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How To: Dirt Jump – Interviews With Kona and Scott DJ Pros

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Sometime last year we got the bug to start dirt jumping.  Maybe it was the incessant replaying of Red Bull Rampage highlights or the constant video streams of sweet looking tricks.  That, and we have a freakin’ sweet DJ park here in Greensboro that’s filled with tabletops, doubles, log bridges, berms, chutes and more.

But where to begin?  Rather than risk immediate injury, wasting money or, worse, looking like a fool, we turned to the folks that make a living at this.  We hit up two riders each from Kona and Scott -the guys that routinely tear it up at the Rampage, Air King and star in DJ and Freeride videos like Kranked -looking for advice. Here’s who we interviewed:

graham-a-headshot Graham “Aggy” Agassiz (19, Kamloops, BC)
SPONSORS: Kona, Monster energy, Sombrio Cartel, Smith optics, Nike 6.0, Giro, Coors Light
EDUCATION: (left blank)
paul-bas-headshot Paul Basagoitia, AKA Paul Bass (22, Minden, NV)
SPONSORS:Kona, Raceface, Red Bull, Giro, Skullcandy, DVS
dylan-dunkerton-headshot Dylan Dunkerton (19, Roberts Creek, BC)
SPONSORS: Scott Bikes, SRAM, Chromag & Lavan Apparel
EDUCATION: High School
kyle-jameson-headshot Kyle Jameson (21, Aptos, CA)
SPONSORS: Scott USA, Republic apparel, Sram,
EDUCATION: High School, Capilano University MTB operations program

Peep the pics after the break and there’s no denyin’ it, DJ looks like fun, and it’s a great way to add to your skill set.  Hit ‘more’ to see what the pros had to say…

Paul Bass jumping in the forest.

BIKERUMOR: Tell us about your bike. What model are you riding and how’s it spec’d?
AGGY: My jump bike is a Kona Cowan frame, full Shimano Saint components, Sun-Ringle rims, Easton bar and stem, Maxxis Larson tt tires, WTB saddle, Sensus grips.
DYLAN: I’m riding the Scott Voltage FR 10 set up for trail riding. In the front I have a Rock Shox Lyrik set at 5″. In the rear I’m running a Rock Shox Monarch High Volume shock. This is the shorter shock option that the Voltage FR offers giving me 5.5″ of travel. For me this is the prime set up, it allows me to ride slope style and jump lines but at the same time allows me to charge any downhill lines. On the rest of the bike I’m running a full SRAM grupo, Chromag bar, stem and saddle, Syncros wheels and Maxxis rubber.
BASS: Right now I’m riding the 2009 Kona Bass, it’s pretty stock for the most part, just changed the cranks and the handle bars. It’s a perfect bike for slopestyle type of riding.
KYLE: My DJ weapon is a Scott Voltage LTD, spec with the ultimate SRAM DJ set up. X-0 drive train, ti-nitrate argyle 409 , one Elixir CR, Truvativ holzfeller 170 cranks, Truvativ box guide, Holzfeller pedals, Truvativ handle bar, SDG seat and seat post, and the sickest mtb grips ever made “Sensus grips”!

kyle-jameson-j-table kyle-jameson-berm-slider

Kyle Jameson nailing a “J Table” and “Berm Slider”, per the image titles.

BIKERUMOR:  How did you first get into cycling, then how did you get into dirt jumping?
AGGY: I used to race bmx as a kid, but I got into digging jumps early and decided id rather jump than race.
DYLAN: Like your average kid i learned how to ride at a really young age. Once the training wheels were off I began to make little jumps and stunts. That never stopped, now I have progressed and continue to build jumps and stunts when ever I can. I never really got too deep into dirt jumping but I enjoy riding a solid jump set every once and a while.
BASS: I was pretty much born on two wheels, started racing BMX bikes when I was seven years old, and then branched off to dirt jumping when I was 16.
KYLE: In fifth grade one of my best friends from school brought me up to Lake Tahoe for my first XC ride. I had no idea what mountain biking was, I rented some Diamondback and we got our shred on. I was hooked after that, once I got home I put a MTB on my Christmas list. I started jumping that MTB right away but was into Downhilling mostly. I really got into dirt jumping when I was about 16, I got a sheep p-2. Lucky for me Randy Spangler had some had some “invite only” DJ really close to my house . Spangler ended up taking me under his wing and started showing me the DJ ropes: Digging/riding.

