Mud Ride

03.3.2009 | 3:47 am

Tuesday, I made a grave error: I went mountain biking on Hog’s Hollow. Although, if I’m going to be specific, the error wasn’t in going on a ride. The error was in not knowing when to turn around.

This decision was not without irony. (That’s my obfuscated way of saying it was ironic. The obfuscation is supposed to make me sound urbane, with a dry sense of humor and a raised eyebrow. How’d it work?) I’ll explain in a moment.

Botched, Dug, Dug’s friend Brandon, and Brad were riding the new singletrack in Draper that leads to the saddle of Hogs’ Hollow. (A big “kudos,” by the way, goes to the city of Draper, which, in an era where lots of cities are closing trails, actually paid money to have an excellent stretch of singletrack cut.) Even though it’s been raining a lot lately, the trail had drained well, and there was little mud. It was late afternoon, one of those crisp Autumn days where you wear shorts and a long-sleeved jersey. Truly perfect riding weather.

Brad, Botched, Dug, and I were on our singlespeeds, cranking up at a painfully fun cadence. Brandon, sadly, began the ride under the misunderstanding that because the rest of us were on singlespeeds, it would be easier to keep up. The reality is, when you’re on on a singlespeed, you just can’t climb as slow as someone on a geared bike. Lacking a granny gear, you’ve either got to row your bike nice and fast, or you’ve got to walk.

Anyway, we got to the saddle. Here, Brad, who once bullied me along the worst mud ride of my life (a full, futile day of trying to slog along the Kokopelli trail through mud, rain, and snow), looked up at the next section of the ride — where we’d be climbing to Jacob’s Ladder — and said, “I’ve got to get home.” He turned around zoomed down the singletrack the way he came.

Moments later, we got a call from Dug, who said we shouldn’t wait for Brandon and him. Dug then hung up without explaining himself, which is his way.

That left just Botched and me.

“Let’s keep going,” I suggested.

I am so stupid.

Almost magically, the trail had turned into a caking, gluey, adobe-like mud. The leaves and straw compounded the adobe effect. In moments, Botched and I had big chocolate bagels where our wheels used to be.

This allowed me to make several observations about riding in the mud.

  • Mud rides are not fun. This would seem to be self-evident, but it isn’t, at least for some people. I have heard people talk about how much fun they had on a mud ride. What’s fun about having your drivetrain jammed up, your wheels stuck from so much accumulated crud, and having your 23lb bike suddenly weigh 48lbs? I’m guessing somehow someone confused riding in the mud with having an adventure. But riding in the mud isn’t an adventure. It’s an adventure destroyer.
  • Mud rides make you seek out water. Whenever I came across a puddle of water — the bigger and deeper the better — I’d ride right through the middle of it. Ever so briefly, my bike tires would shed pounds of mud and I’d be able to see my bike chain again. This would last until three seconds after I came out the other side of the puddle.
  • Mud is stronger than gravity. Botched and I tried riding down the South side of the Hogs’ Hollow, which was the dumbest decision I have ever made. While the mud leading up to Jacob’s Ladder can be described as “incredibly evil,” the mud on the South side of Hog’s Hollow must be described as “Too Evil for Satan.” Within fifteen feet, Botched’s wheels were completely locked, and my rear wheel was jammed. Even though we were going downhill — sharply downhill — we could not move at all.
  • You can go further in the mud with a singlespeed than with a geared bike. The simplicity of the drivetrain means there are fewer things that can get jammed up. Is this good? In one sense, sure it’s good. On the other hand, it also means you suffer longer, because you don’t come to the obvious conclusion that your ride is doomed quite as soon.
  • You can go further in the mud with disc brakes than with rim brakes. I’ve never ridden as far without jamming up as I did last Tuesday, because now I have disc brakes. Rim brakes collect mud and reduce clearance much faster, meaning Botched had a lot more mud problems than I did, and a lot sooner.
  • Time ATACs are good pedals for mud riding. Crank Brothers’ Eggbeaters are, too. If you’re going to be forced to ride in the mud, ATACs and Eggbeaters are good pedals for it. They have similar low-tech cleats, and similar open pedal designs. Meaning you can grind into the pedals and go, although getting out of the pedals may not be as easy. Botched (in his Eggbeaters) had trouble getting out of his pedals a couple times in Tuesday’s ride; I (in my ATACs) did not.
  • Mud in Utah is a lot different than the mud in Washington. Back in Washington, the mud doesn’t cling to your bike. I would ride through mud and in mud constantly, and it just falls off the bike. After the ride, I wouldn’t even bother cleaning the bike, because when the mud dried, I could just wipe it off with a towel. In Utah, you need a chisel.
  • The worst thing about a mud ride is after the ride. Here’s what my bike looked like the morning after the ride. I know, I should have cleaned it right after. I was cold, tired, and had parental responsibilities though, so waited until the following morning. Something like this requires 30 minutes of work, bare minimum to get back to riding shape. For a geared bike, it would have been more like an hour.



  1. Comment by LeYonce | 03.3.2009 | 4:20 am

    We have our share of sticky mud in the Charlotte area of NC. Lucky the fork and seat stays keep some of it scraped off.

