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From trials and dirt jump comps to downhill and cross-country races, Aaron Chase (Cannondale) has done it all—he spent five years as a pro downhiller; won the 2005 Red Bull District Ride slopestyle contest in Nuremburg, Germany; and made multiple appearances in the New World Disorder video series. These days, as part of Cannondale’s OverMountain team, Chase is more selective about the events he attends, but his ride schedule is still full, and still challenging. “What really perks up my ears is a crazy trip or a spot that hasn’t been ridden yet,” he says.
At home, this New Jersey resident spends time ripping around the local trails—which can be tight, technical and loaded with deadfall. His best advice: “You’ll never get over it if you don’t try.” Here are a few other pointers from this versatile rider.
Find a practice spot. Look for a large log (about 18 inches tall) that crosses the trail with a relatively straight approach and exit. If there are some roots or a rock before the log that you can use to help get your front wheel into the air, all the better. He also suggests finding a log early in your ride to session. “You don’t want to practice when you are exhausted,” Chase says.
Try it with a friend. Try to find someone who is already good at clearing logs or other obstacles. “It always helps to watch someone better than you do it,” Chase says. You’ll learn about speed and body movement by watching your friend.
Break it down. If log-hopping is new to you, take time to break down the steps—this might be something that you do over the course of several rides. The first step is to get your front wheel on the log. Approach the log in the attack position (knees bent, elbows out, butt off the saddle); give a quick pedal jab as you lean back slightly while pulling up and back on your bars to get the front wheel up. ”Once you can do that, work on a fast plant—drop a foot onto the log to push yourself over.” Feeling comfortable with the fast plant? Time to keep it on the bike.
Touch first. Start slow and use that same front-wheel-on-the-log move—but don’t stop. “Once I touch my front wheel on the log,” Chase says, “I’ll put some pressure on my chain/back tire and lunge forward to get my front tire over the backside and onto the ground.” Think of this as a move with two distinct but quick parts. After you push forward on your bars to get the front wheel over, slide your weight back over the rear wheel to keep it from bouncing over the log—and sending you over the bars.
Pop next. Once you’re comfortable with the front wheel touch-and-throw, start adding some speed—and look for smaller trail features that can serve as a mini-ramp to help get you over the log. “The ideal way for me is to spot a root or rock before the log and use that for pop,” Chase says. “Then you can air over it and never lose momentum.” The “pop” exaggerates the motion of the touch-and-throw move—instead of planting your front tire on the log, you’re popping it all the way over and pushing forward (and rolling the handlebar forward with your hands) to get the rear wheel to follow.
Clear it…in time. Over time, exaggerate the pop-over move so that both wheels clear the log. This is a matter of confidence—and, yes, a bit more speed. The key thing to remember: Start small to go big. With time and practice, you’ll be clearing that log like it isn’t even there.