First ride on the dirt

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Little Bike, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    Where is somebody filming for youtube when you need them? I would have gotten the award for the biggest doufus on a dual sport :rofl:rofl:rofl (moron on a motorcycle)

    Picked up my new xt250 3 weeks ago and have been thoroughly enjoying myself on pavement. On the way home today I thought "I should ride some of those dirt roads I used to drive in my truck when I had friends living there!" So, off we go for our first "dirt" experience.

    Started fine, hit the dirt road and then had to carefully negotiate up a hill with lots of deep potholes and ruts (ones I would have tried to not put a tire into in my truck), everything OK so far, sped up a bit, crested the hill and OH SHIT, I forgot how steep the other side of the hill is and the road conditions are worse:eek1 Barely slow down in time and creep down the other side of the hill with the clutch in and gripping the front brake (yeah, I know). Second hill is worse.....creep up, end up on the wrong side of the road because of avoiding ruts and just ended up over there because I was more focused on finding the easiest way up instead of the fact I could get creamed by a car coming the other way and ruin their day, ended up stopping about 3/4 the way up and have to start again, crept down the other side. I tried to go down the second hill in 1st, but the low gear wasn't really holding back the bike (again, used to 1st in the truck, you can crawl up and down over anything in first). Back to the clutch and brake.

    So, I've never ridden dirt on a bike, done a lot of road - completely comfortable. But now, oh my gosh, I have to learn how to ride all over again!!:eek1

    I can't even tell you how glad I am that I bought the xt250 instead of something bigger - I would have been laying on my side wondering what happened.:lol3

    Hit some easier washboardie roads and then the front tire hit some sand........Stayed up (not because of any talent of mine, but dumb luck) and finally hit the pavement.

    So, here's the really funny part - when I bought the new bike I was imagining myself riding the LA to Las Vegas run coming up :lol3:loll:loll What a moron!!!

    Met a friend for a margarita before heading home - while I was waiting I called my brother to tell him what a dumbass I am.

    So, the plan. Tomorrow, go ride those roads again, and again, and again (staying on the right side of the road). But I think I'll take the mirrors off before I hit the dirt........Glad I took a picture of my bike when I bought it, it's not going to look that nice for long!!
    #1
  2. DayOrNight

    DayOrNight n00b

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    I think I might have you beat. But I'll keep this brief because I'll never do it again. I have a 2008 Suzuki Wee-Strom, and yes, have no problem on the tarmac, this bike handles great!

    I went looking for a trailhead that I planned to hike, in the Sawtooth Mountains about 110 miles north of Boise, ID. What I found intriguing was that when I found it, there was a sign that indicated it was OK to take a motorcycle on this trail. Did they mean a 450 lb. dual-sport? Clearly not. Did they mean a bike with turn signals, and (mostly) street tires? Nope. Did I care? Apparently not.

    The trail was smooth and wide at first, not wide enough for an ATV even, but wide. The there were the two-foot wide bridges over the marshy areas should have been my first clue. The dusty whoop-dee-dos with fist-sized rocks should have been my second. But no, I rode that bike right down into a canyon with a tiny stream at the bottom. When I tried to get up the other side, that's when I found out I'd been had. Three miles from the nearest dirt road.

    I tried to turn it around to go around the steep part of the hill and just managed to break the left turn signal. Lucky for me, some desert racers came by and helped me turn it around, and one of them rode it up the first hill back the way we'd come. I thought I could take it the rest of the way, so they rode on after telling me where they were camped. All I managed to do was break the other turn signal . . . that bike comes down really hard when it falls over :eek1 I picked it up yet again and parked it at the side of the trail on a level spot. Walked out and waited for them to get back to their campsite. A couple of them went two-up and rode it all the way out for me. I think I might be eligible for honorary Darwin award for that one.
    #2
  3. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    I've done a few things like that over the years where you're really glad when you run into some help, but you're really bummed that there were witnesses.....:lol3
    #3
  4. Harvey Krumpet

    Harvey Krumpet Been here awhile

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    :roflNooo, that is a genuine sense of adventure, both of you!
    I started riding my TDM on trails awhile ago, so yeah, no, yeah, I get where your coming from. The middle weights make their own gravity.
    Littlebike, read up on technique, your XT will go just about anywhere. I had a 350 which was all but unstoppable.
    Learn then practice, practice, practice.

