Off-Road Pro Riding Secrets: When You're Stuck In an Uphill Rut with Randy Hawkins - Dirt Rider Magazine

One of the challenges riding off-road inevitably presents is ruts. They're usually formed when the ground is wet and, thus, more susceptible to the digging action of spinning rear knobbies. Generally, it's very difficult to ride these mini-trenches because they demand very precise steering and control since they're usually only as wide as a rear tire. Bobble, and you may end up losing the front end as it plows along a side of the rut.When a rut is combined with an uphill climb, things can get exponentially more difficult. How should you ride such an obstacle? Well, if it is at all possible, don't. In other words, get out of that rut by wheelying off to the side of it, even if that means slowing down for a moment to do so.But, of course, there are times—particularly during a race—when that's not possible. Maybe the trail next to it is full of slowed or stalled riders, or there's simply no room. Then, you've got to charge through and deal with it.In the example shown here, the uphill rut offers an added challenge in the form of a root across it followed immediately by an even deeper trench. The root in particular can be a momentum killer. But as six-time AMA National Enduro champion Randy Hawkins demonstrates, you can overcome it simply by looking ahead, realizing what's there and lifting the front wheel up over the root. It may require a little paddling, so it might not look really clean and pretty, but it's better than getting stopped completely by the root and then trying to get going again while that bunch of guys you passed stack up behind you and begin yelling.A. Here, Hawkins points out the two major obstacles in this uphill rut: a root across it followed by an even deeper section. Either is enough to slow you down or even stop you completely, neither of which is acceptable for someone who's intent on going fast. "Forward momentum is probably your best friend when you're going up a hill," he declares.B. WRONG: If you're not looking ahead, chances are you're simply going to ride up the rut reacting to whatever is in the way. Bad plan. Notice how deep that can place you in the rut. That means parts of the bike such as the footpegs, the brake pedal and the shifter can get hung up on the sides of the rut, slowing you down or, worse, damaging your bike.C. Remember that root across the rut? This is what can happen if you hit it with your front wheel with insufficient momentum to get over it. Instant endo! (Note: No Yamaha racers were injured in the staging of this photo.)D. RIGHT: To maintain as much momentum as possible, Hawkins prefers to wheelie over the root (or whatever obstacle might be in the rut). "When I see , I loft the front end and try to keep the back wheel driving," he says. "Getting the front end up actually transfers more weight to the rear wheel, which gives it somewhat better traction. Also, I'm able to keep my front end out of the rut instead of driving into it, which is key because even though it's not muddy , the fork or the footpegs could get caught in the rut. Keeping the front end up gives you more ground clearance and lets your rear wheel dig out. You don't have to be wide-open. The object is forward momentum, traction on the bike and controlled riding." Hawkins adds, "Any time you have a bike stuck in a rut or on a hill (or anywhere), it's much easier to push the bike if you have your front wheel out than to try to push it with both wheels in the same rut."E. "Don't be afraid to paddle," he suggests. "Maybe a world-class trials rider could do this feet-up , but we're off-road guys, and our goal is to get through the obstacle as quickly and as cleanly as we can with the least amount of energy because in an enduro you've got six or seven hours , and in GNCC-type stuff you have three hours. So here again, if you have to stop, push and dig out your bike, you'll use a lot more energy than it would take to paddle your way through; let the bike have a little traction to get you through this section. You can make up time in other places."