To The Point - Riding in Mud

Dec 9, 2013
by Mike Levy  
Much of the world is entering a cold, dark time of the year, with rain falling and trails not seeing much in the way of sunlight. You can sit at home with your arms crossed and a pout on your face, or you can make the most of the conditions and get out there. The first step is to know if it's okay to ride your trails in wet conditions, and if it isn't you don't have to feel bad about that pouty face. There are a few pointers that can help your cause if it is acceptable to head to the hills, though, and we're going to run through some of the more basic mud riding tips to help you make the most of your time out there.

If you could only give riders one tip for riding in mud, what would it be?

There are all sorts of tricks one can employ to make riding in slippery conditions either
easier or faster, but the absolute best piece of advice has more to do with mindset and
riding style than changing any single piece of equipment on either your bike or yourself.
We're talking about relaxing your body and letting the bike move more under you than you
might otherwise be used to, an approach that is certainly one of the harder skills to learn,
as it can feel counter-intuitive to how you are used to reacting when your bike loses traction.
The thing is, though, that riding in really slick conditions often means that your bike never
really has proper traction to begin with, and therefore fighting to find it will cause you to be
constantly trying to correct slides right from the get go. That's a surefire way to see yourself
hit the deck, which will only exacerbate your problems. Instead, use a lighter grip on the
handlebar and, for lack of a better way to put it, think about letting your bike dance underneath
you. You can train your brain by sessioning one slippery corner in particular to discover what it
feels like to slide through a bend, picking up speed incrementally until you're comfortable with
your bike slithering across the width of the trail without panic.


The gap between a World Cup racer and a mere mortal is magnified ten fold when things get slippery, and they are kings at trusting their bikes in the mud

Have you been on clipless pedals for as long as you can remember? If so, installing a set of
platform pedals can boost your confidence thanks to the ability to easily drop a foot if you
feel like you need to catch yourself, and then you can re-install your clips (with the release
tension lowered to start) once you feel like you've got it down. It's funny how many of us
don't blink an eye at a $6,000 mountain bike, yet spending an hour or so practicing one
particular skill can feel like a waste of time... after all, that's an hour that could be used to charge
singletrack. The thing is, that hour you spend working on this skill will make a bigger difference
in your riding, and therefore your enjoyment, than any single component will ever be able to.

I got it, practice make perfect, but I want to spend some money. Is there any upgrade that makes an instantaneous difference?

You bet. When it comes to paying-and-playing, installing a set of true soft conditions tires
will make your life a lot easier. Your standard mountain bike tire has been designed to
perform well in a variety of conditions, from hardpack to soft dirt, which means that it is
all about compromises. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing as the very large
majority of riders can't be bothered to swap their tires depending on what sort of shape
their trails are in, especially when goopy tubeless sealant and troublesome bead fitting
is involved. When things get really messy is when a tire that has been designed with
low rolling resistance and all around riding in mind will begin to suffer and show that
sometimes what's needed is a more specific tool. A proper mud or soft conditions tire will
generally use a slightly smaller volume to cut down through the mud and a tread pattern that
is far more spaced out compared to an all around tire. That open design has been chosen
for two reasons: it allows its lugs, which are usually taller as well, to penetrate deeper into
the mud and dirt, and it also means that the spinning tire will be more likely to throw mud
off (known as ''shedding'') as you ride. That last point can make a huge difference in performance.

Muddy first practice

A proper mud tire is all about penetration, with a skinnier casing and taller lugs that are meant to be able to pierce through the slop.

Tire pressures can also vary sightly to what you are used to using with regular tires, but
not in the direction that you might be expecting. While one usually drops a few PSI when
using a regular tire in slick conditions, the smaller volume of a true mud tire will likely mean
that you'll need to run a few more PSI than usual to keep it from either flatting (if you are
using tubes) or folding over on the rim. Remember that rocks that you might usually go around
or jump over could now be hidden under brown slime, which is another reason to run a few
more PSI with smaller volume mud tires. This will of course depend on the tire and conditions,
but don't be surprised if you find yourself running more air pressure than usual. The downside
to most mud/soft condition tires is how they perform in the dry or on woodwork, since their taller
knobs sometimes making for vague and expected performance, which is why we'll often peel
them off our rims as soon as the trails show signs of drying up.


