It’s mud season! For better or worse, it’s here and you have to deal with it. The alternative is picking out paint swatches with the wife or some other form of early spring-cleaning drudgery. Depending on conditions, mud can great fun or it can be a complete shitshow. The truth about mud is that keeps most riders up at night. Why is that? Part of it is that so many of us crash our brains out in it. How many shrouds, radiators and pipes have you damaged in a mud ride or race? It’s enough to make you think a day picking out paint swatches is worth it.
There are many kinds of muddy conditions but the two we are going to discuss here: saturated mud and tacky mud represent something of the opposite sides of a wide spectrum. Regardless, the key to riding mud is to attack it and ride aggressively. Saturated mud is much easier to deal with. If it’s going rain before an event or ride, I want to wake up to rain. The wetter, more saturated the mud is, the better. And while we’re at it, let it rains throughout the day, too – as long as the trail ride or race doesn’t include laps. Riding laps in the mud is a whole other level of misery. Anyway, rain creates puddles that you can ride through and keep the mud from caking up your tires. Rain also makes it more difficult for mud to stick to your bike. The more water, the better – just be sure to tape up the air box and waterproof your bike (we’ll get into that in a future article). When the rain is falling you still need to be aggressive, but also cognizant of drowning out your bike.
Tacky Mud – Spin it to Win it!
It’s the tacky mud that wreaks havoc on bike and rider. Tacky mud cakes up tires (more often the front) and makes it feel like you are pushing a ski. As mentioned above, the technique or philosophy for dealing with mud is pretty much the same: You’ve got to spin to win it – the back wheel that is. It isn’t often that wheel spin is your friend, but in mud, it’s your compadre. When you’re spinning you wheel, you are slinging mud off your tires and keeping the knobs working for you. If you try and finesses your way through a mud ride, your tires will pack up with mud and you will eat shit. Again, the objective to keep the wheels spinning and prevent mud from building up in the tires.
There are other tricks of the trade that you can employ to keep mud from packing up your tire. One trick is to bounce your front end of anything within reason. Aim for any rock or log that you can use to knock mud off the tires. And we like mentioned above, aim for standing or running water – use water to your advantage.
A long time pro once told me to that the best way to ride the mud is to pretend you are riding a small bore; meaning, don’t be afraid to wring it out. And stay loose! Tensing up never does a bit of good. You will adapt to the conditions as the day wears on. Don’t push it too hard at first. Perhaps the most important thing is to keep a good attitude. As it is in life, attitude is everything. Don’t get sucked into the downward spiral of negativity, the alternative is paint swatches.