Aggy pulling a no-hander jump at the Red Bull Rampage

BIKERUMOR:  What’s the hardest or most complicated trick you’ve pulled off?
KYLE: 360 inward invert.
BASS: I would have to say the Front Flip. Just because there are so many steps to it.
AGGY: The hardest trick i have ever pulled off… hmm, I think maybe tail whipping my DH bike. That was pretty gnarly, not sure how many people often do that. (t whip – kicking the bike around a full 360 while still hanging onto the bars)
DYLAN: Tricks are not my thing. That said, the hardest trick I have pulled of is a no foot can can. Its something that I have been able to on and off for years. Its a fairly basic trick but I just don’t jump enough to keep my self familiar with it.

BIKERUMOR:  What’s the one trick you want to do that’s thus far eluded you?
KYLE: 360 nac nacs.
AGGY: I tried to do this one thing, I wanted to keep it more of a secret but since it didn’t work maybe someone else will go try it and make it work somehow. I tried to 270 out of a tree bonk. All snowboard/ ski style of trick. Didn’t quite work for me and my bike though, but I think I was the first to try.
DYLAN: Bar spins have always eluded me. I have done them fine out at the skate park but as soon as it comes to throwing it on any substantial jump I just can’t commit to it. Its one of those tricks that if you don’t get it perfect you’re going down hard.
BASS: I would have to say the double flip. It’s one of those tricks that you can really get hurt on.

Paul Bass mid flip at the Red Bull Vienna Air King where he won "Best Trick"

BIKERUMOR:  In your opinion, how much of what you do is learnable skill versus natural talent?
BASS: It’s different for everyone. To some it comes really naturally, and for others it takes them a lot of work to figure it out.
AGGY: I think the majority of things are learnable, but style and certain tricks are often an individual’s sort of trademark, or just something that they can do that much differently or cooler than others. Its just how your head sees the trick and how you execute it.
KYLE: That’s a hard question… I have been on a bike and in the air for some time so most of what I do is natural. If I’m working on a hard trick or something weird , I’m trying to learn/ break down the steps of the trick or the feature. But for the most part I try to keep a natural flow when I’m on my bike.
DYLAN: I think it all depends on the person and the style of riding. Some people are naturally skilled and can hop on a bike and learn stuff in an afternoon. For others it takes a lot of practice and determination. In my case I feel comfortable pushing my limits on the mountain but when it comes to tricks I need to work my way up to certain tricks other wise I usually end up getting hurt.

Dylan Dunkerton in a scene from Kranked 8: Revolve.

BIKERUMOR:  Let’s say someone’s just getting into DJ, what are some basic skills they should learn to help them get going?
BASS: I would say the first couple basic skills that you would need to learn would be how to bunny hop, jumping off curbs, and just making sure you feel comfortable on the bike.
AGGY: If you ask around, a good portion of riders all began racing bmx as a kid. You learn so many basic skills, including how to pump, manual, cornering, and how to jump. I think the most basic skill you need is confidence, but at the same time not being over confident. You just got to take small steps at a time. Just have fun really.
DYLAN: If some one is getting into dirt jumping the first thing I think they should do is go ride a pump track. Pumping and popping are the 2 essential skills required to make it though a jump set. A pump track will teach you both of those as well as how to corner properly. Try to double up a few rollers and get comfortable with popping. Pumping is important because when riding a set of jumps you need to keep up speed. Pumping the landings and lips will help you maintain your speed through out the set. Popping is important because it give you the extra height and air time to do a trick or clear a bigger jump.
KYLE: First I would suggest to watch someone ride the jumps that they want to hit. Then try to understand what is going to happen off the lip, in the air, and coming in for landing. Then I would suggest the DJer should start small and work his way up.

Dunkerton gets some big air.
Dunkerton gets some big air.

