Trail Tips: Wet Features

I had planned for my next TT to have something to do with hills, but it’s been so rainy here and I get questions all the time about how to treat wet features.

Wooden features are something that quite a lot of people find intimidating even when dry, and their scariness just amplifies when they get some rain on them. One thing that I like to suggest for practice is to treat dry features as if they are wet, that way your skills will be even better when you need them! For roots, just try and remember that sliding on them will happen often in the wet and even occasionally in the dry – try not to panic and instead focus on choosing the line that will either go around them or help you slide reliably.

Features

Trail Scanning: Don’t forget to look ahead when you’re riding the trails, it’s important to be able to set up for things that are coming up ahead. Wooden features take a little bit of prep to get across safely, so knowing when they are coming is valuable.

Gears and Braking: The key to getting across wet wood is being smooth. Ideally you don’t want to be pedaling or braking when you are crossing. The -best- way to get across a feature is to be in the correct speed before you hit the wood. This could mean tossing in a few extra pedal strokes so that you can roll across, or putting on the brakes to do the same thing.

If the feature is longer, slow down and set your gears to a comfortable cadence before you hit the feature so that your pedaling is nice and even. Practice this often in the dry. The gear you are looking for is one that will be easy enough that you aren’t struggling to steer, yet hard enough that you won’t be spinning the tires.

Do -not- brake on wet wood unless it has some form of traction control (netting, grooves, rough surface). Even then use the brakes sparingly and gently. Avoid using them at all if possible.

Body Position and Balance: Your position on the feature will depend a little on the grade and whether or not you need to pedal, but most of the time you will want to be rolling in and your body position should be neutral or the ready position. (Standing with your pedals level, knees and elbows bent, head up. Think firm yet flexible, not jello or steel. See a video by British Cycling here.)

Line Selection: Again here we are looking for a natural smooth line that is either fairly straight or following a gentle curve. We want to avoid having to turn awkwardly and causing the tires to lose traction and slide.

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This feature is only a bit wet but you get the idea…

Roots

Trail Scanning: Same as always, don’t forget to look ahead so that you have plenty of time to prepare for them.

Line Selection: In the wet, if possible, try and choose lines that go around roots, or towards the smaller end of them. If you do need to ride over them, hit them in a perpendicular fashion, or right angle. That way you will roll over them instead of sliding along them. Be aware of your rear tire when lining up. Again, practice this in the dry.

Gears and Braking: The same concepts from features apply to roots as well. The most ideal scenario is to choose your speed beforehand and roll over them without pedaling or braking. If you are going uphill maintain a nice easy cadence to get over them.

Body Position and Balance: Treat roots the same as other obstacles. The ready position is the most ideal for rolling over them. If they are large remember to move your weight back to counteract the forces that will be slowing you down when you hit them. If you can do a front wheel lift with confidence this technique can assist you in getting over them.

Stay safe and ride within your limits!
If something is too scary, you can always walk it.

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