IMBA Revises Advice for Riding Muddy Trails
After careful review and considerable input from land managing agencies, IMBA has revised its advice for when and how to ride on muddy trails. “This is an important development as we enter the spring riding season,” said IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. “With high levels of precipitation occurring in many regions it’s inevitable that trails will get muddy — our new guidelines are designed to relieve much of the impacts associated with mountain biking on saturated natural-surface trails”
IMBA’s Rules of the Trail have long stated, “Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones.”
“That’s good advice and it still stands,” said Van Abel. “However, we have supplemented the rules in a way that recognizes that ways that mountain biking is changing.”
Improvements in bicycling technology and riding techniques yield the following additions to IMBA’s advice:
1) Consider Hucking. Riders who once wondered whether it was better to ride through a puddle or go around it now have a better choice: Air it out. “Most riders today can comfortably launch 5 to 15 feet, depending on speed and trail conditions,” noted Van Abel.
2) Only Ride 650b, 29er or Fat bikes in Wet Weather. “There’s no excuse for being caught out in the rain on an antiquated 26-inch rig,” said Van Abel.
3) Manual, Wheelie or Nose Wheelie to Reduce Impact. “This one is pretty simple,” said Van Abel. “One wheel has 50 percent less impact on the trail surface than two.”
Of course, some older mountain bikers will need to upgrade both their technique and their equipment in order to comply with IMBA’s advice. “If you’re in your thirties or forties and entering your golden years of cycling — you may not have the skillz or the bike you need to ride in wet weather,” said Van Abel. “In that case, your choices are simple — stay indoors, or get properly trained by someone who has completed an IMBA Instructor Certification Program class.”
See how it's done in this video from the United Kingdom (note that the footage was captured on a closed racecourse, on trails that were meant to be ridden in mucky conditions, i.e. the British Isles).