Here in the Rocky Mountains, we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place that we can enjoy different activities amongst the seasons. The weather is warming up and it’s a wonderful time to be outdoors, but the biggest drawback of the spring is that the trails are still primarily too wet for mountain biking. This year it seemed as winter was never-ending – were not complaining we enjoyed all those laps on the hills late into the season – yet getting the bike out to hit the trails is where most of us want to be when it’s warm.
While it is extremely tempting to get out there and go ride even if the trail is wet, in doing so it can have an adverse effect on the trail all summer. Riding on wet biking trails can cause ruts and erosion, widening of the trail, and damage to that bike you love so much. There are trails and areas in the Rocky Mountains that handle the moisture better than others such as a trail with more sand or gravel, but it is best to avoid the trails that turn to mud or full of water.
Erosion and Ruts:
If the trail is wet and muddy, continual bike riding creates ruts making the trail worse when it dries. The more a trail is ridden on, the more susceptible it becomes to erosion, yet erosion is accelerated when the trail is muddy and bike tires are going deeper into the dirt. Ruts on trails require additional trail maintenance, which is done by volunteer work. There is a huge misconception that the trail will just repair itself. That is False. The trail will become worse over time. The more work volunteers have to do to correct ruts and erosion from trail abuse and weather, the less time they have to focus on other trail improvements. It would be a real bummer not to be able to enjoy those trails all summer in the gorgeous weather.
Widening of the Trails:
Riders usually tend to go around the muddy areas and off-trail when the paths are wet. In doing this, it will start to create another trail, leaving behind the vison of a singletrack path and making erosion worse. Riding the wet trails also hurts the natural environment leading to additional damage. At the end of the day, riders will have to make the decision to get off their bike to walk through puddles if the path is deeply saturated in parts instead of riding around it. Although, if the trail is truly mud filled or gets worse as you ride further into it and it’s probably best to turn back around and find another trail to ride.
Damage to Your Bike:
We have seen the commercials and ads of how awesome it looks when the mud is flinging back from the tires, leading us to believe our bikes can handle it all! Well, that image is not completely true. You weren’t sold a lie, but in all reality mud can have a severe impact on your bike. Riding wet, muddy trails will cause mud to lump up on your rear tire, which can catch your rear derailleur forcing it to bend or break. This is a real quick way hurt your bike and it’s not the only part that can be impacted-think about the other essential bike parts as well that could be damaged.
We know this time of year can be a real pain for bike riders. Most of us are dying to get out there to ride our favorite trails. The warm weather and sunny skies can trick us into believing we are good to get out there, but that is generally not the case. Various circumstances such as afternoon rain storms and water runoff play a major part in trail conditions. It is best to plan ahead and have alternative trail options ready. Read trail conditions and statuses before heading out. It may be very tempting, especially when you have put in the effort and time, to ride a muddy trail, but remember the impact that has on the trails, your bike, and after all who truly enjoys being soaking wet and muddy?
Do you have any tips to add? Do you know of a good trail to ride during the mud season? Comment below.