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What is the purpose of "whipping" a mountain bike during a jump? Is it merely a trick (show off) or is it a functional move with a purpose? It is very commonly seen in videos which made me wonder if there is a useful function to it.


By "whipping" I mean the motion you can see during jumping in the 30 or so seconds starting here:

A screenshot from the video:

enter image description here

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    This question will probably appear naive to some. Personally I do not jump, and I was not able to find the answer online. – Szabolcs Oct 17 at 16:00
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    Once one becomes experienced in jumping and starts to reliably clear middle-sized jumps, simply doing them can become quite boring. A medium-sized jump gives a couple to 5 seconds of flight time, which feels like a lot to the rider. You simply hang in air doing nothing! Whipping is an easy, relatively safe and good-looking trick to learn at this point. – Grigory Rechistov Oct 17 at 17:28
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    Note that even though you make an association between tricks and showing off, the 2 are actually orthogonal and for many doing/learning tricks is just a way to silence the craving to achieve and discover new things, irregardless of whether there's anoyone around to show it to. – stijn Oct 18 at 7:59
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Spinning wheels have gyroscopic effects. Whipping the bike can be a way to reposition the bike so that when it comes out of the whip, it is in an orientation that wouldn't be possible going over the jump dead-straight. This effect is large in the case of motocross.

From a BMX perspective, it is very important to land on the backside of the landing ramp with the proper bend in your legs so that you can get the maximum "pump" off the landing. In some cases, especially in the case of a short landing ramp, it can be advantageous to do a slight whip and therefore land with the bike at an angle. This can get you more pump than landing perfectly straight. If you watch people negotiate a street spine, for example, you will see that it's downright awkward to go straight over without doing a whip.

Also, there's often a corner and a berm shortly after a jump, so a slight whip can set you up for what comes next, vs. landing perfectly straight then having to muscle the upcoming corner.

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    This is about spot on. In addition there's something about a slight whip (not exaggerated like in the picture the OP shows) which makes it come naturally. I can't pinpoint the exact reason, but jumping straight is usually quite awkward. A bit of a twist to the backend i.e. whip makes it much easier to make body/bike transition from the upwards motion to the downwards one and landing preparation. – stijn Oct 18 at 7:54
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    What is a street spine? – anatolyg Oct 18 at 14:49
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    @stijn I guess it comes to the fact that it is almost impossible to fire oneself up dead straight. The same thing as is with regular steering: one always makes subconscious steering corrections even when riding an ideally flat road. A whip may do the same thing: it retains control over the direction while in air, correcting small imperfections. – Grigory Rechistov Oct 18 at 17:23
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    @anatolyg it's like a jump where the kicker and the landing have no space in between them, and they both have the exact same shape (so, 2 kickers basically). 'spine ramp' is probably the more common term for it and an image search gives a lot of results – stijn Oct 19 at 7:38
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    @GrigoryRechistov there really is more to it than correcting imperfections; not saying it's not a part of it, but like BetterSense mentions there is a functional use. Especially the spine ramp example: while it is possible to do that dead straight, even with imperfections, that is just much harder and kind of feels like you're a static bag of sand being flown over it. – stijn Oct 19 at 7:44
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From the perspective of a competition where time matters, whipping does not serve any purpose, as it won't allow to clear a jump any faster. Scrubbing, on the other hand, allows the rider to take a lower arc and spend less time in air, at least theoretically.

However, if we are talking about an event where style matters, whipping does look cool, and it shows skill. It is simply harder to pull it off than to simply land a jump without it. Compare that with other sport disciplines, such as sport ball dances, figure skating or acrobatics. In all these cases, aesthetics and complexity of moves participants make are deciding.

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  • I wasn't aware of "scrubbing" so perhaps I misused the term "whip". Now I realize that the video I posted may be showing scrubbing, though I can't confidently distinguish between them. Anyway, I meant the type of motion very commonly seen during jumps and present in both, not one of the two specifically. – Szabolcs Oct 18 at 8:48
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Its just a trick. It so common because 1, it does not require a ton of skill (like a flip, superman, nac nac, etc.) and 2, it doesn't require a whole bunch of air time. Its just a way to show off your skills and improve your technique.

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    To try and look like a badass =) – user53490 Oct 25 at 3:36

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