About this time of year (March) most of the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to thaw from winter’s frozen grip. When two feet down in the ground all that frozen moisture begins to thaw it spells MUD, mud. Of course, even at other times of year mud can be a big factory. You just never know when Mother Nature is going to through a mud race in the mix. Anyone would prefer no dust, no mud ideal conditions but there are some riders who always manage to shine in the muddiest conditions. Like Josh Woods who got 2nd in the main in the muddy conditions at A1 in 2005 and didn’t even qualify for the main in the next 3 rounds. Why is this the case, well let’s brake it down and see why.
Nine times out of ten these riders come from a muddy back ground. In other words then grew up in an area that had a lot of muddy riding seasons and they just got used to riding in the mud, it’s no big deal to them and they learned at an early age how to best deal with it. One of the best ways to deal with it is to leave your bike in the garage and go to the gym. Just kidding, that’s maybe if you’re an amateur and you live in So Cal or Florida because you know it’s going to stop raining soon and you’ll have good conditions again but what if you live where it doesn’t dry out for weeks, even months. That’s the way it is in Ohio and back when young racers were still in school if we wanted to ride we had to ride in whatever conditions were out there. I remember many days during the week practicing in the snow. There was a 4 acre lake that Frank Gallo and I would flat track around. It was more like straight up track around. We just had regular knobby tires so we had to keep the bike straight up, get our momentum going in forth gear (400 Husqvarna 4 speed) and we could slid around the entire lake while counter steering to the steering lock. Of course, it really helped that the bikes were so low we could stand over them flat footed on the ice. Throughout the winter and early spring when there were no motocross races going on here were Hare Scramble Races just about every Sunday that were like a cross between and enduro and a motocross. My point is we rode, made the best of what was available and had fun doing it. That’s why to this day riders from these type parts of the country are better mud riders than the golden boys from So Cal and the likes.
Some riders get bummed out and loose their focus when faced with muddy conditions. But the good mud riders stay focused and concentrate on the race instead of being distracted with negative thoughts about it. The attitude has to remain positive. The positive mind sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible. The dictionary’s definition of attitude is; a mental position or feeling with regard to a state or fact. In other words it’s your perception about the situation. It’s the way you think and feel about the mud race. So one of the main factors about mud riding is to have a good outlook about it, stay focused on the task at hand and enjoy the process. Have a good attitude about these less than favorable conditions.
Of course there’s a lot more to it than just having a good attitude and not minding getting yourself, all your equipment and your motorcycle dirty. There’s some smart ways to better prepare yourself and your machine. Such as the following;
1. Look at the track: Study as much of the track as possible before your race. See where the best lines are, but especially see if there are some sections that you want to avoid. Like deep water or a place where you could get stuck. If you have a teammate or friend who just finished their moto talk to them and many times he can update you on important track changes. Many times when it’s this muddy you won’t get a parade lap, so take advantage of any other ways to know the track the best you can before you go out there.
2. Prepare your vision: Roll offs are probity still the best way to go for the wet conditions but now some of the leading goggle manufactures (like Scott) are make special tear off so thin that you can stack about 30 on there and still have good vision. The only problem is it’s difficult to just pull one at a time off and you may pull five or six at a time. Always make sure you have no fog on the inside of the lens. Keeping the out side clean isn’t going to help if you can’t see through from the inside. If you are using roll-offs fix one or two tear offs to the goggles. Put some duct tape to the tear off flap so it’s easy to find and pull off. These first one (or two if it’s really muddy) will work good at saving your goggles for the start when you may really get blasted with a nice refreshing mud bath. To keep the mud off the top of the helmet and visor many riders tape a course form on there. If you don’t have this type of foam tape some tear offs to your visor and the top of your helmet. When the heavy mud builds up on there you can peal it off with the tear offs.
3. Traction connection to the bike: When that bike gets wet and muddy, it’s not only going to gain some serious weight, but it’s also going to become difficult to stay connected to. A non-slip seat cover, full waffle grips, cotton mechanic gloves, and plastic grip protectors are some other helpful items.
