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Old 05-28-2014, 11:07 AM   #1
Dr. Greg OP
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Dirt roads vs gravel roads...

Anyone care to offer insights on riding on dirt roads (relatively hardpack, not sand/mud) vs riding on gravel roads? Seems like gravel (or gravelled) roads are frequently found in "maintained" situations (parks, monuments, etc.)

I feel quite comfortable on dirt, but I've always felt a bit "queasy" on gravel. The bike seems to move around a bit more, and the sense of control is noticeably less. Anyone else have this feeling?

Been riding for decades, all kinds of bikes. Just thought I'd finally ask this question.

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Old 05-28-2014, 11:09 AM   #2
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Good question

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Old 05-28-2014, 11:11 AM   #3
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Ride faster.
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Old 05-28-2014, 11:20 AM   #4
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On gravel, I worry less about the bike moving underneath me, and more about which way it's pointed. Realize that the surface will shift but that your momentum is fairly constant.
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Old 05-28-2014, 11:29 AM   #5
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I like it all...

but with gravel tires make a difference. Some tires handle it better than others. Plus, the depth of the gravel can also make a big difference. If it's very thick or just a light layer of gravel over hard pack, it's pretty sketchy feeling.

You have to embrace the sketchiness...there's really no easy way to get it to feel planted and solid. You just get familiar with how squirrelly it feels and at some point, you either hate it or kind of like it. Sort of like riding through rock gardens...it's kind of masochistic.
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Old 05-28-2014, 11:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Greg View Post
Anyone care to offer insights on riding on dirt roads (relatively hardpack, not sand/mud) vs riding on gravel roads? Seems like gravel (or gravelled) roads are frequently found in "maintained" situations (parks, monuments, etc.)

I feel quite comfortable on dirt, but I've always felt a bit "queasy" on gravel. The bike seems to move around a bit more, and the sense of control is noticeably less. Anyone else have this feeling?

Been riding for decades, all kinds of bikes. Just thought I'd finally ask this question.

--Doc
If I'm going to be on the gravel road for some time I let some air out of the tires, ride slower and keep a light grip on the bars. I ride a heavy, heavily packed cruiser.
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Old 05-28-2014, 11:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Greg View Post
I feel quite comfortable on dirt, but I've always felt a bit "queasy" on gravel. The bike seems to move around a bit more, and the sense of control is noticeably less. Anyone else have this feeling?
yes.

gravel roads can be a lot of fun, though...if they are one way, not crowned, and have nice grass fields beside them.

in reality, i find most of the ones around here are two way, crowned, and lined with guard rails. left hand curves can definitely raise the sphincter factor to eleven. you end up being off camber, unable to see what might be coming the other way (they're usually on the side of a mountain around here--and, too frequently, whatever is coming the other way isn't worrying too much about staying on the other side of the road), with a human bisection device conveniently placed exactly where you will end up if you lose the rear end and low side all while riding on marbles.

i tend to slow way down on those...
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Old 05-28-2014, 01:10 PM   #8
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Regarding gravel, don't go too fast but keep your momentum up and stay as straight up as possible. Learn to relax and lose any death grip on the handlebars you might have. You just might get to like it, as I have. Getting comfortable in gravel is key to getting to interesting places.

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Old 05-28-2014, 01:17 PM   #9
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They have a habit here in PA of covering the state forest roads with several inches of loose gravel each spring. Lower tire pressure and a Scotts steering damper help me.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:11 PM   #10
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I ride alot of state gravel here that is a layer of hard packed dirt with a nice coating of marbles I mean gravel .Like said above lose grip helps alot.
Which I about lost mine the other day but by some feat of luck I was able to ride it out of going down . I was in a hurry tring to beat a bad T storm running 64 mph into a wide left sweeper that I forgot that went right in to a tight right turn . It felt great on that long left sweeper with the back kicking out a little then I saw that right hand curve thought oh shit this is going to hurt and gently gave it front and back brake , about quarter way through the bike just felt like it slipped out from under me . I gave it throttle ,tried to weight the outside peg more even though it felt like it was going away from me, the bike stood back up wobbled and we finished the turn without going down . I would be curious to know how much speed I had shaved off going in but I never looked down scared it would take my focus off of where I wanted to go .
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:15 PM   #11
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gravel covered roads and the deep gravel beside railroad tracks are two completely different things that can require different riding styles.

just something to keep in mind for people trying to get comfortable riding on "gravel".
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Old 05-28-2014, 03:13 PM   #12
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Hard Pack v Gravel

In my area we have both types of riding surfaces in all different levels of maintenance.
A good hard pack dirt road can be ridden much like the blacktop. It gives less grip then blacktop, but with reduced speed (as compared to blacktop) I don't worry too much about a lot of front brake input and maintaining a relaxed riding position. I am always on the lookout for rapid changes in road surface conditions like washouts and ruts, and change my style/body position to suit the road.
The gravel roads in my area are all over the board when it comes to condition. Some are decent, even and well maintained and some are horrible, with areas between 1 and 6 inches of gravel depth. I always use caution when on these roads because I never know how deep the gravel is until I am in it. Most of the times I am riding cautiously on the seat, not using the front brake and ready to throw it down flat-tracker style if the rear gets away from me.

