Tips for learning to jump higher

So, with a lot of practice I’ve gone from falling off after more than a couple bunny hops to being able to land (some) gaps onto skinnies and jump up small stuff like stairs and curbs.

Obviously I can keep working as I have been and slowly make my jumps higher and higher. However, I’m hoping someone has some tips to make things move a bit faster.

There are a few specific things I know I can do, but I don’t know what to focus on right now.

  1. Learn to hop SIF
    I know eventually I’ll reach a limit with my seat-in hops and want to move onto hopping SIF. However, I know I’m nowhere close to this yet. At best I can hop two pallets seat-in right now. Would there be a benefit in learning to hop SIF this early?

  2. Learn to use prehops
    Right now I do most of my hops and gaps static. I know prehops are necessary to get the highest jumps, but as I mentioned above, I can definitely have a lot of room to improve without them.

  3. Focusing on specific parts of my seat-in technique
    I know there are things in my technique I can improve like throwing my free arm up higher and folding my body up more as I land.

Does anyone have any tips to share? Obviously, eventually I’m going to get to everything, but I’d love to learn as efficiently as possible.

To perform vertical jumps over 1 meter, I think you have to be in very good shape. First try static vertical jumping without the unicycle. If you’re not good at that, adding a unicycle to the mix is not going to help much. The best vertical jump, hypothetically, involves starting from a crouched down position, then straightening out, leaving the ground, then pulling up the lower body up toward the head. I’m pretty sure this applies to jumps with and without the unicycle.

From the videos I’ve watched, it seems the riders approach the jump at high speed, then convert their momentum into compressing the tire (with a pre-hop in there). This allows them to jump higher, vertically, than they could without the unicycle.

My jumping is limited to objects about the size of stairs. If you’re still using a fair amount of energy to clear objects of this size, then keep practicing smaller stuff until things get easier. There’s an element of timing to jumping which has to be learned before one can expect to clear large vertical distances.

You reminded me how awful I am at jumping! Ugh!

Seat in front becomes useful at ~4 pallets I’d say, depending on your seat height. But you might as well learn it now. I would probably learn pedal grabs first (landing on your pedal/crank first, then getting up to the tire). It will give you more jumps around the city or on trials parcours you can do.

Try them. Usually for me, it changed between pre hops being helpful and not helping depending on what was holding me back, power or technique, for example at ~75cm tucking became important, and doing it static allowed me to concentrate on that, while for ~90cm I needed to improve my prehop timing.

As I said, might as well practice SIF. But I also know how nice and stable seat in is and how hard the transition. Have you considered rolling hops?

Learning jumps is hard work, just stick with it, and try to make it fun by building/finding trials lines is my recommendation. Just hopping up the same stack of pallets all day becomes old really fast, I find. You’ll improve over time.

I will always recommend gaining the physical strength mostly while doing the task you want to get better at. Dedicated physical exercise helps, but if you are fit enough to take a few falls, there is no risk in just practicing jumps on the uni. Unicycle jumps are largely technique and their own timing, I could easily do a static hop on my feet up 120cm when I was practicing 75cm on a uni.

I actually don’t think anyone jumps higher on a unicycle than without, I’d bet that mike tailor will get up ~150cm with a runup without his unicycle too.

I was wondering when I should start working on pedal grabs. I’m only just recently hopping up things beyond my horizontal pedal height.

Ok, I’ll start focusing more on them.

I do practice rolling hops too, but they’re usually either not as high or not as precise precise as my sidehops. I still can’t perfectly predict where my pedals will be so often for the most challenging obstacles I end up sidehopping since it’s more predictable.

I don’t actually own any pallets so everything I’ve been practicing is trials lines I find. However, since I’m not hopping very high the kind of lines I can find don’t tend to be that interesting. Part of why I’m excited to work on my hopping is that I can see as I get better new lines keep opening up.

I’m in good physical shape and I eat well. I considered doing some kind of specific pylometric training, but eventually decided against it. Right now my primary form of exercise is on the unicycle and I do a pretty good job of wearing myself out.

Right now I’m getting nowhere close to what I can do on my feet with the unicycle, so I know technique is the major limiting factor.

Thanks for the detailed response, this kind of stuff is exactly what I was looking for!

Measuring out the runup is the key, locate yourself infront of the obstacle where you are going to take of, ride straight back (backwards or forwards) and start the runup from there. It is important to ride, and not push your unicycle, since a compressed vs. non compressed tire has different diameters. What I always liked about rolling hops is their stability, there are always forces in play when you are landing, which makes it more stable, vs. sidehops where you land in an unstable crouched position.

They only work for the first hop of a trials line though, so I don’t recommend solely focussing on them. It’s just that I believe you are at a point where just any time on the Uni helps and makes you better.

Techniques were starkly contrasted when Mike Padial and Waylon Batt fought out the high jump at Australian UniNats 2016.

