How to Lay Out For Ramps

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by Johnny Airtime


You'll need a tape measure such as a 300' tape or rolling tape measure, at least 300 - 500 feet of nylon string, upside down paint, an upside down paint sprayer, a hammer, two 16d nails and a helper.

First, when you get to location, decide on where you want the ramps by analyzing the approach line so you get the speed to clear the gap you intend to jump, continuing the line through the intended ramp position, all the way to where the bike will stop.

Work backwards from the end where you get stopped. Measure the amount of space you need to get stopped after the landing ramp. This measurement is from the wall or whatever defines the end, back to where the landing ramp meets the ground. Let's say it's 80 feet, for example. For FMX it might be less, distance jumping will be more.

Decide on where you want your line (your tire path) and where you want the ramps, then pull the nylon string from the end, through the intended ramp centerline, and toward the start. You may have a curved approach, but the line needs to be straight all the way through the ramps to the end where you'll stop. This string represents your ramp centerline. Use a helper at the other end of the string and carefully position it. Pound a 16d nail into the ground at the end where you'll stop and tie a loop in the end of the string, unless there's something better to tie off to. Loop the string around the nail. Pull it tight. No, that's not tight enough. Stretch the string really tight so the line is straight. Nylon string stretches and is very tough (If it breaks, tie it back together and re-stretch it). Put another nail in the ground toward the start, well before the launch ramp's position, and tie off to it, unless you can pull the string all the way to a chain link fence or something else good to tie off to at ground level. After tying the string off, lift it off the ground and release it, popping it like a chalk line, to make it as straight as possible. Sight down it to make sure it's truly straight. Rocks on the ground might try to divert the string. Lift it over them so the string has a straight path.

Take your upside down paint can, put it in your upside down paint sprayer and make some marks. Here are the marks you should make.

First, paint a centerline right over the string and on the ground under where the landing ramp will be positioned.

Continuing on, paint a dashed line through the ramp centerline, painting right over the string. Make sure the string doesn't get moved by dotards sporting errant clod-hoppers. Paint the dashed line through the launch ramp location, and continue the line for at least 100 feet past it toward the start. This line makes it great for approaching the ramp in a turn. You can see the centerline and blend into it right before you hit the ramp.

That's the centerline. Now let's do the layout marks for the ramps so we know exactly where to place them.

First measure your stopping distance from the end back toward the start. Perpendicular to the string and centered on it, paint a 12" long line on the ground to represent the bottom end of the landing ramp. Don't paint over the tape measure.

Measure along the string the length of the landing ramp and make another 12" mark across the string to show where the high end of the landing ramp is going to go. If your landing ramp "footprint" is 30 feet long, your marks will be 30 feet apart.

Measure along the string the length of the protective apron. Make another mark on the ground across the string to represent the beginning of the protective apron.

If you'll be working your way out in distance during practice, you'll measure and mark several ramp gaps leading up to the longest one you intend to jump.

Measure from the 2nd mark, which indicates the high end of the landing ramp, back to where the launch ramp will be. You might measure 40 feet, for example, then paint a 12" mark on the ground perpendicular to the string. This represents a 40 foot ramp gap. The protective apron isn't included in ramp gap. Paint "40" next to the line with the USD paint.

Go 10 more feet. Paint a mark. Paint "50" next to it.

Go 10 more. Paint a mark. Paint "60" next to it.

These measurements are examples of some FMX distances. For longer distance work, the numbers will be larger, of course, and there will be more marks for a wider range of ramp gaps leading up to the final one.

For a 140 foot ramp gap jump (if you're already used to your ramp to 100 feet of ramp gap from previous jumping on that ramp setup), you might set up your marks from 80 to 140 feet of ramp gap in 10 foot increments.

You can actually start from nothing with the ramps butted up together and work out in 10 foot increments as far as you need to go. You could also start with the protective apron in place with a 20 foot ramp gap and work out from there in 10 foot increments.

After using speedos for so long, I lost all desire to just huck things by the seat of the pants. I need to know real numbers for how fast I need to go off the ramp. It's just not worth it to miss, not even once. In FMX it's different I guess, but for more distance related work, a speedometer is highly recommended.

Let's say your biggest intended jump at this location is a 60 foot ramp gap. From the mark that represents the high end of the launch ramp, measure back along the string the length of the launch ramp. Make a mark representing where the beginning of the launch ramp will be when the ramps are set at the final gap.

Remove the string. Roll it up for future use. Pull the two nails as well.

Now you're ready to set up your ramps. 

Start with the low end of the landing ramp. Put the low edge of the ramp on the first 12" line you painted, centering the landing ramp section on the ramp centerline. Be very careful with placement on this first piece, because landing ramps are heavy and everything is built off of this first piece. Continue building the ramp back toward the start. Make sure it stays centered on the painted line as you go. Add the protective apron.

Set up your launch ramp close to where you want it. Get manpower and carry it into position - launch ramps are light in weight. Set the high end of the ramp directly above the 40' mark. Center the entire ramp on the ramp centerline marks.

You can also paint the ground with upside down paint around the four corners of both ramp setups, in case a ramp needs to be placed quickly or for security reasons.

If you can help it, try not to set up with a heavy wind blowing perpendicular to the string. It will make the string curve. If you do have to set up in the wind, you might have to use somebody to physically hold the string at certain increments, sighting it in lengthwise and then holding the string in place here and there with rocks or whatever, to make it perfectly straight along its length.

The string technique is one way. It works for reasonable distances up to about 150 footers. If you ever get into big distance work beyond 150 feet, surveying equipment and lasers are better.


For FMX, the landing ramps tend to be super wide and the gaps tend to be super narrow. You can use a low tech approach when you're working with a wide landing ramp. I walk over to the approach before the launch ramp, squat down and sight along the left side edge of the launch ramp to the landing. Then I move over and sight along the right edge. Use one eye to sight it in. Balance the alignment on both sides. Then step back and walk quickly up the launch ramp, sighting an imaginary line through the launch ramp as you walk up it. Looking over the top of the ramp, as you walk up it you'll start to see the top of the landing. As it comes into view and you're envisioning the centerline of the launch ramp, you should see the center of the landing ramp.

The low-tech technique would be foolish at large distances unless the landing ramp is super wide. I wouldn't recommend it for any jumping with a narrow landing ramp.

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