Riding Drop-Offs With Mike Lafferty

From the archives // November 2006 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine
Story and photos by Scott Hoffman

Riding off-road is a challenge, especially if you want to keep it safe. Taking on small drop-offs is sometimes a necessity and can be tricky. With a few pointers, what was once a little scary is now as easy as throwing a leg over the seat. We met up with enduro hero Mike Lafferty to demonstrate a textbook drop-off.

1. Correctly sizing up the severity of an obstacle is one of the most important steps in conquering a drop-off. When in doubt, it is always better to stop and check out the drop-off before taking tha--t leap of faith. There are times when it's wiser to find a secondary route around the area.

2. When you approach the ledge and are confident the landing is clear and has ample runoff, it's time to go for it. There's a fine line between being too passive and too aggressive, but the last thing you want to happen is to leave the jump with the bike's front end down or to fly off the ledge super fast and out of control.

3. As the front wheel approaches the edge, you should have your knees slightly bent with your body in the middle of the bike. Now you want to blip the throttle with just enough power to loft the front end slightly as it leaves the ground. At the same time, lean back and put some pressure on the handlebar. This move will keep the front end neutral and allow the rear to drop slightly as shown in the photo sequence.

4. When the bike becomes airborne, Lafferty extends his legs and lets the rear drop under his body. The extension will allow him to use the angle to soak up the landing with his legs as well as the bike's suspension. On drop-offs, you always want to land rear wheel first. As the rear begins to make contact, especially if you're landing in sand, apply some power to keep the bike driving forward. If the landing area is soft and the rider touches down without any drive to the rear wheel, the tires can dig into the soil and lunge the rider forward and possibly over the bar.