Learn How to Drop on a Mountain Bike

mtb drop
Steve Bennett / Wikimedia / CC BY 2.5
Drops can be an intimidating skill to learn because the consequences for messing it up often result in a trip to the hospital

So in this post, we’re going to look at how to do drops without ending up in the hospital.

The general idea of doing a drop is that you want to prevent the front wheel from dropping once it reaches the edge. But there are multiple ways to do this, so let’s take a look at them.

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Small Drop Technique

Let’s talk about the technique used to do drops at slow speeds. The technique used to do drops at slow speeds is very similar to a manual. As you approach to drop with your chest lowered and arms bent, lower your hips, push your bars forward and get your weight behind your seat. Once your arms are fully extended, apply backward pressure on the bars to hold your front wheel level until your back wheel reaches the edge. It’s important to know you’re using your body weight to hold your front wheel up, and not pulling the bars to your chest with your arms. Once you feel your back wheel is going over the edge, extend your arms and legs and get ready to absorb the impact.

On a flat landing, aim to land on your back wheel first or with both wheels at the same time. Let me just clarify; you don’t need to know how to hold a manual to do a drop. We’re only holding the front wheel level using the manual techniques until our back wheel has cleared the edge.

Dropping at Speed

Let’s talk about bigger drops that require more speed. The hardest part about doing drops at slow speed is maintaining the manual position until your back wheel reaches the edge. When traveling at faster speeds, you do not need to hold the manual position for as long since your back wheel will reach the edge much quicker. This is why doing drops at higher speeds are actually sometimes easier. So in this situation, you don’t have to focus on holding your front wheel up as much as you would when you’re doing a slow drop. Simply pushing your bars out in front of you, getting your hips behind your seat and your chest lowered should be all you need.

In situations where there’s a nice transition, it’s best to try and match the angle of your wheels to the angle of the transition. It will sometimes mean landing with your front wheel first. But if that’s not something you’re comfortable with, just land both wheels at the same time. Flat landings can be rough on the bike and body, especially when you start going to big. It’s best to land with your back wheel first to help absorb the impact. You do this by extending your arms and legs in the air and then using your body to absorb the bronze an impact.

Bike Set-up

Now that you understand how to drop let’s talk about bike setup using a bike with a short stem and aggressive geometry that will allow you to lower your seat and will make learning how to drop much easier. If you are using a full suspension mountain bike make sure the rebound setting on your rear shock is not too fast.

Learning Safely

When you go to learn how to drop, start out by learning how to drop on something you can roll. Curbs and small edges are perfect spots to practice because it’s very difficult to get hurt and you can find them all over the place. Focus on learning to drop at slow speeds and landing with both wheel at the same time before progressing to bigger drops. When you work your way up to larger drops, be sure you find drops with a nice wide open landing which will give you a buffer zone if things go wrong.

Different Ways to Drop

There are many different ways to land a drop, and it all depends on the situation. Here are a few different situations that you might encounter.

On flat drops, you can go a little bit faster and try to match the angled travel to the angle of the transition. Sometimes you can use the terrain to your advantage. Quite often there are going to be objects in your way, and you’re going to have to bunny hop over the objects to get to a good landing. Drops with a downsloping takeoff take more effort to get your wheels level. With incorrect speed body positioning some drops just turn into rollers.

On drops with short run-ins, you may have to resort to a wheelie drop which involves a slight pedal kick to get your front wheel into the air before you drop. Once you get superb at nosing in, you can use the smallest of transitions to soften your landing.

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Norman Anthony Balberan

Anything out of the ordinary (?) Utopian dream, crashed and merged with unstable consequences causing mayhem...

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