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Old 05-25-2015, 10:01 PM   #1
Highlands OP
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Dirt riding technique

I'm just a few weeks new to dirt and gravel. Am wondering what other riders do in certain situations. As I've encountered more stuff, its got me thinking about how things should be done so I appreciate any feedback. Like, downhill on a hard dirt road with sparsely covered with medium sized gravels. The road turns sharply to the right, say more than 90 degrees. Do you slow to the point that the bike stays upright and turn with the handlebars...or I've read about riders leaning the bike into the turn, but keeping the rider upright...what is your approach? (with a larger bike like a klr).

Water crossings with water no higher than 1ft, fairly solid rock bed under you...are you seated or standing? Weight evenly distributed or back so that the front tire is unweighted? First gear or faster in 2nd?

Road with large gravels or large loose rocks...standing or seated?

I'd say I am in the seat about 95% of the time on FS type roads, only getting up when a large rock,pothole, or rut comes up that I can't avoid. From my reading it looks like I am in the seat too much.
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Old 05-25-2015, 11:27 PM   #2
sparkingdogg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Highlands View Post
I'm just a few weeks new to dirt and gravel. Am wondering what other riders do in certain situations. As I've encountered more stuff, its got me thinking about how things should be done so I appreciate any feedback. Like, downhill on a hard dirt road with sparsely covered with medium sized gravels. The road turns sharply to the right, say more than 90 degrees. Do you slow to the point that the bike stays upright and turn with the handlebars...or I've read about riders leaning the bike into the turn, but keeping the rider upright...what is your approach? (with a larger bike like a klr).

Water crossings with water no higher than 1ft, fairly solid rock bed under you...are you seated or standing? Weight evenly distributed or back so that the front tire is unweighted? First gear or faster in 2nd?

Road with large gravels or large loose rocks...standing or seated?

I'd say I am in the seat about 95% of the time on FS type roads, only getting up when a large rock,pothole, or rut comes up that I can't avoid. From my reading it looks like I am in the seat too much.
First part, it depends on how the road "feels", I don't mind slowing a big bike down to a crawl if I need to, they accelerate right back up when done with the turn crashing hurts

Water crossings all depend, if you can roll out and the water is clear then 2nd gear, if the water is mud and holes are unknown under water 1st gear, sitting down for 12" of clear water with good base, standing up if crossing muddy water, weight back in case of potholes unseen...

Seated or semi-seated weight neutral for most gravel, standing for any big rocks, "attack stance". Which brings up cockpit size and ergonomics. Bar risers and a different bend bar, tall/low seats, different foot pegs (stock KLR pegs not too good for standing) and even lowered foot pegs will all make the cockpit right for you. It should be comfortable to stand up. If not, make it so. Bars may need raised. Makes a huge change.

If you are seated 95% of the time off-road, then you are riding "old man style" like me. But I am an old man

If you are having fun and not crashing, then you are doing nothing wrong

Come hit some single track on a light bike like my KDX220 and you are in a different world, I rarely sit my old ass down if the riding is aggressive. The seat is for when my legs get tired

I might be old and slow, but I make up for it by being kind of fat and passing gas a lot

Have fun and be well!
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Old 05-26-2015, 05:37 AM   #3
markk53
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It is almost impossible to give specifics on any dirt/gravel stuff. Never know the actual conditions.

Generalities are generalities so nothing is absolute. That comes with experience.

Down hill gravel with potential to stop or turn - downshifting to use the back wheel to slow, keeping the wheel spinning. I am working the throttle to do so, while also dragging the brake. Front brake depends on specifics. Some surfaces absolutely prohibit it while others will work well.

Standing vs sitting is totally subjective. If footing is inevitable, sitting is the trick. If working weight around to deal with under water surface conditions, standing in a position to work quickly is the trick. Again it's all subjective. You just learn what works for you. I stand when others may sit and I sit when many will stand.

Gravel can be a nightmare or no problem all within a quarter mile stretch of the same road. I've been on limestone where you can do 70 and then on a graded stone/dirt road where the grading had so much loose deep crap that it was just plain scary, like sugar sand, but not so soft if you fell.

