If you haven’t already realised cyclo-cross is a mud sport. It means riding through the winter months until around January time. This means bad weather, and bad weather means mud. So you have to learn how to control the bike in very slippery muddy situations, learning how to corner without falling off is often one of the hardest things, and just learning how to ride through mud in cyclo-cross in general is tricky because there is absolutely no way of avoiding it!
Top Tips to Become Master of the Mud:
Yes, indeed! It’s quite easy to tense up in a situation when you think you are out of control as your natural reaction will be to try and stabilise the bike, keep in in a straight line, or stop it from sliding around. But it is quite the opposite! The more relaxed you stay, the more control you will have over your bike as you won’t panic and tense up.
Let the Bike Move
Let the bike dance as we say – give it some freedom! The key is don’t fight it. If you let the bike move around, you will have more chance of staying upright. From this, your reactions will be quicker and you will use less energy.
Choose the Quickest Line
Often in cyclo-cross you will find that the racing line is actually the muddiest and the slowest as the majority of people are using this line. Instead look for the less muddy line or a wider line where there is more grip. This will get you around the corners quicker and help in saving that all important energy. If there is no other line choice and you are forced to take the muddy racing line then don’t be afraid to un-clip the inside foot and dab to help stabilise the bike.
Transfer your Weight
Mud doesn’t just occur in the corners though and can be prominent on inclines or flatter sections of the course. When you are faced with this, a good tip is to keep your weight as far back as you can over the rear wheel where you need traction the most.
Try to avoid deep ruts but again, if unavoidable, stay relaxed and keep your cadence around 80-90 rpm to keep as much traction and mobility as possible.
Get your Gears Right
Following on from the above, getting the right gear in this instance in key. If you have too low of a gear then you will find yourself grinding to a standstill. If your gear is too high, you will spin too quickly and loose traction. If you are riding tubular tyres then lower pressures can be run to help with traction.
Turn up to the race with 2 bikes
Some of you may have two bikes for your cyclo-cross season. If this is the case then great, this helps hugely in getting rid of any excess mud and enabling you to have freshly clean tyres and wheels every lap as you will have someone cleaning it in the pits for you.
If you only have the one bike, it will be much harder to prevent the mud from slowing you down. Where possible, like in sections where you have to run you can try and scoop the mud off key areas to help keep the bike running.
Running is part of cyclo-cross and cannot be avoided in most races. Generally you have to run because of the terrain or to get your bike over an obstacle that you can't ride over, or get through muddy sections that would otherwise clog up your chain. Here are a few tips to get your technique perfect.
Last but certainly not least, learn to love the mud, embrace it and don’t fear it. After all it’s only mud!!