MTB Hopper Portable, Stowable Ramps
Learning to Fly
Does everyone get the, "I finally figured out how to fly!" dream? In my dream, that feels almost lucid at the best times, not only do I get to experience the sensation of Supermanning over the land, I am also certain, even as I'm waking up, that I have cracked the code for myself permanently. The disappointment that inevitably follows is muted by the glow from the aerial nocturnal experience.
Maybe it's those dreams that have made me frustrated about the way my jumping skills had been declining for years, without enough exposure to the Whistler Bike Park or neighbourhood dirt jumps. I've been clawing back a little more recently and feeling more confident, but the progress has been far too slow for my liking.
These factors made me very excited indeed to have a chance to steer my jumping progression a little without being at the mercy of opportunity or location.
What is it Exactly?
This is such a unique product that we don't even have a category for it in our system. I guess the elevator pitch would be something like this: "It's a modular bike ramp system made of laser cut plywood and held together with elastic cords, that packs flat when disassembled and can even be worn as a backpack." It's a remarkable combination of old and new technology augmented by some radical engineering.
You can put an MTB Hopper virtually anywhere but the best case scenario is finding some spot where you can land on a transition, either as a step down or, if you are very lucky, with a landing that tops out even with the top of the ramp like a table top or traditional dirt jumps. In a pinch you can land it to flat or if you have two, you can use one as the take off and one as the landing.
It doesn't take much to constitute a transition however. I have used the base of trees and set up the ramps as hips by raising one of the adjustable legs more than the other and put ramps on slopes so you have as much transition as your roll in gives you.
Assembly and Disassembly
The tricky thing about the MTB Hopper is building it the first few times. The ramps come with thorough instructions on 11 x 17 sheets of paper, which is great, if you want to be travelling with paper or you are assembling the ramps at home. Otherwise, taking a photo of the sheets with your phone is a workable solution. Despite being pretty good with Lego as a kid, it would have taken me a very long time to figure out the build of the Coach, the larger of the two ramps, without the step-by-step guide.
Looking at a complex diagram on your phone isn't ideal but it works, and to be fair, after assembling the Lite ramp once, you'll be able to slap it together without any instructions at all. Having the diagram on a laptop would be pretty convenient as well.
The Coach is a little trickier and the number of pieces can be a little daunting at first, particularly when many of them look similar and are often almost, but not quite, symmetrical. If you have that large sheet of paper in front of you, this isn't bad at all but on the phone, zooming into a large diagram, it's a little awkward, particularly if the image resets to the size of your screen. It would be great if MTB Hopper posted assembly videos of each ramp, but those would only be of limited use when you are actually in the throes of assembly. Diagrams and text, when well-executed, are much more useful in when working through a step-by-step process.
Everything fits together extremely well and I found myself amazed by the ingenuity of the system. The pieces click together precisely but not too tight. Once you have assembled everything, shock cords keep things from coming apart and add some cohesion to the system without compromising flex.
Once it's time to tear it all down, you'll need to refer to the diagrams again because turning it into a backpack is somewhat less than intuitive, and with the Coach, I have always gotten it together, but never as tidily as in photos or diagrams of how it should look.
You might be getting the impression that I'm fond of these portable launchers. These are well-designed products that work exactly as advertised. They are stable and suitable for many different surfaces and locations. Assembly of the larger Coach ramp is a little tricky at first but before long it gets much easier. The Lite, while somewhat less adaptable and modular is surprisingly fun and useful in all sorts of situations, particularly when you can find a spot with a good transition or where there is already a drop to give gravity a head start.
The impact on my skills has been surprisingly immediate as well. Even short sessions of twenty to thirty minutes have made a difference to how I feel on the trail on subsequent rides. These are great tools for deliberate practice and repeatability. It used to be that my buddies and I would do regular urban rides and jump off loading docks and anything we could find. Repeatability is a hugely important training tool and if you are riding trails top to bottom it's tough to get the confidence you get from doing the same jump over and over again.
These are not an insignificant investments however.The Lite ramp, which is very useful and fun, costs 550 CAD.* Obviously you could make yourself a little ramp, and with a little ingenuity, possibly make it adjustable, but the real gold here is being able to pack the ramps up for storage or transport as well as wear them on your bike and pedal into an ideal location.
The Coach costs 740 CAD* and it gives you many more options in terms of size and progression. It can be used with another coach ramp to make a table top and you can add an extension to get even more air. In terms of value, the Coach feels like the better bet if you can manage it, but the Lite, as Wyn Masters demonstrated in the video above, can give you lots of options, hours of enjoyment, and help your progression as a mountain biker. These are great products that are excellent for mountain bikers looking to add more air to their diet because really, don't we all want to fly?
*These Canadian prices include tax, making them appear significantly more expensive than they are. Sales tax in Canada ranges from 5 to 15%. Here in B.C. we pay 12% when both Provincial and Federal taxes are applied.