Off-road Confidence

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Order_Unknown, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    I'm a new R1250 GSA owner. Bought in June, and have now crossed from one side of the country to the other. I took two training courses at the BMW performance center in Spartanburg, SC: 1 day on-road and 1 day off-road. Great courses, and they helped me understand how the bike performs. I gained a lot of confidence on road, but in certain ways lost some confidence in my off-road abilities.

    I spent a few days in Badlands National Park, and took the bike on my first ride on a gravel road. This was a groomed road in a National park, and they put endless washboards on the road, I guess to help with water drainage? The bike felt very squirrely on those washboards. The rear tire kept wanting to get away from me.

    This is the biggest bike I've ever ridden off-road. So my question is, what suggestions do you have for helping me get my confidence?

    BTW, I still have the stock 90/10 tires on the bike. I assume the bike will do appreciably better with knobbies on it. But for now, the vast majority of my riding will be on roads...till I get to Guatemala.
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  2. sizzlingbadger

    sizzlingbadger Been here awhile

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    Get a smaller/cheaper bike to practice on.
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  3. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Yeah...this is what I'm thinking. That if my riding evolves to more off-road, I'd pick up a smaller bike. Still, I'll need to gain confidence on this bike at the very least on fire roads, and back roads. I don't have plans to do any hard core off-roading. Just traversing and camping...
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  4. sizzlingbadger

    sizzlingbadger Been here awhile

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    Knobby tyres will help, so does airing down to 30psi. I ride a lot of gravel here in NZ, it takes some time to build confidence on these bikes as they move around a lot and the 19" front has a tendency to push and tuck in gravel. I bought a KTM 1090R (not much smaller or cheaper I know) but it really showed up the limitations of the GS, at least in my hands. I went back to a GS though, it was just better for long distance and daily commuting.

    I'd like to get a KTM 690, or similar and do some more technical off-road, but I don't have time or finances at present.
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  5. lewisjr1

    lewisjr1 Long timer

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    Time in the saddle is like time in the gym, there really are no substitutes.

    Take an off-road riding course, or read suggestions online & practice. Either way, be prepared to drop your bike.

    Washboard roads are practically groomed trails. Better tire selection couldn't hurt. So would standing.
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  6. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Thanks...I took a 1-day Off-Road at the BMW performance center. But we spent the whole day on technical things, ruts, small hills, braking, etc. We road some single track at very slow speeds, but we never really spent any time just riding a gravel road. But yes, I know I need time on the bike off-road. I'll do that :)
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  7. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    ...and btw, I did drop my bike on that first ride. I was stopped, pulled over into very deep gravel, put my foot down and it slid down the hill and so went the bike. On the positive side, I got to pick my bike up for the first time, so that hurdle is crossed ;)
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  8. NoiZboy

    NoiZboy Dirt to Track and Back Again

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    It's going to be hard to get around the limitations of the stock 90/10 tires. Even if you air them down, they will never be as stable as 50/50's or even 80/20's. You might want to look at a dirt-friendly 80/20. Dunlop Mission tires are getting rave reviews lately as a road-biased tire with way more dirt capability than it seems like it should have.

    On top of that, and while a smaller bike is good, I'd suggest finding some kind of practice dirt you can work on and do the drills from the BMW Perf. Center class. They are good drills and will help you have a better sense of balance and control over the bike off-road and - most importantly - at slow speed.

    On the topic of speed - slow down! If you don't feel comfortable at a certain speed, slow down until you do. Over time you can and will be able to speed up, but pushing yourself near the edge of your comfort zone on long rides and when you aren't specifically practicing off road speed in a safe, practice environment will not help you develop confidence. It is more likely to lead to mistakes and to have the opposite effect.

    Finally, consider your protection. Accept that the bike is going to go down, and protect yourself and the bike accordingly.

    A lot of riders focus on their upper body armor, which is important, but then cut corners on head/neck and feet & and leg protection, which is where the majority of injuries and most serious injuries can occur. You can really decrease the fear factor by making sure your feet, ankles, lower & upper legs, and knees are well protected. Consider - seriously - getting knee braces. At the top, have a good helmet and consider a neck brace. Of the two braces, though, I'd argue knee braces are more important.

    As for the bike, you don't need to order every farkle under the sun, but accept that it's going to go down and get something to protect what you don't want to have to pay to fix, or have to deal with being broken on the trails. Crashbars, cylinder head guards, a real bashplate, and decent (as in metal frame) lever guards are a good place to start. You can certainly do more, but that setup will protect the bike from more common off-road sources of damage. If you are riding with someone else, also consider headlight & radiator guards. Oh - and consider taking off the stock windscreen. You notice they were totally missing in SC? That's because when they take a hit during a wipeout, they tend to do damage to the mounting hardware, instrument cluster, and/or beak.
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  9. pgods

    pgods Godspeed rider

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    Rawhide to reinforce skills
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  10. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Thanks so much NoiZboy...that is really helpful. Part of my challenge is that I'm not living on the bike. I don't have a home to go back to for storing different gear. I've got the Klim Kodiak Jacket and pants. I've got adventure touring boots, but not specifically off-road boots. And perhaps I could upgrade what I have. I like the idea of knee braces. And I've been looking at bark busters to add. Making a list :)
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  11. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Funny, I'm actually on their site now looking at dates :)
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  12. NoiZboy

    NoiZboy Dirt to Track and Back Again

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    No problem. When you work on the drills, be sure to spend time on whichever ones they taught you that involve the rear locking up/getting loose. The more your body gets used to maintaining balance with the rear sliding/moving around, the less frightening it will be on the trail. Even dealing with that feeling at lower speeds will help you get more comfortable with experiencing it at (initially slightly) higher speeds as you continue to practice and ride.

    Off-road boots - as in MX level protection - is very important. You can become very aware of and nervous about what happens to your ankle when that touring boot just lets your foot roll. Full MX boots will feel clunky and big as Hell at first, but you'll get used to them. Remember to adjust your shift lever to accommodate the larger boot toe. Look at the Sidi Crossfires or something similar.

    And that's one last thing - If you're going to be off road, make sure the ergonomic setup is right. There are videos on this online - I like Chris Birch's videos, MotoTrek, or the YouTube "Cross Training Enduro" channel series. