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You’re smoking down some sweet single track and right as you nail that last high-speed corner you see your friends seemingly float down a steep drop. You choose the b-line and cruise around this wall of mystery and then start hammering like mad to catch up with your friends … sound familiar?
Safely riding off a drop is a mountain-biking skill that will instantly open up new lines and allow you to have even MORE fun on your bike. With a bit of knowledge and some progressive practice, you will be the one making others envious as you gracefully and confidently ride off the drops.
Before we get started, just a quick note to point out there are a few different ways to hit drops (stamp and send, squash, huck, whip, etc.). We’ve outline the 8 steps to get you started with simple technique that works just about anywhere. Look for more articles from us in the future with advanced ways to have even more fun with drops. Also, check the video at the bottom of this post for a couple variations.
1. Scout it Out
Take note of the condition of the drop, the steepness and roughness of the landing, and what the terrain would be like if you overshoot or undershoot the landing. This might mean taking the time to get off your bike and check out a drop the first time you see it. It’s always better to scope out your line than it is to risk an injury that will take you out for the rest of the season. We also recommend starting with a small drop, say 1-2 ft before progressing to anything larger.
2. Keep ‘er moving!
Based on your scouting observations from step 1, choose a safe speed. If you’re not sure how fast to go, watch some other riders go over the drop. If you are going too slow your front wheel will dive as soon as it rolls off the edge and toss you over the bars. Too fast and you might overshoot the landing. With time and practice, you will get a feel for how to set your speed.
Center your weight over your pedals (think heavy feet) and keep your hands light. Relax your grip on the handlebars.
Bend your knees slightly – remember, you legs should work as additional suspension for the bike.
Keep your arms bent and relaxed.
Get your chest low. Think low and centered (not necessarily back).
Look at the landing.
4. Get Back
Just as your front wheel reaches edge, un-weight the front wheels and shoot your hips back. Lightly lifting up on the handlebar.
Step 3 and 4 come together quickly to create an explosive L shaped movement – DOWN and BACK. This is a similar movement to doing a manual, but you don’t need to perfect a manual to successfully hit a drop. You just need to nail that motion of DOWN and BACK.
5. Keep it Level
Keep your front wheel level with the take-off until the back wheel leaves the ramp.
A quick note on speed, the slower you are going the further back you must have your weight to keep your front wheel from diving while the rear wheel is still on the ramp.
6. Match the Landing
Re-center your weight right after the rear wheel leaves the drop so as you can match your bike to the angle of landing. If you land too far back, you quickly start to loose the ability to control the front of the bike.
7. Land Quiet
Prepare your legs to soak up the landing (remember, extra suspension!). Maintain a slight bend in the knees, don’t lock them out straight, so you can take up the landing. Think SHHHHH!!! Landing should be smooth and quiet. Without your bike, try jumping straight up and coming down a LOUD as possible. Then do it again and try to land as QUIETLY as possible. See (or hear) the difference? We want that same quiet landing off a drop!
8. Roll Out
Wahoo! You just successfully left the ground and landed – now it’s time to look down the trail and prepare for whatever obstacle comes next. Eyes up and looking ahead, body back centered over the bike in ready position.
In the video above watch 4 Ninja instructors making easy work of this small drop at Reeb Ranch in Brevard, North Carolina. Can you spot the subtleties in each of their drop techniques? In order of appearance; Cory Rimmer, Hannah Levine, Shanna Powell and Bernadette Merriman. Comment below, we’d love your thoughts and questions.
Have fun by exploring new lines and finding things to drop from!
Richard La China is a Professional Mountain Bike racer, USAC Certified Cycling Coach and a IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
Had a great class Oct 11. Kris and Richard were very helpful and knowledgeable. They made things fun and easy...
Had a great class Oct 11. Kris and Richard were very helpful and knowledgeable. They made things fun and easy going, even while rolling you off the the lunch table bench. Came away with a bit more confidence which I have already put into practice. I really appreciated the review of what was covered in the class in the follow up email. Looking forward to taking the Jan intermediate class at Balboa, hopefully it will be up for registering soon. In the mean time I have a lot to work on. ~Linda Peterson
Don’t hesitate, sign up for the next skills clinic in your area!
My adult son and I participated in the "Fundamentals" camp on Saturday at Hildebrand Ranch in Denver, Colorado. We were...
My adult son and I participated in the "Fundamentals" camp on Saturday at Hildebrand Ranch in Denver, Colorado. We were both very pleased with the clinic and would highly recommend it to anyone who has recently started riding full suspension mountain bikes. We have already been back out on the single-track trails practicing what we learned in the clinic. Aaron and Richard did a great job breaking down all the fundamentals and honestly amazed at the impact on my riding. Still have a lot to work on but if I follow the instructions I can improve my riding. We are both scheduled to attend a two day clinic in Santa Fe with Richard and looking forward to taking our riding to the next level. If you want to improve your skills, don't hesitate to sign up for the next skills clinic in your area. ~Dan Mitchell
My brain is still swelling with knowledge one month later.
I had a great time at a 3 day camp in Big Bear, CA and my brain is still swelling...
I had a great time at a 3 day camp in Big Bear, CA and my brain is still swelling with knowledge one month later. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleased with the professionalism and detail that Richard and his team brought to camp. They not only take the time to teach you great MTB skills, but when and why you should use them. They begin with the fundamentals skills and reinforce those skills throughout the camp, which I found quite helpful. The skills progress quickly and we covered a lot of ground in three days. I was able to do a few skills I had never really tried before by the end of camp. I recommend highly and plan to attend another camp in the future. ~Joey W.
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray S.
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