How To Improve Your Riding Skills For Dry Conditions

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Feels dry all over. GW Photo

Ok, is there any water left anywhere in the US? Here in CT it’s been bone dry and oven-hot for the last few weeks. The trees are like “fuck it, it’s fall, here’s your leaves” and there’s a fine dust layer all over my bike like when I ride in SoCal. I haven’t experienced mud or a slippery root in months.

Not to complain too much, trail freaks aren’t whining about us riding in the wet and I don’t have to wash my bike as often. But there are challenges to riding in dry conditions we should address.

Loose surface and skidding.

Gee Atherton sticking to the side of the trail. GW Photo

With no water to hold the soil together, hard corners and fast straightaways can get a little sketchy. Embedded marble to softball-sized rocks have come loose and are now rolling around on the trail. If you don’t have some protection underneath your down-tube, think about zip-tying a used inner tube or a cut-up old tire down there.

Rocks seem looser and tires break away quicker. Trans Savoie photo

Tires begin to break away more easily. Be careful with your brakes, especially the front, (meaning don’t grab it too hard) and stay smooth. Maintain a neutral riding position, with your weight centered over the bike, as too much weight front or rear can cause a tire to slip out. Your bike will want to go into a drift quicker than it normally would, so throw a foot out on fast corners - just in case.

Bernardo Cruz demonstrating a little foot-out cornering. Ben Stanziale photo

Keep your eyes up and spot where all that loose dirt and detritus has come to rest in corners or on the trail – and avoid it. Predict where your tires might break out. Change line choice from the norm to be clear of crud pushed around by other riders. If the trail is cupped, those small marbles will collect in the trough, so try riding the sides.

Climbing

Thinking through the climb. GW Photo

You’re going to have more rear-wheel slip issues in the dry. Less tire pressure will help, but there’s a limit to how low you can go. Shift into a slightly tougher gear than you would normally use and slide your weight back a hair from where you usually climb - to keep pressure on the rear wheel. Don’t let climbing form go out the window, though, keep that chest low and those elbows dropped.

Keep chest and elbows down. GW Photo

If you have the luxury of buying more tires, or have a few sets in the garage, ones with smaller, tighter knobs work better in dry conditions. If not, again, drop that tire pressure a bit.

Hydration.

Things can get thirsty if you're exposed. GW Photo

When it’s 90-100 degrees and dry you are going to blaze though water. Watch out for dizziness, sloppiness and fatigue. I usually rail against a hydration pack. Not today. Fill it, bring it and drink it all.

3 guys in the dry. Bring water, lots of it. Rip Beyman photo

Hydrate the night before a big ride and drink a bottle on your way to the trailhead with some electrolytes and bcaa’s in it. Basically keep yourself topped off right up to when you start riding.

Add electrolytes to your water bottles or hydration pack, and add a bit of salt to your diet. Seriously, look at it as a safety issue. Plan your water.

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