4. The extra weight of the bike: If it’s a sticky type of mud you should have your shock spring pre-load tighten up a bit, and your front forks dropped about two or three mm to compensate for the extra weight. This will help keep the bike at it’s normal ride height even after it gains 20 or 30 pounds of mud. It will also keep the mud from accumulating as bad if you spray WD 40 under the fenders and anywhere else but the rider’s contact points and the disc brakes and rotors.
5. The Chain: Leave the chain extra loose because the mud packing in the chain and sprocket is going to make it much tighter. While the chain is still clean put an extra lot of chain oil and even grease on it. This will help to seal it up from getting as much mud inside the rollers.
6. Tires: You defiantly want a good shape mud tire on both front and rear. Mud tires are made from a harder rubber compound with deeper wider spaced knobs. They will clean themselves out better and give you a whole lot more grip. Dunlop has an excellent choice with its 990 model.
7. Attitude: And remember don’t let this part go unchecked. It’s still a motocross race and a good motocross racer is good in all types of conditions. Keep a positive outlook and have fun.
“ The loser sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the winner sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.
Following are some riding techniques that will also help you through the quagmire.
Riding in the sand is similar to riding in the mud so if you’re already a good sand rider the adjustment to mud should come very quickly. Keep the front wheel light by keeping your body position and weight further back at all times than when riding in regular conditions. You still use your full range of movement but you’re a little further back in all those positions. Like; when you would normally be in the front of the bike you would still be toward the front of the bike but not quit as far forward. When you would normally be in the center on the bike you would still be toward the center but just little further back and the same goes for when your body position would normally be toward the rear of the bike, you’d still be in the rear body position but even further back. All this would keep the front end a little lighter than normal so it won’t steer with it as much and slide out or have it catch and plow into the muck and stop or throw your body over the handlebars.
You also want to keep the throttle on more when riding in the mud. Of course, this is going to be obvious since you’ll need more power to get the extra weight through the soft ground but it’s also necessary in order to keep the front end doing what it’s suppose to do and not do what was just mentioned earlier. This means you don’t want to shut the throttle off any longer than you have to. As soon as possible get back on the power even if it’s just a little bit of power (acceleration) get on it earlier than you normally would in normal conditions.
Keep the bike up straighter and steer more with the rear wheel. When it’s muddy it’s usually more slippery as well. This means you can’t lean the bike over as far because it will slide out from under you. The way to get around this fact is to steer more with the rear wheel than the front. This way you can still go fast around the corners by pivoting the bike on an arch through the turns. On some tight turns you can pivot it in one place but on fast more open corners you’ll have to pivot it through the turn on an arch. Of course this is only when the surface is slippery with no ruts. Set up the pivot or pivot/arch with the rear brake and continue it by slipping off the rear brake and onto the clutch and throttle. You go from the set up brake slid to a power slid in one fluid motion. If there are ruts check into a rut and get on the power early. Don’t try to brake slide into a rut, just steer into the rut with the front wheel and get on the power as early as possible.
Mud like sand does not require as much braking power especially with the front brake. This is because the soft mud is going to really slow you down just by letting off the throttle. You have to be very careful as to how you use the front brake and many times you won’t need it at all. Remember you want to keep you weight back more but when you use the front brake it transfers weight to the front. This can cause many of the problems explained earlier. So use more rear brake and only use the front when you really need it and then use it lighter than normal. And remember to accelerate just before getting into the rut.
Most of the time on these muddy tracks there will be really bad spots. Like; deep soft ruts or holes. In this case you want to slow down just enough right before the beginning of the rut or hole so you can accelerate into and through it. Many times you can carry the front wheel over a short soft rut or hole. If you come into this type area too fast and try to slow down as you get into the soft rut or hole it will be much more difficult to maintain control and it will end up slowing you down more than the correct way just mentioned.
Quick reference mud riding techniques;
A. Keep the front end light.
B. Keep the bike more straight up and get on the power earlier.
C. Not as much front brake.
D. Accelerate just before getting into a rut.
E. Carry the front wheel over the bad areas.
If you want to be a competitive motocross racer you defiantly have to be a good mud rider. You may find, like I did, that many of my best races turned out to be muddy ones. A few days later when everything is all clean and shiny again it’s all good anyway.
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