Look ma, no hands
September 1, 2006 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Bunnyhopping on a road bike...

So, first, is the bike even going to be able to stand up to it? Its a early 70s Schwinn World Traveler (great little bike, btw). The basic problem comes from riding around town & being annoyed to no end by how much of a jolt there is bouncing up even on a sidewalk ramp curb (1/4" is enough to feel it in my bones). I've already tried dropping the tire pressure a little bit, but its still stiff as ever.

A few days ago I got the brilliant idea to do a (very small) bunny hop over these (it would also be quite handy for going up on curbs, etc). This bike is a steel 35lbs 10spd. It was not like bunnyhopping on my mountain bike. In fact, the back wheel never really left the ground, and after 3 or 4 tries, I only managed to get the front wheel maybe 6" off the ground.

Obviously its different than on a mountain bike. Any tips? Will my bike survive this?
posted by devilsbrigade to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
When you bunnyhop on your mountain bike, what kind of technique do you use? BMXers push down on the pedals (compressing the tires slightly), then kinda spring back up and twist the grips forward (which, ideally, lifts the back wheel).

Some MTB riders, though, just kinda jump with their feet clipped in. It doesn't work as well.

The twisting-the-grips thing is pretty important for getting the back wheel up, and, if you're on the drops, it ought to be even more effective.

All that said, have you already tried unweighting? Kinda lifting the front wheel while throwing your weight backwards, then throwing your weight forward as the back wheel is clearing the curb or whatever?

I haven't talked about whether your bike will survive this. How much do you weigh? What kind of rider are you? Is this a touring bike, or is that just a clever name?
posted by box at 9:09 PM on September 1, 2006

I have a 1989 Schwinn World (though not designated "Traveler"). I do something more like what box referred to as unweighting - though I did manage a bunny hop once.

Don't go too high, try not to come down too hard, and check your front hub (especially if you have a QR) etc once in a while to make sure everything's tight that should be. The biggest risk for damage is probably to your wheels - but hitting a too-tall curb cut at high speed probably isn't much worse!
posted by attercoppe at 9:15 PM on September 1, 2006

Your schwinn was welded - Sheldon brown has a great article about it - it will survive anything you throw at it. What you'll have to watch are pinch-flats in your tires.
posted by jmgorman at 9:19 PM on September 1, 2006

Umm... I'm not great at getting much bunny hop air on my road bike, but I *do* jump off curbs and routinely jump over glass, potholes, etc (used to bike in Boston ... verry verry bad pavement there). The bike can take it...

but ... don't drop the pressure on the tires. In fact, just the opposite. Your tires are less likely to have a flat when they are at the top of their rated pressure, especially if you're going to be bouncing around like a damn fool bunny.

and ... do try to land with both tires at the same time, be off your saddle, absorb the shock with your knees not your ass.
posted by bumpkin at 9:22 PM on September 1, 2006

And make sure your elbows are bent too. And, yeah, it'll probably be hardest on your wheels. Check your headset more often, too.
posted by box at 9:40 PM on September 1, 2006

I have a Schwinn Varsity circa 1975 that is indestructable. Heavy, but solid as a rock. Rode the streets of Chicago without incident (to bike) for 11 years, and used the "unweighting technique" (never knew it had a name) described by Box above.

Only flat I ever got was hitting a pothole with back tire while seated and going at a good clip.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:43 PM on September 1, 2006

You don't have to bunny hop a curb, you can learn to roll over it. This is a timing thing, and you're going to need lots of practice. The process has a few steps.
  1. Move your body backwards on the bike to unweight the front tire.
  2. Push down a little with your feet and pull backwards on the handlebars. This will lift the front wheel off the ground. This is a way to do a wheelie. A BMX kid would call this a manual.
  3. Time this weight transfer and lift move so that your front wheel lifts over the curb at just the minimum height.
  4. Once your front wheel touches down on the top of the curb, transfer your weight forward and push down on your handlebars and twist your wrists forward. This motion will unweight your rear wheel.
  5. If your toes are pointed downwards just a little bit, you can lift your rear wheel a little bit to help it roll smoothly over the curb.
This little forward and back weight transfer can let you roll over a curb or other obstacle without having to hop. Once you've got it practiced, it's a pretty quick little move that can really help your around town riding.
posted by tumble at 1:11 AM on September 2, 2006

