How to Manual & Bunny Hop Your Bike

Oct 4, 2012 at 0:04
Oct 4, 2012
by James Wilson  
 
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Manualing is one of those skills most rider's think you are either born with or you just can't do it. We've all seen the guy holding a manual forever - making the rest of us feel like chumps - but the truth is that you only need to be able to hold one for a second or two for it to be a very valuable skill on the trail. And, more importantly, this skill can be easily learned by anyone.

Manualing is simply your ability to powerfully drive from the hips in order to bring the front end of your bike up. It stems from keeping that all-important relationship between the bike's and your center of gravity. You want to drive the bike in front of you by extending your legs and hips while keeping the arms relatively relaxed.

You need to avoid pulling the front end up with arms (which results in bent elbows) or by simply leaning back forcefully with the lower back. Both of these techniques result in the bike center of gravity changing without your center of gravity compensating. You have to remain balanced in order to manual and the ability to drive from the hips and not the arms/ lower back is the key.

Once you know how to manual you will start to see the trail completely differently. You'll no longer have to ride over small trail obstacles, you'll be able to effortlessly loft the front end at will and avoid losing momentum. Getting up small ledges will also become much easier as you learn how to use your hips instead of your arms to pick your front end up. As a bonus, the basic movement behind the manual will eventually lead you to bunny hopping and/ or popping off a lip.

Here is a video demo I posted on my Personal Coaching Members site demonstrating the manual and bunny hop in action (please note the Forum I refer to in the video is on my membership site and if you have any questions on this video please post them in the comments section below this post):

Views: 55,991    Faves: 224    Comments: 9


Now that you know "what" to do, you have to make sure that you can do it in the first place through Metabolic Skills Training. Metabolic Skills Training is the term I gave to the art of using strength training exercises to improve your technical skills on the bike. By understanding how each exercise relates to the skills you need on the trail you can ensure that you are getting maximum transfer from the gym to the trail. In addition, the right exercises done correctly will help you more easily learn and apply technical skills on your bike.

When you move with more efficiency and power then you will find that everything you do on your bike comes more naturally, resulting in more of the elusive "flow" that so many riders hear about but rarely get to experience. As a mountain biker you can not just pound out mindless reps and hope that it will help you on the trail - you must understand the movement lessons behind the exercises. Most exercises in your training program should be chosen because they represent a way to work on a fundamental movement skill that supports a technical skill that you need on the trail.

The swing is as close as you can come to a hard trail ride without throwing your leg over a bike. It ingrains body position, teaches you how to absorb impacts with your hips and builds massive forearm strength and endurance. However, the most important lesson you learn from it is how to keep the arms relaxed and drive the hips forward. It is a forward-backward projection of energy which makes it a unique way to learn how to drive the bike forward, which means that when you can do 20 perfect reps with a 16 kg (women) or 24 kg (men) kettlebell you'll be able to more confidently loft your bike into the air.

Here is a video demo of me showing you how to do a Deadstop Swing, which is a great swing variation for learning this movement behind a manual:

Views: 11,652    Faves: 38    Comments: 1


Few things have changed my riding as much as picking up this elusive skill. Learn how to do a proper kettlebell swing and then apply those movement lessons to the bike and you'll be one of the rare riders who can also use this valuable skill to help you rider faster and with more confidence on the trail.



MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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56 Comments

  • + 35
 he forgot to mention keep your finger on the rear brake to stop you from falling backwards
  • + 17
 Check out the break less manuals here; m.pinkbike.com/video/280102
  • + 9
 its best to learn without using the brake to get the fear of falling off the back over with. sounds crazy but fall off the back a few time on purpose to learn your personal balance point.
  • + 7
 once you learn to manual properly, you wont need to use the brake, bmx style
  • + 2
 The foot idea was a good call in the above vid but this vid has a bit more. Enjoy! www.pinkbike.com/video/145335
  • - 2
 KTownRoyster is right If you pull on the rear brake when you are actually falling backwards, the bike will be right in front of you when you jump off and you will get hurt. Brake would be good for managing speed while manualing, but it is not a necessity
  • + 4
 @jubs17, best video ever!
  • + 1
 I can get to my balance point but, how do you do that leg pump thing to stay there?
[Reply]
  • + 21
 I appreciate all of this guy's articles and useful training advice - including things like this and his take on flat vs clipless. He's thorough, makes sense, and doesn't come off like he has an agenda like getting people to sign up for coaching. Thanks JW and PB.
[Reply]
  • + 14
 I got excited when I saw this headline since I suck and doing manuals and figured I'd learn a trick or too. I was quickly disappointed though upon seeing that my technique is actually spot on, and I just simply suck at them.
[Reply]
  • + 17
 i've been pulling the handle bars, turns out you need to push.
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  • + 9
 This one eludes me, can wheelie for as long as i want, but a manual AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, my longest ones last for 1.5s.
  • + 1
 same for me- till i got a dirtjumper
  • + 4
 it took me three years to learn how to manual
  • + 1
 For some reason I have it the other way round, I can manual most bikes to a reasonable extent (exception on my DJ which can go on fo a very long time) but when I try to wheelie, that is a different story, I get a couple of seconds then wham back down.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 hm, i learned how to manual after some 3 months of painstaking practice on a too big xc bike and some 3 weeks on a dj frame. i really am coordination challenged but i did it, the only thing that troubles me now is that i'm still kinda retarded for it - some days i can't hold it for even 5 meters, other days i manual over 200 meters (down a slight slope) no sweat, i have almost 0 consistency...

