I want a tyre with more grip. I hear this all the time. The other one is “I want a tyre for the slippery chalk”. Well, I hate to disappoint you but, there isn’t one. You choose your tyre for everything else. For chalk the smaller the knob the better the chance of maintaining grip so a chalk tyre might not be the best choice for the wet clay of the season. However, in October 2016 the chalk is proving to be very different and in all my 32 years experience I have never know it so grippy for the the time of year. Enjoy it while it lasts.
I originally wrote this last year and, at the time, I was riding with worn 35mmSchwalbe Sammy Slicks. I am currently running 37mm Maxxis Riddlers So my view of slippery may be different to yours. There were problems though, 35mm and about 30 psi had meant a series of pinch flats. I'm now tubeless.
When mountain biking you need to think about the terrain. Anyone who skis will understand this. Snow is white but virtually every metre has a different texture and what’s more this changes continually through the day. You ride on experience and learn to interpret the different looks of the snow (read mud). You look for certain signs. To ride a bike on the South Downs you need to do the same thing. Usually the chalk isthe enemy but now it’s your friend. When it does get slippery the clay will also get soft but the thing with clay is that it usually has grass growing out of it so you ride the grassy ridge and not the smooth but now muddy track. The answer is to choose your line: Muddy riding rule No 1 chose the right line.
The great thing about riding in the slippery conditions is that the all too common slide happens at slow speed so, without too much trauma, you start to get used to it and learn to relax. And that it is Muddy riding rule No 2: Relax (let the bike move under you).
How do you relax? One method that I have used every year and every time we have another wet spell is too tell myself to relax, stay loose, don’t grip too hard, floppy elbows, loose hips, gentle on the power and the key to it all is to smile. If I can’t smile then I am not relaxed enough and I will skid and fall.
Another way to relax is to buy a tyre that has more grip, or at least you beleive it has more. Its main advantage is that it generates more confidence in your bike handling. What improves your ability more is the fact that you have confidence and so are more relaxed. So Muddy riding rule 3: Buy a tyre that has more grip. It is also important to reduce your tyre pressure and shock pressure for traction. Over the years I have had tyres that I believe work and others that put the fear of god into me - not rational but fact. Come in and have a tyre chat.
When it gets really wet you need to search out for the terrain with the most grip. If the mud is really soft think about a different route. To avoid mud you might need to look for chalk, grass, leaves or flint for grip. If the condition are going to be really muddy chose a route with less mud. The back of Chanctonbury and Patching Woods are a no-no mid winter. Muddy riding rule No 4: Chose your route to suit the conditions.
This is all based on previous experience as at the present time the trails are running as sweet as can be and don't forget I'm still on 37mm Maxxis Riddlers! Get out there and ride before it all changes.