9 May 2013

Getting air. The art of jumping your car (not very well)

I was brought up in a rural area criss-crossed with railway lines.  As such the lanes were peppered with hump-back bridges with a steep entry, sharp pivot at the top, and steep exit.

The temptation to 'get air' and jump these bridges was too much for my friends and I when we got our first cars.  But, try as I did I never really actually got 'air'.  The usual routine was to approach the bridge at speed, then worry about what might be on the other side, and slow a bit.  The car would thus rise to the top of its suspension travel but the wheels would just about remain on the ground.

In short I, and my friends, were rubbish at jumping.

The first time anyone actually did get air and jump high enough for the wheels to leave the ground was when a friend was in his dad's Rover 827i - and he broke the front spoiler.  His dad was away for the week so he shot down to the local Rover dealer who fitted a new spoiler and dad was none the wiser.  To my knowledge he still doesn't know - unless he reads this and works it out.

The first time I actually jumped so high that the wheels left the ground was on the journey home from work, having taken the call from my wife that her waters had broken.  It was in a BMW 318i SE company car and, as I approached the take-off ramp, I thought, "f*ck it," and didn't slow down.

It was brilliant.  The wheels were probably only an inch or so off the ground but the adrenalin rush was great.  The landing was fine too.  No major crashes, no broken parts.

Fast forward a few years and where I now live has a road between the house and my son's school that has two bridges.  One is the traditional railway bridge, and the other is a sharp little hump over a stream.  The bridge over the stream is just too steep to do anything other crawl over - it will trash any car you might be brave enough to attempt a jump in.

The railway bridge, however, is magnificent.  A nice, wide approach and exit, a decent levelling off and pivot.  I've jumped it once, in a Saab 9-3T.  And only then because I checked the other side before the attempt.  The jump was smooth and the landing perfect.  I enjoyed it immensely but haven't attempted it again.

Now, in my 40s I often ask my son if we should get 'air' over the bridge.  Even if he says yes it's only ever a half-hearted attempt that results in the car lifting on its suspension slightly.  Although I did once go over the bridge with our terrier on the passenger seat and she lifted 2 inches off the seat.  I felt bad doing that but I also cried with laughter.

Enough of my tales.  Have you ever jumped a bridge?