Mountain biking entails getting over logs and rocks of all shapes and sizes some of the time. As a mountain bike rider, you can adopt one of two attitudes. You can choose to hate logs and wish someone had cut and removed them out of your trail. Or, you can embrace log hops and learn the skills required to ride over logs, rocks, bridges, and other obstacles smoothly and safely. Here, I’ll show you how to get over logs on a mountain bike without putting yourself at risk of falling or damaging your bike.
Two Types of Mountain Bikers
Two types of mountain bike riders exist. The first camp comprises competent, thrill-chasing MTB riders that can’t wait to hop over the next challenging fallen log on the trail.
The other camp contains riders that think mountain biking would be a lot easier and more fun without logs lying across trails.
I get it — logs have a way of bashing a bike’s chainrings when you least expect it. And log strikes on your chainrings and other parts of your bike can have you spending tons of money replacing damaged components.
But the exact same logs can also add tons of excitement to your overall mountain bike experience. I love riding logs, and I’m not the only one.
Mountain bike riders that enjoy log hopping love the idea of getting over the next tall fallen log lying across the trail. They’re always wondering, “will I ever manage to jump over this one? But let’s go, now!”
Become a More Confident Mountain Bike Rider
A huge part of evolving from being a logs hater into a logs lover is confidence. When you’re confident that you can ride a large log or big rock safely and smoothly, doing the act somehow gets easier.
But blind confidence is many times worse than less confidence or even no confidence at all. By blind confidence, I mean just believing you can get over logs and other obstacles without coupling belief with consistent practice.
I recently wrote a post on how to build confidence mountain biking. And I did mention that the strongest foundation for MTB confidence is practice and more practice.
So, before trying to jump over wet logs or dry logs out in the woods, learn and practice. Be sure you know what you’re doing.
3 Ways to Hop Over Logs (and Other Obstacles)
Below are three effective ways to get over logs and other obstacles that obstruct mountain bike trails.
- Use the Speed-hopping Technique
- Bunny-hop Over the Log
- Pop a Wheelie Over the Log
Let’s now jump in and learn how you can execute each log-hopping strategy smoothly and safely.
1. How to Speed-hop Over a Log
To execute a speed-hop right, two aspects are critical. Pay enough attention to speed and timing. You can use this method to get over bridges, rocks, a stack of logs, curbs, and more.
Once you master this technique, you’ll start rolling over some pretty big obstacles easily. Instead of worrying that logs, rocks, stumps, and whatnot will hit your chainring and damage it, master this technique.
To launch into a speed-hop correctly, follow the steps below. Remember, your timing’s got to be super precise. And you should be moving fast enough, but not too fast.
Step 1: Get in the Attack Position as You Near the Log
How fast do you need to be going as you approach the log? Your riding speed should be comfortable enough and easy to control. Get toward the obstacle at your jogging pace.
First off, assume the correct position — the standing riding position. To get into the attack position on your mountain bike, get your bum off the saddle. And as you stand on your pedals, bend your knees and elbows. But don’t just bend your knees and elbows — keep them relaxed.
The correct way to bend your elbows isn’t to have them drop by your side. Instead, keep your elbows up, out, and forward for better control while steering. In this maneuverable riding position, your elbows will transfer enough stability to the handlebars.
And how do you bend your knees correctly? Keep them apart and bent out a little as that helps improve your balance.
Keeping your knees and elbows bent and relaxed turns them into a powerful suspension that absorbs your trail’s impacts. But when you’re in that position, your center of gravity shifts up and your overall stability diminishes a bit. The upside is that maneuvering a bike gets easier in the standing riding position.
Meanwhile, your hands should stay firmly on the handlebars and your weight over your bike’s center. As for pedal position, keep the pedals level.
Stand on Level Pedals Not on Vertical Ones
If you don’t level your pedals and don’t get off the saddle, you won’t be able to complete this technique successfully. Approaching the log seated and with the cranks in a vertical position is a recipe for failure and sometimes crashing.
Chances are you’ll fly over the bar and hit your head. So, be sure to helmet up and pad up before attempting this.
Related: How to Protect Your Shins and Knees Mountain Biking
Step 2: Lift the Front Wheel and Land it on Top of the Log
The idea here is to get your front wheel on top of the log so you can use it as a pivot point. But how do you pick up the front wheel?
First off, transfer your weight backward until you have it somewhere behind the axle of the rear wheel. As you’re shifting your weight, pull the handlebars chest-ward using your arms as suspension.
Your bike’s suspension should also help you suck up the handlebars toward your chest. And as your front wheel comes down and lands on the top of the log, shift your weight over the handlebars.
