When I hear the word “Huck” my brain immediately goes to classic American literature. (Huck Finn) But, apparently in the sporting world, and in the mountain biking world in particular, the term “Huck” means something completely different. Who knew?
What is Hucking on a Mountain Bike?
The term “Hucking” means the same thing in the mountain biking world as it does in the rest of sporting culture. Put simply, hucking is the act of dropping of an elevated surface and then landing safely below, exhilarated. This, all done in one continuous action without stopping your mountain bike.
How do You Huck Your Bike?
While most people use the term “Huck” to simply refer to a drop, more experienced mountain bike riders will tell you that it actually refers to a very specific way to drop your mountain bike. Possible at both low and medium speeds, hucking is a great way to safely drop your bike down without experiencing too much shock.
To huck your mountain bike…
- As you are coming up onto a ledge or a drop you’re going to want to stand tall on the pedals and lean a little forward. The idea is to balance your weight between your hands and your feet.
- When you get just a couple feet away from the drop you should lean forward a little more.
- As the front wheel is rolling of off the edge the entirety of your weight should be on your feet and you should be pushing your body up and backwards.
- Re-center the bike, your rear wheel should be just about to come off of the drop.
- As the rear wheel comes off of the ledge you should push your handle bars forward and move your body down a bit allowing your knees to bend.
- You should be dropping horizontally now and when you land your weight will already be balanced in the back.
Types of Mountain Bikes that are Good for Hucking
There are four main types of mountain bikes: Cross Country, Trail, All Mountain, Free Ride/ Downhill. The two types that we are interested in here are the All Mountain and Free Ride/ Down Hill style mountain bikes.
The All Mountain style mountain bike is a bike the is designed to be a jack of all trades master of none kind of mountain bike. It will be good for trail riding and has a frame, and suspension kit, that will allow you to do many drops without worrying about breaking the thing. But, at the same time it won’t ride as smooth as a trail bike and also won’t be as durable as a Free Ride/ Downhill mountain bike.
A Free Ride/ Downhill mountain bike is the ideal bike for Hucking or any other kinds of riding that will result in your frame and suspension being put under a lot of pressure. This kind of bike is by no means necessary for hucking but definitely will withstand relatively high drops with ease. These kinds of bikes will be more expensive to buy and to maintain but can be a worthy investment if you are thinking about doing a lot of hucking and other sorts of maneuvers on the trail.
What Kind of Pedals are Best for Hucking?
Like almost all mountain bike tricks that involve high impacts the best kind of pedal to be using is clipless. You can achieve moderately high hucks on flat pedals of you’ve got grippy shoes and particularly aggressive pedals but in most cases you’re going to slip. Slipping on a huck can mean you messing up your shins pretty bad or worse a complete crash.
With Clipless pedals your foot, due to the special shoes you’ll also need, are placed in a much more secure way to the bike. This helps you absorb impacts better and prevents your foot from slipping right off the pedal when you land. These have saved me countless times from some pretty big wreaks.
If your looking more about flat or clipless for jumping read this article. What Pedal is BEST for Jumping on a Mountain Bike
The Best Hucks and Getting “Big Air”
The best huck to me is one where I don’t crash when I land. I have gotten pretty go at this but there are still times when I misjudge the terrain below or the angle of the drop. The easiest hucks are ones where there is a pretty much 90-degree angle between the ledge and the ground and the terrain is completely flat on both surfaces.
Many riders prefer those hucks in which they drop a large distance or they go a far distance in the air before they drop. The combination of which is what is referred to as big air. To get big air you’ll have to be going moderately fast and be able to put a lot of energy into the handle bars to push the bike forward. Of course, it is still dependent upon the drop itself as to get big air you’re going to need a big jump.
Can You Practice Hucking on a Mountain Bike?
Yes, like most things the more you do it the better you will get at it. I would recommend starting out on small drops and at low speeds so you don’t get hurt and discouraged. Hucking will come easy to some people and for others it may seem impossible. Although, either of these kinds of people can benefit from practicing and learning how to huck better and safer.
