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 felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo!
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop...
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop falling down during each mtb ride. The class was small and super fun...and the instructors (Richard and Kris) were informative and dynamic. The clinic was small enough for each member to practice each learned skill and receive immediate feedback. I learned many new skills on that day and felt much more confident with my bike-body connection. I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo...the 55 mile route! Woohooo!! The next day, as I was road biking (training for the Solvang Double Century), I dodged a bullet on the Snake/Mulholland by applying my learned mtb skills--a long towing truck went over almost half of our lane on a blind turn as we were descending. Instead of fixating on the truck, I remembered the importance of looking for a clear path and keeping my eyes on where I want to go....Now I understand what people meant when they said that mtb will help improve my road riding skills too! I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn, and I look forward to the next clinic! ~ Uyen N.
I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails.
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I...
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails. There is one drop and one off camber downhill section I never have had the courage or skill to ride until today. It was so fun to ride them and not get off and walk. Richard La China and Courtney Cowan were fantastic instructors. Not only did I up my technical skills in Sedona it was also a ton of fun! ~Patty Elliott
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though...
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though I always knew I didn't really understand the mechanics of it, so it was a kind of "huck and hope" affair. The result was that I didn't land about 1 in 5 attempts. The clinic with Aaron was great! He explained the mechanics of how the bike is handled coming into, through and out of the jump and starts with individual small skills progressing step by step in a very manageable way (even for me, and I started this stuff at 45 and I'm not very coordinated). What I feel sets Aaron apart is his ability to communicate his explanations and demonstrate movements in a way that makes them easy to learn even for someone with little experience. He is also very patient and encouraging, which helps when one is starting out and struggling a little with some movements. I definitely intend to do more clinics with Ninja MBS. I feel like it will save me a lot of time and frustration as well as possibly a lot of money in medical bills! ~Jill M.
I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.