Charlie Hatton shares his tips for downhill racing in sloppy conditions

(Photos courtesy of Atherton Bikes)

Great Britain’s Charlie Hatton is a master at riding in the mud. The mountain bike races in the United Kingdom get lots of rainy days, and the tracks are often muddy as result. Instead of putting our 2023 UCI Downhill World Champion at a disadvantage, the abundance of wet terrain at home seem to have put Charlie at an advantage when he travels to events where the race courses are muddy.

Here are Charlie’s top seven tips for racing in the mud:

1. Stay Loose

The hardest thing to deal with at Rheola [where the first British downhill national of the year was recently held] is the ruts, they are so deep! You have to let the bike go through it, and stay loose with your arms so your wheel will follow the rut. if you try to fight it you’re going to get off balance and go down. You want your bike to be super settled in so get your set-up right…

2. Braking

Not too aggressive! As soon as you pull on that front brake you’re slowing the front wheel down and it’s going to rub on those ruts. Try not to lock the brakes up. Day 1 looked more crazy because of all the rain but riding was harder still on day 2! When it’s super wet like in practise* it washes the mud off the roots, on Sunday the sun came out and the mud got real treacly and even more slippery, it was the proper peanut -butter type that grabbed your tyres and hid the roots and rocks.

* The people in Great Britain spell some words differently than the people in America do, but we’ll leave the words spelled the way Charlie spelled them for our American readers who want to get more familiar with the British spelling.]

3. Go slow to go fast

It’s a race! You’ve got to go fast in the right places but rather than charging think about how to keep the momentum. Rheola has a lot of long straits [sic] you need to be carrying momentum as you go in, especially on the middle section and the bottom corners and to do that you need to be nice and composed.

4. Keep it low-risk

There was a rock drop in the middle section that lots of people were doing, not me!! It probably took a bit of time to go around and I felt a bit of a squid tbh, but I’ve got a whole World Cup season ahead of me so I had to keep it safe…

5. Tyres

We stayed on dry tyres, Continental Kryptotal, because they are insanely good and also the top section was super hard-packed and shiny… if the mud got any thicker we’d have gone to Argotals but Kryptotal are always my first choice. Lower psi is important in this kind of situation, we ran 23 on the front and 28 on the rear so a bit softer than usual.

6. Invest in the best kit you can afford…[part 1]

…so you are comfortable, and confident and don’t get distracted

The [Atherton] A.200 gives me so much confidence and keeps me out of trouble, even if I do start to get in trouble it will get me safely out the other side! I feel like I can point, shoot and it’ll hold whatever line I need. This weekend I ran extra long mudhuggers and rip-n-roll Oakley goggles for visibility. The Endura onesie was an absolute godsend for the practise – I was caked in mud but dry underneath even at the end of the day, they aren’t a cheap bit of a kit but it makes a massive difference.

7. Invest in the best kit you can afford… [part 2]

I probably shouldn’t give away this one as I couldn’t see anyone else doing it but keeping your hands and the bars dry means you have a way better chance of hanging on!! I used five sets of gloves over the weekend, one set for getting my bike on and off the uplift and a clean set in my pocket for the run. I had plastic bags over the grips right up until the start gate so they were lovely and dry!

I love riding in the mud – I reckon it’s a big part of what makes British riders so competitive… see you guys at Fort William and fingers crossed for some more rain!!

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