Rejected titles:Pump Harder, Pump Longer, and Pump More Often!
Impress Your Partner With a Better Pump.
Let's All Go Into the Woods and Watch Each Other Pump.
I can tell right away when the rider in front me doesn’t have a good pump. The giveaway is when they’re clearly trying to go faster, sneaking in desperate turns of the pedals over awkward terrain, but I'm catching them without a single crank. It is often much fitter riders (almost everyone is these days) that would bury me if we were pedaling on flat ground. It breaks my BMX heart to see the power of the pump undervalued and unlearned. The trail is offering us all the gift of free speed and it shouldn't be left unclaimed.
Pumping is the key to all the coolest parts of mountain biking. Want to jump higher, go faster and corner quicker? It all comes from a good pump. Pumping isn't just for pump tracks or dirt jumps, you'll find spots to squeeze out a little more speed on every trail. Often a good pump will generate more speed than pedaling possibly could.
If you’ve ever ridden a bike or skateboard on a half pipe you’ll understand the concept. It’s how you go higher and higher on each wall without pushing or pedaling. You create all your speed through pumping. It’s a lot like swinging on a playground swing set. You pump your way up and down. So, how do you do it?
How does one learn to harness the primal power of the pump?
Let's start by imagining that you’re standing on a bathroom scale. Make it an old school one with an analog dial if your memory goes back that far. It shows your weight of course, but if you lightly bounce up and down the needle jumps around. It reads heavier when you land, and lighter as you un-weight yourself.
If that’s making sense the next step on our journey to discovering your inner pumping power is to pick an arbitrary weight that is more than your own. Let’s say 55lbs (about 25kg). So your target is now 55lbs + your weight. You can easily bounce the needle past that mark and it bounces right back. Now, imagine yourself trying to hold the needle at that target weight for as long as you can. Stand up really tall and then drive your weight down on to the scale. Try to meter out the downwards force that you are generating. The longer you can stretch out that moment the longer you can keep the scale pressed down and the needle at the target. It will still only be a short time, but it will be more sustained than if you just jump into the air and land stiff legged on the scale.
We’re already closer to being able to properly pump but I’ll need your imagination a little longer. Same basic scenario as before. Picture yourself on a bigger scale with your bike (go ahead and make it your dream bike if you want… why not?). You’re out of the saddle and standing on the pedals. The scale is showing your weight plus your bike’s weight. Just like before bounce around a bit and jostle the needle. I’ll assume you’re on a full suspension bike so you are also bouncing the suspension.
Now imagine trying to achieve that sustained push-down on the scale from earlier. You’ll gather your weight up and then drive it down while at the same time pushing the bike down through the pedals and grips into the scale. This is where having your seat as low as possible will really help. The more room you have to move in the cockpit the more momentum you can generate. It takes a focused effort to drive the bike’s suspension down, weight the scale, and try and keep it down. This is a “down pump”.
The partner to the “down pump” is the “up pump”. It’s not exactly the opposite of a “down pump”, but kind of. For the “up pump” let’s visualize riding towards a knee high roller. While you’re still on the flat ground, and just before your front wheel starts riding up the roller, you’ll drive your weight up. I kind of feel like I’m standing up extra tall on the pedals and trying to bring the bulk of my weight up higher (raising your center of gravity basically). You don’t want to do it so much that you start levitating off your pedals, just get some momentum going upwards.
Then, as your bike rides up the roller let it come up to meet you (you can help it along by pulling it towards you). In this way you are essentially reducing the amount of weight that has to ride uphill on the roller. It is almost like bunny hopping without leaving the ground and you'll carry more speed over the roller than if you were seated.
Pumping works pretty much the same in corners (especially a good, smooth, bermed one). Try thinking of a corner as the trough between two rollers turned on to its side. The g-force will hold you on to the berm (you’re going fast right?) and it feels like the direction of “down” has suddenly become sideways. You compress to build speed through the berm just like weighting the scale on the backside of a roller. As you get towards the end of the corner you fight your way through the g-force and get yourself up to spring out (hopefully aiming the right direction).
There are times when you’ll pump more with your front wheel, or back (in long turns there is often a kind of a front to back shift), or maybe in a manual. The terrain and the size of what you’re riding dictates what works best. The same basic concept applies everywhere, “weight the scale” on the way down and get yourself up and over the uphill bits.
So while you're riding this weekend, try to mend Taj's BMX heart. Harness the power of the pump, and claim the trail's gift of free speed.