Few things are more satisfying than carrying speed round a perfectly banked turn while hanging the back wheel out. Nailing this isn’t easy, though.
You need speed to initiate the drift and a loose-over-hard surface for a predictable, controlled slide. Here are some pointers to get you started.
1. Pedal power
It doesn’t matter whether you run flats or clips to drift turns, although flat pedals do make it easier for you to take your foot off at the last minute if things start to go wrong.
The holy grail of drifting is to nail the perfect slide while keeping both feet on the pedals.
2. Body position
Keep your weight low on the bike — the lower your centre of gravity, the less likely you are to get thrown off should things go wrong!
A highside is possible if you’re going really fast and steer into the skid too much, or if the back tyre suddenly grips, so watch out.
3. Initiate the slide
Setting up early is key to a successful drift. On your way into the corner, you need to be preparing to make your bike break traction. Turn more sharply than normal and lean the bike over further (by putting extra weight on your outside pedal) to get onto the side knobs of your tyres.
4. Slippin’ out
As the bike starts to slide, you’ll naturally want to steer into the skid. There’s a fine line between overcorrection, which can lead to highsiding, and keeping the drift at a neutral and manageable angle.
If you want to make the slide last longer, you’ve got to feel where the point of traction is and keep the bike just past it.
5. Maintain it
Keeping the bike just before the point of no return but fully sideways requires confidence and the ability to feel what’s going on underneath your tyres. If the trail surface is predictable and smooth, the drift will be easier to maintain because the bike won’t try to snap straight or break away further.
6. Hang it out
Dropping your inside foot can help your confidence while you’re hanging the back wheel out. You can take it off early or wait until the last minute, but either way you’ll feel rad when your shoe is scraping along the ground.
7. High pressure
If you’re struggling to make your bike drift, try increasing the pressure in your tyres. When they’re hard, they’ll have less grip and you should be able to break traction more easily.
Alternatively, consider using a worn-out or semi-slick tyre with less grip. If you use a brand-new knobbly tyre to practise drifting, you’ll wear it down quickly and it’ll be tough to slide like a speedway racer.
8. Make your mark
You’ll be able to see how long and wide your drift was by the mark you’ve left on the trail. Please drift responsibly, though — natural trails will get eroded quickly if you drift on them and even at trail centres it can cause damage (and annoy the trail crew).
We recommend you build your own drift track, with the landowner’s permission, of course.
9. Feel-good factor
You’ll know when you’ve nailed the drift because it’ll feel awesome. A perfect drift lasts from the start of the turn to the finish.
The only way to improve your confidence and technique is to keep trying. Practise drifting on a flat, gravelly surface so you can get used to the back wheel stepping out.