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 bodies 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.
They’ve helped build my confidence and competence!
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a few seasons of cyclocross under my belt. I was a novice mountain biker with just enough confidence to get myself into trouble on the trails. I started by attending the free Tuesday night mountain bike workouts at Balboa Park, led by Coach Richard. While these are primarily geared toward building fitness, we learned some skills tips and I met some cool folks. Since then I've taken the intermediate and advanced skills clinics, as well as raced a couple times. Coaches Richard and Kris are great at instruction, which is not easy. Most great riders cannot teach others to do the same, but these two are exceptional at it. They've helped build my confidence and competence. In fact they have taken time during weekday and weekend rides to help give me pointers! I joined Team Ninja to train and race with this fun crew and would highly advise you check them out! ~Henry H.
All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic.
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed,...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed, and specific, so that I could start to get the feel of how to work effectively on trails instead of asphalt. Jeff (a former elite cyclocross racer) also joined us and added some solid hints and comments. All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic. ~ Mike Sofen
I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more …
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never had any formal training. I just finished the weekend skills course in Irvine, CA with Richard, Randy and Daniel as the instructors. They are excellent instructors breaking every fundamental skill down, demonstrating the skill and then evaluating your practice runs with constructive criticism before applying the skills on the trails. Even though I have been riding single track for a few years, I quickly found out that I have been doing many things if not everything wrong, which means the people I ride with are doing it wrong too. Richard, Randy and Daniel are very patient and professional encouraging every student no matter what the age or gender (our class had males and females from late 20s to late 50s). They went over everything from bike set up, basic position, turning, high speed cornering, wheels lifts to you name it. If you have a desire to improve your skill then Ninja Mountain Bike Performance are the team to go to! I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more of their camps in the future. ~Kyle Kimm
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed....
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed. The preparation and lesson planning is great. Instructors seem to be everywhere providing input and excellent advice. Both groups had a wide range of skilled riders, but the team made everyone welcome and everyone learned important new skills. This training makes everyday more fun on my bike. DAY 2: Just rode one of my "regular" morning workout routes. 2 PR's - and I thought I was just cruising. I was making no effort to ride fast... just smooth like I was taught. ~Peter O.
….and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)!
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a great environment for learning . Your professionalism, skill and experience in teaching, choice of terrain to teach in, and enthusiasm all made this a totally worthwhile experience. I would do it again and again as you never stop learning. ....and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)! ~James Crawford
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.