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Johnny Airtime. Photo: Charles Ellenberger


You have had a hard time getting the information you need in the past to properly report on motorcycle jumping. Football is no problem, there are many who can prognosticate 'til the cows come home in that sport. You can find plenty of people to give you an earful of undisputed statistics on basketball, baseball, boxing or ping pong. In motorcycle jumping, however, who are you going to believe - some sarsaparilla selling huckster? If you want to know how far a jumper jumped, you can't find a reliable record of it anywhere in the world. That will be changing now.  

This media page will give you the lowdown on jumping: ramps and their shapes, how jumps are measured,  jumping styles, categories of jumping records and what kind of bikes make the best jumpers.


A ramp is a structure with an angle designed to cause something to go up or down. Ramps are found everywhere. Ramps make many jobs easier, as the builders of the great pyramids would attest. Wedges that hold doors open are ramps, and the design of a ramp is important for each job. Volume controls on many forms of electronic equipment are often represented in ramp shaped symbols. Even an ordinary screw is basically a ramp wrapped around a pole. Let's face it - it's a ramp world!

In ramp to ramp jumping, you've got three important pieces of ramp structure: 1) Launch ramp, 2) Protective Apron, and 3) Landing ramp.


The launch ramp is the first one the rider hits; it's the ramp that sends him into the air. The shape of this ramp is critical. The rider must design his ramp shape to be the best it can be for this particular application. He must build it with good engineering and simple component parts.

The shape of the launch ramp is very important. A bad ramp shape can make you or break you. The wedge ramps of yesteryear are going to become a thing of the past.

Launch ramps can be many shapes, including wedge, bi-angle or two stage, tri-angle or three stage, quadrangle or four stage, incremental ramps, true radius ramps, decreasing radius elliptical transition and increasing radius elliptical transition. There are even increasing to decreasing radius ramps, or decreasing to increasing radius ramps. Each ramp has a different set of characteristics.


Any jumper jumping without a protective apron is considered a fool. A protective apron is usually an approximately flat ramp section that is there to save a jumper's life if he comes up short. The protective apron doesn't have to be flat, but it sits at a flatter angle than the landing ramp itself. It is not included in the ramp gap measurement; it's considered "invisible" and the rider must clear it to be successful, especially on jumps where a specific ramp gap must be cleared.

Landing on a protective apron is no picnic. It's a flatter surface than the landing ramp, so it's a hard impact. Whatever pain a rider experiences when landing on a protective apron is nothing compared to the pain he would have felt if the protective apron was not there.

Sometimes the protective apron gets so huge it covers 1/2 the obstacle, which takes away from the perception of danger. Some jumpers use a 50 foot long protective apron for 120 foot jumps, which is considered going overboard. Other jumpers have 20', 16, 12', 10', 8', 4', and some have no protective apron.

For jumpers who use speedometers, a protective apron 20 feet long is considered pretty good and 16 feet is too. 12 foot protective aprons are on the short side, but anything shorter than that is getting really, really short, which is not safe. This is for jumps in the 100 to 200' range.

For 200 to 300 foot jumps, a protective apron might be 30 or 40 feet long for a rider with a speedometer, and 50 feet plus for those without.

Jumpers who don't use speedometers might need twice as much protective apron for an equal amount of safety, so it takes away from the perceived danger. Unfortunately, jumping ramp to ramp without a speedometer is not very professional, and the tendency is to crash more than necessary from coming up short and going long. Any professional jumper should be using a speedometer that is designed for jumping.

Jumpers who jump ramp to ramp for any respectable distance without speedometers need an extra long landing ramp and an extra long protective apron because they are not always very accurate in distance.


A landing ramp is the ramp the rider lands on. The shape of a landing ramp is not as important as the shape of the launch ramp. It does, however, have to intercept the rider from the trajectory imposed by the launch ramp. The angle of the landing ramp has to be somewhere in the ballpark of what really works. Some riders have set up landing ramps as steep as the launch ramp, which is only good for short distances. The landing ramp will be about 10 degrees flatter than the launch ramp on a decent ramp to ramp setup.

The rider should land in the sweet spot of the landing ramp. This is usually about 5 feet to 20 feet down the landing ramp. Overjumping and landing 2/3 of the way down the landing ramp makes for a really hard landing. When the rider lands too far down the landing ramp, things can happen such as: crashing from the sheer impact of the landing; the rider can loop out (the bike flips over backwards with the front end too high) due to longer-than-expected hang time; the rider can get the front end up too high, then land sitting down as a result, getting spinal compression; the bike can suffer major damage; the impact can damage the ramp, and other problems.

Riders unable to accurately hit their mark are physically punished. Those who can consistently hit their mark under varying conditions are rewarded.


There are three measurements that are handy to have on typical jumps, and that is, in order of importance, 1) Ramp gap, 2) Total jump distance, 3) Clear gap.


Everyone doing a jump wants to tell you their total jump distance. More important and telling is the size of the ramp gap. The ramp gap is where the obstacle goes. The obstacle should not extend beyond the ramp gap, under the launch ramp or the landing ramp. The ramp gap is like the high bar in track & field, where you have to clear the bar - it doesn't matter how much you clear the bar, only that you cleared it. Stuffing cars, etc. under the landing ramp or the launch ramp is considered cheating, and those cars outside of the ramp gap will not be counted toward a record jump.

Every category of jumping has criteria.

