The Magic of the Heel Drop

Have you ever heard of the Heel Drop mountain biking technique before?  No?  Well, you’re about to get a very nice surprise.

See, the heel drop is a somewhat little known, but highly valuable mountain biking technique that you can apply in particular mountain biking situations, to great effect.

Using the heel drop while aggressively braking from high speed or while braking or riding down hill can instantly improve your bike control and center of gravity, and enhance your slowing and stopping.

To Perform the Heel Drop

Like the name suggests, simply drop your heels on the pedals to turn the pedals at an angle. How much you drop your heels and angle the pedals really depends on the situation, but with a bit of practice the amount of drop will become second nature to you.

Why is the Heel Drop So Good?

Used in the right situations the heel drop helps you become a better mountain several ways:

  • the heel drop improves your stability by helping lower your center of gravity
  • the heel drop makes it easier to combat inertia and any deceleration forces wanting to put you over the bars by giving you more push rearward off your pedals, and helping you stay back
  • the heel drop improves your steering control and finesse in these situations by taking pressure and weight off the handlebar and back where it belongs to the pedals and center of the bike.  Many beginner clamp up tight on the handlebar when descending, killing their flow on the bike. The heel drop restores your flow and helps you relax your grip, keeping you calm and keeping your steering movements fluid, instead of over-weighted and stiff.
  • the heel drop can also remove that feeling of your feet wanting to lift off the pedals as the terrain gets steeper.  Dropping your heels, even slightly, can put you back in balance over the bike, feeling more ‘planted’ and reducing that ‘too far over the handlebar’ feeling

The Heel Drop Action Video

The video below shows the Heel Drop technique in action down a fast descent.

Important points before you view the video:

  • For maximum control and momentum, and for minimum braking distance and trail damage, my goal is to not skid at any time down the descent and around the switchback. I’ll achieve that by using Front Braking technique in addition to the Heel Drop.
  • The Front Braking technique allows me to keep more speed closer to the corner, then brake heavily at the very last minute without skidding.
  • The heel drop enhances late braking in this situation by improving my center of gravity, enabling me to counteract very strong inertia and deceleration forces wanting to spit me over the bars.
  • The heel drop also improves my rear wheel traction, enhancing rear wheel braking.
  • I’ll slow very quickly, mainly using the front brake, and I’ll do it keeping balanced and in control, with no skidding. Sure, I’ll use the rear brake as well, initially only a tiny bit though.  Then more and more rear brake as my speed lowers enough for solid rear wheel traction.
  • To navigate the switchback I’ll return my heels to their normal position, as well as shift my body back to center.

Blasting Your Way to Fun

As you’ll see in the video, that section of trail really is a blast.  And it’s all thanks to combining the Heel Drop technique with my other mountain biking skills to maximize momentum, control and adrenaline rush!

Maybe there’s a heel drop descent somewhere near you?

  Super Tip: Back is not always Better.  The over-the-back, rearward body position (or attack position) isn’t always the solution for better balance and control on descents.

However, even if the descent doesn’t demand a rearward bias, a slight heel drop can often enhance your confidence and help you stay centered and balanced.  And better balance will keep you more relaxed on the handlebar down the slope, allowing you and your bike to absorb abrupt obstacles more easily, lessening the chance of them sending you over the handlebars.

  Super Tip: Front Braking and One Finger Braking are Pure Gold.  If you’re not using these mountain biking techniques yet, you’re seriously missing out on better mountain biking skills.  Front Braking and One Finger Braking.

  Super Tip: Flat Cranks.  Generally you’ll get the most benefit from the heel drop when your crank arms are horizontal to the ground.

The Heel Drop Video: