Have you ever decided to abandon a mountain bike ride due to wet weather? I guess in some parts of the world, there’s often not much option, but staying at home might hardly mean any riding at certain times of the year. Yet there are skills that can be developed to enjoy wet weather rides safely so long as you don’t mind frequent bike and clothing washing. Additionally, a set of mud-guards will help and definitely a pair of good quality goggles or glasses. I will get on to clothing later.
Most mountain bikers acknowledge that riding muddy trails can contribute to unnecessary erosion and widen singletracks into doubletracks. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know if trails are dry enough to ride, especially if you are outside your regular area.
“It is something that takes some experience”, said Mark Eller, the communications director for the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). “There is definitely a bit of judgment involved”.
Research The Area
You have Internet access, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t so, if in doubt about trail conditions, get over to Facebook and check out one of the many mountain bike groups. There’s always somebody who will know something about the area you intend to ride. Failing that, look at the area on Google Earth and get a weather report while you’re at it. Of course, GE doesn’t offer real-time data, but you can work out what type of ground you can expect to discover. A few Google searches will also uncover plenty of information about your intended ride area and even a few contacts in local MTB clubs.
Will my riding this trail, trash this trail? If you think it might, consider a different ride. Take the area where I live for example, you can see a small section to the right. If I ride within any of the green forest areas, there are some outstanding trails. But if I ride them in wet conditions, I will contribute to trail damage and even damage to the bike or me. I don’t want any of that, so I stick to the narrow gray lines in the image. They’re not roads, rather, natural gravel surfaces maintained by local MTB-friendly farmers. True, they are missing some technical trail features but rock gardens after landslips are common and they do include some pretty spectacular climbs and descents with streams flowing across the trails in the most unexpected places. These trails are not to be confused with rural lanes and are not fit for regular cars. Plenty to keep me busy for a couple of hours thanks to the knowledge of my local area.
I don’t look at riding in the wet as difficult. It’s more about recognizing, understanding and managing a diverse set of challenges to dry weather riding. On average, I’m not as fast, I don’t take sharp corners or switchbacks very quickly and I avoid wet roots and slimy looking rocks where I can. OK, some cannot be avoided but there are solutions for those.
Here are four helpful tips from Chris at MTBtips.com – Don’t let the dry filming conditions put you off.
Chris talks about reducing tire pressure in one of his tips. You may also need to consider a set of wet weather tires. Check out “Upgrade to Fat MTB Tires” to learn more. It’s not just about Fat Tires.
Mud & Puddles
Approaching these needs to be “with care”. Flying in flat out often ends badly. Taking a corner on a firm surface last week, I was confronted with a large patch of what looked like smooth beach sand. No beaches around here. But, by the time my brain computed I was rim deep and it was wet underneath. The only thing I had time to think about was keeping my front wheel straight which meant the sticky stuff stopped me suddenly, but I stayed upright. OK my once bright yellow shoes were no longer quite so bright. A straight line is the only way through mud so long as it’s not too deep.
Puddles can be fun if you know how deep they are. Some on the wet weather trails I use give nothing more than a shower as I pass through. Others however are deep and rocks and other debris await the unsuspecting rider.
If it’s a wide trail that’s not a problem but some puddles cover the entire width. Going around only widens the trail and adds to unnecessary erosion so that is never a good option. Sometimes you’ve got to ride it out at slow speed or get off and paddle. No other option.
OK, you might need a raincoat, right? Well, there’s a bit more to it than that if you want to stay warm and avoid unnecessary muscle injuries. Check out my recent post MTB Base Layers and find some warmth.
The Sales Are Coming
Specifically, Black Friday and there are already some great winter and wet weather clothing deals out there in the run-up to the event. Check out the banners to find the best kit for you.
Don’t Like Wet Weather Riding?
There are plenty of MTB related activities to keep you busy.
- Prep your bike for the better weather
- Practice Skills on a secluded street or a car park during quiet hours
- Go skiing if it’s not a major once a year event
- Run, go to a gym, buy an indoor bike trainer
I’m sure you can produce more than this.
Comments and Questions
Please leave your C & Q below. Share your experiences. You will always get a prompt response and you may also be helping other riders.
Clicking on these and purchasing something will earn me a small commission. Please understand that this doesn’t affect your purchaser’s rights and the price you pay will never be more than advertised. You can read more about this in the main menu under “Affiliate Links”.