  2. Comment by Jorgex | 03.3.2009 | 4:47 am

    Where in Portugal it’s more clay that mud.

    During winter I have to use a stainless chain, a Time Atac and big tyres with lots of space between knobs (or thin tyres).

    For washing… …I start with a 1st layer of water, wait 10min and then dried mud becomes smother for normal wash.

    P.S. – HINT – A good mud tyre is the one that dog poo “washes out” easily in a few rotations. A bad mud tyre is the one that doesn’t come out and requires a stick… You get the picture and the smell.

  3. Comment by Bjorn 4Lycra | 03.3.2009 | 4:58 am

    I gotta say I was expecting more mud. A bike as mildly untidy as that would not look out of place in my daughters bedroom!

  4. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 03.3.2009 | 5:28 am

    My road bike looks almost that bad most of the time. Possibly because my maintenance program consists of replacing the chain and cluster every 12 months, tyres when they get hairy in the middle and everything else when it breaks. When I enact the annual chain/cluster renewal, I often also remove the chainrings and give them a petrol and paintbrush bath. Similarly, any replacement part gets the immediate area wiped over with a damp rag, but only so no dirt gets in delicate places to cause a squeak.

    But that’s only the road bike.

    The track bike gets polished to a high sheen using imported silk moistened with the cleavage sweat of a dozen virgins.

  5. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 03.3.2009 | 6:55 am

    Ahhhh Mud. I’m having a weight loss challenge on my blog next week. It’s pretty simple and it benefits the fight against cancer. If you’re interested check out my blog. If not no worries. Thanks for considering it.


  6. Comment by Biking Badger | 03.3.2009 | 7:16 am

    Had a ride like this a week or so ago. Not good at all. The ride is sometimes enjoyable but once you get home and need to start cleaning mud out of impossible to reach places, that’s when it turns pear shaped

  7. Comment by lrh | 03.3.2009 | 7:41 am

    Do you have any pictures of what you looked like afterwards?

  8. Comment by Big Boned | 03.3.2009 | 8:27 am

    For any interested – Just saw Jill DNF’d due to some frostbite on her toes.
    Here in DC we just got aobut 6 inches of snow and it’s supposed to be 60 degrees all weekend. I’m thinking if I went MTB’ing this weekend, my bike would look about like FC’s in these photos.

  9. Comment by Tim D | 03.3.2009 | 8:40 am

    My road bike looks muddier than that just from riding in to work this morning.

  10. Comment by Jenny | 03.3.2009 | 9:49 am

    ewww…I’m glad I get the Washington style of mud

  11. Comment by Aaron | 03.3.2009 | 10:14 am

    I see you have the same kind of mud in UT, as we do down in AZ. There is a reason they build houses outta the stuff!

  12. Comment by DP Cowboy | 03.3.2009 | 11:07 am

    That didn’t seem like much mud in the picture Fatty…did you already give it a rinse or something? Or, maybe a bunch fell off on the way home? If that was the case, then the theorem for estimating maximum mud matriculation can be called up and used to estimate that, during this ride, you ’shed’ five times your body weight in mud. Pretty good.

  13. Comment by Mike E | 03.3.2009 | 11:18 am

    Ha! Try living in England, especialy Bristol which is a very clay mud area… Dosen’t matter wether its summer or winter is mud season!

  14. Comment by Big Boned | 03.3.2009 | 1:21 pm

    I know this is kind of hijacking Fatty’s blog, but I think he likes Jill enough to not be mad about it.
    Jill’s race report is up on her website and she could use some love…

  15. Comment by Benny | 03.3.2009 | 4:36 pm

    Last fall I had a similar experience on the exact same trail, only I was on a geared bike. The mud was thick and strong enough to scrape all the paint off the inside of my seatstays, pull the derailleur out of alignment, bend the d-hanger, strip most of the teeth from the second derailleur pulley (made of plastic)and instantly rust the chain to death. An expensive mistake to be sure.

  16. Comment by Dan K | 03.3.2009 | 5:30 pm

    You cleaned that in 30 minutes? Please, share your secret. I’d spend an hour on the hubs and BB alone.

  17. Comment by Shiny Flu | 03.3.2009 | 5:42 pm

    Hehe, it reminds me of a Dirt Criterium race where we had a huge summer storm cell pass over us around 30min before the race (afterwork on a Thursday) dumping a river of rain.

    The club organisers decided to wait and see the turnout before they decided to cancel or not. Well since all the core regulars were there we said “well, yeah- lets race.”

    I was half expecting it to rain and hence forth chose not to bring my fenders, nor even considered tyres suited for anything except dry, dusty hardpack…lets just say I spent 2 hours cleaning myself and the bike when I got home.

  18. Comment by rob | 03.3.2009 | 6:29 pm

    Hey Fatty, No Superfly SS yet???

  19. Comment by anon | 03.5.2009 | 12:42 pm

    there is a technical name for when you emphasize something by negating it’s opposite, as you so urbanely demonstrated. it is “litotes.” in case you wanted to know.


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