What you want to do is learn. That down hill corner, approach and do it with a very low gear, weight back to maintain traction, light front brake - in other words super cautious. From there you will figure if you can do different. We have one down hill stop at an intersection where it is almost a first gear sliding tire thing every time, even after probably riding it a hundred times. It's just that tough - every time.
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Old 05-26-2015, 05:53 AM   #4
foxtrapper
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As stated previously by another, crashing hurts. As such, I go to lengths to avoid it.

So I don't fly into turns blindly, especially sharp downhill turns on a dirt and gravel road. I'll slow down well before I get there. I don't like drama on a bike.

If I'm at all in doubt, I tend to be up on my pegs. Be it a water crossing, train tracks, rolly gravel, etc. I can better dance the bike around when I'm standing on the pegs, so I'll do that. Not that I won't sit, for I most certainly do. My sitting is more for leisurely riding, which is something I tend to do a lot of.
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Old 05-27-2015, 12:00 AM   #5
jonnywave
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Tips

After watching some serious experts "Dakar" riders and having done a bit of rallying myself, I have picked up some tips that work for me.

Stand up. Move weight around to apply the weight were it is needed. The bike needs to be set up so you can stand comfortably and be able to get over the bars. Weight the correct peg when you are standing and sitting I.e outside peg on bends- your legs will ache at at first but it increases the grip massively.

Getting weight over the front- on slippy surfaces including gravel- if you want the front wheel to grip you need to put your weight on it, this way you make the back light- you can drift it to turn or weight the peg too for more rear grip.

Sitting turns- weight forward head forward- leg out and forward on inside- if the bike slips out at least your leg will not be trapped under the bike.

Going fast around that bend will not to get you there quicker if you drop it so go steady .

Front brakes are essential-learn to use them off road- it's starts the weighting of the front before you hit the bend-sit down and ease off the front brake the body continues the front weighting.

Practice slow and steady- speed will come by its self as the skills are ingrained.
River crossing- if it crucial you do not drown the bike- walk it across. If not it depends on the surface and speed of the river and the length of your leg compared to your seat height. Stand if you need to get over small objects if you are going to slow you will need to sit down. Speed is your friend here- don't crash in though- steady in and increase to fast walking speed unless it's a fast river then you will need to go faster in that case take a diagonal line across the river to minimise the presse on the side of the bike from the current.

Practice slow riding- it will teach you where your weight needs to be-
Clutch control- watch trial riders and how they use there clutch- constant revs and clutch slip to maintain traction and speed..

Just my thoughts
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Old 05-27-2015, 05:03 AM   #6
dwestly
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Its one thing to read recommendations, and another to go get some training. I highly recommend you go to the BMW off-road riding course at their Performance Center, Greer, SC. They have both one and two day courses that will seriously improve your off-road skills. You want training in dirt and gravel? Uphills, downhills? Ruts, single track, whoops, they do it all in their courses. One of the best courses I've been through in years, and I'm an instructor with 40+ years of riding experience. One recommendation: Drop the extra few bucks and rent one of their bikes for the day. You will drop it, guaranteed. Course is more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys, and you'll learn a lot!
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Old 05-27-2015, 05:16 AM   #7
NJ-Brett
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I find I sit a lot, and in the rough stuff I lift my butt off the seat a bit to let the bike work under me.
Standing bolt upright seems to increase the center of gravity, which is not good in the sand around here.
Sand calls for getting my butt over the back of the seat and gassing it..
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Old 05-27-2015, 06:21 AM   #8
Mecano
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On loose gravel roads, do your braking smoothly before entering the turn (easy with the front), keep weight forward and on the outside peg, gas gradually while exiting the turn, the key word is smooth. On water crossings and pretty much anywhere offroading, look ahead and pick your lines before you get there, and commit to them, using the clutch to adjust the power. Being indecisive can get you in trouble. And remember, keep your weight on the pegs, and grip the tank with your knees and legs for better control.
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Old 05-27-2015, 06:32 AM   #9
Highlands OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwestly View Post
Its one thing to read recommendations, and another to go get some training. I highly recommend you go to the BMW off-road riding course at their Performance Center, Greer, SC. They have both one and two day courses that will seriously improve your off-road skills. You want training in dirt and gravel? Uphills, downhills? Ruts, single track, whoops, they do it all in their courses. One of the best courses I've been through in years, and I'm an instructor with 40+ years of riding experience. One recommendation: Drop the extra few bucks and rent one of their bikes for the day. You will drop it, guaranteed. Course is more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys, and you'll learn a lot!
I hadn't heard of that. I'll definitely check that out! I had contacted an instructor that goes by Zacker Adventures and had hoped to set something up this month on a rec by another poster.
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Old 05-27-2015, 06:35 AM   #10
Highlands OP
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I may need to look more into how my bars are set up. No matter how much I concentrate on it, and squeeze the tank and support my body with my legs and not my arms, when I stand and get a jolt, I roll the throttle. Maybe if i bring the bars more toward me.
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Old 05-27-2015, 07:19 AM   #11
markk53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Highlands View Post
I may need to look more into how my bars are set up. No matter how much I concentrate on it, and squeeze the tank and support my body with my legs and not my arms, when I stand and get a jolt, I roll the throttle. Maybe if i bring the bars more toward me.
First off, I rode off road trials, flat track, and MX bikes in the past and now ride a 650 single dual sport and starting out back truly off road again with a 250 dual sport, so none of this is dealing with heavy adventure twins. They're a game I won't play.

