Don't just pull on the bars
The common advice is to pull on the bars before you go off a drop. Er, nope.
This guide should prove that the way you should lift the front wheel is by pushing with your legs from underneath, and that the pull on the bars that people recommend is actually more of a push!
Push not pull
The big fear on faster drops is that you’re going to go over the handlebars. What most people do here to stabilise themselves in the air is they pull the handlebars up. This neutralises the bike, and allows them to land both wheels together after the drop.
While this technique works, it only works at speed. It won’t work if you’re going too slow or if the drop is above a certain height. What you want to try to do instead is manual your front wheel up to neutralise your bike in the air.
The real crux with the manual is pushing with your legs, and once you’ve mastered it a whole world of control opens up to you.
You’ll be able to control a drainage ditch, a corner, a drop off, or even a jump. If you can’t manual yet, then all of those features probably feel a little awkward at times.
A manual in two parts
As you can see in the above video, as the rider goes off the drop he actually picks the bike up, keeping the front wheel from plunging forwards. What this will do, though, is it means that as the bike lands it will come down heavy. It also means that this rider can only do this if they have the speed to clear the obstacle. As soon as they’re going slower, this technique won’t work anymore.
Good manuals are a two-parter. The first part is throwing your body weight back, and the second part is controlling how long your front wheel stays in the air by pushing with your legs. The mistake people make here is they think they have to pull the bike up underneath them. If you’re manualing this way, you won’t be able to sustain it and it will always fall down straight away.
What you want to try to do instead is start off in a good, solid riding position, then as you throw your weight back you’ll have more momentum through a bigger range of motion. Once your front wheel is neutral, you can keep it there longer by pushing from underneath with your legs.
You’re basically trying to push the front wheel up by driving the back wheel forwards.
If you watch the rider in the video go off this drop, he actually pushes with his legs, similar to a manual. What this means is as his speed decreases he can still use this same technique to neutralise the drop, and doesn’t have any fear of going over the bars on the slow, awkward drops that seem to catch people out.
Once you start practicing this, you’ll see opportunities to do it everywhere. If you watch what the rider is doing here, he’s not lifting his front wheel over the gap. What he’s actually doing is starting off low which opens up a much wider range of motion. He then extends into the gap by pushing his back wheel down with his legs.
If you think you have this technique dialled already, why not try riding off a drop that you’re familiar with a bit slower. If it starts to get awkward, perhaps you need to work on your manuals?
There’s an app for that!
Dirt School’s free coaching app lets you see the right and wrong techniques in slo-mo.