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How to Ride In Mud

Unless you live in a hot climate or you only ride in the summer, you are going to have to face mud at some time. Compared to dry trails, mud is harder to ride and requires good technique. Your tires have less grip or traction. Trails may be boggy which is slow, tiring, and can clog up your bike. Good technique can make almost all mud manageable, quicker to ride and even enjoyable.

As a cyclist you’ll want to ride everywhere and not be reduced to walking especially as walking in the mud really does suck, and similarly, falling off in the mud is not so good as you get covered and everyone can spot that you made an error!

Narrow tires (1.7″- 1.9″), with an open tread increase the clearance on your bike (the gap between the frame and the tires) and will pick up less mud so you will be less likely to clog up and be slowed or even brought to a halt. The open tread should also increase your traction but bear in mind that if you also ride on the road they will be very slow and wear down quickly.

Reduce the pressure in your tires a little. This will provide a larger ‘foot print’ for better traction but it may not so suitable on other parts of the trail.

Before starting a muddy ride it is also important that your gears are clean and working well, otherwise mud will quickly cause them to jump around. Make sure that your brakes are in good shape too, as they are likely to wear down from the abrasive mud on the rims.

Whether the track is uphill or downhill, look for the best line, one that looks less boggy and deep. This is often on the edge of the track, near the undergrowth. In the mud you will need to exaggerate your normal technique. Make steering more precise and keep pressure on the pedals. Be sure to select the correct gear before any climb, as it may be difficult to get to the right gear when actually climbing and pedaling slowly.

For muddy downhill sections, control your speed before you reach the deep mud. Being brought to an abrupt halt or slowing dramatically may throw you off your bike completely!

Riding through muddy sections requires perfect technique. When climbing, select a comfortable gear. Ride in the saddle with your weight spread over the bike. You may need to slide back on the saddle, and use bar ends if you have them. For downhills, you’ll need to position your weight further over the back wheel and use the front brake sparingly when cornering. Be ready to change your line as you approach the mud. And always be on the lookout for a drier, firmer and faster line.

When already technical trails become muddy then you have a real challenge. Roots and rocks become super slippery when they are covered in mud. This is when your technique will really be tested to the limit. Practice does make perfect and by riding in the mud your technique and reactions will be a lot sharper when you return to dry trails.


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