Top tips for mountain biking downhill in the mud – how to ride in muddy conditions
It’s nearly winter and it is officially ‘riding in the mud’ season. You need not despair, here we have a few simple riding tips to help you ride in sloppy conditions. With a little practice, these five core skills will help you master mud, ride faster in the wet and have fun at the same time!
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1. Look up!
Looking where you are going might seem the most obvious thing but its incredible how insanely interesting that puddle or sloppy section of a trail gets when it’s right in front of you. Keep your eyes up, asses the situation early and look ahead down the trail as you ride though the muddy patch. Remember “look where you want to go”, not where you don’t want to go.
Looking up will also help keep your weight balanced and centred on the bike, too much weight on the front of the bike might cause your front wheel to dig into the mud whereas too much weight on the rear might cause the front tyre to lack grip and slide out.
2. Stay Loose
As well as looking up and staying centered on the bike, you also need to stay loose. Let your limbs become relaxed. Not so relaxed that you can’t stay standing and central on the bike, but relaxed enough that should your bike make any sudden movements (as it will!) that you can absorb these and go with the flow. Let the bike move underneath you, stiffening up will only lead to less traction, stay loose, stay smooth and stay committed.
3. Make good braking decisions
You’ll need to modulate your braking more when it’s muddy which will also begin by braking earlier. Braking in plenty of time, whilst braking with less power will prevent the tyres from locking up and sliding in the mud. If your rear wheel does skid or slide you’ll likely get away with it as the front wheel maintains traction, so with this in mind it’s also a good idea to pay attention to using the front brake a bit less. As you probably already know, the front brake shouldn’t be used when cornering, the same applies here, do your braking before the corner to maintain traction throughout.
Look up and plan ahead, brake in a spot before the corner, off-camber section or trail feature where there appears to be the most grip, a flat, non-rooty place is ideal, then let go of the brakes over the more technical section if you can to maintain momentum and prevent tyres losing traction on anything slippery.
4. Keep momentum
Straight off the back of braking, the next tip involves momentum and keeping it! Speed is your friend in the mud, you won’t be going as fast as you do when its dry but having a good rolling speed and maintaining that pace will allow you to keep traction and make the most of it. Momentum prevents you from losing speed or getting stuck in the mud, it also prevents your tyres from clogging up which will decrease traction. Key tips to maintain momentum are to look up, plan your braking and pump the trail just as you would when it is dry.
5. Pedal smoothly
If you do need to pedal in the trail do this smoothly and again, make sure your weight is centered on the bike. You might find you need to move your weight slightly backwards if you are riding in a standing position to help place weight on the rear wheel and help it grip in the mud. Lower cadence here is key as is applying the power smoothly and evenly throughout the pedal stroke. Make sure you are in an appropriate gear for the section of trail you are hitting, be prepared early which means you’ll need to look up!
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There is often more traction at the bottom of the puddle, around the edges is where the slippery stuff is.