Tackling Mud | Maneuvering Through Sloppy Conditions with Mitchell Harrison
By Casey Davis
When the skies open up and turn the track into a quagmire, it takes a different mindset and proper preparation to be successful in the mud. Everything from your tires to your goggles should be able to take on the muck and moisture, but what happens when the gate drops? How are you supposed to ride in conditions like that? Well, that's a completely different story.
The 2018 Unadilla Motocross National was a prime example, as the facility experienced a good amount of rain that began during the first practice sessions leaving the racetrack nothing short of a complete mess. There were, however, a number of riders who didn't seem to be fazed by the inclement conditions. One of those riders was Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna's Mitchell Harrison, who rode two consistent motos to log his first-ever podium finish. "It all comes down to technique and patience," Harrison said. "It's easy to lose sight of that when all you're trying to do is go fast, though." We had a chance to sit down with the Harrison to gain some knowledge on how to efficiently race in the mud, and he had this advice to offer.
Put Yourself In A Good Position: One of the most important things and likely the most obvious in mud racing is getting off to a good start, if not out in front! It's extremely important to get away from your competitors for the sake of your vision. If 39 other riders are around you slinging mud in your face, it's going to be really hard to focus on hitting your marks and everything else involved. It's easy to get caught up in all of the mayhem and it's even easier to go down in those conditions, so your best bet is to put yourself in a good position from the get-go. It's a lot easier maneuvering through the mud when there's nobody in front of you, because you're able to see what obstacles—namely deep ruts, puddles, and down riders—are coming at you and which lines you need to take to get around them efficiently.
Be Patient: Racing in the mud can be a painstaking process because all you want to do is go fast! But you can't just twist the throttle to the stop in hopes of gaining traction. You really need to be patient and use your momentum. It's really easy to come into a corner too hot in the mud because next thing you know you're on the ground. Take your time, plan ahead, and keep your eyes up and protected as much as you can! Again, be patient, maneuver carefully, and keep your momentum up. Ride within your means.
Get Off The Seat: Use your legs as much as possible by standing up. If you're in the saddle too much, you'll tire out faster because your upper body and arms are doing all the work. If you're standing up on the pegs, then your legs will help out with the majority of the work. It's also beneficial when it comes to your technique because you need to let the bike do what it's going to do underneath you. It's not going to hold a straight consistent line because of the lack of traction, so giving the bike some wiggle room will lessen the amount of energy that's being transferred to your body. That's why AP [Aaron Plessinger] is such a good mud rider. He's up on the pegs as much as possible it seems like! Go with the flow a little more than usual and let the bike do what it wants. Using your legs more will give you more control and leverage, as well.
Lay Off The Front Brake: Of course you'll want to use it to some extent, but you really don't want to use a whole lot of front brake in the mud. When I'm at a slower speed and use a lot of front brake I tend to lose traction, which will put you right on the ground in these conditions. Really, you should be easy on both front and rear brakes because you should be carrying as much momentum as you can gain. Slowing yourself down in a turn and then having to mash on the throttle to get yourself out will leave you without traction. If it's a real mud race, maintaining a consistent pace and speed is key.
Just In Case: The fact that you will likely fall in the sloppy conditions should be something to take into consideration when preparing for a mud race. In fact, it's almost inevitable that you'll end up on the ground at least one time throughout the day, so when that does happen it's a good idea to have a towel or two attached to the waistband on your pants. It's almost second nature for us as humans to put our hands out when we're falling, but then your gloves are going to be covered in mud, so to have something on hand that could aid in this big problem is huge! I always go for some sort of microfiber cloth because they tend to absorb less water. Trying to hold on to a rubber grip with a wet and muddy glove is no easy task!