Vertical Drops with Barry Hawk - Dirt Rider Magazine

When trail riding, you will have to face your fear of big, vertical drops. Yes, you could search for an alternate route, but that wouldn't be much fun and your friends would ridicule you for weeks to come! The challenge presented by vertical drops makes most of us tense up and ultimately fight the bike on the way down. But touching the front brake or skidding all the way to the bottom is the quickest way to put yourself on your head. So what's a guy to do? We recently caught up with factory Yamaha racer and GNCC champ Barry Hawk. This photo sequence reveals how loose he is on the bike and how he uses the brakes. If you follow his advice and practice in baby steps, you will no longer be haunted by vertical drops.A. As Hawk approaches the drop, he is hard on the brakes, getting all of his braking done before he free-falls. He is also analyzing the drop before he approaches it. You need to be looking ahead so you can figure out how you want to execute the drop before you reach it.B. Release the brakes just as you crest the drop. Locking up the brakes will upset the bike, which could, in turn, cause you to miss your line, as the bike won't go where you need it to. Start shifting your weight back. Do this just as you're beginning to drop; it must be done at the right time because if you shift your weight back too soon, you will be as stiff as a board on the way down.C. Just as your rear tire begins to drop, finish shifting your weight back. You also need to grip the bike tightly with your knees to help keep it straight. At this point, look to where you are headed next. Be aware of any big rocks or obstacles in your way.D. As you near the bottom, you can apply the brakes as needed, or you can apply throttle to get back up to speed before the next obstacle. The key to being comfortable is looking ahead all the time. Try not to fixate on anything, stay loose and try not to make sudden moves. In an off-road race, drops such as this one are great places to make up time if you can tackle them with confidence. If you can execute a drop with no problems and not get worked up over it, this maneuver will become second-nature—kind of like riding on a fire road.