Goggles for a clear view, a set of mud tires installed, and a homemade fender up front - all the ingredients needed to stay upright.

Is there anything less expensive than a new set of tires that can help me enjoy riding in the mud?

There are all sorts of add-ons for both you and your bike that will make your life easier when
the rain falls, with one of the most essential being a front fender. Now, before you
groan and roll your eyes, we're not talking about the fenders on your dad's commuter
bike, but smart and compact versions that mount on your fork and work wonders at
keeping crap out of your eyes. You like your eyes, don't you? There are a bunch of
different versions on the market these days - some attach to your fork lowers
and extend front to back, and others are either Velcro'd or zip-tied to the fork's
arch and crown to keep debris from being flung up by your front tire. Either method works
well, and they are usually inexpensive and easy to install and remove. Racers might
want to think about using ''moto-foam'' stuffed into recesses on their bike to keep mud
from building up, a trick that might seem a bit excessive but one that begins to make
more sense when you think that your bike can easily collect more than a few pounds of
mud when things get really bad. Where the hell does one get moto-foam from? Head
down to your local pet shop and ask for fish tank foam, an inexpensive route that will
accomplish the same thing. Again, this is more for the serious racers out there but at
just a few bucks, it certainly doesn't hurt to try. Other hop-ups include sintered brake
pads, 3M stick-on frame protection in high-wear areas, and even something as simple
as a thicker lube intended for wet weather will go a long way to keeping your bike
running smoother for longer

Dressing for the conditions can make the difference between hating life and having the
time of your life when its cold and muddy as well, but many articles on the subject have
put a bigger emphasis on clothing than protection. Just remember that you are far more
likely to get spanked when it's slippery out, so it makes sense to dress for the crash,
not the ride. That might mean some slim knee pads, or at least a set of knee warmers
to keep the pieces of your knees together after you smash them, and a set of gloves with
more padding on both the tops and bottoms compared to what you might wear in the
summer. Elbow pads? If it's something that means you'll ride more relaxed, and therefore
smoother and in more control, then go for it. Eye protection can be even more important,
and a set of glasses is the bare minimum when the mud is flying all around you. We've
even been known to wear goggles on certain cross-country loops that save all the
descending for the second half of the ride - why not let yourself have the most fun possible
instead of stopping to pick dirt out of your eyes?

Slick wet and deeply carved mud all over the track

It's okay to tear a race course to bits on a muddy day, but the same likely isn't true for your local trails. Ask first, then ride with grace.

Thanks for the tips, but isn't riding in the mud bad for the trails?

True, riding in the mud can certainly cause some damage, but there are places where you'd
get just a few dozen rides in each year if you only rode in dry weather. Of course, there
are also locations where riding in the mud will leave a rut behind you that could take a year
to disappear. Your best bet is to assess the conditions and make a few inquiries with the
locals about whether it is acceptable to ride in the rain. It might not be the best idea to poach
your local desert singletrack on one of the few wet days that the area might have, and
doing so could earn you some bad karma that will come back to haunt you. Ever wondered
why you're the only one in the group to keep getting flat tires? Trust us, it's been proven
that a*sholes go through more tubes than nice guys.

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 100 2
 Mud is quite fun.
  • 44 7
 Mud is fun. I typically do better in the mud than in the dry.

One thing I have to disagree on is the flat/clips point made. Going from clips to flats for mud is a bad idea if you are really used to clips. You will not know what it feels like to be light on your feet with flats. It's not hard to get used to, but doing something like that on race day could end in a few busted tubes, blown spokes or busted chain guide. Know how to ride flats on dry before you take them to the mud if you are used to clips. My advice is to be good on both, just incase, you never know what to expect at a race.

Also, Silicon Spray was not mentioned. This stuff is a dream in some mud conditions. Depending on how the dirt is sticking to the bike and you, this stuff can be night and day. Spray it on the tops of your shoes, all over your frame, cranks, drivetrain, suspension etc. Just what ever you do DO NOT GET IT ON YOUR ROTORS! If you do it will be a fun, brakeless run down the mountain for you. I've been to some tracks before where this has kept pounds of mud off my bike at times. It can be picked up at any hardware store for a few bucks.

