Rabbits, by design, hop well. They have short femurs wed to long tibias via a reverse, spring-loaded knee, which makes them great hoppers. They have extra-long metatarsals, which make their landings soft and stable. By comparison, your bicycle has no femurs or tibias or metatarsals, and it has a great, galumphing clod of a human on its back.
That’s just comparative anatomy.
My dog Django is from Arkansas, saved from a kill shelter there 3-4 years ago. He’s a snaggle-toothed pitbull mix with one crooked ear. People who meet him for the first time believe he is angry, and we explain that he’s actually just sorta ugly. We have developed a back story for him, gleaned from the few details we know about him and based on his personality. He was born in a dumpster behind a Pizza Hut, the runt of a litter fed primarily on stuffed-crust pizza and bits of greasy cardboard. He speaks in a high-pitched voice that does not match his boxy head or orthodontic challenges. He is a sweet and mellow dog. Very friendly. Very cuddly.
But he has some sort of blood lust for bunnies.
The sight of a rabbit, and our neighborhood is absolutely lousy with them, flips a switch deep in his simple mind and puts him into a blind rage. I have had to knock him down, physically, as he charges past me on the trail of a terrified lagomorph. It should be noted that he never catches them, and will often run himself into a wheezing, mouth-frothing pile of useless dog fur without every getting close.
This is all to say that the bunny hop, for a bunny, is a highly effective.
Now let’s flash back to you, on your bike. You approach a log, a weak-rooted tree that has fallen across the trail. You think, “I’ve got this,” and your brain begins to map the timing and placement of your wheels for what is inaptly termed a “bunny hop.” First, your weight shifts backwards. You extend arms and legs, simultaneously pulling back on the handlebars and pushing the rear wheel forward, under the front. Then, as your front wheel rises, you leap forward, bending your knees, pulling upward slightly on the bars and sucking the rear wheel up into your body so that it lifts off the ground. If you are good and/or lucky, all of this will have transpired while the aforementioned log was passing beneath you.
What I normally do is lift my front wheel onto the log, and then use that solid contact to drag my rear wheel up and over. That is not a bunny hop. It’s effective, but it is not a bunny hop. Nor is jumping straight up, pulling both wheels straight up under you, a bunny hop. It is occasionally effective, assuming you’re moving quickly enough, but it is not the feat of physical prowess we’re considering here today.
I have been practicing all of my mountain biking maneuvers for a long time, but I’m a lot like Django, sweet, cuddly, and dead set on getting that bunny hop one day. Like him, I catch fleeting glimpses, herky-jerky but essentially correct executions of the trick, and yet I never seem to get that satisfying, gravity defying hop. I imagine Django dreams of the catch, flailing rabbit legs and bits of fur trapped in his ramshackle jaws, his head shaking powerfully to stun the poor creature, trotting away victorious with his trophy in his mouth.
Instead, the two of us lay in a heap on the basement floor, where it’s cool, sucking wind and wondering why something so seemingly simple, is actually so hard.