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!
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
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.
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.