Go ride in the mud already!
  • 9 4
 Definitely agree with the clips. I have seen flat pedal riders putting a foot down and messing it up where the clipped in rider stays committed and gets through just fine.
  • 36 5
 I have also seen situations with clipped in riders taking a foot off and crashed because they couldn't clip back in, each to their own.
  • 5 0
 I love riding in mud, comes with the territory living in north wales though. If I didn't like it, I'd be pretty fucked! Clips to tend to make you less likely to want to dab - can be a good thing. I've been riding clips for about three years now, and it's only taken me until now to be really confident using them in muddy, sloppy conditions.
  • 8 0
 This is great for the UK, it's mud most of the year here Big Grin including the one week where it's summer. so clips/flats... not going to matter Razz
  • 4 0
 +1 I tend to ride better in the wet no idea why.
Ironically living in Australia its mostly dusty and dry, maybe the stupidly loose dry conditions are a good teaching ground. I tend to mentally ride well in the wet and just ride its like its dry. Keep the same mentality let the tires, pressures and suspension adjustment make up for the terrain condition changes. Ride the ruts and just smash it.
  • 2 0
 Guys who ride well in the mud tend to place a lot higher in the east coast DH, even if they could never do as well out west. I'm not one of those guys, but I know one.
  • 12 0
 Coming back covered in mud after flying sideways for a ride is priceless. It's also the best look for the pub full of people in their Sunday best.
  • 6 0
 Hang on, lean back, and point it!
  • 5 0
 i thought the suggestion of flats was to practice and get comfortable with the loose style then re-introduce your clips. no one is saying flats is better in the wet or that you should throw on a pair fresh from the box just for race day
  • 2 6
flag bonkywonky (Dec 10, 2013 at 10:38) (Below Threshold)
 Clips for racing, flats if you don't. I practically always drift feet up but still ride flats, mostly out of habit though, having ridden bmx street for years. The best mud riding tip I've ever heard was 'ride it like it' s dry' - I believe it was Danny Hart.
  • 5 0
 I believe it was Sam Hill.
  • 1 0
 It was Hill indeed.
  • 3 3
 flats all the way keeps you ready for anything coming if i had clips id be lazy just personal preference!
  • 5 0
 Why aren't teams using this!?
  • 3 1
 No idea. Products like never wet have been around for quite a while. I'm very interested in them actually manufacturing this into product coatings. Nanotechnology is amazing. Flats vs clips. Ride what your comfortable with, you will always ride faster when your comfortable. Dh has so many varribles clips vs flats really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. Go with what you ride best on.
  • 2 0
 neg propped for personal preference... pinkbike logic!
  • 54 0
 PB should do a to the point article about washing bikes AFTER you ride in the mud!
  • 10 0
 Yes I think a lot of people would benefit from that!
  • 3 2
 when i first started riding i almost totally ruined my first bike because i didnt know how to clean it after riding in mud, there was dirt in my chain,BB,headset,hubs, brakes just everywhere, ended up replacing a lot of parts..
  • 3 0
 I would really like to see a well-written article about this very subject. Living in Germany, I ride more in the mud than anything else, and there's a lot of debate here on how to clean, what to use, or even IF cleaning or how often is best.
  • 3 0
 Tips on using a pressure washer without washing grease out of bearings or threads would be most appreciated I think Smile
  • 1 0
 I want something you fit over the pivots to protect your bearings so pressure washing is safer
  • 3 1
 Luckily I ride hardtail most of the time so don't have this problem, however I agree with you though! My main issue is with any moving parts... headsets, bottom brackets, hubs, pivots, etc. Something latex or silicon based, that you can heat mould with a hair drier would be handy, then you can just pop them on the pivots/bb/etc when about to wash the bike. And if silicon/latex based you could fold them up and stick them in your pack when out riding. Latex-based covers would also stretch (would therefore have a lifespan but latex is cheap so this shouldn't be a problem) dno if there's any production-type folk on PB that could suggest if i'm mad or if this is a good idea?
  • 3 1
 cleaning your bike during mud season would be a great addition to this article... as a professional mechanic, i have seen a lot of different techniques.
However, another point to consider is the clothing+shoe cleaning. And only this year I have started a couple new techniques:
1, wear a lighter xc-style shoe that dries quickly. When you get the wash bucket out, get a second one with soap+water and just drop the pair of shoes inside. Let it sit while you wash your bike. When you are done, scrub the shoes, hose them off, and blow them out with compressed air. fill loosely with newspaper, and set by the radiator overnight. Not sure this works with heavier dh-style shoes.
Second is just get in the shower with all your kit on after the muddy ride. Get some cheap shower gel and loofah all your clothes. Rinse, remove, throw in the washing machine on a rinse only cycle. hang to dry, and good to go. Obviously, this might blow-out some of your more high-zoot fabrics, but are you really wearing that stuff in the mud?
  • 5 0
 As a mechanic that has dealt with my fair share of cross kids power washing bikes after races, I wanted to quickly chime in and say for the the love of God, don't PW! Smile It's not just pivot points, it's every single bearing (especially the BB) that will get ruined in the process. There is a reason the pro's do it, they have a team mech that tears down the bike after every race....

