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 a 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.
3. Get Down
As you approach the edge of the drop, get into your ready position.
- 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, Bernadette Merriman and Shanna Powell. Comment below, we’d love your thoughts and questions.
Have fun by exploring new lines and finding things to drop from!