Other Mountain Biking Drop Skills to Learn
Bunny Hopping (High Speed)
To do this mountain biking skill you’ll need to be going at a high speed or else you won’t have enough force to successfully launch yourself off the ledge. This skill is quite simple to do but can be difficult to land. To do this simply compress down on the bike just before your front tire rolls over the edge and then pull the entire bike up to accomplish the “hop”.
Landing a bunny hop drop-off can be difficult however because of the high speed necessary to do it. If, when you land, you’re not balanced and your front tire is strait, you’re going to crash. A good way to make this process as safe as possible is to practice it many times on a small drop before attempting it on something that you would be able to do at slow or intermediate speeds
Wheelie Drop-Offs (Low Speed)
This skill is used when there isn’t enough room on the top end of the ledge to get up to speed. Or, if you just need to land at a low speed because there isn’t enough room to slow down on the bottom end of the drop.
This skill is accomplished by lifting the handle bars up when the front wheel is about to roll off the ledge. Now, when you do lift up the handle bars you’re going to need to put a lot of power into the pedal so that the rear wheel will take you off the drop. If necessary shift into a higher gear before attempting the jump. If it is a high ledge you can get really hurt if you don’t get enough power to the pedals and you simply fall off the ledge. I would recommend practicing this at smaller drops many times before attempting a larger one.
The Ramp-Up (Medium Speed)
This is a good all-around skill that can be done at medium speeds and can result in an easy drop with a relatively low impact. Although, if done incorrectly this can result in you tipping over headfirst over the ledge so I would definitely recommend lots of practice before attempting on a high ledge.
To do this skill you will need to be up to speed and as soon as your front tie lurches over the edge you must pull up on the handle bars to ensure that you don’t tip over. After that, you just continue to roll of the ledge and then hopefully land safely on the ground.
This skill is great for beginners and trying to drop tall ledges because it requires the lowest amount of applied technique and can be learned relatively quickly. This does not mean it isn’t still an amazing feeling when you successfully drop though.
How to Drop Safely on an MTB?
The first thing to consider when trying to be safe when you drop off of a ledge with a mountain bike is the mountain bike itself. I mentioned before the kind of mountain bike that is best for doing drops but, more specifically, the most important aspect of that is the suspension system. Mountain bikes with both a front and rear suspension would be best, however a bike with a good rear suspension would also work well.
The second thing to consider is your practice location and frequency. When attempting new drop skills, it is important to practice the skill many times before trying for real on the trail. You can do this by finding smaller drops with less dangerous conditions to do a lot of practice runs with. Additionally, you do need to always practice. Even if you think you’ve gotten pretty good at any particular skill, if you haven’t done it in a while then you should practice it before doing it on the trail. Getting over confident with this kind of thing can get you seriously hurt so knowing how to do what you’re doing, correctly, is crucial.
The third thing to consider is your technique. When you drop you want your rear wheel to hit the ground first. This is for two reasons, first because it is the best for balance, and secondly because it gives you time for the suspension to absorb some of the impact and allow you to react before the force is in your legs and arms. As long as you are ready for the impact and have the strength in your arms and legs to withstand the impact you should be okay.
Okay, before we go much further let’s discuss crashing. In fact I wrote a whole article on how to avoid getting hurt falling off an MTB. Read it here – How to Fall-Off a Mountain Bike
Lastly, and most overlooked, is making sure you know the drop. You don’t want to attempt a drop without getting off your bike and inspecting the height and conditions of the drop first. If you don’t do this then you might be landing into gravel and will fall right when you hit the ground. You want a good, solid, surface to land on so that you don’t fall over at the ground. It can be tedious to always inspect the drop but can definitely keep you safer and your experiences positive.
Is Hucking the Best Way to Do a Drop with A Mountain Bike?
While hucking is a great, and fun, way to drop ledges at medium to low speeds there is no “one” best way to do it. There are many skills to learn with your mountain bike and all of them have their specific use cases. For example, the Ramp-Up Technique is the easiest to master for really big drops. However, all of these can still be used for a big drop. The most important thing to remember is to keep learning and keep practicing, and of course, keep having fun on your mountain bike.