Get a wet rag and wipe things down right after the ride while things are still muddy, then when things dry go to town on the cleaning with a rag. It might be time consuming, but it comes with the territory of mud riding. Then re-lube everything. Same goes for snow riding.
But yeah, I also would love to see PB cover the ins and outs of bike cleaning. There are a ton of people out there doing it "wrong" and it pains me to have to see so many people ruin shit that could of been prevented.
  • 1 0
 If you don't spray the bearing areas it seems like you'd be safe. I don't have a pressure washer, but I'm just asking.
  • 6 0
1)locate hose
2)turn on hose
3)hose off bke
4)dry bike/lubricate
5)continue riding
  • 1 0
 Be aware of the silicone spray near your shoes/peddles...i got a bit on my wood floor when I applied it to my bike frame--ended up walking on the floor with my 510 dirtbags, and I couldnt get a clean, grounded stance on my peddles for weeks. Took a bottle of rubbing alchol on my floor/shoes/peddles before I got a clean grip. Apply the silicone to the tops of your shoes with a rag or even q-tips..a small bit goes a LONG LONG way. Trust me
  • 2 0
 I don't see why people bother with a power washer a regular garden hose has always done the trick for me, hit it within an hour of riding and the bike looks new...
  • 31 0
 again whats this mud thing you all talk about?
  • 20 0
 Just something that tries to kill you at inappropriate times, standard Australia stuff I know, but for other countries.
  • 1 0
 come to the northwest of the united states..tons of radiation from Fukshima japan, and tonnnns of wet, slippery wet mud. slippery
  • 1 0
 so muds kinda like a Brown Snake? Saying that is raining pretty hard right about now so might get to see it tomorrow. Beeries anybody?
  • 22 3
 "many of us don't blink an eye at a $6,000 mountain bike" Are you serious? Yes we bloody well do... I woulda nodded in agreement at 3000, but 6000 is definitely "wtf, that guy cant even ride that well, what a colossal waste of money" territory.
  • 18 1
 1500 is past blinking territory for a lot of us...
  • 20 0
 The pure enjoyment of having mud on yourself and your bike is indescribable. until the cleaning part
  • 7 0
 always amazed how long it takes to clean my bike.
  • 12 1
 If you like mud, Britain is the place to be, we have it almost year round!
  • 8 1
 1. ride mud and almost only mud all winter. the less grip the better. shed speed by sliding instead of braking.
2. take a month off the bike when it starts drying up.
3. go ride when it finally gets dry.
4. ?????
5. PROFIT!!! riding scared shitless with how fast you can go when it's dry
  • 1 0
 Throw in an xc bike for the winter so you are handling a bucking bronco in the rough roots and this is the ultimate school of hard knocks!
  • 1 1
 baca262 you are so right !
I have exactly the same feeling when the dry weather comes back : "shit now I'm going fast, if I fall now I might get hurt."
In the mud you fall all the time but at much slower speeds...
  • 9 1
 For Utah, advice for riding in mud: Don't.