Never be afraid to steer with the rear.
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Old 05-28-2014, 03:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleRedToyota View Post
gravel covered roads and the deep gravel beside railroad tracks are two completely different things that can require different riding styles.

just something to keep in mind for people trying to get comfortable riding on "gravel".
Just so you know, the deep gravel you speak of beside railroad tracks can often be not all that deep, quite soft, muddy and slippery. With that in mind, perhaps you could explain how you would ride each of these (e.g., gravel roads, deep gravel and wet muddy gravel).
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Old 05-28-2014, 03:55 PM   #14
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Just so you know, the deep gravel you speak of beside railroad tracks can often be not all that deep, quite soft, muddy and slippery. With that in mind, perhaps you could explain how you would ride each of these (e.g., gravel roads, deep gravel and wet muddy gravel).
for the gravel beside railroad tracks, i stand up, get my weight back, and stay on the throttle to maintain good speed and to keep the front end light--the faster you go, the easier and less tiring it is (at least i find that to be true). that seems to work pretty well regardless of whether it is deep and dry or mixed with lots of mud. one key thing is you have essentially no curves. railroad curves are very mild and more or less still a straight line...and i ride them the same as just going straight.

i find that generally works OK--though is not as critical, and i'll sit more often, but still with my weight at least somewhat back--on gravel covered dirt roads, too...as long as you aren't going around a curve. but, on gravel covered roads, you do have curves. and then that doesn't work anymore...at least for me.

how i take those curves depends on the curve. on right handers...or left handers where the road is not crowned and i can see through the curve...i'll sit down on the tank with my butt toward the outside, get my inside foot up and out toward the front wheel, lean the bike under me, and let the rear end power slide a bit.

on left hand curves where the road is crowned...meaning you are off camber...i'll slow down and not get quite as far forward (and sometimes stay standing). if its one where there is a guard rail or a steep drop off, i'll slow way down--to turtle speed.

i'm not claiming to be any kind of expert. but the OP asked about riding gravel roads, and you posted a picture of train track gravel. i ride both most weekends, and i find them to be completely different. i find railroad gravel to often be not unlike riding sand (like you said, it's soft)--you need to maintain speed and float on top of it or you sink in. gravel roads are like riding on crowned paved streets covered with marbles--at least the ones around here are. not soft at all...you don't sink in, you skate across.

that's my impression of them, anyway. ymmv, of course.
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Old 05-28-2014, 04:20 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by LittleRedToyota View Post
for the gravel beside railroad tracks, i stand up, get my weight back, and stay on the throttle to maintain good speed and to keep the front end light--the faster you go, the easier and less tiring it is (at least i find that to be true). that seems to work pretty well regardless of whether it is deep and dry or mixed with lots of mud. one key thing is you have essentially no curves. railroad curves are very mild and more or less still a straight line...and i ride them the same as just going straight.

i find that generally works OK--though is not as critical, and i'll sit more often, but still with my weight at least somewhat back--on gravel covered dirt roads, too...as long as you aren't going around a curve. but, on gravel covered roads, you do have curves. and then that doesn't work anymore...at least for me.

how i take those curves depends on the curve. on right handers...or left handers where the road is not crowned and i can see through the curve...i'll sit down on the tank with my butt toward the outside, get my inside foot up and out toward the front wheel, lean the bike under me, and let the rear end power slide a bit.

on left hand curves where the road is crowned...meaning you are off camber...i'll slow down and not get quite as far forward (and sometimes stay standing). if its one where there is a guard rail or a steep drop off, i'll slow way down--to turtle speed.

i'm not claiming to be any kind of expert. but the OP asked about riding gravel roads, and you posted a picture of train track gravel. i ride both most weekends, and i find them to be completely different. i find railroad gravel to often be not unlike riding sand (like you said, it's soft)--you need to maintain speed and float on top of it or you sink in. gravel roads are like riding on crowned paved streets covered with marbles--at least the ones around here are. not soft at all...you don't sink in, you skate across.

that's my impression of them, anyway. ymmv, of course.
Gravel roads around here tend to be logging or farm roads and can have water-filled low areas, frost heaves and lots of deep ruts so getting off the seat to some degree, shifting the CG farther back towards the rear (driving) wheel and not going too fast is a good idea.
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