By Jake Stapleton
Photos by Jeff MorganI’ve learned by trial and error that the trick to mastering those nasty jagged edges is all in a slick move called the ‘splat’. The splat, as trials riders have fittingly named it, is a hell of a lot more daunting than it is difficult. Mastering the splat takes confidence, patience and practice. To build your confidence, you’re probably best starting off on a small ledge that is not too steep. Here’s the breakdown on the splat and being the master of the jagged edges:
Step 1: Finding the Line
As I have mentioned previously, when you are trying to overcome any other obstacle, finding the right line for the job is the key. Unlike other obstacles, with jagged ledges your line selection is generally limited to one major element - you need to find a rock, log, tree root, cricket bat, or whatever you can find to give you enough of a launch. Finding just what type of launch you need can only be done through trial and error. Of course, on top of looking for something to give you a bit of a launch, you also need to consider looking for a line that will give you good traction and will allow you to be as straight on to the ledge as possible.
Step 2: The Approach
Okay, now splatters, this is the time to commit. Like I said, these ledges can look pretty daunting but the absolute worst thing you could do is back out at the last minute. Backing out at the last minute will give you the feeling of hitting a brick wall and no one wants to experience that. So be brave, pretend you’re showing off for your girlfriend and just go for it.
As you come up to the ledge you need to be standing on the pegs in a neutral position, with your elbows and knees slightly bent.
How fast? This is the area that most people (myself included) find most difficult. You need to approach the ledge with a relatively low speed. How low is determined by how steep the ledge is. If the ledge is not too steep you can go in with a faster speed than if it is steep. When you think about it, it’s really just common sense. You really don’t want to be jumping onto to a vertical wall with too much speed (resulting in the brick wall effect). The thing that you will need to increase for a steeper ledge is the burst of power you need to give, and the amount you use your body to help the bike spring up.
Step 3: The Bounce and Burst
These fun-sounding techniques have to be done together at the exact right time in order to maximize the spring up you get. I’ll break it down for you.
The bounce: As you approach you need to force your body weight down to compress the suspension. After the suspension compresses and is starting to rebound you should again use your body weight to maximize the rebound. This is just like hopping a bicycle, but exaggerated. You should time it so that when you reach the rock, log or whatever you are launching off your suspension is fully rebounded.
The burst: At the same time as you start the bounce you should pull the clutch in enough to disengage your drive and give a good amount of gas, usually at least ¼ throttle, and you have to hold it constant as you roll towards the launch (rock, log, neighbour’s cat).
When your front wheel gets within a foot or two of the launch you need to dump the clutch and give it a good handful of gas.
Step 4: The Jump/Landing
As you start to get air from our bounce and burst, let the front end come up high, way higher than a normal jump. You want to land rear wheel first and as high up the ledge as possible. As the rear lands, the front end will be thrown down hard. To help soak up the hit you should land with gas and bend your knees and elbows with the compression of the suspension.
Once you’re on top of the ledge, get back on the gas and turn to your mates to smile. You’ve mastered the splat!