maybe i should buy a street bike and practice more?
  • + 2
 same here, i feel like i have "good" days and other times i suck
[Reply]
  • + 4
 i always thought manualling was a recessive gene. i learned it early as kid on the track but can't seem to find it anymore as an old man. haha. gonna keep tryin cuz i need to teach my kiddo!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 This vid and lesson is not geared toward holding a manual for several feet. The intent of the article was to help others understand the art of becoming a better trail rider by incorporating the ability to manual over or through terrain and keeping you momentum. I know James well and his mission is to help riders expand their riding through proper exercise and bike skills. His gym drills relate to movement on the bike and around riding the bike using different skill sets. His bike drills are focused on all riders (not just park kids) and helping them enjoy the trails more and progress their riding. If your looking to do a 360 no hander dumped then you are reading the wrong article.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I came off learning to manual (clipped in of all things... it was really sweet for those 10 secs until I looped out... hurts like f&*k is all I can say).... still scarred ....

Just wonder is it easier to learn on a 24" wheel bike or the likes? or just face it and realise you don't have what is takes at 40!
  • + 1
 I did the same thing years ago and I bruised my tailbone! Couldn't sit in one position for any length of time. I'm over 40, don't have what it takes, but still have a great time trying!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 find a decent sized hill with a mellow slope so you dont pick up too much speed, keep finger on the rear brake to save your ass and just practice... its time consuming but even pop small ones on regular rides and eventually it'll come (thats how i learned and the only thing holding me back now are my arms getting tired)
[Reply]
  • + 5
 A good demo... still can't do one for love nor money though :o)
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  • + 2
 I've never been able to do this... I can b-hop, but not a real manual. I'm going riding this weekend, and I'll be trying it the whole time!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 just realized ive learned the push bit myself...years ago....didnt know i was doing it until i seen this vid
  • + 2
 didnt notice either, I think everybody does it to drop things
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  • + 4
 Where were the manuals in the video?
[Reply]
  • + 4
 I would manual my Toyota 4runner if I could
[Reply]
  • + 4
 Practice on the whoops at a bmx track.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 You need to use an Expander on your audio track dude.. it will sort that hiss right out. sweet vid tho
[Reply]
  • + 2
 when ive learned wasnt so easy to get this kind of info. i think when u learn by yrself u appreciate more those things.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 what perfect timing for such a video, just before i go out for a ride. will post up how it went when i get back Big Grin
  • + 8
 unless you're at the Doctor's with a broken arse...! Smile

Will give this advice a shot tomorrow...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 manny,s and fakies , that's my bread and butter Big Grin
www.pinkbike.com/video/277445
Big Grin
  • + 1
 rly nice video dude
[Reply]
  • + 2
 he sucks at manuals and riding bikes! he couldnt get up that curb!
  • - 2
 no offense, i just thought hed be better
  • + 2
 He is alot better. but that was not the intent of this vid.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 be careful manualing with clipless pedals. Happened to me, landed on my ass hard!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 that really helped, thanks! Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 do kettle bell swings make you a better lover too?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 is a stand up manual any different to a sit down manual?
  • + 1
 how do you sit down manual?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 YESS!! now im gonna cannibal swing the fuck out of myself!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Cool useful info!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I can bunny hop about 3-5 in but that is all. How do I get more height?
[Reply]
  • + 0
 i could manual forever on a full suspicion... but a hard tail is a different story lol
  • + 1
 i'm suspicious too
  • + 2
 I have full suspicion about this also.
  • + 1
 Whats funny is I struggle on the squishy bikes but fine on hardtails or my 4X bike with the shock locked out, as far riding manuals for a distance.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Better to learn it on a bmx bike , way easier.
  • + 1
 My buddy had a little haro 16" bmx bike, and we learned 180s, rollbacks, in a month or so on it. 20" is perfect for manuals. It's good to crosstrain, and little bikes makes u progress fast.
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