BIKERUMOR:  What’s the basic equipment you need to get into DJ?
DYLAN: You need a hardtail, some knee pads and a helmet.
AGGY: Obviously first thing is a helmet, some people like to ride without it because they think they look cool without it. but really they look like idiots, being in a coma, brain injury… not worth it, right? Another basic equipment is a shin pad, you will soon see why if decide to not ride with them on, shinners also suck!
BASS: The only equipment you really need is a dirt jumping bike, a shovel, and a helmet.
KYLE: Helmet, Shoes, MTB/ BMX (what ever you prefer), Shovel and DIrt

BIKERUMOR:  Supposing we’re building up a DJ bike on a budget, we’ll assume the frame’s the most important piece. After that, what part or parts can you skimp on and what should never be compromised to save a few bucks?
BASS: I would say the suspension and the wheels (should never be compromised).
AGGY: First off, building any bike from frame up is going to be more expensive than buying a complete bike. But, if you decide to do this anyway, make sure to buy a decent fork and wheelset. Breaking forks is scary and wheels are the most common things to bend or break so save the time and money by buying a decent wheelset. Things you could skimp out on would be possibly the cranks, bar, stem, even brakes.
KYLE: To save a few bucks you can switch to single speed, and run a cable disk brake those two suggestions should save a couple hundred bucks. Things that I wouldn’t skimp on would be rims and bb, crank set. Strong/ light rims are super important, and same with the bb and crank set.
DYLAN: The biggest thing you can skimp on is the drive train. By that i mean you can ride a single speed set up rather than a full cassette, shifter and derailleur. This will keep thing simple and light weight. I would never ever skimp out on the fork and wheels. If either of these fail you’re in trouble.

More big air for Aggy with a No Footer Can Can.

BIKERUMOR:  When you get to the bigger tricks like back flips and things that can really injure you if you land wrong, how do you learn something like that? Do you need to find a foam pit, or do you actually learn that on the trail?
KYLE: Foam pits are awesome for learning how to get crazy, but the foam pit can force you to learn bad habits. So I would suggest building a sandy step up jump, or a mulch jump. these two type of jumps are awesome for learning because they give you the feeling of landing on a down slope.
AGGY: Learning in a foam pit is clearly the safest way to learn tricks, especially a flip. But not everyone has access to a foam pit, including me. I learned how to flip on a step up with a really soft landing. Step ups are the best for learning any trick, and less consequential than a normal jump.
BASS: Most of the time you’re learning it into a foam pit, depending on how risky the trick is, but for the most part I learn all my tricks on the dirt.
DYLAN: To keep it safe you should find a foam pit but the other option is to build a step up jump some with some very soft soil. I usually use a step up or dirt jump, I’m a few hours away from a foam pit. I prefer using a real jump rather than foam.

(Editor’s Note: Step-Up is a double where the up ramp is shorter than the down ramp, giving you less downward speed as you hit the landing.  A Step-Down is the opposite.)

Kyle takes a wall ride.
Kyle takes a wall ride.

BIKERUMOR: As far as physical conditioning goes, I’m guessing DJ riding places more emphasis on explosive power and flexibility over endurance…would you agree? What type of training do you do?
BASS: Yeah I would say so for the most part. I usually just go to the gym and ride as much as possible.
DYLAN: Yes I agree, dirt jumping requires no endurance. Flexibility is important but I wouldn’t say “explosive” power is the key. Upper body strength is important but you don’t need to be explosive. I don’t think dirt jumpers do any specific training other than just riding jump sets or step ups.
AGGY: You don’t necessarily need to be in great shape, but it does go a long way. You do want to be strong enough to withstand impacts though, and for certain tricks and even falling being flexible also can go a long ways.
KYLE: Totally agree, that best training for your body is to jump every day and dig on the jumps every day. your jumps will get pimp and so will your riding skills.

Look ma, no hands.  Dunkerton flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
Look ma, no hands. Dunkerton flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

BIKERUMOR:  What’s your favorite trail or DJ park and where is it located?
DYLAN: Upper Tube is my favorite trail here in Roberts Creek. Its fast, flowy and full of high speed berms.
BASS: That’s a hard one! I’ve been to a lot of cool spots, but if it came down to me riding one place every day it would have to be Whistler.
AGGY: My favorite dirt jumps are called “bridge jumps” located in ..secret.
KYLE: I love living in Aptos because there is more then one DJ spot and we have a motto here in Aptos: “no dig no ride” which means if you come here with out a shovel you won’t get to ride the pimp spots.

