I read a lot about certain bike tires being good for wet/muddy conditions, and the way bikes handle in muddy conditions, etc. but then i read posts about the local trails i ride where the people taking care of it adamently urge everyone to stay off the trails when they’re wet (muddy) so they don’t get tore up. just curious how to make sense of all this. i completely understand staying off trails when they’re wet & muddy so they don’t get tore up. i guess what i’m asking is if anyone has examples of when it’s o.k. to ride muddy trails.
On public trails, it’s a big no-no to ride when it’s wet and muddy. It destroys the trail and requires someone to come in and manually fix the ruts left behind. While many public trails do have maintenance days, they don’t have a dedicated team to fix them up everyday after it rains and the sheer volume of bike traffic they usually get makes them even more susceptible to erosion.
The only trails I have ever ridden in muddy conditions after a rain were privately owned trails. A buddy of mine has 30 acres and the two of us have cut some trails in his "back yard." I guessing that this is the only acceptable time to ride in mud.
I have to admit though, mud riding can be REALLY fun.
The best answer to your question is ask the person/group that has the authority to close the trails to mountain bikes when you should or shouldn’t be riding. Anything else may get your local trails closed.
Next is signage. Some trails have closed signs. No matter how much you disagree, please don’t ride when the closed signs are out. Some trails define what is too wet to ride. We have a trail here in Colorado, that has signs that read "if your rear tire sinks more than 1/2 inch into the trail it’s to wet to ride." That’s actually quite a mucky trail for Colorado.
From there things get quite regional. What would have qualified dry enough to ride in DC metro, is to mucky to ride near Denver. Trail mixture, air moisture content and the frequency of rain all lead to what is acceptable and unacceptable to ride. It’s best to ask the guys at the local bike shop or contact your local trail advocacy group.