XC Mountain Bike Racing in Wet Conditions By Richard La China
After the wet and muddy race conditions this past weekend, I was inspired to share these tips...
Spraying Pam Cooking Spray on your frame, pedals, and tires will help a ton. Make sure to avoid getting any of this spray on your rotors and brake calipers.
The Pam spray will reduce the mud build-up and give you a better chance of keeping your bike rolling. Also, if you end up having to run a section of the course, you'll appreciate the fact that your bike doesn’t have 25 pounds of mud stuck to it.
Use a thick chain lubricant. A thin chain lube can wash away rather quickly, but a thinker one will stay put, even when coated in mud.
Brake a bit early before a corner because brake pads will not be as responsive as in dry conditions.
Wear a cycling cap under the helmet to shield some of the rain from hitting your glasses. Also, using an anti-fog product (Rain-X) does wonders in preventing you from becoming legally blind on a technical climb or descent.
Stick with it. Bad weather can cause a lot of racers to mentally check out either before the race even starts (the DNS group) or half-way into the race (the DNF group). This leaves the field wide open for the podium spots for those that simply refuse to quit and/or ride aggressively.
There are two schools of thought on tire selection.
- Option 1: Race a wide, aggressive tire that can grab the terrain (while shedding mud). Problems with this is if you have narrow chain/seat stays (and/or fork), the mud can build up between your tire and the stay eventually slowing you down to a halt. If you have plenty of clearance, this may be a good option.
- Option 2: Skinny is better (1.95 or 1.75). The idea is that the skinny tire can cut through the mud and find some terrain to connect with. Also, this provides for good clearance between your chain/seat stays thus less mud build up.
When it's wet, it's usually cold. So, the tendency is to wear more clothing. Be careful, there is a fine balance between wearing enough to keep warm, and too much potentially causing performance inhibiting over-heating. If you haven't warm warmed up yet and you're already warm -- you're probably wearing too much.
Nutrition / Hydration
Just because it's cooler and you're surrounded by water -- doesn't mean you don't need to drink. Use your water bottle, catching rain drops on your tongue isn't enough. Also, this is still a race -- make sure you eat as you normally would. Because of the wet conditions, you'll want to keep your hands on the handlebars more than normal -- with this in mind, make sure you food is easily accessible (pre-opened packages, snacks in foil, PowerBar Gels taped to your top tube, etc.).
If you think there’s a chance you’ll be racing in wet conditions, go practice riding in wet conditions! However, if the trails are really wet it may be best to avoid them to prevent trail damage. Use good judgment. If you're not sure, check with the park ranger.
After Race Bike Clean Up
Clean your bike as soon as possible after the race. Bringing a spare gallon of water and soft brush (like a dust pan brush) should workout perfect to get the majority of the debris off your bike. Be careful not to spray water directly into any part of your bike that has a bearing (bottom bracket, steering tube, hubs) or your fork. Water can damage bearings (even sealed ones). Lastly, be sure to lubricate your bike directly after cleaning it.