BIKERUMOR:  How often do you ride?
AGGY: I want to say every day but that would be a lie. I do ride a lot though!
DYLAN: In summer daily, in winter about 3-5 times a week.
BASS: During the summer I ride pretty much every day, but In the winter I don’t really ride that much at all because of the weather.
KYLE: I try to ride every day, DJ/ dh/ xc / street, whatever I’m/ my friends are feeling in the morning.

BIKERUMOR: What other type of riding do you do besides DJ? What are your other hobbies and interests?
KYLE: I love Snow Boarding “pow miles”. I also hang a bunch with my friends, and for course walks on the beach with my girl.
AGGY: I mainly just use dirt jumping as training. My riding style is more freeride, where I bring the tricks that I have learned from dirt jumping and bring them to the big mountain lines. I am also really into snowboarding where I get a lot of influence from, and soon I will be learning how to surf!
DYLAN: I’m a trail rider at heart. I love downhill, freeride and slope style lines. Some all-mountain every once in a while is great also. On my spare time I do video production and photography. Check out some of my work here : http://vimeo.com/user929494/videos
BASS: I pretty much do every type of riding that you cant think of. Other hobbies that I enjoy doing are wakeboarding, mini bikes, golfing, fishing, and playing football.

Paul Bass at the Vienna Air King.  Believe it or not, he's going from left to right.
Paul Bass at the Vienna Air King. Believe it or not, he's going from left to right.

BIKERUMOR: Each of you is sponsored by a major cycling company…is that your full time gig, or do you have a side job?
BASS: Lucky enough it’s pretty much my full time job.
DYLAN: No it’s not full time yet. I’m working on it. On the side for work I trail build, edit video and do odd jobs.
KYLE: I coach Summer Gravity Camps in Whistler BC during the summer months. During the other months I’m working for Alpine Bike Parks, building Pump Tracks, downhill trails, XC trails, skills parks.  You want it, well build it haha.
AGGY: Last year I worked a lot at a restaurant as cook, but doing this is almost a full time job now. If I’m not riding my bike I’m writing emails or updates and so on.

BIKERUMOR:  When you show up for a major pro competition, who are you most excited to compete against? Is there someone else that pushes you to elevate your game?
AGGY: Hard to say really. Depending on the event and the course there is soo much going on in your head. Sometimes I can look at a course and see my run in front of my eyes before i even get on my bike. At events you’re always with your like crew or riding buddies and you will practice with each other giving each other help and ideas. Thats my favorite part of events, practicing with your homies, riding a fresh course, it’s awesome. I do get really nervous sometimes before the event though.
KYLE: I’d rather compete against my friends, that’s what so cool about MTB comps, were all one happy family.
DYLAN: When I show up to an event I’m most excited to compete against my friends. They are the ones who help me elevate my game and push me, so when im competing it just brings it to another level of fun.
BASS: I would pretty much say everyone. These days everyone is riding good.

BIKERUMOR:  How many frames have you broken? How many bones have you broken?
AGGY: Never broken a frame before. Broke my wrist, 3 collar bones, last year I did two of them! Lots of bruised or badly sprained wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders. My body takes a beating for sure!
BASS: I’ve been pretty lucky on both situations, I’ve never broken a frame and only broken one bone.
DYLAN: I have only ever broken one frame, it was a 1998 Norco Sasquatch, my first 26″ mountain bike. The head tube snapped clear off. I have broken my left collar bone, knocked out my front tooth, chipped my knee cap and broke a few ribs. So far I have been lucky. (Editor: That’s lucky?)
KYLE: I have broken 2 frames and a bunch of bones in my right wrist.

BIKERUMOR:  What are you afraid of?
AGGY: Growing old.
DYLAN: Casing jumps.
BASS: Snakes, haha, there’s something about them that scares me.
KYLE: Features or jumps that are built sketchy.

BIKERUMOR:  Is there a YouTube video showing you doin’ your thing?

AGGY: If you really want to see my riding check out the films NWD (New World Disorder) 10 and Life Cycles.  Here’s another video that’s more downhill/freeride.

DYLAN: (You can also) check out our demo reel. http://vimeo.com/7779098

BASS: Check out Bass’ “Best Trick” winning 360 Tailwhip that starts at 1:16 in this vid from the Red Bull Air King competition last year. Older video (grainy) that shows some pretty sick urban ramp jumps is here.

KYLE: Go to the nearest bike shop and buy Kranked 8, i have footy in there with three of my good Canadian friends.  Here’s the teaser.

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