Practical skills for tricky conditions
With our new dates you’re unlikely to find mud on the Berg & Bush trails, but mud and sand could be an issue on your local trails. Here’s how to conquer this tricky terrain.
Most knowledgeable mountain bikers will do their best to avoid muddy or sandy patches when doing their weekend rides. But sometimes it’s inevitable – maybe you’re on holiday in an area that has sandy trails, or you’re participating in a tour, or there is a sudden downpour the night before a big event. Anything can happen, so it’s best to be prepared.
Master the mud, slay the sand
It’s never a bad idea to have a mudguard on your bike, just in case. You can pick these up relatively cheaply. It’s a small addition to your ride that will keep the mud from your eyes.
2. Go with the flow
Your bike will move around in weird and wonderful ways in mud and sand. For both terrain types it’s best to stay loose. Don’t panic, keep pedalling, and let the bike guide you.
3. Find your happy place
In mud, you want to pedal at an even pace and cadence. Depending on whether you’re climbing, descending, or on a flat section you’ll need to find the right gear ahead of the mud patch. Generally speaking, too light a gear and you’ll be swishing and swooshing all over the show. Maintain an even pedal stroke (so the opposite of legs like Speedy Gonzalez just before he’s about to run away) throughout. On sand, a lighter gear and a higher cadence will see you though – but again, not spinning like a washing machine on rinse. If you hit sand at high speed, look ahead, maintain your pedal stroke and simply glide though.
4. Under pressure
Many riders don’t bother to adjust their tyre pressure at the start of a ride. With today’s modern, tubeless tyres you shouldn’t run into too many problems. But if you are about to start a ride in known sandy or muddy conditions, you’d do well to lower your tyre pressure. Midweight riders can safely go as low as 1.2 bar on tubeless tyres. Your own weight will be a factor, so take this into consideration when experimenting with tyre pressure.