Step 3: Lift the Rear Wheel Off the Ground and Over the Log
Use your legs as a suspension to suck your rear wheel up into your body and over the log. Lift up your heels and bend your knees while extending your arms out to the front. These three movements done quickly together should suck up the rear wheel into your body.
As the rear wheel touches the top of the log, the front wheel should have landed safely on the other side. But as soon as the rear wheel lands on the log’s top, start shifting your weight backward.
Failure to transfer your weight backward a bit can have you flying over the bars. And I bet you don’t want to hit your head or break your wrist bones or arms.
Step 4: Ride Smoothly into Complete Freedom
With your arms still extended, look ahead and unweight the handlebars, Why unweight the handlebars? You do that to limit compression. Getting some of the pressure off the bars also fosters a smooth rollout of your bike’s front wheel over the log.
Honestly, though, the speed-hop isn’t easy. You’ll have to try as many times as you’ll need to get it down. Be careful as you approach the log at speed, though. It’s easy to land on your chainring instead of the wheel.
If your chainring digs into the log, the resulting impact will likely stop you. And when you stop abruptly, chances are you’ll be sent out in an endo.
The trick is to start hopping moments before the front wheel touches the log. The faster the speed, the sooner you should start lifting the front wheel.
Shifting your weight backward and leveraging your suspension’s rebound should easily get you over the log. By the way, it’s OK to clear the log with the rear wheel. The rear wheel doesn’t need to touch the obstacle, but there’s nothing wrong if it does.
2. Bunny-hop That Log or Rock (Ideal for Small and Big Obstacles)
The bunny hop is one of the most effective ways of riding over logs and rocks that lie across MTB trails. While you can use flat-platform pedals, clipping in makes bunny hopping logs much easier.
Unlike with the speed-hop, the bunny hop requires quite a bit of speed to execute smoothly. So, as you get near the log or other obstacle, make sure you’re moving fast enough.
Another difference between a speed hop and a bunny hop is that with the bunny hop, your wheels don’t touch the obstacle. Your jump needs to be high enough to help you clear the log or whatever it is without touching it.
How to Bunny-hop Logs
As you approach the obstacle, get into the right position. Assume a neutral position, not too low and not too high. Your bum stays off the saddle in this position, remember. Your body needs to function as a powerful spring.
As you come in, bend your elbows out while shifting your weight forward. How far forward? Your chin should go past your bike’s stem a bit.
Lift the Front Wheel Up
Next, squat your legs and push your hips back. Then, start shifting your weight backward. The forward movement at the start of the hop gives your rearward weight transfer a bit of force. And that translates into tons of front-wheel lift.
No lifting is required to get the front wheel off the ground. Shifting your weight forward and then backward plus your suspension’s rebound should lift the front wheel up. Once the front wheel clears the log, it’s time to lift the rear wheel off the ground.
Scoop Your MTB’s Rear Wheel
Keep your feet and pedal cranks level. Then, extend your legs and point your toes down, compressing down the suspension. Meanwhile, lean forward, shifting your weight over the bars.
When you do all these movements in quick succession, your body lifts up along with your bike’s rear wheel. As you point your toe down, push the chain-side foot against the pedal. At the same time, get your hamstrings to help lift the rear wheel.
One mistake beginners make is trying to lift their bike off the ground instead of letting compression and weight-shifting do the job.
Another mistake is lifting both the front end and rear end at once. And that happens a lot when you’re riding clipless. If you do that, your rear wheel most likely won’t clear the log. Not keeping the pedals level also throws a wrench in the works.
3. Pop the Front Wheel Up (Ideal for Riding Over Small Logs)
Popping up your front wheel is one of the easiest ways to ride over small logs and other obstacles. In this method, all you need to do is quickly lift the front wheel up and over the log. You don’t do anything for the rear wheel unlike in a bunny hop or speed-hop.
To get this technique down, start with your arms bent out and one of your pedals in the vertical position. As you approach the obstacle, move your weight back a bit while straightening your arms to pull the handlebars. At the same time, push the pedal down.
These three movements done together should easily get your wheel off the ground and over the small obstacle. The front wheel gets over the obstacle, but the rear wheel has to encounter the obstacle and roll over it. That’s why it’s not a great technique for going over huge logs or rocks.
How to Ride Your Mountain Bike Over Logs: Final Thoughts
First off, wear proper cycling gear — a helmet and shin/knee pads. Then, bunny-hop, speed-hop, or pop your front wheel over the log. Popping a wheelie is probably the easiest way to ride over a small log.
Bunny hopping is a great way to jump over small, medium-sized, and big logs. As for the speed-hop, this one is for rolling over small and moderately big obstacles.
Admittedly, you won’t get all these log-hopping techniques down in an hour. But with persistent practice, you should be able to use each method easily soon.