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 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.
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. ~Alexandra Rose Brysiewicz
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about...
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about 8 people with 3 Ninja Pro's. Richard and the instructors were attentive and always helpful. The course had you work on your base fundamentals, advanced skills, along with bike setup,maintenance, nutrition ,This was a very comprehensive course. After learning the skills, we'd hit the trails and the training didn't stop. Instructors would get to a technical portion of a trail and have us all stop and they would show us how to use the skills we just learned. Everyone learned at their own pace. So no one felt pressured to keep up with others. Having fun was always top priority. Arriving back home, I was practicing all the skills i've learned like an excited little kid with a new bike. I hope to take this course again when they come back to this side of the country -- it was well worth it! ~Vic D.
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.