I started practicing doing a wheelie drop this summer when I thought it would be the best way to manage a fall off a high skinny. (It might be, but in the meantime, I’m relying on dismounting.)
My other motivation: to be able to ride off tall obstacles that were too steep/high to roll off. I’d like to be able to wheelie drop off the big round bridge rock at Lebanon Hills, for example.
In the Drop Like a Feather chapter of Lee McCormack’s book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, he has a one-pager titled Slow drop to flat, which is the same thing as a wheelie drop. He writes:
This move is both old-school trials and new-school North Shore. It requires you to lift your front wheel and keep it there, and then absorb a blunt landing. Practice on a low curb from a standstill.
As you get the hang of controlling your bike’s altitude, step it up a little at a time. You want to avoid the thing where your front wheel falls to the ground and your rear wheel or chain ring tags the edge of the drop, sending you over the bars for certain. Use this approach anytime you don’t have enough speed to quickly clear the takeoff. The slower you go, the more you have to pop your front tire up and accelerate to keep it up. If you can pedal wheelie consistently, you are ready to try small low-speed drops.
Lee’s right: it’s surprisingly hard to do a well-balanced pedal wheelie from a dead stop or going very slow. Also, accelerating all the way off an edge is counter to one’s instincts to stop pedaling as soon as the front wheel is in the air and over the edge.
As you’ll see in my video below, if I have time to get set up for a wheelie drop, I can usually do it. But I can’t yet do it reliably from a dead stop when I’m struggling to keep my balance on a skinny or round rock. So I’m not quite ready for Leb’s bridge rock.
But landing rear wheel first means you can absorb most of the impact with your legs, making for a softer impact. So it’s a pleasurable sensation when done right. Someday when I get a little older, I hope to be able to pause mid-wheelie, jump further off the edge and then land very softly like the trials guy in this 24-second video.
Here’s my 50-second wheelie drop video, with a slomo segment at the end: