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.
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work...
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work on improving our skills with their feedback. Next time I would definitely do the intermediate clinic or do a one-on-one session. Richard is super patient and provides great feedback and riding tips. ~ Lisa D.
My speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved!
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going...
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved. I would not have attempted 50% of the drops and jumps on the course prior to participating in the clinic, and my overall time would have been much slower. The first two hours of the class (int/adv Sedona) made the whole thing more than worth it, and the rest of the two days seemed like a bonus. Both Courtney and Richard were encouraging and patient, and both had that classic mountain biker charm and humor ready when the moment called for it. Overall a very enjoyable and valuable weekend. For reference, I participate in amateur XC endurance races (with no hope of ever coming close to winning anything) and have been riding for about two years. I was worried before taking the class that I would not be skilled enough, but the int/adv was appropriate for my skill level. If you're worried, just go for it anyway. There is a good mix of people and everyone was very friendly! ~Alana Bencivengo
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Heather B.
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