Tech Tips

How to survive a muddy mountain bike race

Team endurance racing exposes you to an array of unexpected variables, from mechanical problems through to course obstacles, teammate issues, and crashes. But nothing can prepare you for a turn in the weather! When a sunny day turns into a small flood, it's those who are organized who flourish in the mud. Read on for some advice on being prepared, even when you don't know the weather forecast.

essentials Essentials:

  • Chain cleaner
  • Wet lube
  • Cleaning equipment: brushes, spray bottle
  • Spares: brake pads, chain, cables
  • Mud tires
  • Riding glasses with clear lenses
  • Warm food options
  • Sense of humor
  • Chamois cream
  • Spare riding clothes

If you're heading off for a weekend of team racing it pays to be prepared. We've mentioned compiling a small toolbox in the past, but here's another reminder. Fill it with tools you can use, as well as chain cleaner and lubricant and even basic spares (brake pads, cables etc).

mud packed mountain bike mtb tire chunky tread
Mud tires use a widely spaced chunky tread pattern for increased grip and better mud shedding capability.

It's also too easy to have a set of mud tires packed for each race, just in case you need to change them over for extra grip when the trails get slushy.

But enough of the essentials, stick these following tricks up your sleeve for the next mudfest you're lucky enough to be knee deep in...

TIP: If frame clearance is an issue when using chunky mud tires, then try using a narrower option. Narrow tires can cut through the surface slush and bite into the harder surface underneath. In a race you will appreciate the lower rolling resistance as well.



If you're part of a small team in an endurance event, there's plenty of time to clean your bike as well as eat and recover before you head out again. Pack some basic cleaning equipment in the car, such as a 'pump and spray' pressure bottle, bike cleaner, and a chain cleaner. Once you've done your two lap stint you can quickly go about cleaning your drivetrain for the next lap. This will help the bike survive the horrendous conditions as well as maintain its ability to function.

Spray your brakes clean, as well, so you can check whether you've got much pad left! Mud chews through brake pads, so imagine what a 12-hour endurance event will do...

TIP: Try some non-stick cooking spray on your frame pedals or other areas. It helps prevent mud build-up. A word of warning though: Don't get it anywhere near your brake surfaces or pads!


We don't expect you to change for every riding stint you do, but changing after six hours of being covered in mud will make you feel amazing. Tie this in with a main meal of the day and you'll boost the effects of feeling fresh, clean, and ready to roll. Change everything for clean kit - socks, knicks, top, gloves, and clean your clear-lensed glasses.

TIP: Use plenty of chamois cream in muddy events. Once the sand and dirt penetrates your knicks, it'll grind away at your skin over the next few hours, leaving you raw. This is another reason for having a wash and changing your kit every six hours or so.


Not only are you fueling your riding, you're also fueling the fact that you're active for such an extended timeframe - AND you're probably cold! Having a set meal plan is the very best way of maintaining a routine and keeping up the fuel during your race.

Set aside your main meals, such as lunch and dinner (depending on race format), and then work out your snacks. Easy-to-eat tasty treats will tempt you to eat more, so aim for things like creamed rice, chocolate, hot cross buns, fruit loaf, banana bread, and a warm cup of coffee. For a main meal, have something wholesome like a warm stew and rice. Whole food makes whole differences!


Having tactics in place can keep team morale high and also keep everyone moving in the same direction. If you want to keep it simple, just complete one lap each before transitioning. If you want to step it up, you can tie in main meal times with your double lap stints. This way your team mates can have more time to eat (and so can you).

If you are doing a longer 24-hour event, consider hitting the other teams hard during the night. Advanced tactics fail to register with most people until they check the live results at 6am the next morning and see you four laps ahead. Consider preserving yourselves all day and then have a very solid main meal for dinner while each teammate does double laps. While resting, have a nap between laps... When night arrives, hit overdrive, aiming to cut your lap times by a consistent 5 minutes. Have teammates charge batteries for one another and execute perfect transitions.

TIP: Sunrise wakes your body up and rejuvenates your mind. If your race involves riding through the night to see sunrise, expect a surge from other teams when the sun comes up. Counter this with solid night riding and trust that sunrise will also wake you up and give you the boost you need!


muddy mtb team having fun
All in good fun!

Although you were there to have fun it the first place, you might not feel this way at race end. Keep your spirits up during any endurance event and reward your lap completions with food, warm drinks, and a face wipe. Have a laugh at the severity of the weather and just go for it! Racing in the mud is hard and can be unpleasant if you're unprepared mentally and physically. With sufficient planning and enough warm clothes, it can be a good laugh with plenty of memorable moments along the way.


Read 'How to clean your bike post mud ride!'
How to clean your bike post mud ride!
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Gopr2706Author: Joey Esterhuyzen
Joey has been racing bikes since he was a kid. He never grew old because of this, and still pops up on the race cards now and again near the pointy end... Joey loves nothing more than a solo road ride in the hills, or a fast and flowing MTB trail session... "Who says you can't whip an XC hardtail?!"

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