Tips for slowing/stopping downhill on dirt/gravel

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by CafeRacer99, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. CafeRacer99

    CafeRacer99 Been here awhile

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    What are your tips for riding downhill on gravel? The scenario is a big bike, Super Ten in my case but any big bike, going down a fairly steep switchback gravel road with some six-inch loose rock thrown in as well.

    Are you on the front brake as well as the back? Are you using engine braking or no? How about when you have to come to a full stop to wait for traffic going uphill? ABS?

    Thanks!
    #1
  2. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    I'd be curious to hear what the experts have to say, too.

    My technique is to use mostly engine breaking and rear brake, and feather the front brake when traction feels good. If the rear is breaking loose, I let off the front brake completely to avoid having both tires sliding at the same time.

    No ABS for me.
    #2
  3. GoGoGavin41

    GoGoGavin41 Sokath, his eyes opened!

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    Use your brakes, especially if you have abs.
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  4. Offcamber

    Offcamber Long timer

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    This is my daily commute...my driveway is long, steep and gravel.

    I use engine braking and rear brake primarily with just a touch of front brake if needed. Be careful when down shifting, first gear will lock the tire up, at least on my bike. This can be avoided with clutch control.

    If emergency braking then use as much front as you can without washing out locking/ front wheel..You just have to feel where that point is....practice helps.

    This is my method YMMV
    #4
  5. Ronin ADV

    Ronin ADV Gear addict

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    ABS? That has not been my experience at all. Steep loose downhill with the ABS turned on, at least on my F800GS = no brakes.
    I much prefer engine braking, then a gentle combo of front and back brakes with no ABS.
    #5
  6. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    Is this your first bike? First offroad?

    In any case, when headed downhill, use both brakes. Hopefully the ABS won't intervene too much, and likewise hopefully you don't skid the front too much. But your rear brake won't have much stopping power as most of the weight is on the front in that situation.

    Engine braking is questionable at best. It's harder to modulate, and I'm not sure if the S10 has traction control (think of TC as ABS for the engine).

    When you come to a full stop, use your brakes.
    #6
  7. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

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    The front brake still has most of the stopping power. ESPECIALLY on a steep downhill where they will be even less weight than usual on the rear tire..

    In really loose stuff, a lot of the stopping can come from "plowing" up a pile of the loose material ahead of a briefly locked or "partially locked" (yeah, oxymoron) tire. Unfortunately ABS often won't allow this and will release the braking, leaving you with a "no brakes" feeling. This is why many experienced riders prefer to turn off ABS for loose conditions.

    If you want to stop most effectively in loose downhill conditions, use the brakes. If you have sufficiently planned ahead so as not to need maximum effectiveness, then engine braking and rear braking could be enough and will require less attention to the front. Your choice. Going too fast into a steep loose downhill so that you need to save it before you crash into oncoming traffic is like overcooking a corner entry. The better approach is to not be in that situation to begin with.
    #7
  8. randyo

    randyo Long timer

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    I agree with everything 100%

    same advice for snow & ice
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  9. Aussijussi

    Aussijussi Long timer

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    If you know before hand that you're going to go down a steep hill, a gravel one, turn the abs off, if possible. Especially the back wheel needs abs like hole in the head. I can only repeat what few others stated already, use both brakes, again the front one being more effective. If the hill is steep enough, the back wheel wants to slide all over the place, sending you arse over tit, so slow it right down, use the front binders, with a heavy bike like the super ten, i'd avoid the real steep ones. I've gone down a few with my 990 adv and it's no picnic!
    #9
  10. freetors

    freetors Long timer

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    Another thing that helps is moving your weight back as far as possible.
    #10
  11. EggChaser

    EggChaser Been here awhile

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    Downhill and ABS = not good. Watch 2nd half of this (admittedly rider stays on, but only just)

    <object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="https://www.youtube.com/v/OrD65i3FUcU?version=3&amp;hl=en_GB"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="https://www.youtube.com/v/OrD65i3FUcU?version=3&amp;hl=en_GB" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>
    #11
  12. GoGoGavin41

    GoGoGavin41 Sokath, his eyes opened!

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    I ride gravel aggressively with the abs on and use both brakes at all times. I have a feeling this video has more to do with the rider than electronics.


    ...que abs argument...
    #12
  13. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    My ABS experience is similar to yours. I used to disable it for any dust or dirt. Now I just worry if it's getting excessively bumpy.
    #13
  14. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    I run into the same thing with my 4x4 truck. When it gets real steep, one rear wheel slipping gets me rolling with no brakes. It isn't as big of a deal in the manual trans truck, though, since I have engine braking at all wheels.

