MTB skills I thus far still suck at: pumping a flat surface

I’ve started recording video of my riding to examine my attempts to get better at various mountain bike skills.  I generally prefer to showcase myself succeeding, with an occasional crash thrown in for comic effects. But I decided it might be helpful to blog my attempts to improve, especially if it includes some self-analysis as well as links to other coaching videos that I’m watching.

I first noticed instructors demonstrating ‘pumping a flat surface’ in two videos on cornering, specifically hip flexion:

Simon Lawton video

Darren Butler and Seb Kemp video
Left: See the 1:24 mark of the Pinkbike video by MTB coach Simon Lawton.
Right: See the 1:20 mark of the NSMB video by Darren Butler and Seb Kemp.

And then I discovered MTB coach Lee McCormack‘s blog posts about pumping a flat surface (here, here, and here) where there are lots of pointers and helpful discussion.  He links to a video but it’s in native .mov format on his server. Here’s the YouTube version that someone has uploaded. It’s pretty amazing to see how fast he can get going:


He also points to how Brian Lopes applies the same pumping motion in this Pinkbike video:

Brian Lopes video
See the segments at both the 1:32 and 2:56 marks.

Here’s my marginally adequate attempt yesterday:


I made the round trip without pedaling, but just barely. It seems that while I’m not doing too badly pumping with my legs/hips, I’m not doing enough with my arms/shoulders. And I’m standing up too high instead of being in the attack position.  Back to school!

If you’ve got insights or links to other helpful pages/videos related to pumping a flat surface, attach a comment.


  1. Chance said:

    hey you need to get lower, in the attack position and really rip with the upper body when you are going slower and drive through the BB with your lower body as speed increases the upper boddy just continues to keep the motion and the speed is created with your lower body
    i can flat pump up hill next time we are together I’ll show you. I would also recommend learning it on your 24inch

    August 8, 2013
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Chance. I’ll take my 24-inch out and give that a try. I suppose it is a bit more challenging to learn on a 29’er.

    I’ve never really thought about what upper vs lower body pumping does. I’ll keep that in mind.

    August 8, 2013
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    After about a half-hour of practice last night on my 24-inch bike, I can safely say that my MTB riding has made an evolutionary leap. What an amazing difference. I’ll publish another video as soon as I can get the shit-eating grin off my face. Thank you Jed and Chance!

    August 9, 2013
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Saaaweeet! Thanks, Lee.

    It seems like it would be helpful to see a video that shows pumping circles or a figure-8 on a flat dirt surface, like a gravel parking lot, ie, something that would more closely replicate the conditions of a flat corner on a singletrack trail. Are you aware of any? If not, could you create one? I would try but we’re snow-covered here in MN.

    February 17, 2016

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