How to Ride Wet Roots

Well well well! This is sooo many topics all in one! I would have NEVER had the idea about this tutorial, but Patreon Randy Relethford suggested it, and it’s a great idea! Thanks Randy! FYI, whenever a Patron suggests a topic, and I’m able to cover it with a tutorial, I reward them with a $50 gift card to one of my biggest supporters, Jenson USA.

Before we get started- have you struggled with wet roots? Can you think of a particular root that has been a bit of a nemesis for ya? I certainly have. Quick story time before we get into the tutorial- I had a “root nemesis” on a trail called Vitamin R, it was two awkward roots in a row. I always kinda flopped through, then when I was filming on the hardtail with Logan, he suggested just gapping them entirely. Lo and behold, that made the difference. It’s not something I do every time, but realizing the necessary speed to gap them also means I know the speeds where gapping isn’t possible, so I can better time and predict what’ll happen. But I digress…

Watch the full tutorial video over on my Patreon page, or read through the general wet root tips here.

wet roots
The bike I’m riding here is the Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 70. And those roots and more slippery than church shoes on wet grass!

First, let’s cover riding wet roots. THEN, let’s move into chutes with said roots in abundance.

Roots have two main dangers:

1. They are slippery, especially if positioned at an angle to the trail.
2. Tall roots can flip you over the bars, either from your front wheel coming to a halt, or on occasion, your rear wheel getting hung up. Oh, and pedals/chainrings can get caught, too!

Speaking of flipping, the flip side of roots is somewhat positive:

Roots can make for great bump jumps, allowing you to jump over the slippery, angled stuff.

Now, anyone who’s ridden for a while in the PNW can tell ya- the roots to be most careful of are those WITHOUT bark. These are the truly slick ones. If you find a root with bark still on it, you should still be cautious, but traction will be improved.

wet roots
As the famous Brendan Fairclough once said, your tire is really good at its job, which is either braking, cornering, or absorbing a bump, but it can’t do two or more jobs at once. This is especially true when it comes to wet roots.

To start, line choice will be critical. Not so much in finding the right line, but simply, the safest line. This is not a time to be looking for speed. When it comes to wet roots, especially in the steep, speed comes from not crashing. Pick a line that is most predictable.

What can cause you to slip out and crash on the steep roots? Roots that are not perpendicular to you are going to be troublesome.

Next, overly aggressive braking is a big problem. Keep your braking zones in mind as you pick your line and commit. In these conditions, you need to be as smooth and light as possible- and that means with the brakes. If your bike is leaned over (ie turning) at all, lighten up on the brakes, especially the front brake. Time your braking for the sections where you are going straight, and in between the roots.

wet toots
If you watch a lot of the great mud riders, they are very light on their bike. Jerome Clementz comes to mind- he’s constantly hopping and floating his bike down the trail, somewhat similar to me, but even more gingerly and carefully. I’m guilty of trying to smash more than is ideal for the wet. This is also why Jerome is a world a champion and I’m not!

Now, how to be light on your bike? We could do an entire video on that as well! The real answer to this is to use a combination of downwards pushes and bunnyhops to maximize the trail as though it’s one giant pump track. The goal isn’t to go high, it’s simply to go high enough. Even if the wheels are still on the ground, you can generate enough up-force so that there isn’t much weight on them. I think of this as “letting the bike dance”. Stay focused on your line, stay confident, keep speed in control, and try to push downwards before the roots, so that your bike is rebounding and is as light as possible at the root.

wet roots
Another thing to keep into account, the size of roots is key. I often bump jump from one root over the next. Often, roots will have a bit of a backside that forms a nice landing- take full advantage of smooth landings, as wet conditions need you to be as smooth as possible!

Combining the wet roots with a steep section, the biggest contributing factor to your success will be your body position. The only way you can really pull off being light on your bike, and staying balanced enough to maintain your line choice, is to keep yourself low to the bike. I don’t mean a slight bend in the arms and knees- I mean a VERY deep bend! Keep your knees very deeply bent, with a generally centered position over the bike, and you’ll have options. Those options will be many, but a few are to then get back when needed, or to lean the bike, or to simply not get sent should run straight into a big root. It’s going to be hard to get too low. This allows for a lower center of gravity, which results in MUCH more control with all that available leg extension, and it’s going to keep you connected to your bike with less strength required. This will keep you from getting bucked OTB on those bigger roots.

If you can find a spot to practice this, try to break it down piece-by-piece. For example, get comfy getting low into your bike. Then get comfy hitting some wet roots. Then combine them. And of course, you’ll come into some wet roots in the middle of a turn. In that case, just imagine it was all still a straight line! The main key to getting through that is to slow it down a little, then approach it as best you can- brake before the turn and root, try to be light through it, applying downforce when possible.

Want to dial down your skills over wet roots, further? See the full-length video for this topic by subscribing to my Patreon page!

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