Every track handles rain differently, from the goodness of river silt, sand and pumice to the potential ice rinks of the clay you can find almost anywhere, which is always a fun killer.
Some clay, such as that found in Patetonga, has the ability to turn broken up ground into a plasticine-like material that is brilliant for traction; but will stick to your wheels if they are not moving fast enough to flick the clay off out of the tread.
If that happens then you are pretty much toast unless you can get up some speed before your front wheel completely locks up, which is exactly what happened to Ashley on her first lap of the best loop I could find. It was so bad that the bike was trying to do a front flip while I was just trying to push it back down to the pits.
Fortunately Ashley was a determined cookie and gave it another go once I found an area her little wheels could handle. Our friend Sarah Sutherland was patient enough to join her, so I got stuck into the skills that would give them the best chance of shining when their time came to hit the clay again.
We spent the first hour retraining their panic mode into something more useful. That groundwork especially involved standing low to their bike so that it could move under them, with knees able to grip the seat for stability. That word “stability” seems like such an academic word, but results in so much goodness that it needs to be mentioned.
While we had to say our goodbyes to Ashley as her little wheels couldn’t handle this kind of clay, Sarah moved on to the main track. After a slow start we discovered that the weirdness of standing extra low made it hard to break her natural reaction to stand tall in emergencies. Something wasn’t lining up in her mind, until she had verbalised those thoughts.
While I could get in big trouble for using this word, it was her stubbornness that helped her get it right. She knew what needed to happen, and no sooner had we talked about it than she was suddenly a new rider.
Almost immediately she starting powering off the main tabletop’s upramp like a champ, even though she still had to turn immediately afterwards. Now that she was staying low for the scary moments, the bikes movements didn’t bother her enough to slow her down any more.
Zac was up next and had a really tough time with his wheels clogging at first. The surprising thing was that he was incredibly good at standing and balance, to the point where he was still upright even when brought to a dead stop. There was something different needed here.
What he needed was to turn his mindset around to start using that wheel-clogging clay to his advantage. Rather than backing off the throttle when he felt unsure, he simply needed to straight-line the bike onto the power sucking broken dirt. He could turn with much more confidence here than on the slick main line and knew it was going to help him slow down, he just needed to trust it.
Sure enough it was this extra power and momentum that kept his wheels from clogging up and soon proved his accomplishments by clearing the tabletop after the rollers. It was very similar to the riding style I use in deep sand, and certainly worked here.