Riding in the mud can be a little tricky for obvious reasons: the trails, roots and rocks are slippery when wet.
If you can master the mud you will get more enjoyment from riding during the wet season. These tips cover the basics of getting your bike and body ready to take on the gloopy slime.
Tyre Pressure | If the trail becomes really boggy, try dropping your tyre pressure by 1 or 2 psi from your regular setup. Lower pressures will improve traction on wet rocks and roots. You might want to consider using a narrower tyre with wider spaced knobblies as they provide better grip in the mud. They are especially handy if you live in an area where the trails don’t drain well or when the rain is persistent. Remember, a mud specific tyre usually has a slower rolling speed and can be sketchy on hardpack surfaces so there is some degree of compromise involved.
Braking | When you need to slow down on a muddy trail the trick is to brake a little earlier and gentler. The correct technique is to feather the brakes very lightly. Aggressive braking in slippery conditions is simply a recipe for disaster. Respect the front brake in slick conditions and use more of the rear brake. Always modulate the force you apply to the brakes to prevent the wheels from locking up and sliding.
What to wear | Depending on how wet and cold the rainy season is you should consider things like a waterproof jacket, rainproof shorts, merino socks and a merino baselayer. Try and chose lightweight options which won’t hold too much water. As a golden rule if you are not slightly cold at the start of your ride you are probably a little overdressed for the conditions.
Ride the rut | If you are faced with the decision on whether to ride in the rut or scoot around the side, in most cases the best choice is to ride in it. The rut will likely be more compact and provide better levels of grip than the unridden mud on the sides of it. However, if there are lots of riders on the trail and the rut has become deep and boggy, then it is probably best to manual through it or look for a line around it.
Keep the drive going on the climbs | A cadence which is very high is generally not helpful in slick muddy conditions. You will need a lower and more powerful cadence to get up the trail. You want to be sure to reduce the watts slightly and rely a little more on momentum to roll over the slickest sections.
Stay loose on the descents | When riding in the mud it is absolutely crucial to keep your upper body loose and relaxed to let the bike slide around a little underneath you. When you lose traction, use your elbows, hips and knees to counterbalance and stay upright.
Watch out for wood structures | Man-made wooden structures often add flow to a trail yet when wet, even the best in the world can come unstuck on them. Most trail builders will place wire mesh or rubber mats onto the bridge which makes them less slick when wet. Nevertheless, you will be wise to be very careful when riding on any wet or muddy wood feature. If you are faced with one, be very easy on the brakes, or don’t brake at all. Lastly, don’t make any sudden direction changes – just let the bike roll and guide it back into the dirt.
At the end of the rainy season | Booking your bike in for a suspension service and a re-greasing of all the bearings and pivots is highly recommended at the end of the rainy season. A service will extend the life of the moving parts and freshen up the overall feel of the bike.
| IMAGES: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool, Gary Perkin & Rupert |