The 5 Types of Mud Only MTB Riders Can Distinguish

By Martin Atanasov

There is a lot one can learn from mountain biking. That’s hardly a surprise at all, especially considering the technique, the mechanics and the etiquette that comes with this particular type of bike riding. However, one thing that may come as a shock is that you can expand on your geological knowledge thanks to mountain biking. 

Hopefully, this won’t happen due to close encounters with the ground but rather by differentiating the terrain you are riding on and its properties. Naturally, you will have a keen eye for all sorts of gravel, roots and, most notably, especially during spring, mud. No one knows dirt like an avid MTB rider. So, if you are new to the sport, here are the five mud types that only Mountain Bikers can distinguish.

Muddy trail
Gear up for that muddy season. © Profimedia

Brown ice

We kick it off with one type of mud that will generally make you pack your bags and go back home. It’s simply impossible to ride it or at least it makes for one truly horrific experience.

This type of mud appears with the first rain after prolonged dry weather when the ground is so hardened that the water simply can’t soak into the dirt. Instead, it slides on top of it, creating a thin layer of ultra-slippery mud. Gaining control of your bike on this brown ice is practically impossible. The ground beneath is too hard to be penetrated by the rubber spikes on your tyre, while at the same time, the upper soil is too slippery to give you any traction at all. The brown ice mud makes one truly dangerous combination. It allows for dry-weather speed with the rainy weather’s lack of control. Usually, such a mixture ends badly.

The best course of action, in this case, is to use a soft compound tyre, though that will only partially solve the problem. The best way to deal with this kind of mud is simply to go home and ride another day. It’s not worth injuring yourself over a muddy terrain that will last 2-3 days tops.

Sticky mud

The sticky mud is a truly fascinating one. So much so that scientists should take time from their busy schedules to examine it. In all fairness, they probably already did but we prefer experiencing it first-hand rather than reading about it.

This mud is somewhat bearable for riding. It provides some excellent grip at times. But from time to time, quite unexpectedly, the grip disappears like a plate of cookies left alone with a blue monster from Sesame Street. This makes your whole ride either outstanding or a true nightmare, depending on your luck. It’s much like playing the Russian roulette.

The worst part of this mud is that it sticks to your grapple and fills the spaces between the rubber spikes, making the bike uncontrollable. However, if you manage to keep your treads clean, you will have traction as if you ride on a dry trail. The trick is to ride at a moderately fast pace, which will eject all the mud from your treads. Ride slow, and this sticky mud will clog your tyres, and you will feel as if you are riding on ice.

Rocky mud

This is one of the better kinds of mud, as weird as that sounds. It can give you outstanding grip, as long as it’s not trampled together beyond recognition, while at the same time, it allows for some pretty sweet and well-measured slips, which can make your ride that much more fun.

You can control your bike almost perfectly if you have the technique for it but, more importantly, slowing down and stopping is not at all a problem. This outstanding mix of perfect traction and ability to slide on demand is due to the rocky compound of the mud. It allows for the rubber spikes to penetrate deep into the soil yet still have a grip, thanks to the rocks.

This type of mud stays long after the rain and can even be encountered when all other parts of the trail are arid. Still, that’s not a huge problem. The problem comes after the ride. The texture of the mud is such that it clings to every part of your bike, especially your drivetrain where it can infiltrate the inner parts and drastically reduce their lifetime.

The worst thing is that if you leave the bike to dry, this mud turns into a concrete-like substance, and you will have a pretty hard time getting rid of it. So, whenever you ride on a rocky and muddy terrain, be sure to clean your bike first thing after the ride. While it will still be hard work, it beats scraping off this stubborn mud along with your bike’s paint. If cleaning your bike is not such a tedious task for you, riding on this type of mud is an absolute must. It’s fun, and it’s nothing like you’ve tried before.

Brown water

This is one of the best muds you can encounter. It’s practically not mud at all but rather some brown water. This kind of mud can be found after heavy and prolonged downpours, which wash away almost all slippery parts of the soil and leave just a tiny watery blanket covering the trail. Even if you are with dry-weather tyres, you can still get enough grip to have some pretty decent rides. Spike tyres are definitely overdoing it in this case, although you can still use them. No one will blame you.

The best part is that this mud is so diluted that it won’t stick to your bike and, more importantly, won’t clog your tyres. The only trick is to ride the muddy track without any concerns. It isn’t very encouraging seeing what essentially looks like brown ice and rushing straight into racing mode. Well, once you get one run down the trail and feel the grip, you will gain some courage.

Hero mud

Hero mud is hands down the best type of dirt for wet riding. All mud tyres are produced with this exact mud in mind, and the rubber spikes cling to it like a starving lion to a tasty overfed antelope. This type of sandy terrain, mixed with sticky mud, provides one outstandingly predictable grip allowing you to go at breakneck speed. The bike is easily controlled with little technique involved and has absolutely no problem when it comes to slowing down or stopping.

As the name suggests, Hero mud provides the best conditions for some epic rides. The mud itself, although sticky, is effortlessly ejected from the tyres when changing directions. The only downside of this type of mud is that it erodes quite fast, and trails that have it quickly change to some other type of mud described above.

The best kind of mud

However, the best kind of mud will always be no mud at all. Yes, there is nothing like speeding down a mountain with your trusted bike without spraying yourself from head to toe with sticky, wet goo, you will need to wash off afterwards and clog your drain while trying to scrub it off your legs and hair. So if you have to choose between riding on a muddy or dry trail, don’t wonder what type of mud you will encounter and just pick the dry one.