WET AND WILD

We went for an enduro bike ride in the rain this evening, and while some might question our sanity, there is a lot to be said about the experience and the upcoming sledding season.

Keeping in mind, this wasn't our first-time riding in the wet. The weather in Newfoundland & Labrador is most unpredictable and the ever-changing coastal winds can turn a beautiful day upside down in a hurry. We therefore chose to ignore all but the most brutal forecasts, dress for every occasion, carry extra gloves and goggles, and learn to adjust our riding style on the fly.

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“… might question our sanity…”

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While its one thing to get caught out on the trail when you’re anxious to get home, it takes an entirely different level of commitment to head out in the rain. There’s no doubt It pains us to miss any riding opportunity, but there’s nothing more frustrating than an evening spent in the camp, watching the sun burn through the clouds and knowing the potential light show is best experienced on the trail with its many beautiful vantage points. So, we’re out there, no matter the circumstance, always hoping for the very best.

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“… changing coastal winds…”

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Last evening, we missed nothing. The weather was completely uncooperative, and we slogged through an ever-thickening sheet of whitewash that lashed at us for the duration of the ride. And rest assured, that’s a lot of time to spend inside a helmet with nothing but your thoughts for company.

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“… test your buddy's fortitude…”

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Riding normally frees the mind to focus on one thing only, the task at hand! Slowing that run down to a crawl introduces a whole new dimension and a true appreciation for why we’re out here in the first place – maintaining physical fitness and honing our riding skills for the upcoming sled season.

1. Balance – Slippery, slimy, and greasy trails necessitate many quick and precise adjustments in peg pressure to maintain an upright position and good cornering control.  Skills which are directly transferable to your sleds running boards and the similar conditions experienced in powder, off camber bottoms, or while trying to maintain an edge on a steep side hill climb.

2. Reaction Time – Rain drenched goggle frames and a sweaty head make for steamy viewing panes – especially through a single plated lens. Only a blindfold would provide a better disconnect from the trail surface; forcing the rider to impulsively feel and absorb dips, bumps and other trail obstacles with quick adjustments to power, brake, and peg pressure. Great practice for winter storm and extreme powder conditions while sledding

3. Traction – Rain runs give you a whole new appreciation for the importance of weighting, throttle control, and grip. Just like a sled in powder, you have to constantly adjust your weighting to maximize traction, momentum, and lift. These are skills which transfer directly to the sled and will help keep you on top of the snow and mitigate trenching.

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“… test your buddy's resilience…”

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4. Timing – A snotty trail with limited traction requires perfect timing when lifting over obstacles with surgical precision at slow speed. Similar to situations we frequently experience while sledding in the trees and along creek bottoms.

5. Strength – Rain riding is probably the most effective exercise for core strengthening – working every inch of ab, oblique, and back muscle to keep things rolling forward. The most important brawn for boondocking and powder riding.

6. Wrist and Hand Strength / Feel – Wrist and hand strength build quickly on slippery surfaces. Under these conditions it also teaches riders when to relax hand grip and tighten knee (tank) pinch to avoid arm pump. A great exercise for extreme sledding environments.

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“… dress accordingly…”

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7. Peripheral and Fore Sighting is terribly important in all riding environments and it is best developed on slower runs, when the pilot is forced to heed many varying distances and obstacles simultaneously. Its tempting to stare at closer obstacles in the wet but you will quickly learn the importance of maintaining a heads up riding position. Critical skills in mountain sledding areas

8. Braking – takes on a whole new dimension in the rain where quick stops are necessary and good brake modulation is critical. Riders must be comfortable with brake controls and levers, finding them easy to reach and respond. Its also a good time to incorporate engine braking and every other trick you can transfer to the sled

9. Back Country awareness is significantly enhanced during rain rides where the slower pace allows time to notice side trails, plateaus, and access areas we'd otherwise miss while whizzing along at faster speeds. A good lesson for sledders, as well as an opportunity to find new winter terrain.

10. No matter the potential misery, rain riding is always worth the sacrifice; if only for the discoveries you'll make about your buddies. Rain running takes grit and this is the most effective way to test your team's commitment, endurance, and tolerance for the tangly conditions encountered while stuck, or during emergency situations. A Boondocker needs to know how their buddies will respond to the most adverse sledding conditions imaginable.

Sweat Your Brains Out Boys!