The Man Who Does 720s Off Dirt Jumps And Freerides Down Sheer Mountains Has A Whole Basket Of Tips To Get You Jumping, Descending And Shredding On A Mountain Bike

Extreme mountain biker Sam Pilgrim loves riding down stuff – fast. He’s also got some next-level jumping skills, landing 720 corks and holding his own in slopestyle competitions. What’s more he’s a mean freerider too, taking his bikes backcountry and sending some super-gnarly lines. But everyone has to start somewhere, so RSNG got him to reveal the best pro tips for beginner and improving mountain bikers – give it a go, you won’t regret it!

Pick The Right Weapon
‘Have the correct bike for the style of mountain biking you want to do. If you wanted to do downhill and hired a cross country bike it wouldn’t be fun, just like if you wanted to do dirt jumping and had a downhill bike it wouldn’t be fun. That’s the only annoying thing about mountain biking – you need so many bikes!’

Visit A Pump Track
‘The best thing for a beginner is to visit a pump track – there may be one in your local town – they can teach you how to pump, how to enter the corners. You start without pedalling and start to gain more and more speed. And if you can start to do that then I’d say you’d be more ready to start learning to jump. Anyone can just hit a jump but if you haven’t got the bike skills of pure control and in the landings then it’s going to be difficult. You will find that you can pump differently between the different jumps to gain more or less speed.’

Learn To Jump On A Hardtail
‘You want a hardtail to learn to jump on, because if the suspension [on a full suspension MTB] is set up incorrectly, with the rebound too fast, then on the take off of a jump it can make you spring over the handlebars and crash rather easily.’

Take Baby Steps
‘I just know what’s going to happen when I’m jumping and it comes with time which is why you need to start small – if you just went straight into big jumps you might not know what’s going not happen. So, start with small jumps and have no gap in between the landing and takeoff. If you go up to the size of the jumps that I hit then it’s muscle memory – there’s nothing to think about. If you look at a video in slow motion you can see that the body is staying almost in one position and the bike is moving around me.’

Keep Your Front Wheel Up
‘If you were going to hit a jump and you were you are doing a jump then you need to keep the front wheel up in the air because if the front wheel drops first then you’re definitely going over the handlebars – unless you’re on real dirt jumps and then you need the front wheel to drop first.’

‘If you do hop the bike when you’re on the take off of a jump you can go double the height’

Get As Much Air As You Want
‘You can get as air as you want if you learn to hop the bike on the flat ground first. If you do this whilst you are on the take off of a jump, hopping your front wheel first and then lifting the back, you can go maybe double the height of someone who doesn’t hop.’

Jumping Will Help Your Riding
‘Learning to jump will help you if you go to somewhere like Les Gets or Morzine in the Alps because you will find that a lot of the tracks there will have jumps on them.’

Style In The Air Matters
‘The stuff the top guys are doing is pretty crazy – there’s one guy who’s got the best tricks out of everyone but then that’s where the contests are weird because you can have less tricks than the guy with the bet tricks but if you have got more style then you can beat him. If one guy is looking pretty stylish in the way he is executing his tricks then he can get a higher score than someone doing the harder tricks so it gives a good variety of riders out there.’

Build Your Own Jumps
Get a spade, or a digger because that’s much easier! You need the transition, so the curve needs to be not too steep – if you make a steep curve then you will go higher but if you make it flatter you will go a further distance. We have some good dirt here in the UK, which is sand-based, like at Woburn Sands. It’s perfect for building because you can make jumps super-fast and it’s strong enough to be able to ride straight away, which doesn’t happen often - normally people will build the jumps in the winter and then you’ll need the sun to bake them and only be able to ride them in the summer.’

Tackle Singletrack With Speed
‘Don’t hit a tree and you’ll have fun! Singletrack is easy you can go as slow or as fast as you want. That’s the kind of thing you need to ride at the beginning, where you control the speed and this is where you will build skills. If you are just jumping in at the deep end you are going to be pretty sick of it by the end of the session.’

‘Wherever your head looks your body will follow so look ahead and take the smoothest line’

Pin Those Berms
‘Don’t go too high up the corner because if your front wheel goes over the top of it then you’ll crash – you’ve got to stay central around the middle of the berm. As you come up to the corner you look ahead to spot the exit, then as you are coming through the corner you look for the potential obstacles within the corner – bumps and ruts – and then once you’ve figured the line out you’ll look out of the corner again. Find somewhere with lots of berms in a row and by the time you get to the bottom you’ll have got the idea.’

Advance With An Airbag
‘I learn tricks into an airbag – so learning is safe, doing is not so safe but we soften then landings up if we want to learn something new by churning the mud up with a fork or something, so if you do land on it then it’s not so bad.’

Go Freeriding In The Backcountry – If You Dare
‘You need the bike skills and a lot of confidence because some of the stuff you drop into is so steep that you couldn’t stop even if you wanted to, so you have to know that you can control the bike to the bottom, which is quite scary at times because if you can’t stop and start going too fast then you just explode at the bottom.’

Set Your Suspension Hard For Jumping
‘I have mine set up as hard as possible, because you don’t need suspension on jumps. If you are on a mountain doing jumps then leave it set up for the mountains but if you are specifically doing jumps then you want to make it hard. If you pump your tyres up hard too then you will get more speed into the run up of the jump.’

Pick Your Line
‘Wherever your head looks your body will follow. So inspect the trail ahead and take the smoothest line because, that’s the fastest and most comfortable.’

Use An E-Bike For Your Own Uplift Service
‘I have absolutely no interest in how far I pedal I just want to go down fast and hit jumps! You can do more on an e-bike because you can pedal back to the top again and drop in again to get double the amount of riding you would have got. If I can get back to the top of a hill again without being worn out then that is perfect, which is why e-bikes are amazing, especially in the UK because we don’t have chairlifts. I’ve been doing backflips and 360s, tailwhips – I can do it all on a Haibike e-bike.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch Sam Pilgrim explain how to jump a mountain bike…

Mountain biking is an extreme sport and injuries are common – novices should take great care. Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.

Sam Pilgrim is an ambassador of Haibike, the leading e-performance brand

Follow the writer @the_adventure_fella