Intro» Ryan Cooley // Photos» Garth Milan
With winter now upon us, we thought there’d be no time better than the present to teach you the basics of how to increase the performance and reduce the wear of your bike when mud riding is a must. Those of us on the West Coast experienced one of the wettest winters to date this past year, and the farther you travel east, with the exception of a few of the dryer states, of course, rain and mud are always in winter forecasts. With this in mind, we’ve ditched our usual Race Shop format to compile a checklist of mud riding must-and could¿dos, depending on the severity of the conditions and the depth of your wallet. To help us out with this dirty task, we’ve enlisted the services of our good buddy Kristian Kibby from the Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda team to give us the inside scoop on keeping your steed running and performing at its optimum in the mud. Take it away, Kibby¿
There are different types of mud conditions that may call for completely different measures and setup changes, so the first thing I recommend is to determine exactly what you’re about to ride in. For example, in Southern California, most of the tracks are hard-packed and get very slick when wet. If you’re on the East Coast where the mud tends to be clingier and heavier, you will approach the situation much differently. So with everything from simple prevention to expensive hard parts available, here’s a list of things to consider¿
STOP MUD ACCUMULATION:
Spray Pam (1) or silicone spray (2)onto your radiator lowers, on the tops and bottoms of your fenders, on your front number plate, rims, and linkage. Note: Be sure to clean overspray off of your brake rotors.
Install foam (3) in key areas (under skid plate, brake pedal, shifter, etc¿) to take up the space that mud could accumulate.
Remove the stock plastic counter shaft sprocket cover, as it will trap mud as well.
KEEP WATER OUT OF KEY AREAS:
Use duct tape (4) to help route water away from your air filter.
¿ Build a ridge, if necessary, where the airbox and rear fender come together.
¿Tape front half of sub frame to create a top “lid” over the airbox.
¿Tape side panel vents closed to prevent water entry from the side. On the Honda in the photo, air can still be pulled in from the rear side panel vents.
¿With tape, build a longer “snorkel” (downward) on the bottom of the airbox to prevent water from splashing up it.
Apply grease on the air filter sealing surface, and add extra filter oil if needed. I usually don’t use grease on my filters, but in mud it will help prevent water and/or mud from getting through.
Use dielectric grease on all electrical connectors to keep water from shorting them out.
Loosen your chain, as mud will fill it in, making it tighter while riding.
Suspension: Decide what type of mud you’re in. On a really slick track where the mud is not clinging to the bike, try going a little softer with the suspension. If you’re in heavy mud that clings and weighs the bike down, consider stiffening for the additional load.
Jetting: Because of heavier loads, you might want to go a little richer on the jetting. Caution: If it’s summertime and there’s humidity in the air, it may already be running richer.
Consider changing your gearing (5)¿shorterr (larger rear sprocket) if the track is sticky or slow, and taller (smaller rear sprocket) if it is really slick. You will get more wheel spin on slippery tracks, so mellowing out the bottom-end hit to reduce spin is appropriate. Note: Factory teams might even add flywheel weight and a less abrupt exhaust system to help smooth the power delivery out even further.
TRACTION & GRIP:
Grips(6): If you typically use smooth grips (full diamond), consider a 1/2 or full waffle for increased grip.
Gripper/Mud seat cover(7): Heavier grip seat covers are available, but the mud specific seat in the photo may cost you a little more.
Grip tape (8) the frame to help keep your legs in place on the bike.
Sharpen your footpegs with a file for extra traction.
ADDITIONAL HARD PART OPTIONS:
Handguards (9) are a must for most riders in the mud in order to keep hands and controls cleaner for better function.
Oversized radiators (10) and quality antifreeze can be used to keep temperatures down. With more load on the motor and possible mud blockage on the radiators, temperatures will go up.
Solid mud discs (11) are available through some OEMs and aftermarket companies. If the mud is heavy enough that a lot of abrasive mud materials can collect in the brake disc holes and reduce stopping power, you may need to turn to a solid disc.
Solid number plates (12) should be used rather than vented to prevent mud from getting through to the electrical components that lie behind.