After what was a very hot, dry summer in much of the American West, the rains have returned and we’ve moved squarely into fall, and that’s had me thinking: we’d all love every ride to be on a crisp, clear fall day, with just the right amount of moisture in the ground for optimal traction, but if we had to be stuck with conditions way on one end of the spectrum or the other, which would be preferable?
Q: Let’s say a CIA program to develop weather control technology goes horribly awry, and you’re stuck riding for an entire year in conditions that are either cold, wet, and muddy, or hot, dry, and dusty to the point of being blown up and loose everywhere? To be a little more specific, let’s say it’s either always 45 degrees and raining lightly, with the ground fully saturated and muddy, or 95 degrees and conditions are as if it hasn’t rained a drop in months.
Noah Bodman: It’s safe to say that, whichever condition I’m riding in, I’d be wishing it was the other option. But if I have to choose one, I’ll go cold and muddy. I’m in the “I can always put more clothes on, but I can only take so many clothes off” camp. And my local mud is fairly manageable, so while my bike is gonna require some extra love, I’ll survive. Plus, if it’s 95 degrees out with no rain for four months, the whole forest is probably on fire, so I’d rather avoid that.
Luke Koppa: I’m in agreement with Noah on this one. For one, I love the cold. I grew up in Wisconsin and I generally dislike any temperatures hotter than about 75°F. So 45°F every day sounds like a dream to me, seriously.
But more importantly, hot + dusty conditions give me the false sense of security that most of the trails are predictable enough to ride pretty fast, but then there’s often a random loose corner where I lose the front and consequently need to see my dentist for the first time in too many years. On the other hand, when it’s cold, wet, and muddy, I know I am not capable enough to ride particularly fast, so I instead embrace the looseness and just enjoy slipping and sliding everywhere. There’s definitely some regional bias on my part, since here in Crested Butte we greet any amount of summer precipitation with praise, so maybe mud would get old in time. But at least from my perspective right now, where I’m predominantly riding “average” to “loose & dusty” conditions through most of the summer, I’d be keen to get wet and wild in the slop, rather than sweaty and scratched in the scorching heat (alliteration!).
Kara Williard: My answer stems directly from familiarity and my personal comfort zone. I am from New Mexico, with most of my riding experience consisting of dry, high desert, occasionally blown out conditions across the American West, especially after a lot of time spent bike guiding in Utah/ Canyonlands. I seem to thrive in the dry heat, and I find loose desert riding to feel a lot more consistent than the slippery, muddy conditions I have experienced in my brief jaunts to the PNW. Even taking this to the extreme, I would rather ride 3” of blown-out moon dust than to attempt a slick root section on a slippery trail. Obviously, there’s nothing better than when the rain finally comes, the porous desert soils soak it up, and it quickly goes from sandy and dusty to the tackiest and most predictable dirt one could imagine. But after losing my front tire several times on wet roots last summer in Washington, I can specifically remember thinking, “I’d rather be eating dust.”
David Golay: I’m also Team Cold and Wet for this one. It might be that I’m just deluding myself in preparation for the coming winter months, or that I’m tired of hot and dusty conditions after the summer we just had. But as Noah said, you can always layer up some more, and I’m also just more comfortable pushing harder in the wet than I am if things are super dry. Part of that’s definitely that I get more practice at the former, living in Washington. Luke’s point that wet conditions are at least more predictable (in that there’s not that much grip anywhere) factors in too. I honestly kind of like riding in the wet, and as much as I’d love full hero conditions every day, I’ll take muddy over super blown out any day.
Eric Freson: Surface of the sun, for me, please. I enjoy riding in both extremes, but if I have to be stuck with only one… First, I live in a place where it’s cold way more of the year than it’s warm. I’ve got enough cold, thanks. Second, I’m OCD about a relatively clean bike. Muddy rides mean more time cleaning and caring. Third, if it’s 95° I’m probably low on water weight after sweating it all away, meaning I’d hope to be looking lean, mean, and sexy for my Blister photoshoots.
Dylan Wood: Team Hot and Dry for sure. Cold I can deal with, but cold and wet? I’m out. There’s something about not being able to feel your hands and feet that makes mountain biking a bit harder and less enjoyable. I am fortunate enough to have spent lots of my life in the hot, dry desert, and I really don’t mind the heat. It makes camping and riding much easier, too; going back to a cold and wet tent and not being able to dry your clothes out for the next day is pretty miserable.
So What Do You Think?
The Blister crew is pretty split on this one. Let us know where you land in the comments.