Mountain Biking in the Rain: Tips for Muddy Conditions
Just because it’s wet outside doesn’t mean you have to hang up your wheels. Here are some tips to navigate riding in the muck.
I just spent last weekend enjoying oodles of marvellous trails in Fernie. It seemed that rain was on the menu for the weekend, but that didn’t stop us from gearing up and having a blast flinging mud at each other. I had a few rookies in my group who were anxious about riding on wet roots and rocks, and for good reason. It completely changes the experience when you go from dry to wet on a mountain bike.
If it’s crazy wet and muddy (we’re talking soupy), then just don’t ride. Riding when the ground is covered in what looks like chocolate pudding can ruin singletrack for other riders once the conditions dry up. But sometimes it’s just misting out, or you get caught in the rain and have to deal. And for those times, I thought it might be helpful to share some techniques that I’ve learned over the years, either from stronger riders than I, or while navigating wet conditions myself. I used to hesitate to go riding when I saw drops falling from the sky, but with a few techniques the experience changed from mildly terrifying to dirty-faced fun. Here’s the best I got…
- Ride upright, not on angles. When you hit a wet surface, you’ll be less likely to slide if your weight is directly over the tires.
- Go a little slower than usual. Mud changes the riding experience and it takes practice to ride in it comfortably. Don’t expect the same performance out of yourself or your bike as when you’re both dry.
- Reduce your tire pressure. Not a lot, just a little. We’re talking maybe two to three psi. This will increase the amount of contact the tire has to the ground to give you a bit more grip.
- Try to hit roots that are growing across the trail straight on (meaning your tire is perfectly perpendicular to the root) if you can. It’s the off-camber and diagonal roots that can catch cause your tire to zip suddenly out from under you when they’re wet and slick. Pick your lines with this in mind.
- Minimize braking or don’t brake at all when riding around corners and downhill over roots and rocks. This is good advice even when things are dry, but it’s especially important in wet conditions. Don’t give your tires a reason to lock up and slide. You’ll have more control if you just let em’ roll.
- If you have rebound settings on your shocks, reduce the speed at which they bounce back. This will slow the speed of the rebound which will in turn minimize bouncing off an obstacle.
- Wet conditions are a good reason to practicing ‘floating’ on your bike. Try to relax, use your legs as springs, don’t clench the handlebars.
- Wear elbow and knee pads if you’re nervous, they might give you some psychological comfort, and save you some skin if you do bail.
- Wear protective eye gear! You don’t need a glob of muck in the eye while you’re rolling down a technical patch…or ever, really.
- If it’s really wet, you could wear plastic bags over your feet inside your shoes. It’s a cheap little trick I use to keep my feet dry.
- Use chain lube that is meant for wet conditions. And if you have a spray lubricant, spray the whole bike frame. It will make it easier to clean afterward.
Happy riding in the rain! Oh by the way, we stayed at Fernie Alpine Resort's Timberline Lodges and it was an amazing experience. If you want to learn more, give our Destination Experts a shout and they’ll hook you up. 1.877.902.1616.