While a basic whip looks simple, to make it look truly slick, it takes plenty of time and a lot of practise. Riders like Söderström and Brandon Semenuk make it look easy, but that’s thanks to a lot of hard graft. Happily, Söderström is here to share his experience, so you can nail this trick and impress your friends.
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Practising in Falun and the Audi Nines
Emil Johansson and Martin Söderström practise at Emil’s local skate park, then Emil goes to the Audi Nines.
1. Get protected
First things first – always wear a helmet and some good body protection. The more, the better, but at least strap on a helmet, knee pads and gloves.
2. Get comfortable in the air first
It sounds obvious, but you need to be very comfortable with jumping your bike and generally being in the air before trying to throw a whip. This doesn't mean that you have to send it off huge hucks, as you can throw whips off small jumps, too. Find a jump you're comfortable with and session it until it's second nature. Once you’re feeling comfortable, it's time to try getting sideways.
3. Pick your jumps wisely
Although you can whip just about any jump, some are easier than others, so when you're learning the easy ones are a good place to start. The best jumps are hips, where the landing is at 90 degrees to the take off. A hip jump will allow you to get the hang of throwing the bike sideways without having to worry about getting it totally straight for the landing, so long as you're comfortable jumping them.
4. Start going sideways before take-off
What many don't realise is that the whip starts way before getting airborne. In fact, the kick and the take-off is where you decide how big and how sideways you're going to get once you're in the air. It's probably the most important part of the jump when you want to whip.
A good whip starts well before you're in the air, as you need to carve off the lip in an arc to get the bike moving sideways. It's only subtle, but carving across the lip and turning your front wheel gives the bike the momentum to begin moving sideways.
Start small, working on the carve and wheel turn, and then bring everything back straight before the landing. If you turn your front wheel to the left, think about twisting your shoulders in an anticlockwise motion. If you turn your front wheel to the right, your shoulders should twist clockwise.
5. Pull up on take-off
The next thing to think about is to pull up your front wheel when taking off, because it basically decides how big the whip will be. The more and higher you pull up, the more opportunity you have to send your back wheel out sideways. It opens up for a big whip. So again, really focus on the take-off – carve up the lip and then pull up in order to prepare yourself to go big and sideways. Remember, it's in the kick that it happens.
Avoid the 'fish whip', though, which is what happens if you pull up without the carve. This means you take off the jump in a straight line and then, once in the air, throw your hips and butt to one side. It just never looks very good, so no fish whips!
6. Shift your body weight and twist the hips
Once you get the hang of carving across the lip and have those sweet front wheel turns dialled, it's time to start gradually moving the back wheel sideways.
At the beginning of the whip, your body weight should be slightly towards the back of the bike in order to pull up the front wheel as much as possible, but as you move through the whip and over the jump, your body weight should shift towards the front of the bike. That way you can more easily push back your rear wheel back into line, so that you can land straight.
While the front wheel turn comes from your arms, it's twisting and moving your hips that will make the back wheel come out. If you watch a pro rider throwing whips, their chest stays relatively still, staying square on to the jump.
As always, start small and work your way up, sessioning a jump and working on moving the back wheel further out each time.
7. Learn to land, but don't worry too much
There aren't any golden tricks to landing; most of it is just holding on. Often when you whip big, you land on your front wheel, so even if the back wheel isn't completely straight it generally sorts itself out anyway. However, don't just go and throw it out sideways as much as possible before learning how to bring it back in again, as you might land with your rear wheel at 90 degrees, get high-sided and crash. It's better to start off smaller and learn to do it properly.
8. Remember, it's an evolving process
Our final tip is to remember that, unlike a trick such as a 360 or Barspin, which you either land or you don't, a whip is an evolving process.
So, start small and work your way up. It takes a long time to get them looking like the pros, but a styled-out whip is one of the best feelings in mountain biking, so it's well worth the effort.