You will ruin all the trails, ruin your bike, and then the Forest Service, like the communists they are, will kick mountain biking off Federal land.
  • 2 0
 I think thats most places here in the states
  • 4 0
 What was not mentioned in the first part is to stay off the brakes. A lot of riders panic reaction when they start sliding is to grab some brake…easiest way to eat $hit.
Speed control is paramount.
Brake where you can.
The mud will slow you down, so you need to brake less anyway.
The lack of traction means it is easy to lock up a wheel.
  • 3 0
 Great article on an aspect that is fast dwindling skill set in the realm of modern IMBA trail nazi/zen garden masters. We cant trail ride locally anymore in the winter god forbid we would molest the buff trail surfaces, instead we watch the CX mobs destroy public parksdressed like halloween and get away with it. WTF?
  • 7 0
 Mud is my bud.
  • 6 0
 This is all you need to know...
  • 7 0
This is all you need to know Wink
  • 7 0
 Just have an mp3 playback of Rob Warner screaming "Stay on yer Bike!" at every corner
  • 3 1
 I love so much mud riding and thats why people in Brazil call me Mudman but dh races in Brazil when the rain come some racers will freak out couse they dont train in mud to not scrach their bikes. Some racers will even manipulate the race for the race to not hapen on a mudy track. Here in Brazil there is no snow and when it rains we dont have problems with erosion couse no one care about the trails just in some national parks
  • 4 0
 I like mud not that hard to handle it just relax and go with it...If you ride dirtbikes well then you're golden.
  • 1 0
 Another tip in keeping the mud from getting in those nooks in crannies is a sticker. On my Fox 40 I put a Fox sticker on the backside of the arch. The arch uses a structural layup that looks like a bunch of triangles that is there to make the fork more rigid and to reduce flex. The sticker keeps the mud out and quite frankly I think it looks cool too. I noticed a lot of pros do it too. Smile
  • 1 0
 Next: Riding sub zero conditions, thank you. It can hit up to -30c here in (south)Finland. The mud season in this autumn took like a month, now its probably all about icy cliffs and roots hidden under thin layer of snow untill April. Then it's mud again, untill june. Can't wait to get into Catalonia for my 3 week escape of this joke of a black&white movie...
  • 1 0
 Been to Finland less than a month ago. Perhaps you should choose a different sport for the winter, for example cross country skiing?
  • 1 0
 That would be cool if it would interest me even slightly Smile Instead, I'm working on getting back to Spain - for good this time.
  • 3 1
 "A proper mud tire is all about penetration, with a skinnier casing and taller lugs that are meant to be able to pierce through the slop." Are you sure you still talking about tires?
  • 5 0
 PB should do a To the point - Riding in snow article Smile
  • 2 0
 One thing i always get a kick out of post ride is the crazy ass sock lines. I forget how white my legs are until i take off my socks and there's a clear line where the mud starts and where i stayed clean...
  • 6 2
 cool article but proofreading?
  • 10 1
 It would just exasperate the problem
  • 2 1
 A joke I hope @ maxlombardy Smile
  • 3 4
 @maxlombardy you mean exacerbate, but what is proofreading, right?
  • 2 0
 "exacerbate the problem" was, I believe the intended phrase (from the article), I like your pointing it out, Max as it was the one that held my attention most firmly.
  • 5 0
 Do you guys understand humour? (flamewar time)
  • 1 0
 What is this humor thing? O swinging both ways monarch from long ago?
  • 1 1
 Clearly you guys are unaware the article has been corrected... lol

too much butthurt.
  • 4 0
 Who's answering the questions?
  • 8 6
 It was surely some person from a large tyre company that wanted this article to be on to promote his products and steal our money! Pinkbike finaly listened to their audience and stopped this horrible hype mongering. I do not need to know who was that, there is absolutely nothing missing in this article. Mike probably asked some kid from Australia and makes perfect sense. If it was an infomercial from Maxxis or MucOff or Syndicate I would not trust a single word and I would find a dozen of good tips that this person has not said, because he needed to sell me his product.