Learn to use the bars for support too, what do you think trials riders do? No tank to grip. Fact is a lot of the time in trials the only thing the rider is doing is supporting themselves with their arms and feet/legs. The main time they grip with their feet/calves is when they're hopping the rear to clear an obstacle or bounce the rear into position. Otherwise it's standing on the pegs and support with bars. Watching them work a bike you would notice how loose they actually are. Same happens for me off roading and on dirt/gravel as needed.

Consider moving your bars forward as well as back, you need to experience both. You will eventually stop working the throttle while riding as you learn and improve in riding skills. There is no magic bullet here. I am relatively short and have a short reach so I have my bars slightly back, my brother has his rotated slightly forward. Try it all. I've seen successful riders with bars at both extremes and in between. I have done both, both for street and dual sport.

Gripping the sides of the bike for support too often locks you in position on the bike - harder to shift of weight as needed, usually accomplished by using the handlebars. Learn to distribute weight, move it around, learn when to grip and when not to by trying it all out. I've often found I am doing multiple techniques due to changes needed in the immediate circumstance varying over a few yards. Seldom am I "locked in", it's more like a dance - constantly changing. No magic bullet.

Maybe get some enduro videos to watch what racers are doing in terrain, I picked up a few FIM year end summary DVDs for like $5 at a store. Go to spectate at some local hare scrambles races or the like. See what they do and where. Watch what is successful and what is not, try some of what you see. I've done that in many cases over the years, with trials having an expert show me lines and exercises and watching riders in AMA hare scrambles. You see the lines the top riders do versus the lines of others.

Again - no magic bullets or advice. You have to read, watch, try and learn.
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Ever get lost? You know, that good kind of lost - come to a dirt road intersection and you have no idea where you are or which way to turn? I like when that happens!

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markk53 screwed with this post 05-27-2015 at 07:27 AM
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Old 05-27-2015, 08:16 AM   #12
motif
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First off, I rode off road trials, flat track, and MX bikes in the past and now ride a 650 single dual sport and starting out back truly off road again with a 250 dual sport
no sh$%t...were you a fighter pilot as well?

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so none of this is dealing with heavy adventure twins. They're a game I won't play.
chicken?
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Old 05-27-2015, 08:21 AM   #13
foxtrapper
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Originally Posted by Highlands View Post
I may need to look more into how my bars are set up. No matter how much I concentrate on it, and squeeze the tank and support my body with my legs and not my arms, when I stand and get a jolt, I roll the throttle. Maybe if i bring the bars more toward me.
I would say your arm, and particularly your wrist are stiff. By all means, have a solid grip, but be supple also. Allow your shoulders, your elbows and your wrists to move. Knees and hips to. That's how those riders keep their body trunk and head stable, while the bike dances and bounces uner them.
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