Mud. It’s almost mandatory for a good ‘cross race. It adds an extra element of suffering to the already brutal proposition of absolutely redlining your body for an hour straight. It also wreaks havoc on bikes.
In a matter of minutes mud can gum up chains, chew through brake pads, pack pounds onto a bike, and jam up wheels. This is all well and fine if you have a pit crew with an extra bike or two to swap out during a race. But let’s be honest: most of us will never have this luxury. We will have to deal with the slop lap after grueling lap. Thankfully for us, there are ways to cope with mud without owning a fleet of bikes.
Wet conditions can quickly strip a chain of its lube, causing poor shifting, additional friction, and dreaded chainsuck. Phil Wood’s Tenacious Oil is some seriously sticky stuff. Too sticky to use as a chain lube in most conditions, but when diluted down with a lighter wet lube, like Finish Lines’ WET Lube, ProGold’s Pro Link or Tri-Flow’s Superior Lubricant, it performs admirably. Experiment with different ratios of oils to find a solution that works well for you.
Upgrading to disc brakes is the absolute best solution here. They solve every problem associated with rim brakes and mud. If you can’t upgrade, adding a little extra toe angle to your brake pads will help clean the rims of grit and grime with just a light squeeze of the levers. The brakes will have a bit more of a mushy feel at the lever, but in the end you will gain more control and will experience less drag from muddy rims.
Frame, Rims & Tyres:
This is where mud is the biggest problem. When mud starts sticking to your frame it packs on extra weight and can build up to the point that tyres start rubbing it. Basically it acts as an anchor. Treating your frame, rims, and tyre sidewalls with a quality hydrophobic automotive coating, like Rain-X or similar, should provide good results.
If you don’t care about your bike’s looks, check out Rust-Oleum’s NeverWet—it’ll leave a white haze on your bike, but, if performance takes precedence over aesthetics, this stuff seems amazing. If you haven’t heard of it, Google it. Also, be absolutely sure to avoid applying non-stick or hydrophobic products to any braking surface. In a race-day pinch, I’ve used non-stick cooking spray like Pam, or a light coat of grease on my frame. It’s not the greatest solution, but if conditions are bad enough it’s better than nothing. (Note: always check whether the product is made to be used on paint, rubber or metal, and be sure to test it on a non-visible area first.)