Don't keep your weight back

Most people are told to keep their weight back, but there is a lot more to it than that.

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We’ll look at how the advice is taken out of context and applied in a rigid and off-balance way resulting in a loss of control. We can also show that a much more fluid movement allows the rider to maintain a neutral riding position throughout the entire obstacle.

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Bend your arms

Keeping your arms bent on the approach to a drop-off is vital to neutralising your body weight during the drop itself.

If you’ve ever been told to keep your weight back when it comes to rolling off drops, then what you’ve probably done is to straighten your arms and move away from the obstacle on the approach. This advice is generally applied in a rigid or off-balance way resulting in a loss of control. Basically you don’t have any room to neutralise the impact, and as your front wheel plunges off the edge, it then pulls your bodyweight with it.

In the above video you can see the rider coming in with their arms already straight. What this means is that as the ground changes shape in front of them, they have no room to move and end up feeling like they’re getting pulled over the handlebars. Of course what they might do here is ask a better rider for some advice and they’ll be told to keep their weight back.. and the whole process starts over again.

Low body position

A much better way of controlling a rolling drop like this, is to bend your arms and start off low. Keeping your arms bent on the approach gives you way more room to move.

You can see here that as the rider approaches, his arms are bent and his body is low. This means that as the front wheel suddenly drops away, he can neutralise his body weight by allowing his arms to fill the gap. As the rear wheel drops he’ll do the same with his legs.

Doing it this way means that you can ride more than one drop off in a row, because as you roll in to the next one, you’ll already be in the shape that allows you to control it.

A low body position is vital to neutralising your body weight because it opens up a range of motion that allows you to fill the gaps. If your arms are straight or your weight is off the back then you’ll never be able to neutralise the features that are coming towards you.

This is true when riding steeper terrain as well. The old phrase ‘keep your weight back’ is probably one of the most misunderstood bits of advice out there. If you look at any good rider, they almost never have their weight all the way back. If they do, then it’s for a split second as they pass over a trail feature that requires that range of motion. As soon as that feature is out of the way, they’ll return to their regular riding position and be ready for the next obstacle.

If you want to practice this technique, try going to a trail that has a few consecutive rolling drops. Does your body weight feel neutral from start to finish? Or as you progress, are you loosing control? Perhaps you need to get your weight lower rather than getting your weight back?

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Words: Andy Barlow