Technique – Learning the Manual – Part 2

Taking your manual riding to the trails

Learning how to pull off a manual can make your riding smoother, faster and more effortless. David Webster shows you how.


This skills series is designed to introduce and develop key trail riding skills that many find impossible to grasp or maybe have never even heard of. This is the stuff that good riders do without thinking, and what many of us do intermittently when we have that perfect day on our favourite trail.

Where a manual will help you in real-world riding

Once you’ve mastered this skill, it will enable you to carry speed through dips (think of that stream crossing on your local trails), over drop-offs and through countless undulations in the terrain. Pulling off a manual will also allow you to completely bypass tree roots and similar obstacles.

Manuals through dips/ditches

Being able to manual in these situations allows you to gain speed where other less-informed riders lose it.

Make sure you are really confident in your manualling ability before you give this a shot, though!

Essential trail skills – the manual: essential trail skills – the manual
Andy McCandlish©.

Manuals off drop-offs

Without doubt, this is the only way to take a drop-off. No other skill will enable you to drop off from any height while maintaining momentum as you go. Start small – a kerb height is fine to begin with – and work up when you are confident and smooth.

Essential trail skills – the manual: essential trail skills – the manual
Andy McCandlish©.

Top tips

Careful rear-brake control is what allows the pro riders to hold manuals ad infinitum over any terrain. (Some BMXers can do this brakeless, though!)

The higher your front wheel comes – broadly speaking – the longer you will hold the manual. Cover that back brake, though.


Practice this skill by manualling for further or by manualling over speed bumps on a quiet street.