Out on the trails, everyone seems to use clipless pedals. I sometimes ride with flat pedals and was wondering, how to jump a mountain bike with flat pedals?

To jump with flat pedals, first “preload” the front end of the bike by lowering your chest closer to the handlebars. Next, use your arms and shift your body back to lift up the front wheel. Then using a scooping motion on the pedals, shift your weight forward and push forward on the bars.

OneUp Composite Pedal
OneUp Composite Pedal

Why do some riders prefer flat pedals?

There’s a lot of debate around pedal choice, but the big jumpers, BMX, downhill and trials riders almost all use flat pedals. One of the main reasons is that for more extreme riding, you may need to bail and put your foot down fast. This makes flat pedals safer and more versatile.

Crankbrothers sell an incredible pedal called the STAMP 7. These pedals are bullet proof, built to withstand serious jumps without bending . I highly recommend getting the size large. Crankbrothers Stamp 7 (link to Amazon for prices and more reviews)

Another reason is that flat pedals force you to learn better technique, especially jumping. It’s possible to bunny hop 1.5 meters high using flat pedals. When using clipless pedals, you rely more on the physical connection rather than learning pro bike control methods.

It’s like kids learning to ski with the ski tips connected by a short rope. They might actually be able to tackle tough terrain, but their skills will be limited in the long run.

Looking for the different types of pedal and wondering if they’re universal? Read this article 9 Universal MTB Pedals Reviewed

What kinds of jumps can you do with flat pedals?

In this article, I’m going to go over bunny hopping mostly. The bunny hop is one of the hardest moves to accomplish with flat pedals. A lot of other types of jumps build upon the skills you need for bunny hopping.

Flat pedals can also be used for drop offs, BMX jumps, big hit air, dirt, ramp-to-ramp jumps and pretty much any kind of free riding or trials jump. Like I said, the pros all use flats.

Why is the first move so important when jumping with flat pedals?

The initial preload of the front wheel is key. A good start leads to a good jump. Picture your body and bike like a compressed coil, ready to explode. You should be off the seat and crouching a bit over the handlebars.

Next, pull up on the handlebars and shift your body back on the bike. Don’t just yank upwards. Instead, it’s more like pulling up the front wheel using the momentum of your body moving backwards. Your arms help, but they shouldn’t do all the work.

It helps to practice this first move before going for a full-fledged jump. Also, always have your pedal cranks parallel the ground for jumping.

After preloading, what comes next for flat pedal bike jumping?

After the front wheel comes up, it gets kind of tricky. At this point, several things are happening at once. First, you are shifting your body forward and rotating your wrists forward. Visualize your bike and body moving in an arc up, forward and down.

Meanwhile, you’re scooping up the pedals with your feet. Some people compare this to jumping on a trampoline. You can start by bending your knees and pushing your heels down a bit. This rocks your weight back on the pedals which preloads the back of the bike.

Again, visualize the bike moving in an arc, that’s key. Also, when pulling up the back of the bike, the lift-off is when your toes point down. You can push against the handlebars a bit for maximum lift.

Just like practicing getting the front wheel up, you can work on just popping up the back wheel. Try to make the move as controlled as possible. Be careful not to fall forward and face plant.

Using your legs, body position and arms to jump your MTB.

Now try to put it all together. While rolling forward, compress your body over the bike. Knees and elbows bent, pedals level with the earth.

Next, pull up the front end and shift your weight back. As the front wheel comes up, you’re already beginning to shift forward and rotating the bars forward. Meanwhile, your feet are scooping up the pedals to lift up the rear wheel.

Flat pedal jumping is hard. How do I make it easier?

Jumping with clipless pedals is much easier, since with your feet stuck to the pedals, the rear wheel goes where your feet go. Still, for jumping over big logs, you can’t rely on this. Good technique gets you big air, not clipless pedals.

You’ll have to practice a lot to get the hang of it. It helps to put something flat (ribbon, small branch, etc.) on the ground to jump over while practicing. This gives you a visual reference. The front wheel preload and lift is essential for jumping. If you don’t get the front wheel over an obstacle, the jump won’t happen. Lift high and hard to get the clearance you need.

