What is a "manual"?
Is that even the correct term? I heard it in both an mtb video about a rhythm section and also in a MX vid. What's involved in doing it and when/why does a rider do it? Thanks.
MTB ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES 07 The Manual - YouTube
It's basically a wheelie where you're coasting rather than sat in the seat pedaling.
I found the easiest way to learn it was to find some gradually descending grass slope and practice the technique to get the wheel in the air - what happens is once you get the technique you tend to over do it and fall off the back of the bike (called a loop out) and grass is softer than concrete when you end up on your ass, after you have the technique it is just a matter of getting the balance correct and coordination with the rear braking.
It is pretty useful cos it is basically the first half of the bunny hop technique.
If you are running clipless pedals; put flats on to practice this is my advice
3 basic front wheel lofts are
wheelies- pedal and seated
coast wheelie- seated but not padaling
manual- stand and loft the front wheel
Manual is definitely very useful and it's the one that you can use the most out of the trail. You don't need to sustain one for seconds or minutes just a brief moment to put your front wheel up or over obstacle(s) preserving momentum. It's more of push out and not pull up move. Basically, you just want to move your A$$ over the bottom bracket, believe me it's much further back than you think.
SimpleJon gave you a good practice routine already, start there.:)
You already have very good advice here. Follow the advice of ^^ those guys.