Everyone loves summer riding and at this time of year especially we’re all dreaming of those longer, warmer days. It’s hard to beat blasting down a fast, loose descent with your mates while your bike skitters around beneath you and kicks up a cloud of dust.
But while dry weather is definitely more forgiving than winter conditions in the UK, there are still times when the conditions can catch you out. Taming hard and dusty summer trails is all about staying loose and anticipating the bike getting out of shape.
1. Read the trail
Hardpacked trails roll quicker than muddy ones, so riding speeds will be higher and obstacles will come up on you a lot faster. Train yourself to look further ahead — it’ll give you more time to react and make sure you and your bike are in the right position for what’s coming.
Be wary of overshooting jumps too — start small and build things up.
2. Fast rocky straights
On fast, loose, rocky sections, the most critical thing is to relax. Stay in a central position over the bike so that you can maintain control if it’s buffeted from side to side. Watch out for loose rocks that have been dislodged — again, looking ahead will buy you time to react.
Punctures are much more likely in these conditions, so think about putting 5psi more pressure in your tyres.
Tyres struggle to grip in deep dust, so if you grab a big handful of brake just before a corner you may find yourself overcooking it. Brake earlier and work on controlling the power. With practice you should be able to feel what’s happening to wheel traction as you pull the levers.
When it gets steeper, get your weight back and push through the pedals to help the back wheel bite and stop yourself skidding.
It can be unnerving if your wheels start to slide in a corner. When approaching dusty flat turns, brake early and then stay in a neutral position, with pedals level, as you lean in. Be prepared for the bike to drift a little and work on getting used to this feeling.
To stop a slide, drop your outside foot, this will weight the wheels and help you regain traction. Perfecting flat corners is hard, so practice and have fun with it.
Back wheel traction is the key here. Select a lower gear than usual so you can remain seated, with most of your weight pushing down through the bike and keeping the tyres gripping.
Focus on maintaining a steady cadence and avoid punchy power strokes that’ll make the back wheel spin. Look ahead and pick your line to avoid particularly loose sections. Keep your elbows dropped and lean forwards to stop your front wheel lifting.