    Have fun!!!!
    #4
  5. Bucho

    Bucho Long timer

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    Hey LittleBike, I don't think you did anything stupid. Dirt riding is different than street riding. The challenge is part of the fun. It would be better if you had a more experienced dirt buddy to go with you. He (or she) could help with some pointers and tips. (Call for an ambulance if things go horribly wrong)
    Getting out there and getting seat time is the only way to practice. Though of course if you really have no clue what you are doing then you might just be engraining bad habits. If you don't have any offroad buddys who can teach you a little, then get some offroad technique videos. Better yet, find a day or weekend school somewhere so you can get some good teaching from a proffessional. A few years ago I did a one day offroad riding school with Rich Lafferty, was money well spent. I'm thinking of doing another one this coming season. I'll bet you have more options out there on the West coast.

    Here is my offroad tip for the day. Dealing with down hills and braking. For a long time I my "dirt" riding was only adventure type riding and light dualsporting. I had a few Suzuki DRs 350 and later a 650, even a big R1150GS for a while. For a long time my only real technique for braking on downhills was just shifting into a lower gear and using engine braking. Obviously this can work very well in some situations (and if you have a four stroke bike). When I started doing more hardcore dualsporting and dirtriding I started having to learn how to use my brakes better. I still have a DR650 but now do most of my dirt riding with a two-stroke enduro. The two-stroke bikes have very little engine braking, so I have become much better at using my brakes. The front brake provides the majority of my braking (just like on the street). You just have to be much more careful using it. Learn to be your own ABS. When your wheels are locked up, you just slide down the hill. Learn to use what little traction you have to keep your wheels rolling, then you can still steer the bike.
    Sorry to be long winded. Learn to use engine braking, learn to you use your brakes better. Go have fun on more dirt roads and trails.
    #5
  6. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

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  7. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

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    Having had my bike ridden up a few hills for me when I was starting and riding a few other peoples bikes up hills now. I'm sure they had fun doing it.
    #7
  8. B.Curvin

    B.Curvin Feral Chia tamer

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    Congrats on the bike. Here are a couple tips.

    Lower your tire pressure to 16 to 18 psi when offroad. It will feel MUCH more secure.

    When braking/cornering, sit as far forward as possible.

    Once you start a turn, if you aren't still braking, you should be accelerating. You don't have to nail it, but you should at least have the throttle cracked enough to be driving just a little. This will make the front feel much more planted.
    #8
  9. HooliKen

    HooliKen Awesome is a flavor

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    And the most important thing.

    If all else fails....pin it. Chicks dig scar's and signing casts....:D

    Seriously though. Practice, practice, practice. Even though some will argue this point but becoming proficient (note proficient not pro) offroad will make you more compentent on the road. Nothing will teach you more about how to deal with reduced traction than riding in the slippery stuff.
    #9
  10. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    That's what I keep hearing - learning to ride dirt will improve your street skills. Cool! I'm +1000 on the practice, practice.

    I am a chick so I'm going to have to find some guys that dig scars and are up to signing casts! Maybe I can get a good massage and somebody to fix dinner.....:rofl:rofl:rofl

    I think I'd better fix up my signature:loll

    thanks for the support!!
    #10
  11. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    Thanks for the advice/information! The cornering skills sound like riding street. I'm planning on touring so I won't be able to up and down the tire pressure, but would this be something to do while I'm learning?
    thanks
    #11
  12. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

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    Yes it makes a huge difference in traction. I'd do it while touring too honestly depending on how long you're going to be off-road.

    Honestly 16 to 18 is still very high. On a bike that light I'd go down to 8 to 12 depending on how rocky it was versus sandy

    With higher pressure being for rocks, but next time go back out and set the tire pressure at 12 and be amazed out how much more traction you have.
    #12
  13. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    It's really going to vary on trips. If I'm going to camp in Anza Borrego then I have to ride slab to get there, but if I'm a long touring trip it's probably going to be 50/50? I think I just need to get out there and try the tire pressure changes and really plan for different trips. Do you know if I can hook up a Slime pump to that bike?
    #13
  14. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

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    It's got a electric start so you should just be able to hook it up to the battery when you need it.

    The tire pressure changes make enough of a difference that I air up and down as riding. Run highway pressure on the way there, air down to either a pure dirt pressure (12 to 8) with almost no street (just enough to connect dirt together) or more of a dual sport pressure if there's going to be a decent amount of pavement thrown in and not allot of hard dirt, aka 15ish. Then air up on the way home.