The ramp gap is the horizontal measurement from the high end of the launch ramp to the beginning of the downside of the landing ramp. The protective apron is considered "invisible" and is only there to save the rider's life if he comes up short, as he surely will from time to time. If he comes up short, he can land on the protective apron. If he lands on the protective apron, it's a hard landing, but he can ride it out. It's possible that he will crash. Again, it's there to save his life if he comes up short.


A jumper will most often tell you his total jump distance when asked how far a jump was.

When a motorcycle lands on a landing ramp, it leaves a mark. That mark is oval shaped. One end of the oval is farthest from the launch ramp. We don't care about that end. We want to find the edge of the oval mark that is closest to the launch ramp. The total jump distance is measured from the top of the landing ramp to the point on the oval shaped tire mark closest to the launch ramp.

Some individuals watching a jump will mistakenly think a jumper is jumping farther than he is. That is because the motorcycle has two wheels and some jumpers have a difficult time keeping the front end down. Usually, when the rear wheel hits the landing ramp, the rider has made the mark the jump will be measured on. However, the front end is still in the air. It slaps down. That is where untrained bystanders sometimes think the landing happened, which, at that speed, could be 25 feet farther down the ramp. Essentially, the jump is measured just like long jumping in track & field; it's measured to the nearest mark.


Spectators want to know how far the clear gap was. They sometimes mistake ramp gap for clear gap. The clear gap is the gap between the launch ramp and the protective apron; the gap where there's nothing to save the rider.

The clear gap can be quite small when a jumper doesn't use a speedometer and has to construct a large protective apron. The jumps with the biggest clear gap have an appeal all their own, even though the jumper isn't concerned with clear gap; he's more concerned with ramp gap.

Jumpers eager to make their jumps look bigger want to remove protective apron length.

Jumpers eager to live forever make a really large protective apron.

Jumpers who have to pay their own bills, transport their own ramps and don't want to die quick build a protective apron somewhere between "long" and "short".


Click on the hyperlink below to look at a vast array of ramp jumping record categories, but come back and read on!

World Records

As you can see, records are in all different categories. You can't group all jumps into one category, all-out distance. Each category requires a distinct set of skills.


Each rider comes from a different riding background.

Some were only street riders before they became jumpers. Street riders lack overall riding skill, not to mention jumping skill. They are very one dimensional.

The next step up is flat trackers. Riders who have flat track racing experience tend to jump on wedge or bi-angle ramps and have a lack of style in the air; they usually have a hard time keeping the front end down, lacking air sense and experience in dragging the rear brake in mid-air. These riders were prevalent in the 1970s.

Desert Racers are highly capable distance jumpers. They thrive at high speed across ragged terrain, so the high speeds associated with ramp to ramp distance jumping are right up the alley of a desert racer. These riders can adapt quickly and appropriately to unexpected things coming at them at really high speed. They generally lack turning and braking skill compared to a motocrosser, due to the ever-changing terrain over a long desert race and a lack of repetition on any given obstacle.

Motocrossers (supercrossers included) are the best qualified for ramp to ramp motorcycle jumping. They have the most experience in the air and they're used to working in highly technical and cramped environments on familiar and ever-changing courses, so they have lots of repetitious experience doing things like floating through the air, pulling the clutch and dragging the rear brake to keep the front end down before landing in a rut berm on an off-camber hairpin turn. Motocrossers have deep experience and can adapt to anything as conditions change. Motocrossers are the very best jumpers of any motorcycle riding discipline. They have the most skill, the best style, and they make the best ramp to ramp jumpers. If they are lacking in any area, it's in a lack of experience riding at high speed. Motocrossers need to get on a ramp to ramp motorcycle that is geared up and get accustomed to the higher speeds of ramp to ramp distance jumping.

Freestylers are jumpers. They exude incredible skills for throwing tricks in mid-air. The best freestylers come from pro class motocross racing.


Each rider, with his different style and experience, will make a decision as to which bike would be the ultimate jumping machine.

The best bike for jumping has a combination of good features:

Light weight compared to other motorcycles


Reliability under the incredible punishment of ramp to ramp jumping


Long and plush suspension travel for big jumps


Reliable shifting with a short shifter throw


Bulletproof clutch


Strong engine with a wide powerband


Strong forks to resist bending


Sound footpeg mount design to prevent bending and breaking

When the jumper finds a bike that fills the bill, he begins to modify it to suit him. A good distance jumper will usually start off with a bike like the Honda CR500, then add a speedometer, preferred handlebar bend and taller gearing for higher speeds at lower rpm. Taller gearing means that you replace the countershaft sprocket with a larger one, and/or replace the rear sprocket with a smaller one. This makes the rear wheel turn faster for a given rpm in a given gear. The downside to tall gearing is that the power is spread over a wider range of speed in each gear, but on a Honda CR500, there is so much power on tap that the taller gearing makes the bike feel like a fast 250 with a super wide powerband. The jumper might add other modifications such as stiffer shock and fork springs, as well as modified suspension valving to control the rate at which the suspension compresses upon landing and to control the speed at which the suspension rebounds. Most jumpers find it necessary to get their jumping bike sprung and valved for optimum performance.

Keep up with the latest by reading the Air Times! Measure your record jumps using the ASM (Airtime Standards of Measurement)! Look at ATA Record Categories for where your record jump fits! Visit the Ramp to Ramp Motorcycle Jumping Message Board!