Waylon came in at full speed, taking as much run up as he could get. He got good height but lost out with the need for utter precision timing of the jump.

Mike approached slowly, took a small bounce then the big one, precisely placed, to win the competition. Remarkably, he landed on the other side like he had dropped of a roadside kerb.

I first saw Mike jump at UniNats 2014. I hadn’t been riding long and such a feat seemed implausible. Though I saw it with my own eyes, my brain was more comfortable with the idea that he somehow passed though the bar, since clearing it just didn’t make any sense.

Actually measuring out the runup that way takes a lot of the fun out of it for me.

Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean by ride vs push the unicycle.

Ride the uni out to the starting point rather than pushing it along because the wheel diameter is smaller with the tyre compressed due to the rider’s weight.

Going up long sets of stairs didn’t help me to jump much higher, but it made it easier to do only one hop per step. This sort of practice is probably best done on a set of five or ten steps rather than 76, though, - quality rather than quantity!

Hopping to the left is awkward for me, and putting my left foot in back instead of my right is even more awkward. Should I try to fix this?

Also, at what point is protective gear needed? I only have a pair of soccer shin guards and I definitely don’t need them for hopping up the stairs. I can usually hop onto a beam that is 30 cm high, but I missed it once and skinned my knee. Ever since then I have been more cautious. If I learned to tuck during my SIF hops, it seems I would easily go much higher.

This high jump video tutorial doesn’t offer a systematic approach to training for high jumps, but it does show specific skills to work on, and the protagonist, after a few years, learns to jump pretty damn high!

It’s helpful sometimes if you can jump to the other side but in the end everybody has their favorite side and front foot. Just like there are left and right handers. Short: I don’t think there’s ‘fixing’ needed.
That reminds me of something else: You should jump to the opposite direction of your saddle-hand. So if you grab the saddle with your right hand you should jump to the left. I myself changed the saddle-hand after I heard about that and improved a lot afterwards, my husband changed the hopping side with the same result. :slight_smile:

That’s hard to answer. It depends on the skills you have and on what you are doing. For high jump you usually don’t need it that much and 30cm is really no big deal. Despite of that I once kinda flew over a palett stack of about 60cm (jumped on it, lost balance and fell to the side). I landed on the ground head first. I was really happy about my helmet!
I’d say for stuff you did a thousand times and are comfortable with you can skip the gear but during practice sessions at your limit it’s worth it.


Exactly at the point where YOU feel your fear of getting hurt is holding you back, and wearing protective gear makes it better.

For highjump, I usually wear no protective gear or some shinguards, when I do trials lines that include technical parts I occasionally add a helmet. It’s your decision, on this forum many will tell you you should wear about a billion pads just for riding on a slightly rough path.
Decide what risk you are willing to take yourself, if I think it is possible for me to hit my head hard (mostly when I do Downhill or Street) I wear a helmet, but knee pads feel like a hinderance to me. I wear gloves for muni, but not for trials, and shinpads 75% of the time for flat,trials and street, but not for muni. I base my decision on how likely the injury is that the protective gear protects me from, how bad the injury would be (head damage is really bad, scratches on my knees I can live with), and how annoying the gear is (helmet almost not noticable, shinpads a bit, knee pads really annoying).

Well, there are threads started here every so often about what unicycle is best if you are 76 years old, or if you weigh over 350 pounds. People like that should probably wear full riot gear, and that’s all good, but for me, your overview of how much protection is needed seems about right.

For high jump, it’s important to hold the seat with only one hand, isn’t it? I can ride SIF one-handed, but for hopping, I still have to use both hands.

Yes, one handed is important. I personally had the same issue, and it just dissapeared after a while. I think it is mostly about controlling the tilt of your uni with your feet, not with your hands.

Wow, this problem went away almost as soon as I tried to fix it!

If anybody out there is still SIF hopping up the stairs with two hands, you are probably ready to switch to one hand. Give it a few tries, and you will see that it gets easier very quickly.

Paradoxically, having only one hand on the seat also seems to give me a lot more control than clinging to it with both hands.

Not really paradoxic if you think about it, just try how far your arms can move around if you fold both hands, then compare it to using one hand individually. With two hands you severely limit your range of motion, but not only of the saddle relative to your body, your upper body will be able to move a lot more with only one hand on the saddle aswell.

A bigger range of motion is almost always a good thing when it comes to movement, in this case it allows you to:
A) make bigger adjustments to your balance, and
B) when you jump, you are basically trying to increase the vertical speed of your body. The way you do that, is applying a force to the ground over a certain distance, the longer the distance and the bigger the force, the higher you go. (I hope I was able to explain that well)

I also feel that when I’m riding or hopping SIF one-handed, I have much better balance since one arm is free.

For hopping up one step at a time, I like both hands. I push down on the seat and compress the tire prior to hopping. Two hands, when done right, seems more efficient. YMMV.