    The goal is to give the tire a larger softer contact patch so it can conform to the irregularity of the ground to provide traction off road. It also makes the tire "spring rate" softer so it's less likely to deflect.

    Does the bike have rim locks?
    #14
  15. B.Curvin

    B.Curvin Feral Chia tamer

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    This all pertains to a KLR650 on Shinko 705s.

    If I'm riding 80% offroad for the day I run 14 to 16 psi.

    If it's a 50/50 day I run ~18 psi.

    If I'm doing a looooong day in the saddle but know I'll hit a little dirt, I run ~20psi.

    For my weekly commuting (100% pavement) I run 40psi.

    Keep in mind this is on a much heavier dual sport. On such a small bike you probably could lower all my suggestions 2psi. The only real issue with even lower pressures is the chance of pinch flats and bent rims. Fortunately you don't really have to worry about those until you are below about 10 psi. I run mine a tidge high and don't adjust up and down throughout the day. If I did I'd be stopping 50 times a day to air up or down.
    #15
  16. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    I carry a Slime-brand top-off pump, and a pressure gauge, in my tank pannier. I also carry a small mtn bike pump in my tire kit. Install a 5A 12V receptacle on your bikes, so you can run just about anything that uses less than 60W (V x A = W, roughly). Leave your engine running for the few minutes you're pumping, if you're worried about killing your battery and don't have a kickstart.

    As for offroad technique, videos and skilled instruction can definitely help you learn to practice. One braking tip that I use now is to brake like I do on a mtn bike...I don't use much engine braking offroad, especially on steep hills. I mostly just use the brakes with the clutch pulled in. I can modulate 2 brakes easier than I can modulate 2 brakes, a clutch, and a throttle. BTW, I make sure that my brakes work well...front AND back. If yours don't work well, fix them. Too many riders seem to just accept poor brakes, when there is usually something that can be done to vastly improve them (braided stainless hoses, bigger rotors, better pads, better bleeding, degreased linings, etc.)
    #16
  17. HooliKen

    HooliKen Awesome is a flavor

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    I will NEVER be a good stalker............:velvt

    I would happily sign your cast though....:wink:
    #17
  18. ER70S-2

    ER70S-2 Long timer

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    The front brake is the most important control on the bike, dirt or street. If you aren't practicing threshold braking regularly, you should start (always check behind you first). On the dirt, the bike must be absolutely vertical while braking (as a beginner). Please don't go out and grab the brake, learn progressively; baby steps.
    Slow, controlled downhills are a good skill to have. Sometimes it's too rocky or twisty to use speed. Clutch and brake is good. Gearing won't slow a bike enough on some downhills. Remember gravity and weight transfer, on a downhill there is very little weight on the back tire and little braking force before the tire locks up. In the dirt, locking up the back tire happens frequently and isn't fatal. I'd recommend you get a full DOT knobby for the front while you're learning dirt riding. I put over 11,000 miles on this summer using front knobbies.

    This means you are already comfortable with threshold braking, right? :D

    :nod An excellent choice, the XT will be perfect for you. I'm shopping for one myself.

    It's funny how some folks will read up on ride reports and decide that looks fun; never realizing the complexity of dirt skills. You are only one of many others that have made that mistake. :wink:

    I never, ever drink and ride, not even one beer..........ever............... YMMV

    Pics are mandatory, post 'em up. Show us how pritty(sp) she is. :deal :freaky
    #18
  19. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    :rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl
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  20. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue

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    Dang it, I can't seem to get the individual topics to copy - oh well, here it goes!

    If by threshold braking you mean quick, emergency type stops - then yeah, I'm good there on the street, but I'm sure it's an entirely different thing on dirt.:lol3

    I'm really looking forward to getting dirt skills - my brother warned me that I would be learning to ride all over again, yep!!!!:rofl

    The only time I drink and ride is my one margarita at the restaurant 3 blocks from my house (and that's one drink in about 1 1/2 hours), but I totally agree with you. I led a ride up to Big Bear and we had a new to the group rider with us. When we stopped for lunch he wasn't happy that the place didn't serve beer so he and his girlfriend went somewhere else. We've never seen them again on a ride and I'm really glad they left that day.

    I'm a very uneducated texter - what is YMMV?

    Pics will be forthcoming - I took some the other day, I need to take the 2 seconds to upload them to my computer.
    #20