Finally, lower your seat. When learning to jump, a lower seat gives your more room to work, especially while crouching for loading. As you progress, gradually return your seat to its normal riding position.

Bigger Pedals on Mountain Bike
Bigger Pedals on Mountain Bike

What’s the best foot position for jumping with flat pedals?

You definitely don’t want to be on the balls of you feet. This makes scooping difficult. The pedal axle should be just behind the ball of your foot. Experiment a bit to get the right position.

How do you keep your feet on the pedals when jumping?

This can get a little tricky, but it all depends on your entire body guiding the bike. For example, don’t rely too much on your arms for the movement. Jumping is an athletic move that requires your whole body working together.

This is where the Stamp 7 pedals shine. Each pedal has 10 adjustable pins so you can fine tune the grip to your shoes and comfort. Super light, 13mm in thickness and made with forged aluminum the Crankbrothers Stamp 7 (Link to Amazon check the price and more reviews) is highly recommended for the serious jumper.

What are the advantages to riding with clipless pedals?

If you are riding not so extreme terrain with long climbs, you might prefer clipless pedals. The reason is that pedal power transfer is better with your feet clipped in. Pro road bikers all have their feet fastened to the pedals.

Some say that very bumpy terrain bounces riders off of flat pedals. However, with modern suspension and good riding technique, you should be able to stay on flats in any terrain. In fact, the more extreme it gets, the better flat pedals are.

If you look at Vancouver North Shore riders, most (all?) of them use flat pedals.

Can I jump effectively with clipless pedals?

Despite the flat pedal advantage, you can jump with clipless pedals too. There are plenty of awesome riders that swear by the clipless system.

In fact, I used clipless for years, and my skills got better and better along the way. Still, when I first tried to jump with flats, it wasn’t nearly as easy. My jumping skills improved tremendously when I learned to jump with flats.

Do you need special shoes or pedals for bike jumping?

There are plenty of shoes and pedals out there that can give you a bit of an edge. “Sticky” shoes have a nice grabby rubber sole. Pedals may have pegs to help with the scooping move I described earlier.

There are tons of cool colors and styles to choose from when it comes to shoes and pedals. A lot of it is personal preference. In the end, a good jumper can jump any bike in a pair of regular sneakers.

Pedal size depends on personal preference too. You want a wide enough platform for stability and control, but not too large either. Pedals should not be super heavy. Rotating weight is heavier than standing weight. Get something durable enough though to withstand the occasional rock collision.

Why does jumping skill stall when using clipless instead of flat pedals?

The most common thing I see is what I call the hovercraft jump. Many riders with clipless pedals jump by bringing the front and rear of the bike up at once. The bike then sails over the obstacle in a path parallel to the ground, like a hovercraft.

The downside is that the bike has to be in the air a lot longer to clear the jump. Think about it. If the bike hovers, then the front wheel is still high in the air when the back wheel clears the jump.

With an arc shaped jump, you can jump higher since total air time is reduced. Plus, the physics behind an arc movement gives your more momentum compared to a linear path.

Learn more about Pedals, Handlebars and Brakes

How about jump landing?

What goes up must come down. And if you’re not prepared, the landing can be crippling. Like all riding situations you want to stay in what I call “ready-loose”. Your not flopping around like a wet noodle, but your not stiff as a board either.

Anticipate the landing and make an effort to absorb the impact with your arms and legs. I like to exaggerate this absorption a bit with every jump. Why? If I grab more air than I anticipated, I have an extra cushion.

What about other types of jumps?

For simple drop offs, I begin with a tiny bunny hop when coming off the ledge. Maybe it’s psychological, but it makes me feel I have more control over the jump.

The bunny hop technique can be adapted for bigger dirt jumps too. It’s a good base since it teaches you from the beginning about guiding the bike with your whole body.

MTB Tools I Love and Recommend

Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure

I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.

  • Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand.  Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential.  I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it.  This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur.  Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
  • A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit.  Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained.  The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider.  Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
  • Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure.  A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not.  Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use.  An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
  • Carry a multitool with you on every ride.  I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool.  I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works.   Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19

David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.