One of the coolest parts of cyclocross is that it isn’t always about being the fittest rider. With a maximum race time of about an hour and a nearly endless amount of skill involved, sharpening technique can make up as much time on a course as the fitness gained from hours and hours of riding. The marquee skill, of course, is the bunny hop!
Learning how to elevate takes practice, persistence, and patience. Before you get started, find the right place. Opt for soft grass and a flat surface, preferably at a park with plenty of room. There’s a lot of value in just working on being comfortable on your bike, even if that means starting, stopping, leaning, and popping your front and wheels off the ground.
First, speed. It can take a lot of practice to get a feel for how fast to go heading into a bunny hop. One rule of thumb is to ride over a stick; even if you don’t try to clock it, get a feel for how long it takes both wheels to clear the stick. The faster you go, the shorter the time. To start, don’t even worry about hoping over anything. Instead, just focus on getting both wheels off the ground a few times.
Next, get up. It all starts with timing, and the first move isn’t bringing up the front wheel. Shift your body weight back quickly, followed by a firm and forceful pull on the handlebars. Try to think of it as lifting the whole front half of the bike up, not just the wheel. That can help to focus more on moving all of your weight back.
Once that front wheel reaches its zenith, push the front back down just as you pull up with your heels. The timing of this can be really hard, but you’ll get more comfortable the more often you do it. One way to think of this motion is to imagine your bike on a teeter-totter with your front wheel on one side and your rear wheel on the other. The push down re-balances the teeter-totter, bringing that rear wheel back up just as high as the front wheel was.
Finally, experiment. Some riders prefer to hop with their hands on the brake hoods, while others like holding on to the tops. Try with a different foot forward, going fast or slower, and start practicing with a stick or our PVC bar just sitting on the ground. As you get more comfortable, start practicing on our Portable Barriers with the bar at the lowest height, and don’t give up!
Keep after it, and order your set of Portable Barriers to practice wherever you are safely.
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