What’s the best part about riding ATVs? Some would say full-on, throttle-to-the-max powerslides. Others might argue for trail riding or mud bogging. Still others might suggest dune riding, wheelies, or high-speed racing as the most fun thing to do when riding quads. But hey, let’s not forget getting air. There’s simply nothing like hitting a jump, be it a tiny bump, a huge double, or maybe a kicker at the dunes. The feeling of floating through the air is hard to beat. Throw in some style and you can impress your friends even more. How can you do it safely?
It goes without saying that safety gear is a must. We suggest a full complement of gear, including boots, gloves, long pants, helmet, goggles and perhaps some body armor. Any activity that involves tossing yourself and a three-to-five hundred pound machine up into the air requires good safety gear.
The most basic thing to remember while doing a jump on your quad is to take off and land with the front wheels slightly higher than the rear wheels. Keeping the position of the quad at this angle is important. You want to touch down with the rear wheels first. This will give you a smoother landing than hitting front wheels first or all four wheels at the same time.
Another basic fundamental of jumping is for the rider to be in a standing position, or at least have your behind raised up off the ATVs seat. Along with the ATVs suspension, you need to use your own legs as suspension. With your behind planted on the seat you could bounce up off the quad when it slams into the ground, compresses, and then rebounds back up. Allowing the quad to move around underneath you is the key to staying in control. Preparing for a jump in the semi-standing attack position allows you to suddenly move your body forward, aft or side to side to correct the quad’s take off angle.
There are two basic ways to get your quad at the preferred jumping angle: body position and throttle position. Typically, when you approach a jump you are slightly standing with your weight a little more to the rear of center to make the quad’s front end lighter. You want to keep a steady throttle to prevent the front of the quad from suddenly nosing down after it becomes airborne. If you feel that you are going too fast for a particular jump, slow down before it and then get off the brakes and blip the throttle right at launch. Not too much throttle and not too little. For each and every quad it takes practice to find the right point. That is why you should always begin with small jumps when riding a new or different quad for the first time.
GETTING MORE ADVANCED
Sometimes everything doesn’t go as planned when you and your quad start to become airborne. Maybe the face of the jump is steeper than you thought. By pulling up on the handlebars and blasting a handful of throttle your machine is pointing up in a more vertical position than you’d like. What do you do? First, you try to move your weight forward while pushing down on the bars. In addition to this you should shut off the throttle and hit the rear brakes. Yes, even in the air your brakes can help you. By suddenly stopping the rotation of the rear wheels the inertia is transferred to the front of the quad causing it to rotate down to some degree. Feather the clutch when you hit the brakes so the engine won’t stall on landing. When landing with the front end too high, have the throttle off and your body position forward, be prepared for the handlebars to jerk forward. You don’t want to be pitched over the front and have your quad run over you.
Another unplanned scenario is having the rear of your quad kick up right as you hit a jump, having the quad flip over forward the infamous endos and you most certainly want to avoid this kind of crash. If you find that your rear wheels are way higher than the front wheels after becoming airborne, immediately move your weight as far back on the quad as possible. At the same time nail the throttle wide open. The sudden increase in rear wheel rotation will cause the front of the quad to rotate slightly in the opposite direction. Meaning, the rear end will drop down as the front end moves up, giving your quad a better chance of landing closer to a horizontal position.
KEEPING IT STRAIGHT
The proper technique for jumping a quad is very similar to jumping a dirt bike. But one thing a quad rider has to deal with that dirt bike riders don’t is keeping the right side even with the left side. In other words, you want to avoid being tilted when the quad leaves the ramp of a jump. Landing this way can be bone jarring and it is more likely to bend an axle.
Sometimes it happens, though. Just before getting air the left wheels hit a bump that the right wheels don’t. The quad kicks up and leans to the right while you are airborne. What you want to do is correct the mid-air flight pattern so that both rear wheels touch down at the same time. You do this by shifting your weight to the left. This is another reason why you need to be standing on the footpegs, rather than sitting down. It’s easier to shift your body’s weight to your left leg or right leg if you are off the seat and riding loose.
Another thing that can occur while catching air is your quad getting sideways. Maybe you were hard on the gas and the rear tires were spinning out to the side as you left the ground. What do you do? First of all, keep the front wheels pointed in the direction the quad should be going if it were straight. Lean your body to the opposite side of the kicked out rear end, stay on the throttle and hang on. If you follow these tips then usually the quad will straighten itself out as it returns back to earth.
TAKE YOUR TIME
When watching other riders flying twenty feet high off of jumps, keep in mind they may have many years of riding experience. Don’t automatically think you can safely pull off the same aerial maneuver just because you are on the same kind of quad. If you are a new rider, be patient and work your way up with practice. The bigger the jump and the faster the speed, the more quickly things can go wrong. There is no substitute for riding experience. Develop your technique and skill on the small jumps first.
Remember the basics to doing jumps: wear a helmet and protective riding gear. Have fun and we’ll see you out on the trail.
KORY ELLIS PRO POINTERS: THE CHAMP’S NOTES ON JUMPING
• Never jump anything thatâ€™s too big for your abilities!
• Roll over the jump first to check out the ramp and landing areas.
• The first time you take a jump, do it slower so that any unexpected problems can be dealt with safely. An off-camber landing or sketchy ramp wonâ€™t take you by surprise.
• While in the air, be looking ahead at the landing zone to spot for rocks, obstacles, or other riders.
• Use your body as a shock absorber. Ride loose, not stiff.
• Throttle helps with low front end, but not like a motorcycle. A quad is heavier. Same with rear brakes when the front is too high. If you do hit the brakes, use clutch so the engine wonâ€™t stall on you.
• Jumping in the dunes requires more momentum as sand slows you down quickly. Sand also changes quickly so watch your takeoff lip and landing as they may have been altered.
â€¢ Land with the gas on in sand. If youâ€™re too slow, landing in soft sand can make your quad come to a halt and pitch you over the bars.