Riding mud can be very daunting the first couple of times you ride through it, but there are techniques to use to master the mud to avoid falling, spinning or getting stuck.
We are fortunate in South Africa as we don’t experience too many muddy rides during the year, but this is a good and a bad thing because when there’s a muddy race, we are usually not well prepared. I would like to share some tips and techniques that have helped me over the years to master the mud while I am out training or racing local and national races.
- Having a spare wheel with a softer set up or a softer mousse will help you.
- Spray silicon all over your bike (be careful to avoid your brake rotors) where the mud may stick the most (mainly under the front and rear mudguard) because the more mud on the bike the heavier the bike is.
- In your bum bag, make a place for a spare set of gloves and even a thin rope.
- Make sure you take extra kit along to a race such as extra pants, an extra shirt, extra gloves and extra goggles. There will be some races where you are able to change quickly like our national enduro’s. It’s not fun being wet, muddy and cold during a race.
APPROACHING A MUD HOLE
Sometimes little river crossings on the first lap of a race may be simple and easy to cross, but this could have turned into a 5 x 10 metre wide mud hole during the course of the race, which can make for a disastrous end to your race if you are not prepared or don’t know what to do when approaching this situation.
When approaching a mud hole it is all about line choice. DO NOT take the line that has been ridden the most. This is where most people make the mistake – the most-used line is like a big magnet drawing you into it. Rather make a new line either on the left or right of the main rut. Doing this may save you minutes in a race, lots of energy and can save you from burying your bike knee deep, which is a really terrible predicament to be in – I know from firsthand experience – it is so frustrating to know that time is ticking away when you are stuck knee deep in a mud hole, especially in a special stage. Believe me you don’t want to have this happen!!
So, on the right line, approach the mud hole with confidence, keeping as much momentum as possible and keep the front end as light as you possibly can. If the hole is jumpable and you are comfortable to jump it, then that would be the best thing to do.
EXITING A SLIPPERY CORNER
Coming into a slippery corner, you need to keep the throttle as smooth as possible. If you drop the clutch too fast or open the throttle too much you have a high chance of doing a 180 or even a 360 degree turn and facing backwards on the track. Make sure when you’re exiting the corner you are running in a higher gear – 2nd or even 3rd gear – to not spin as much. Make sure you weight your outside foot peg; so if you’re turning right, weight your left and if you’re turning left, weight your right. This helps the bike not to lose too much traction and helps you turn without doing a 180.
A very important tip is to “LOOK AHEAD” out the corner because where you look is where you are going to go. Shift your weight as far back as possible and bounce on the end of your seat where the mudguard and seat join. This will help with the back end getting a bit more traction as well as you keeping that throttle smooth, still keeping in a higher gear until you are confident enough that there is enough traction to be aggressive again.
In muddy areas always look for grass to ride through to help clean excess mud off the tyres. If there’s a stream, try spinning the rear tyre in it to clean off mud.
A good training tip to end off is to practice in the mud. It is a bit difficult now as we sadly haven’t had much rain, but riders, when it rains take advantage of the wet weather and go out there and train in the rain. Ride in the mud and perfect the art of handling the mud!