Too Wet To Ride Your Favorite Trail? Do This Instead.

If you can't ride your favorite mountain bike trail when it's wet, here are five things you can do instead.
When our trails get wet, riding them isn’t an option because it can damage them.

In some regions, there would be no mountain biking if riders stayed off the trails when they are wet. However, in other places, riders who venture out on wet trails not only violate their local rules, but also inflict damage on their local trails. Here in Florida, we experience the occasional micro-monsoon, which turns my favorite trail into a muddy mess that I can’t ride for a day or two. When that happens, I use the time I would have spent riding to engage in other activities that give me a similar level of satisfaction. If you can’t ride your favorite trail when it’s wet, here are five things you can do instead.

Get more ideas for rainy day activities, and share your own here.

Ride a more weather-resistant trail

A sandy trail like this one is great to ride when it’s wet.

We have one trail in town that you can ride when it’s wet. It’s a sugar sand singletrack trail through the Apalachicola National Forest that’s not very fun when dry because the loose sand swallows my wheels and leaves my leg muscles burning like a five-alarm fire. However, after a hard rain, the trail becomes a hardpacked dream. Traction materializes out of thin air, and I can rocket through every corner like my bike is on rails. It’s a different experience from the rocky, rooty trail I normally ride, but it’s fun in its own way, which is what really matters.

Ride on gravel or asphalt

Gravel trails give you a way to log some miles while enjoying great scenery.

As boring as it might sound, riding on gravel or asphalt can be fun. We have a greenway in town with a wide gravel path that is impervious to rain thanks to excellent drainage. It offers beautiful scenery and good elevation changes, which make the trail perfect for interval training. I love powering up the hills, and then coasting down the other side. As a bonus, the humps built into the trail to help with drainage are fun to launch over.

If you prefer to ride on asphalt, a rail trail is a great way to do it. Rail trails are old railway lines that have been converted into multi-use paths, popular for activities like walking, running, biking, and inline skating. You can search here to see if there is a rail trail near you. We have a great rail trail in town called the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail. It’s roughly 40 miles long, and takes you from downtown Tallahassee to the small town of St. Marks near the coast. There, you can stop and grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before riding back up. Rail trails allow you to get in a good long ride, and have some fun at the same time.

Engage in other kinds of physical activity

Kayaking is a great way to get up close and personal with nature. photo: Jeff Barber

What if you don’t have a road bike or a gravel bike, and don’t enjoy riding your mountain bike on hard surfaces? There are a number of options available that don’t involve wheels. For riders who live near lakes, rivers, or the ocean, water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding are fun even when the weather isn’t good (provided it’s not lightning). These activities offer a great workout, and allow you to see nature from a different perspective. I love kayaking because it gives me the opportunity to see wildlife that is synonymous with Florida, like alligators and manatees.

If you don’t have access to watersports, use your feet and go for a run or a hike in the woods. It’s another great way for you to spend time in nature, and you might see plants or animals you wouldn’t notice when flying through the woods on your bike. If you want to avoid the rain altogether, do an extra workout in the gym. A mix of cardio and strength training will give you similar results to a trail ride, just minus the adrenaline rush.

Give your bike some much-needed attention

Rainy days foster creative thinking when it comes to bike cleaning and maintenance, but I wouldn’t try this at home. Photo: Rusty Shackleford.

If the trails are too wet to ride, you can also pass the time by catching up on bike maintenance. Mechanically-inclined riders can do a complete tear down on their bikes. Riders who aren’t comfortable wrenching on their bikes can still give them a thorough cleaning, and do basic maintenance. Lube the chain and check the torque on all the bolts. Inspect your tires, brake pads, chain, cassette, and chain ring for wear. Make sure the cables aren’t frayed or stretched. Additionally, check the sag on your fork and shock to make sure it is correct. Finally, check the sealant level in your tires if you are running them tubeless. All of these tasks are essential to ensuring your rides are safe and fun. So the next time the weather drives you indoors, use the time to give your bike some love.

Kick back and relax

Sometimes, the best thing you can do when it’s too wet to ride is to do nothing at all. We need to take an occasional time out from our busy lives. After all, it doesn’t benefit us to keep going and going until we drive ourselves to exhaustion. Being forced to take a break from riding offers us the opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest. When the weather cancels my ride, I use the extra time to catch up on my sleep, or lounge around the house with my family. Doing so leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to ride once the trails dry out.

The next time it’s too wet to ride, use that time to engage in activities you wouldn’t normally do when the trails are dry

We all get bummed when the weather cancels our rides, but these occasions provide us with opportunities to have fun in other ways. There are plenty of outdoor activities we can do that aren’t weather-dependent. We can also use the time otherwise spent riding to take care of our bikes, or get in an extra workout at the gym. If nothing else, we can just relax and enjoy the time off. Once the trails are dry, we’ll appreciate riding them even more than before.

What do you do when the trails are too wet to ride? Please share in the comments section below.

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