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Drops and Rollovers

Words by Seb Kemp.
July 30th, 2012

Drops and rollovers are familiar trail obstacles to mountain bikers. However, there is some mystery and myth in how we should safely approach and commit to drops and rollovers.

Because Darren Butler and Seb Kemp were either injured or busy running a successful coaching company we enlisted the help of Mason Mashon and Ken Doraty as the follow up to the first episode in our Hey Coach series. Mason Mashon is an NSMB team member, photographer and has worked for Whistler Blackcomb and the Summer Gravity Camps for several years now. Ken Doraty is a full-time skills coach, either skiing or biking. He is extremely experienced, knowledgeable and passionate about correct coaching, and the list of people that come back to get coaching just from him each year is testament to this.

Know Your Features

The difference between drops and rollovers is that with drops you will have both wheels in the air for a moment while rollovers are where your wheels stay in contact with the ground even when it gets a little steeper. It is important to learn both techniques but more so, it is important to analyze what is an obstacle you will drop off and what you can roll over and down. Look ahead and if in doubt stop, put your bike down in a safe area off the trail and assess the obstacle from a different vantage point.

But before we talk about the techniques for drops and rollovers let’s have a bit of a safety meeting.

Point of Commitment

Before you attempt any obstacle, you have to be committed to fully applying the skills and techniques you have learned (if you haven’t then perhaps think about learning before you leap).

A point of commitment is an imaginary line that marks a point beyond which you are going to be poised, balanced, committed and will not pedal or brake beyond. This line should give you plenty of room to stop before the obstacle if you find you are not prepared, ready or committed.

You should be constantly imagining lines of commitment into your trail the whole way down. 

NSMB Hey Coach Drops and Rollovers Ken Doraty Mason Mashon

The Four L’s

The easiest way to remember the techniques involved is to look at the back of your left hand. See the four fingers and the L? That’s all you need as your pointer.

LOW – Get low on your bike to maximize your range of motion (that’s the amount you can move).

LUNGE – Putting the bike out in front of you gets the bike off the drop. In the rollover the lunge is less pronounced or forceful and is done to keep your body centered between the wheels of your bike as the angle of the bike changes.

LOOK – Be prepared so look ahead to your…

…LANDING – Brace for impact by keeping your limbs readied to absorb the impact of the landing or the roll out. Make sure you land both wheels at the same time and get centered to ride away and approach the next obstacle.

See, you already know the technique like the back of your own hand.

This is the basic technique but remember that different drops require different variations of these techniques depending on the size of the drop, your trail speed etc. And remember, go small before you go big.


Many of these techniques seem like instinct after a while but it’s good to go back to the basics once in a while. Do you practice the Four L’s?