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« From the Desk of Yours Truly | Main | The Black Racer »
Thursday
Aug202009

Bunny Hop

My previous post about my accidentally running over a snake brought many comments.

One short and to the point, was:

"Has anyone heard of a Bunny Hop?"

Of course, (Slaps self on forehead with palm of hand.)

Take off vertically, jump over, completely missing said snake; the obvious answer.

Obvious that is to anyone who grew up in the 1970s or later.

I started riding a bicycle over 60 years ago and outside of a circus no one ever became airborne or did any kind of trick on a bicycle. The extent of doing anything mildly cleaver was to occasionally ride “no hands.”

All that changed in the 1970s thanks to Evel Knievel doing dare devil jumps on his motorcycle, over school buses and such, and every male child in America immediately tried to emulate him on a bicycle.

It is a well known fact that a motorcycle, because of its power, weight, and speed, will on reaching the top of a sharp incline; continue in an upward direction, until speed drops and gravity takes over.

Even a car will do the same, as demonstrated in the Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt.

A bicycle however, unless traveling at a high rate of speed downhill, will normally not reach enough inertia to do this.

I give top marks for the ingenuity of children, who discovered that one could simulate a jump by physically jumping upwards with a sharp downward thrust of the legs.

Thanks to Newton’s Third Law of Motion; “For every action there is an equal and opposite action.” The downward thrust of the legs causes the bike (or indeed a skateboard.) to jump with the rider.

Forward to the 1980s and the introduction of the mountain bike. There was a generation of twenty-something’s who had grown up doing stunts on their BMX bikes. Some went riding on the trails, others went to the local park and practiced jumping up and down off picnic tables and such. The bunny hop was born.

The bicycle would never be the same again; no longer just a humble form of transport but something to perform all manner of tricks on.

Later the same would be born out of the Fixie craze; started out by emulating bike messengers who use a bike simply as the quickest way to get from point A to point B. Then developed into both a fashion statement and performing art form.

Anyway, back to the suggestion that I could have avoided running over the snake by executing a timely bunny hop. The reason this amused me was this.

I am at an age where I am fortunate enough to be still riding a bicycle.

Many of my generation are in retirement homes, hobbling around with the aid of a walker.

A little late to start devoting time to practicing bunny hops on the off chance I might encounter the occasional snake on my travels.

Picture this; old guy doing something over 20mph on bike.

Looks up and sees a snake in the road just a few feet away.

This same old guy is supposed to have the reflexes, as well as the strength and agility to execute a timely bunny hop over snake, and both bike rider and reptile then continue on their way.

I’m sorry; I just can’t see that happening.

Reader Comments (21)

I feel the need to dispute your statement of the "fixie" being the genesis of the "performing art form". The Safety Bike has been around a while as you well know I'm sure. There is floating about the interwebs a video clip supposedly of Thomas Edison performing many of said "tricks" that you are attributing to the "fixie". The quote that comes most to my mind is "there is nothing new under the sun".

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Gumeson

One of my regular rides has a bridge that doesn't match up with the adjoining road surface. I approach the bridge at the end of a long downhill and used to slow way down to avoid whacking my front wheel on it. Then I discovered I could simply bunny hop over it. I'm 65 and riding no hands takes concentration but bunny hopping was pretty much intuitive. No practice needed, if you can hop when off a bike, you can hop on one. Hard to explain, easy to do. Give it a try.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrkwallen

Carl,
I'm sorry but "Genesis" Is your word not mine. I said, "a" performing art form, I never said the original.
It has been pointed out to me that "born out of," was mistakenly taken as "gave birth to." I have edited the sentence and hopefully made it clearer.
Dave

August 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

As children, my friends and managed some pretty long jumps on our bikes.

Neglecting air resistence, classical physics tells us that the path taken by a vehicle driven off a ramp is strictly a function of speed at takeoff. Mass, power, or inertia do not have any effect.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

I used to bunny hop over the speed bumps in our parking lot at work, Dave. That is, until the spokes in my rear wheel began breaking with monotonous regularity. Two hundred and sixty pound of bike and rider aren't meant to be hanging around somewhere up in the air.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEd W

Dave,
as a former BMX racer, born in 1965, I can still bunny hop at 44 years of age as well as I did at 17. Still, that didn't help the poor squirrel I nailed on my mountain bike a few weeks ago. The little feller dashed right in front of me and even with a 17 year olds reflexes, I would have hit it anyway (thankfully it died instantly, saving me from the unpleasent task of having to mercy kill it) . Sometimes shit just happen too quickly to respond in time to avoid an accident. Anybody who rides a bike should know this, so i'm abit perplexed as to why some have chosen to give you shit about this. Bunny hopping skills or not, it sounds like you wouldn't have had time to react soon enough to miss that snake in the first place.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Strong

This guy is somewhere way beyond bunny hops. It's a whole different kind of riding a bike - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z19zFlPah-o

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSilverwolf

I'm with Dave. No bunny hops for me. It's just not something I do, even though I like to think I've developed a few skills in 50 years of riding bikes. But if something suddenly appears on a path, I'm more likely to try to miss it by going around it. I weigh 130 lbs, and there's no way I'm going to be able to completely hop both wheels of a road bike over anything.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Do you mean to tell me that you've never bunny hopped over a pot hole, so that the riders on your wheel slam into it?

