital with a catheter up your woo hoo.

So today was day 1 in my personal campaign to become a semi-competent motocrosser. I’m gonna work my way up to jumping some shit.

Husqvarna motorcycle parked at a motocross track

A perfect day for moto training at Ride Organic

I went to Ride Organic this morning with one goal: Clear the tabletop after the deep sand 180 degree right hand turn. This was a very safe goal. Tabletops are forgiving. If you don’t clear them, you land on high ground and just ride off the back side. I’ve seen lots of fast motocrossers blow this jump off – lolligag around the sandy corner and not clear it – so what? Heck every time I’ve ridden at Ride Organic, I lolligagged the corner and just bumped up the face of the jump, landing squarely in the middle of the table.

A motocross tabletop style jump

Goal for the day: Clear this table top repeatedly

sandy corner before a tabletop

The sandy right hander leading into the tabletop

Right hand corners are hard. See, the rear brake pedal is on the right hand side of the bike. You can either use the brake, or you can put your foot out to stabilize and potentially save the bike from washing out in a right hand corner – you can’t do both. So whatever you decide to do – brake? Save? You’re committed.

Also deep sand is not a great canvas for anything other than slowing down and falling over. Bikes don’t steer in sand, they don’t coast in sand, and they don’t accelerate very well in sand either. The only thing you can do in sand is to kind of slew around on the gas – Crank that throttle and lean, and the bike will spray sand around as you carve a circle – point it where you want to go, and you will get there eventually, but not fast – you can’t accelerate in sand like you can on terra firma.

So put those things together: Tight right hand corner, deep sand, and a non-threatening but non-trivial tabletop jump right out of that corner… and you’ve got a nice low stakes challenge. Today I would work exclusively on that tabletop – I wanted to clear it repeatedly with ease before I went home.

First I watched a real rider do it.

Then I took a crack at it.

I’m happy to say that by focusing on one jump, and attempting it over and over, I was really able to make some progress and build some confidence. I have no doubt that I’ll be back at Ride Organic to work on another jump real soon.