Do you find yourself walking around a steep rock on the trail thinking, “How the heck do I ride down that?”. Have you had the very unpleasant experience of getting thrown forward while trying to roll down a short steep transition? If you answered yes to either of these, this is the skill for you! We present to you – The Roll Down.
The Roll Down is a save-your-you-know-what skill that that can be used on terrain that drops rapidly (up to a certain size – more on that in a moment), and when you want to keep your wheels on the ground. This is a descending skill that is typically done while riding at a slow(er) speed. The Roll Down allows you to stay in control, cool and calm.
Let’s get rolling!
1. Size it up
The Roll Down is not a one-size-fits-all skill. There is a limit to where you can use The Roll Down. The Roll Down technique can be used on a steep transition where your chain ring and bottom bracket will clear the obstacle. If the steep transition is too tall, your chain ring may clip the obstacle, hanging up your bike and sending you flying over the bars. The Roll Down is NOT the right tool for the job is we are talking about riding off a 10ft cliff.
To test your clearance and determine if The Roll Down is the right skill for the job, get off your bike and while holding onto your handlebars try rolling it down the obstacle with level pedals (to mimic how your feet will be positioned when riding). Does your chain ring clear the feature? If yes, you’re golden! If not, you are going to want to use a different, high speed skill to ride this feature.
When you first start riding steep transitions, you may want to get in the habit of getting off your bike to check your clearance as described above. Don’t worry, before you know it you’ll be able to “size up” a feature as you approach on your bike so you can flow right over and continue down the trail.
If you see a steep transition ahead on the trail, approach the feature in a ready position at a jogging or walking speed. You’ll want to have your speed set before you reach the transition and you should not be breaking or pedaling as you roll down. Stay relaxed in your ready position and be sure you have even weight in your pedals.
3. Roll Up
If the transition has a slight step up at the front, be sure to lighten the front wheel to allow it to easily roll onto the top of the object. Being relaxed in the arms and legs is mega-important. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
As you reach the top of the transition, raise up into a high ready position to look at the feature – – and look to see what’s on the other side! We sometimes refer to this as the “peak”. Don’t like what you see? This is your last chance to bail. If you do not want to ride the transition, apply your breaks and firmly plant a foot. If all looks good and you are ready to ride the transition, it’s time for the next step – the PUSH!
At the exact moment your front wheels start to roll over the transition, push your handlebars down AND forward. You should already be in a high ready position which gives you plenty of range of motion in your arms for this movement. This should be a quick and explosive movement that will push your front wheel forward and down the back side of the rocks while simultaneously allowing your weight to be back behind your saddle. Think of this as you telling your bike exactly where you want it to go – show that bike you mean business!
If you find yourself being pulled down by your front wheel (you’ll feel like a bobble head doll), you need to either push more explosively, or you need to adjust the timing to better line up with the edge of the obstacle.
As your rear wheel transitions down the backside of the obstacle, bring your weight forward in order to return even weight to both of your wheels. Keep your head up and looking ahead. This recovery step is SUPER important. If you stay in the “push” position (aft on the bike), your arms would be locked out, preventing you from properly absorbing even the smallest rocks or obstacles on the trail below the drop. You also run the risk of looping over backwards if you don’t quickly recover back to your ready position – yikes!
So there you have it – no more walking around steep transitions or getting caught by surprise. As you learn The Roll Down, start by practicing on something small with a smooth exit such as a curb. From there, build up gradually to larger obstacles. Happy rolling, Ninjas!
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
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.
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park. We both race and ride at a very fast pace. Getting faster for us is about making sure our fundamentals are solid and we can continue to use those fundamentals to smooth out our flow to increase our skills and confidence. Richard has a way of breaking down all the information to make it very understandable and usable. My son and I have been to other skills classes before and knew what to expect, mostly. Richard was able to coach us to better form riding high speed flat corners! We brushed up on and cleaned up some less helpful habits. We really worked to understand the how and why behind some skills that we already had but didn't know we that we did. All in all we had a blast! Richard was fun and informative. Taylor was helping Richard out for the day. It was fun to watch her demo some skills at speed. Her input throughout the day was informative and light hearted. It was a fun day on the bike with some great people and coaching. This will not be our last Ninja training clinic! Thanks for everything Richard and Taylor! ~Eric Zubick
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding skills (because I had), I began searching for a mountain bike skills camp. I wanted to attend a camp that would push me to be a better rider, but I needed it to be in a great location on actual trails. After a fair amount of searching, I decided that spending a weekend at a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills camp would be perfect. It didn't hurt that the camp was in Big Bear. The condensed review: It took only a few hours of trail riding with Richard and Daniel to drastically change my riding for the better. The long review: The camp was broken into morning and afternoon sessions, separated by an amazing lunch on each day. The morning sessions were, in general, based on technique and riding isolated technical features. The afternoon sessions functioned more like a capstone; we rode incredible trails, like Fall Line and Skyline, and put our newly-learned skills into action. Richard and Daniel were attentive to both the class as a whole as well as each individual. The pacing of each individual lesson (I'm a teacher, so I viewed each piece as a lesson) was wonderful. There were constant checks for understanding as well as incremental assessments of our skills on the bike. We were never once, all weekend, bogged down in repetition, nor were we rushed through a skill or concept. I was blown away by the sheer volume of skills that were taught in such an easy-to-grasp manner. Of course, we were not standing by our bikes the whole time listening to a lecture: we were actively riding while Daniel and Richard looked on with critical eyes. Richard was clear in his introduction...
G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area.
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know. It's a non intimidating environment where mistakes are welcomed so corrections can be made. I own G2 Bike is Aliso Viejo and this clinic has been ran out of the Aliso Woods area and when I interviewed the clients they had all but great things to say. None arrogant instructors and easy to follow steps. The biggest bang for many was meeting new area riders at their skill level, gaining confidence, and getting the bike set up and fit properly. G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area. Thanks Richard for all you do for the MTB community! ~ AJ S.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.