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrump

I feel honored to have spurned Dave Moulton to write an article on the history of the bunny hop. I myself have ran over a pigeon and 8 years later, still remember the scream. I had a choice of... hit a woman, run over the pigeon or get hit by a car. No opportunity to bunny hop and ran over the pigeon.
Now, just getting back to cycling after a 3 year hiatus from suffering sciatica and having a herniated disc, I still would have tried a bunny hop, so long as I was not going to hurt myself badly. Of course that would depend on many factors which we all calculate in milliseconds.
Thanks Dave for your great blog.
I do find as a cyclist, I think and react better on the fly then when I did not cycle.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Ahh, bunny hops... they are a standard of cycling. They are relatively easy to do. Back in the 80s I rode a wonderful steel bike that was nearly indestructible. I even took it out on the trails. Now with "lightweight" components dominating the marketplace, I would be hesitant to go too crazy with hops, jumps, and hard riding. Have you ever seen a fork or stem bust from the slightest jump because the material was already so fatigued? It's impressive. With my carbon road bike, I tend to swerve first if possible and bunny hop only if I have to. With my alu cross commuter bike with a carbon fork (that weighs more than carbon frame) I am a bit more bold and I hop and jump over much more. Then again, I run fat 650Bx41c to absorb the shock. Feeling tired of riding on eggshells, I almost done building up an Italian steel road bike. It's all coming back full circle. :-)

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoris

Many a time I have used a "bunny hop" to avoid objects in the road; however, I first was introduced to the technique by an article I read somewhere about cyclocross. It seems that the American rider at the World Championships that year (late 60s/early 70s) mightily impressed others by hopping over an 18" obstacle. The European riders who would dismount and run over the object, while not as showy, were still faster than the American and he finished well down in the overall standings.
BTW, Newton's Second Law is as essential to both the bunny hopping bicyclist as it was to the dearly departed Evil K: although both Laws #2 and #3 are useful to explain physics of the bunny hop, I think you will find that (especially for Evil) #2 is more important.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhal faulkner

I feel the need to dispute your statement of the "fixie" being the genesis of the "performing art form". The Safety Bike has been around a while as you well know I'm sure. There is floating about the interwebs a video clip supposedly of Thomas Edison performing many of said "tricks" that you are attributing to the "fixie". The quote that comes most to my mind is "there is nothing new under the sun".

Carl Gemeson : I'm no fan of that nitwit Edison, but that's not the point. The fact that people saying it was Edison doing the tricks is rubbish. It was infact not Edison in the film, but a famous track rider of the times by the name of Eugene A. Neidert. This has been documented in the IMDB database. See : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0242312/plotsummary.

Edison's company then used to market Vitascopes and such, grandfathers of the modern day projector. They became involved in Neidert's stunts and soon the Edison name was put to the movie.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon

This was a thoroughly entertaining post and I love subtle sarcasm.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon

found your blog 2 days ago this post made me laugh thanks man.
glad to see your still riding.
jeremy

charlotte NC

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjer

Dave,

Give yourself some credit. The fact that you are active and cycling puts to shame so many who are less than half your age. During my racing days, I always had great respect for anyone in the masters category. Forget 30 or 40 year olds, I'm talking septagenerians. I recall a 78 year young gentleman who easily placed better than half the field in the Death Valley- Mt. Whitney stage race 20 something years ago. I was barely more than a third his age and yet was DNF the first day from bronchitis. Where did my bunny-hopping abilities get me? Finally, back to the wildlife issue. Bumblebees. You have to cringe at the thought of an unguided ballistic missile headed on a roundabout collision course with a cyclist.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim

>Now, just getting back to cycling after a 3 year hiatus from suffering sciatica and having a herniated disc,<

Hijacking the thread for a moment, I too had some serious sciatica, coupled with a bulging disk. I had difficulty walking the first month after pain manifested itself in earnest (I'd had some hints of what was to come beginning a few months earlier). It took eight months for me to recover and I still have occasional, sciatic pain.

After a while - maybe a month - I climbed back on my bike. It hurt every time I turned the cranks. But then, it didn't hurt anymore when I finished a ride than it did before I started it. I remember thinking that if the pain ever went away, I'd never complain to myself about riding uphill again. Actually, I loved riding uphill, but I'd also complain about it.

I've been true to my word. I don't complain about the hills I ride.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Wyman

Anyone with a little dirt riding experience - BMX or mountain bikes - should be able to bunny hop somewhat. I've been riding mountain bikes since '84 and dirt motorcycles before that. I'm pretty lame at hopping, but can do it. The main idea is to at least get the wheels unweighed to clear something easier.

The real bunny hop masters are Observed Trials riders - bicycle and motorcycle versions. Do a little Google searching for examples. They've progressed the skill into something entirely it's own deal.

For road riding, being able to bunny hop can save your wheels and/or some skin in certain situations. Not a bad skill to know.

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

You're a funny dude. Keep it up.

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeach cruisers

I believe the World Record for a Bunnyhop on a BMX bike is 48".

August 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMonrezee

It is a well known fact that a motorcycle, because of its power, weight, and speed, will on reaching the top of a sharp incline; continue in an upward direction, until speed drops and gravity takes over.Even a car will do the same, as demonstrated in the Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt. A bicycle however, unless traveling at a high rate of speed downhill, will normally not reach enough inertia to do this.

Fixie trick riders seem to do that easily. Example. Turn to 2:15 of this video. vimeo.com

August 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon
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