Dropping in: Coping with the coping

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the great site: it’s good therapy while waiting for the snow to melt.

In the meantime, I’ve been riding at the local skatepark and was curious if you had any tips on how to progress towards dropping into a bowl/quarterpipe. I’m in my thirties, and looking down from the coping is super intimidating.

BTW, will your new book on BMX have a section on how to ride pipes and get air?


PS – the two privates classes I did with you were the best thing I ever did for my riding.


Yikes! Vans skate park in Norcal, 2003.


It’s good to hear from you. I enjoyed our sessions last summer (Jeff was visiting Boulder from Seattle).

Dude — You know why they call it a coping? … It’s hard to cope with. Ha ha! Yeah, intimidating is the word.

Prerequisite skills:

– Bunny hopping. You can practice this anywhere. You don’t need height, but you do need precision, especially with the rear wheel.

– Landing with your front end down. Small, steep dirt jumps are good practice. Remember our attack position drills? Get super low and push the front end into the transition.

– Being able to move your bike in the air to meet a transition. This can be practiced anywhere. Hop from flat ground to any downslope: retaining walls, backs of BMX jumps, landscape slopes, whatever.

Matt V’s first try. He didn’t pre-hop enough, so his rear tire got bucked and he flew almost to the bottom. But he’s low and pushing the front end.

How to do it:

– Start small, with no vertical. The junior quarter pipe is a good place to start.

– Roll toward the edge at a 30-45 degree angle. This lets you catch the tranny rather than drop to flat.

– Spot the edge then scan ahead to where you want to go. DO NOT stare at the coping!

– Hop over the edge. Don’t hop high; just make sure the rear tire clears the coping.

– In mid-air, push your front end down to find the tranny. The more aggressively you push your front tire down, the smoother the landing. If you do this well, it’s perfectly smooth, with no moment of “landing.”

– Balance on your feet and ride it out.

As nervous as I was, this turned out well. Note my entrance angle, my lowness and the clearance of my rear tire. Also note that I’m looking ahead to the next pump. X-Games skate park, Colorado, 2007.

This move is technically easy, but — wow — what a rush!

— Lee

BTW: The BMX book is about racing. It’ll have a section on jumping, but nothing about park/pipes.

7 replies
  1. Dan says:

    A couple of tips about parkriding from a guy that has spent a couple of minutes riding them.

    1. With dropping in:
    -Unless the coping is constructed badly it will not really do anything to you that a normal edge wouldn’t, so do be afraid of it.
    -Your angle of attack while dropping in is a factor of speed and steepness normally the steeper the more parallel to the coping you want to be. Until you master the bunny hop drop in do not come at it from the perpendicular.
    -Think of it more as trying to roll a very steep roller than bunny hopping in. This will help with smoothness and take away some of the consequence of hanging up.
    -You have to commit especially with anything vertical you will crash if you are not committed. This means being there mentally and committing to putting your weight about 98% onto the front wheel for that moment it takes to clear the rear wheel.

    2. Airing out of a quarter pipe:
    -the ole’ ‘pull back’ routine is completely dependent on speed and steepness. Usaully the taller and or steeper the ramp the less you have to do and the faster you have to go. On a more mello ramp if you don’t yank you will launch it like a similarly shaped dirt jump.
    -EVERY quarter is different and it will feel that way
    -don’t get frustrated, park is it’s own animal, that BMX kid blasting past you probably sucks at dirt and will whine about how there are no dirt jumps around even if there are (this is not always the case though so take it with a grain of salt, many BMX guys these days are learning to see through your big wheeled exterior and see you as a bike rider).

    3. This is MOST important Rider ediquette:
    -don’t be an ass, be nice
    -ride with your head up ALWAYS trails=1D, racing=2D, and Park=3D (there are a lot of people that don’t seem to have the cognitive ability to understand that in the parks people are coming from every direction and they will hit you unless you see them). Too many people get way to consumed with what they are doing and don’t pay attention to anyone else until they hit them. Don’t be that guy.
    -Now go ride and have fun I have to go get an MRI, because big men fall hard on downhill courses and shoulders don’t like being seperated multiple times.

  2. jeff says:

    Thanks for all the info everyone! The park’s pretty empty in the early mornings, so I’ll give all the tips a try.

    I love how it’s the same riding concepts that keep getting used over and over, and as the terrain changes we just have to do them better. ie attack posn, pushing bars down, etc

    Did Matt V survive that drop in on the photo sequence? There isn’t a final pic…

  3. Chris says:

    One tip: you will always drop in easier from one direction than the other (if you are dropping in at an angle to the coping). You need to find that direction.

    Usually, rolling with the coping on your right and then dropping in means that there is less chance of hitting your chainring/guard because it clears the coping before the rest of the bike does (in photos above like Lee, but not Matt). Its one less thing to worry about getting hung-up on. In fact, on smaller pipes/minis you can roll in without even having to lift the rear wheel if the approach angle is shallow enough. Careful that the front tire doesn’t slide out: don’t back away from the drop, keep your weight centered. Knobbies don’t grip so well here.

    The longer and squishier the fork the harder time you will have on the landing. It will just compress and dig in, steepen your head angle at the worst time and try and throw you over the bars.

    Note: an ’05 Truvative Firex chainring tooth will snap off when it hits the coping but an ’05 XTR tooth will put a hole in it and not even bend. There is no relevance here, but more proof that you only get what you pay for!

  4. Dan says:

    I highly recommend not try to develope a “side” for dropping in, don’t make it in to something it is not. You wouldn’t get really good at turning left because you can’t go right, err nevermind, sorry Mr. Earnhardt. A drop in is a simple thing keep it that way and don’t think about it, it will only mess you up. The tip about forks and knobbies is a good one, the less and stiffer is the way to go with forks and the holy roller is a hard tire to beat for all around “freestyle mountain bikes”.

  5. jeff says:

    Went to the park this morning and dropped in clean! Soooo much fun!

    After doing that over and over, had a huge grin across my face. Thanks Lee and Dan and Chris for all the ideas!

    Now, it’s time to work on getting some air over the coping 🙂

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