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MTB used to stand for Motor Torpedo Boat, but now it stands for MounTain Bike, apparently!

Mountain bike steep descent

One of several steep drops at this riding area

Dry and dusty conditions in mid-April, 2017, made some sections more tricky than earlier in the year at this Dorset (England) biking area. Paradoxically, when the ground is damp — but not actually wet — you get more grip. Grip affects your ability to climb without the rear wheel spinning and the bike losing forward speed, without which you cannot maintain balance, so you either put a foot down (losing a mark if in a trials competition) or you come off entirely.

Grip also affects steering. When it is dry and dusty, as it usually is when I ride in the sandstone and clay here in Dorset, in turns and on a camber (a transverse slope) the wheels drift; to the outside of the turn and downhill, respectively. However, you automatically and subconsciously compensate by over-steering and, when riding along a slope (rather than up it or down it) the front wheel is a few inches higher up the slope than the rear wheel. That climbing attitude is matched by constant downhill sliding, so you cross the slope horizontally (or at whatever angle you are trying for).

Mountain bike on up-hill camber

Up-hill camber

While the front-high aspect on cambers is visually evident, I noticed the over-steering only by its absence when conditions are damp (not wet) and unusually grippy. I find the bike climbs the sides of a gully I am riding along — first one side then the other — as if by its own accord. I reckon it is caused by me automatically compensating for steering errors, but compensating too much because my reflexes assume the ‘standard’ amount of drift.

Tree root climb on a mountain bike

Tree root climb

On the Nukeproof Scout, second gear climbs in grippy conditions become third gear climbs in slippery dust.

Mountain bike lining up for short step climb

Lining up for the step

The short step climb on the opposite side of the gully just to the left of the top of the gully (step, not steep — well, it is steep…) is a third gear section on the Scout. It is harder than it looks.

Mountain bike ascending in a low gear

Second gear

This is a second gear climb on the Nukeproof Scout and a first gear climb on my older and geared-down Charge Blender. It has a clay sub-surface and, when it is very wet, even the Scout wheel-spins to a halt.