Word. I'll reinflate the tires & have at it. I'll start checking my headset & wheels a bit more often. Out of curiosity, what's the best type of road rim/tire to do this kind of thing on, if I ever care to actually buy another bike?

I've been doing unweighting like I do for mtb riding, but maybe I just don't have the sequence right (I mostly ride XC, 9 times out of 10 [on the trails I ride, at least] its easier to go up on the side of the trail than to hop. I really only ever hop over fallen branches, & even then usually I'll just hop the front & unweight/roll the back). I may give the BMX way a try.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:39 AM on September 2, 2006

Just a note that if you have toe-clips or clipless pedals it's dead easy to do little curb hops.
posted by cardboard at 3:56 AM on September 2, 2006

I remember watching guy on a road bike bunny hop up onto a traffic island then off onto the other side.

The thing is, this was the Tour de France and he was doing it to get free from a very tight pelaton. Considering he was parallel to the kerb and everyone was going 40km/h+ it could have turned very bad. No-one seemed to bat an eyelid though.
posted by Kiwi at 12:23 PM on September 2, 2006

That was Robbie McEwen in the 2005 (or maybe 2004?) TdF. He's one of the best bike handlers in the pro peloton, and he made that move look like one of the easiest things in the world. Another reason he gets paid the big bucks.

I commute on a 30+ pound circa-1989 Specialized Rockhopper with slicks. It is certainly possible to bunny-hop it, but most of the time for curbs I use the technique box described. With a little practice it's possible to "unweight" over pretty tall curbs without slowing down. If you do want to bunny-hop though, practice jumping over painted lines before trying to clear a curb. Go for distance -- the biggest problem with hopping a curb is not getting enough air under the back wheel, and dropping it onto the curb-edge with all of your weight on it. Good way to get a flat tire or worse, dent the rim.
posted by harkin banks at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2006

I do this regularly over a set of train tracks at the bottom of a hill where I ride. The momentum carries me over the width of the tracks.

Keep your crankarms parallel to the ground. I like to have my left foot forward, but I don't know why. (I'm right handed, if that matters.)

I have drop-style bars (typical for road bikes) and I grab them at the top, where they start to curve forward. I put my thumb on the inside of the curve and my hands around the outside of the curve. (I call this an 'underneath' grip). I've never tried a hop with my hands in the drops. My center-of gravity moves too far forward if I do that. Ideally, I want my CoG to be right over the bottom bracket spindle.

Anyway, crouch down, knees bent, elbows bent. You essentially spring yourself up, and pull your feet (I have clipless pedals, which make this whole maneuver far easier) and your hands up when you feel that you're approaching as high as your body is likely to get from the ground. It all happens quickly.

I couldn't find a road bike example at youtube, but here are examples of how a bunny hop looks on a bmx bike ex1 ex2

Practice, practice, practice. A good way to start is by bunny hopping over a painted line in a parking lot. Landing on both tires evenly is a good idea, to distribute the forces involved.
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:40 PM on September 2, 2006

Can you bump-up your tire size? That helps a lot. Going up to 28mm or 32mm (that's about 1 1/4" if you're using 27 inchers) would make hopping much easier. As a side benefit, if you run the fatties at high pressure, they've got lower rolling resistance than your 23s (at the same psi).

I bunny hop on my touring bike all the time (with 28s). Loaded, it weighs as much or more than your bike. Clips really help too.
posted by bonehead at 6:55 AM on September 3, 2006

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