Want to learn how to ride a drop? Trying to improve your drop form? Start by reading through last week’s article on “How to ride a drop“.

As much as I’d like to think you are now all experts at riding drops after reading the “How to” article, I know that’s likely not the case. I know this because riding drops with good form requires knowledge PLUS practice, muscle memory and experience. Today let’s dive into some of the most common drop-riding mistakes (and how to avoid them) to help you troubleshoot and improve your drops!

1. Grabbing The Brakes

Riding off a drop can be nerve racking. When we are nervous we do stupid things like grabbing the brakes at the wrong time! (Guilty as charged.) You do not want to grab your brakes right before riding off a drop. When you do this, your suspension compresses (aka dips down), which means your bike is working against you as you try to loft your front wheel up.

Braking at the last second can also cause you to land short, so be sure to set your speed prior to reaching the edge of the drop. If you set your speed in advance, you can stay off those brakes as you ride off the drop and safely land in the intended landing zone.

Also be sure to avoid grabbing your brakes right after landing. Give your wheels a chance to both come back to earth before touching those brakes.

While we don’t want you to grab your brakes at the wrong moment, it is always important to cover your brakes at all times when riding. Covering your brakes simply means having one finger resting on each brake lever, so you are prepared to stop yourself or control your speed if necessary. In summary, cover those brakes so you are ready for anything, but stay off the brakes on both takeoff and landing!

2. Landing Wrong Wheel Down

If you have a descending landing, you want to land either both wheels at the same time or front wheel first. You do NOT want to land rear wheel first on a descending landing because your front wheel will have even further to drop to meet the dirt, which can result in the front of your bike slamming down (and you getting jolted!).

3. Dropper Post Up (Ouch)

Don’t make the mistake of riding off a drop with your dropper post up! Having your seat up significantly limits your ability to explode DOWN and back because it’s in the dang way. Always drop your seat before hitting a drop.

If you aren’t familiar with a dropper post – this is a type of seat that has a lever on your handlebars that allows you to change the height of your seat as you are riding. We aren’t in the business of selling bike products but if there is one bike upgrade that is absolutely 100% worth the money for everyone, it’s having a dropped post installed on your bike. More on that another day.

4. Pulling Up

As you ride off a drop, you do NOT want to be pulling back on the bars, tugging with bent arms to try and get the front wheel lofted in the air. When you do this, your chest is going to come towards the bars which results in all your weight at the front of your bike. When this happens, you’ll nose dive off the drop because you haven’t sent your weight back to counteract the drop.

Instead of pulling, shoot your hips straight back and lightly hang off the handlebars. Your arms should straighten and you should not be pulling back on the bars.

5. Too Far Back: The Rear Tire Rub

When doing the down/back motion, you want to be very careful not to go so far back that you touch your bum to the rear tire. If this happens before you’ve left the drop, your rear wheel will stall out sending you flying (not in a good way).

To avoid this, you want to be very familiar with your range of motion on the bike so you know how far back is too far back. It can be really helpful to practice moving around on the bike so you have better spacial awareness of where the wheel is.

6. Too Fast, Too Slow

If you are going too fast on a drop, you might overshoot the landing or miss the landing zone completely. Depending on the terrain, this could spell disaster.

Riding too slow off a drop on the other hand, may result in you landing too short and either casing the landing or hitting an obstacle you were trying to ride over.

So how fast should you be going? That really depends on the run in, the drop, the landing area, the height, and so on and so forth. Over time and with safe, progressive practice, you’ll find yourself being able to recognize the correct speed!

7. Just Wing It!

If you don’t know exactly how you plan to ride off a drop, then today isn’t your day to ride that feature. You need to be confident in your abilities and know, with pretty solid certainty, that you know you can ride it.

Whatever you do, don’t “do nothing”! You don’t want to go flying through the air like a paperweight. If you land standing tall on the back with straight arms and legs – you’re going to have a very bumpy landing.

Similarly, if you keep rolling up to a drop and stopping before the edge because of fear, that is likely your body’s way of saying “nope, not today!”. And that’s okay!

8. No Recovery

One of the most common mistakes when riding a drop is forgetting to recover and get back into your ready position after landing! Before you’ve even landed, you should be considering what’s next on the trail and as soon as you are back on solid ground you should be in your ready position ready to navigate whatever is next on the trail. Do you need speed for another drop? Do you need to drop into an aggressive low ready position to navigate a rock garden? Do you need to shift into an easier gear and start pedaling to make it up a hill? Whatever you do – make sure you recover and get your head back in the game trail!

If you’d like to learn more and practice dropping in a safe, controlled environment with real-time feedback, join us for a 2-Day Camp or Intermediate/Advanced Clinic.

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