Stuck in a rut
It’s no way to live, or ride

Let’s define a rut:

“An annually recurring condition or period of sexual excitement and reproductive activity in male deer.”

Whoops, wrong one…

“A narrow or predictable way of life, dreary or undeviating routine.” Hang on, that’s ‘in a rut’.

Here we go: “A groove or furrow in a soft road, caused by wheels.” That’s what I’m talking about!

For us mountain bikers, this phenomenon usually translates to “a frightening channel in the dirt heading in the same direction as me and my bike trying really hard to throw me off the side of this trail into the bush”.

If you ask me, there are only two ways to ride a rut:

1.     Super fast.

2.     On your arse. (Hey, that rhymes, cool.)

As I’m not really a fan of sliding on my arse, let’s take a look at going super fast. Like anything you fear, the best way is to get it over with as quickly as possible so the pain is minimised (e.g. this Christmas my visit to the mother-in-law is planned for seven minutes). If we can hit a rut hard and fast, we can be through it before it even realises we’re there and has time to grab our front wheel. All you need is good balance, and no matter how crap a technical rider you are, you must have great balance or you wouldn’t be riding a bicycle off-road now, would you? The best little tip I can give you is this: drop one shoulder a little so that you’re weighted to one side. You then have a predictable lean and means of egress from the rut; there’s nothing worse than wobbling down a rut doing the ol’ footpath sidestep… left, right, left… you know what I mean?

There is actually a much better way to get through said rutted section. Don’t ride the bloody thing at all. By nature, all ruts are on steep and slippery trails and getting thrown off is so not cool. Try to ride up on the shoulder and use your pace to hold you there, just like those mad track cycling freaks when they swing right up high on the banked turns. If you can’t stay up on the side for long, try riding the rut like an ‘S’, going up high on one side then cutting back across to the right, then left again, then right etc. If you cross a rut, then it’s not a rut; it’s a ditch or a kicker, and you can just bunnyhop it (there’s that frickin’ dumb name again, dammit). If there’s no room to cross at an angle, try bunnyhopping (grrrrrr) from side to side. You can practise this by riding down the road along the centre line and hopping from side to side over the line without touching it. This is best done in a busy shopping street, because we need to recreate the fear that ruts instil in all well-balanced mountain bikers.

So there you have it. I hope it all makes sense to you. If not, call 0900-IRUTDAILY (calls cost $9/min.)

Over, not out.

Rod Bardsley


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