Not sure if sarcasm? Check yourself at Dr Arsepill mental clinics
  • 3 0
 Mud tends to bring out my inner child Smile
  • 2 0
 Much of the world is entering a cold, dark time of the year

actually Id say it was nearer HALF of the world ;-)
  • 3 0
 Considering 90% of the worlds population is in the northern hemisphere and most of the land mass so its a fair point.
  • 1 0
 Lucky i'm in portugal, here we never get super soggy trails! The climate is awesome, sometimes its slippery, but not super slippery... its awesome!
  • 1 0
 "Trust us, it's been proven
that a*sholes go through more tubes than nice guys."
But I run tubeless! What does that make me?
  • 2 0
 Dnt take it personally but I rip tha boys for runnin tubeless, u must of changed over for a reason an im guessing tha wernt bcaus u never have punctures pmsl
  • 1 0
 I need an article about how to ride in dry dirt and sand. Mud? That's no problem. We ride in it all the time. Sand? What's that?
  • 1 0
 i lived in the UK for 30 years and if you didnt ride in the mud/rain you didnt ride!
  • 1 0
 Some of the most fun I've had on a bike was racing on muddy courses. It also quickly sorts the men from the boys.
  • 1 0
 "A bit of rain and mud" would be a joy right now instead of a foot of snow and 60mph winds!
  • 2 0
 was this a sales pitch orrr???
  • 1 0
 What if the mud you're riding in is straight clay and sticks to your tires?
  • 2 0
 I'm still an I just started putting more air in my tires
  • 1 0
 TL;DR version

Riding in mud is awesome that is all.
  • 1 0
 Favorite mud tires for general riding (not dh specific)?
  • 1 0
 Maxxis Medusa are my choice atm. Light and fast.
  • 1 0
 Continental Baron, and if you can afford it, go for the Black Chilli version (they are like £50ish a tyre!) Grips over anything like hell!
  • 1 0
 Spikes are spikes for the most part, some are heavy, some are light, but they will always be much better than a dry tyre in real mud. I ride some super cheap heavy intense ones and dont feel let down by them whenever i put them on. spikes are also well good in deep loam
  • 1 0
 Bontrager Mud X in a 2.0. Clear like a boss in all but the stickiest clay, but roll fast on hardpack. I run a rear one from September through to April normally to have almost all eventualities covered.
  • 2 0
 Grip it and rip it
  • 1 0
 You've had a good days riding when you come home covered in mud!
  • 1 0
 The conditions in two of the three photos are pretty dry in my book.
  • 1 0
 If anyone needs one of these for riding in snow i can helpWink
  • 1 0
 Best tip for riding in tha mud is remember not to wear white under wear Wink
  • 1 0
 I hate riding in mud Frown
XC it's fine but DH I just never enjoy it.
  • 1 0
 Rain or shine, wear your crash gear!
  • 5 6
 Random question guys: Are chromag bars a good thing to put in your bike or is it just for it to look nice?
  • 3 1
 I like mine, depends what you have now?
  • 3 2
 little bit of both
  • 3 2
 i have an stumpjumper fsr guys its got the original bar wich is a specialized
  • 1 0
 if nothing else, the new bars will be wider, and that has its own bennies.
  • 2 0
 Wrong place for the question but when it comes to bars your best bet is to try a few different shapes/rises/widths at your LBS (or on your mate's bikes) to find what you like. You wouldn't wanna spend all that money just to find they're uncomfortable for you.
  • 5 0
 I don't think they make a difference in the mud.
  • 2 0
 thanks ShawShaw Your answer was really helpful man Smile
  • 1 1
  • 30 0
 Easy for you to say.
  • 2 0
 ^^^^^^^^hahaha funny shit :-)
  • 1 1
 I guess you need rain to get mud. I sorta remember what rain looks like.
  • 1 1
 Riding in mud is fun? since when?
  • 2 0
 since oduvijek? lol
  • 2 5
 Summary: I'm an a*shole because I get flats.
  • 1 0
 I think it is a bit off to assume there's necessarily a corollary between getting flats and being an a*shole. There might be one between being an a*shole and getting flats, but not necessarily the obverse.
  • 2 0
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