    I wonder if there are any adjustable ABS systems out there. It seems like some are so sensitive, they basically turn off the brakes, while others work great. If you have ABS, it would be a good idea to test it on a short downhill before attempting something like that video. As always, its good to know your bike.
    #14
  15. Aussijussi

    Aussijussi Long timer

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    Sort of wrong bike at a wrong place. The trend today seems to be to take these 'behemoth's of dirt biking', everywhere, no matter how painfull and slow it might be, must be something those two guys on their bm's started, they had lot of help though, mechanics, film crew etc. For condition's shown on the film, smaller lighter bike, 600cc even, without the 'mandatory' abs, would have been different scene altogether. The gs 1200 is a good motorcycle, but as they say, horse's for course's. Hill's identical to this one, but in the brindabella ranges, just outside of Canberra in OZ, i used to fly up and down on KTM 500xc, now there was right kind of weapon for the rough stuff, christ it had some poke in it too:D
    #15
  16. CafeRacer99

    CafeRacer99 Been here awhile

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    Not my first bike, but my dirt experience is limited. I wrote up my first real experience with the S10 on a dirt road here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=798470

    I'm not looking to get into any crazy difficult terrain, but that little trip was a blast. Even if it scared the s out of me once or twice.

    Keep the tips coming. I'm all about benefiting from your collective experience.
    #16
  17. LittleRedToyota

    LittleRedToyota Yinzer

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    still use the front brake.

    on lighter bikes, i like to lock up the rear and make it plow sometimes. not sure that would be good on a big bike, though.

    but, still the front brake is very important. definitely use it a lot when going straight and not over obstacles. release it to allow the front tire to roll over any obstacle and then get back on it after the obstacle. release it as much as you need to while turning.

    you can actually use the front brake a lot more than you might think in gravel and loose dirt...even while turning. i suggest getting a feel for your particular bike by experimenting on flat gavel roads or the like at first. start out slowly and applying just a little front brake in a straight line. gradually increase how much brake you use...and then how fast you start off. until you start to skid the front. once you are comfortable braking just to the point of skidding the front in a straight line, repeat the whole exercise except while turning. that way, you will develop a feel for how much front brake you can use on your particular bike in different situations.

    but, the two keys, imho, to stopping going downhill or going very slowly downhill are:

    1. do use your front brake.

    2. let off the front brake when the front tire is going over an obstacle. release the brake before the obstacle...roll over the obstacle...then reapply the front brake.

    however...

    the real key to riding downhills in dirt and gravel is...don't try to stop. just keep riding as though you are on flat ground. it seems scary and counterintuitive at first, but it is way easier, uses a lot less energy, makes you *less* likely to crash, and you ride faster to boot. use the brakes to keep yourself from picking up too much speed and getting too out of control (especially if there are switchbacks), but, go ahead and ride down the hill...don't try to stop the whole way down. you can stop amazingly quickly once you get to the bottom (you don't even need a long run out at the bottom). the day that i really got that was, for me, one of those "aha!" moments that made riding much easier and more enjoyable from that day out.
    #17
  18. EggChaser

    EggChaser Been here awhile

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    I did sort of wonder a bit about the skill of the rider in that video - pity there were not some side view cameras of the same incident.


    That said for safety purposes the off roads skills course in the UK uses BMW F650, F800 and R1200 GS models that have all had their ABS systems disabled for the year they are run by the course. The ABS is re-enabled when the beaten up rides hit the market for sale.
    #18
  19. B.Curvin

    B.Curvin Feral Chia Tamer

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    +10

    I'm a heavy front braker in all conditions. I prefer to get on the front as much as possible (it's all about feel), then bring the rear brake in and let the rear slide a bit if need be. At the not-a-rally a couple months ago I got called a nut. We were traversing a VERY VERY VERY steep downhill section with DEEP gravel. I was in second gear and accelerating hard down the hill and passed a fellow rider heading towards a right/left combo that was even steeper. I got on the front binder then slid the rear a bit through both changes of direction. Afterwards, the guy I passed said I was a nut job. :lol3 I do it all the time and have yet to dump in a situation such as that.

    The front has much more stopping power than you might think, even in loose stuff.
    #19
  20. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

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    First off, this in not on gravel, so adjust your technique as required. This is what I do on a steep downhill snow- & ice-covered surface: Feet down and sliding. Engine off. Transmission in 1st gear. Releasing the clutch to slip it - gently - is like applying the rear brake. Use all the front brake traction allows. If things start going to hell in a handbasket, I bring it to a full stop and start over. :nod If the bike won't come to a stop upright :eek1, then I toss it onto its side and bail. :muutt Trust gravity to get it to the bottom of the hill with me or without me. :lol3
    #20