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I have recently bought a Merida Matts 40-D bicycle. I didn't buy it for extreme sports, rather for a recreational cycling, etc, but as I'm only 22 years old, it's too tempting to jump down from small stairs when riding through the city. Let's say the height to jump is less than 1 meter and my weight is 74 kg (162 lbs). Can I use this bicycle for such, once in a while, or should I not? I don't want to break it, nor destroy the wheels, etc.

EDIT: To further clarify what I mean, I made this simple scheme:

Jump scheme

So basically, I never hit the stairs, just the ground when landing.

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At the very least, you're going to pop a few spokes. It might be worth your while to make sure you have strong wheels - particularly on the rear wheel. –  Neil Fein May 10 '11 at 21:22
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Whatever you do, get some foot retention. –  whatsisname May 10 '11 at 21:31
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6 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Your bike is designed for riding on rough terrain, like forest trails, roots, take an occasional drop. It should not break after a few drops from low heights, if you apply the technique correctly. Of course, it will shorten its life, so if it becomes regular practice, you should switch your bike from entry level MTB to something more appropriate.

You might find stickers on your bike that it is not designed for racing, but just recreation usage. This may put limitations on warranty.

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That bike should be able to take small jumps like that without much problem but there is always a risk that you will break something (including yourself). Under most circumstances you should break relatively replaceable parts first.

The biggest risk as you suggest is to the wheels. If the tires are not inflated enough this is a good way to get a pinch-flat (where the tube gets pinched between the tire and rim as the tire compresses - it will look like a snake bite). You can also knock the rims out of true if you don't have proper spoke tension. But again these are pretty minor issues that any regular cyclist will have to deal with.

As @Papuass suggests, technique is important. The key is to let your body ease the bike onto the ground. You can diffuse much of the force with good technique.

Basically you want to land just a hair back so that your rear wheel connects first but only just before the front wheel (so that the front wheel doesn't come slamming down). Extend the bike toward the ground with your arms and legs (but don't lock your joints). Use the flexing of your arms and legs to absorb the force of the landing.

The key to good technique is to start small and work your way up to bigger drops. If you feel out of control when you land and the bike feels like it is slamming into the ground you should go for a smaller hits until you have the technique. With good technique you can drop this thing off of whatever you want (within reason of course) with little risk to the bike or you - but not none :)

Have fun!

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I'm an old guy, 54. Totally, pre-suspension. I went up/down staircases on a bike like yours. Did some jumping. Switched to a road bike mainly for fast cycling. The jumping got old. I like speed.

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Most of my friends like golf. They're fat as well....and that's another story. –  user313 May 10 '11 at 8:14
    
I'm not quite as old, but also had an old steel frame non-suspension entry-level MTB way back in the day. After many years of abuse, it's not entirely straight anymore (and the wheels are not round, but still servicable). Never managed to break anything on myself or the bike... Yet... :-) –  Brian Knoblauch May 10 '11 at 14:35
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I remember snapping a BMX frame from a big name BMX company, that had ads of pros doing massive grinds down handrails, flips over dirt jumps, etc

It snapped only 3mths after buying, and I was refused a replacement due to the warranty small print stating that if it had been used to ride off a kerb was considered misuse.

In short theres two main factors that will help you from avoiding damage to the bike when doing drops.

Speed

enter image description here

The biggest way to 'counteract' gravity, is increase your forward motion speed.

Sucking up the impact with your body Biggest mistake people make on jumps or drops is letting the fear kick in and going all rigid. This leads to the impact being taken out on your knees/ankles/wrists/frame

You need to use your own body to counteract the fall. i.e. Suck up the impact with your knees.

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Everyone must start somewhere with every hobby, right? Maybe this isn't the perfect bike for street-acrobatics, but it's not a bad place to start--to begin to get the technique that the other answerers are describing.

Ride this one and know that with every drop, you're both shortening the bike's life and increasing your level of experience. Everything has a price, eh?

A bike that is never ridden but safely stored will last a very long time. A bike that is well maintained but ridden aggressively will only last a few seasons on rough terrain (I weigh over 200#). It's a tradeoff that we have to make--but it is important to do so conciously, to avoid wasting a perfectly good bike on a move that won't teach you anything!

While you're riding, start saving up for the purpose-built-machine:
http://www.inspiredbicycles.com/inspired_fourplay_team_bike_p24.php

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A bike such as that one should be able to take drops of that kind with no problem. The only issue I see is that your rear-wheel might take a beating if you land on a sharp edge such as the edge of a sidewalk. Your front-wheel has springs, so no problem there. It will deteriorate a bit faster of course, depending on how often you do this.

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