Slippery Dirt Riding for Pavement Riders and Bikes

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by FiveG, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. FiveG

    FiveG Been here awhile

    Jan 16, 2010
    Connecticut, USA
    My riding (at least at present) is predominantly on pavement, on pretty hefty bikes (FJR and a Monster 1100). I have recently found, however, that a portion of my rides are on a mile or so of dirt road. When dry, no problem. But, when wet, it's that lovely slime that only Vermont can do so well.

    While I'm sure many will suggest I get a dirt bike or adventure bike, I'm interested in input from those who spend a lot of time on dirt as to how, a pavement-guy like me, should/can handle the slime. Easy on the throttle and little or no front brake seem to make sense.

    BUT, in the event of a rear tire slide, what suggestions?
    Even better -- what's the best technique to make turns in those conditions?

    Thanks, from a dirt neophyte.
  2. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

    Apr 5, 2011
    Western Sierras
    The biggest thing is to accept the fact that the bike is going to move around under you. The death grip is not your friend.

    In the event of a rear tire slide, I don't back out of the throttle all the way. Instead, I use just enough to keep the tire spinning slightly faster than the bike is moving, because it seems easier to control when under power.

    If you aren't in the market for a dirt bike, there are tires that can help make your street bike handle the dirt better. The Pirelli Scorpion Trail looks and acts like a sport bike tire, yet has slightly deeper tread and a tougher carcass. Still not great in the slime, but an improvement nonetheless. The TKC-80 now comes in sport bike sizes, and will handle that wet stuff like a champ, but will drastically reduce dry tarmac cornering.

    I'm not great at cornering, so I'll let someone else answer that.
  3. hscrugby

    hscrugby "That guy"

    Jan 11, 2010
    Raleigh, NC
    No high speed cornering in dirt on a street bike.
    Like he said, expect it to wiggle some, if you hit mud, more throttle.

    in dirt the saying, "when in doubt, throttle out" is VERY true especially with slick tires.
    I took my old CBR954 in a LOTTTTT of places it should have never gone. (Jeep trails, mt bike trails, muddy fire roads, etc) It almost always had the GPA's that were either track take offs, or track left overs on it. :lol3

    PLAN on locking the back tire up, let it slide. So what? you're in dirt, not pavement, it's fun.
    If it's a rough trail, plan on having to go slow cause the suspension is NOT right.
    here are some examples of the wrong bike:

  4. randyo

    randyo Long timer

    Nov 17, 2007
    Northern NewEngland

    remember that surface does not change the weight distribution on your bike, primary stopping power is still the front brake

    learn to use it
  5. BanjoBoy

    BanjoBoy Been here awhile

    Mar 18, 2009
    Northern CA
    Yeah, PRIIs do fine on the dirt, butt are a handful in da mud. Pirelli Scorpions are a little better. :D

    first day ride'in or iz this a joke? :huh
  6. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Sep 6, 2011
    Stay vertical. Lean and it becomes much more likely the bike will squirt out sideways and go down.

    It's very much like riding on snow or ice.
  7. GR0NK

    GR0NK Got some screws loose!

    Sep 24, 2006
    In the Valley of Bomb Runs...
    Best advice is to buy a dirtbike to play on or take a dirt riding course of some sort. Too many people start riding late in life on pavement without the benefit of riding dirtbikes. If you can be comfortable when you get all crossed up in slick ruts on knobbies, the little moving around a street bike will do is trivial. If you can't find a course or similar, find a friend with a dirtbike and go ride deep sand all day. Nothing develops your sense of balance more than deep sand. And when your arms get tired of fighting the bike to stay upright, that's when you start to understand about gripping with your legs and holding on loosely with your hands. (and you start to go faster)

    Regardless of whether it's a street or dirtbike, grip the tank with your knees when you feel it move. Your leg muscles are much stronger than your arms and by gripping your bike you are essentially making "one" with it. Bad things happen when you and the bike start going in opposite directions so you need to stay with the bike no matter what. Also, by adding your weight to the bike by gripping it, you slow down movements such as rear slides and absorb oscillations that could result in headshake. Do not grip the bars tightly, your hands are only there to use the controls basically, not steer the bike. (This is a generality but it's more true than most realize) If your bike starts to slide and you are trying to force it, you'll crash. A bike is self-correcting, let it self-correct.

    Braking: Use both brakes when riding on slick surfaces. This is hard to test because most people don't like to drop their bikes on purpose but I have done it on dirt and the principles are the same as slick pavement. If you apply enough front brakes on sandy pavement to lock up the front tire, there is a good chance it will tuck under and you will go down. When you add rear brakes to the same amount of front brakes, the bike becomes more stable. Even though the front wheel may still lock up, you will have added reaction time to catch it and modulate to avoid sliding that front tire. No I don't understand the physics, I just know it works. Both brakes at all times.

    If you panic brake and get the rear end sliding out, do not let that rear tire start to rotate again until it is swinging back behind you. It is much better to risk having a low-side from the rear sliding out completely than to have a high-side because the tire suddenly started turning again and regained traction. Low-side= scuffed bodywork or broken bike parts. High-side=separated shoulders and broken bones + scuffed bodywork and broken bike parts.

    I have been riding dirtbikes since I was 6 and a lot of that knowledge has saved my hide on the streets. That's why a lot of streetbike racers ride/race dirtbikes also.

    Sean :bmwrider
  8. dirty_t

    dirty_t Been here awhile

    Mar 19, 2007
    You could always spend a couple bucks and take a class with these guys:

    I did and learned a lot, but I still suck at real powersliding - working on learning how to do it better. Their class does a great job of helping get the technique going, and learning what it feels like. Highly recommend.
  9. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

    Sep 8, 2010
    Southern New Jersey
    Slick mud on street tires with a heavy bike?
    Plan on going down.

    Ride gently, very gently...

    Smooth hard dirt can be a blast tho..