Tips for riding your Motorcycle through Muddy Terrain

Tips for riding your Motorcycle through Muddy Terrain

Should I avoid mud at all costs, or can I give it a go? The initial response would be the former: when riding a road motorcycle, avoid it! But alas, this is only possible when living in a perfect world. Some of the best venues in South Africa may require you to ride two or even ten kilometers before enjoying its location, and this is where we get caught out. One minute it’s sunshine, the next you are navigating your way through natures splash pools…

Riding through mud can be extremely intimidating, but it’s certainly not impossible, and some motorcycles make it easier than others. For instance, the BMW RnineT Scrambler is a breeze. To make sure you get home mostly clean and dry you need to consider a few points that can’t be ignored.

  • Riding/Sit position
  • Slow and steady speed
  • Avoid cambers
  • Avoid brakes
  • Avoid changing direction

Some advice regarding mud riding would be “get tyres with deep grooves/nobblies” or “scrape excess mud off your tyres”. This is great advice, unless you have road tyres, off course. Let’s talk about some hints to help you when you are on a road bike with road tyres.

  • Riding/Sit position

The important thing is to sit in a neutral riding position: not too far forward, so that you can avoid putting too much weight onto the front wheel, and not too far back, in case you lose control of the handlebars when the bike starts moving around underneath you. Too much weight on the front wheel will cause the front to ‘wash away’ underneath you. Less control on the handlebars can prevent you from controlling the amount of throttle that you use.

  • Slow and steady speed

A slow and steady speed is crucial. If you slow down drastically, you may end up putting too much weight on the front wheel, reverting back to the possibility of the front ‘washing away’ underneath you. Conversely, if you enter mud/water pools too fast, you will also stand a good chance of losing control. Consider the fact that water slows you down immediately: the faster you ride, the bigger the sudden difference in speed becomes.

Once again this creates an unpredictable and/or out of control scenario. Too much acceleration once you are riding through the mud/water pool can cause the back wheel to spin. The result of this can be where you either have the back wheel losing traction and it wants to overtake the front wheel, or you may just get stuck due to the fact that the wheel keeps digging into the mud.

  • Avoid cambers

Cambers are tricky. It may look like the ideal ‘dry spot’ but depending on the type of mud, it could be your worst choice. Clay mud will slip and slide before you can even think about what’s happening. You want the keep the motorcycle upright at all times. Some cambers, especially with the clay mud, will not have the traction you require. The chances for the front wheel slipping off is significant.

If it’s mud you can walk on without slipping, you should be fine. But if you can’t even walk on it, avoid the cambers at all cost. You have a better chance of staying upright when riding straight through the middle section and/or any other level section, even if it’s covered in water.

  • Avoid using brakes

Using your brakes would be almost the same as decreasing your speed drastically, except it would be even worse. The last thing you want to do, is to bring your wheels to a sudden stop. Maintaining momentum is key, so a slow and steady speed without using your brake is crucial.

If you have no choice but to use a brake, only use the back brake. Remember to keep your riding position neutral and gently apply the brake. Don’t forget to keep your balance and put your foot out if necessary. Remember, wherever you place your foot/feet, it’s going to be slippery.

  • Avoid changing direction

When riding in conditions where traction is questionable, it’s key to remember that whatever you do on your motorcycle, it needs to be smooth, with predictable and gentle movements. A sudden change in direction may contribute to you losing traction on either the front or the rear tyre.

If you can’t avoid changing direction, make sure that your front wheel is always ahead of the rear. The front wheel needs to always ride over/around and obstacle/curb first. The rule is that the rear will always follow. Be aware of the camber situation that you need to avoid, and don’t use your brakes while changing direction. This rule applies even in dry conditions.

Keep safe and never be scared to take on a new challenge. It will improve your skill level!

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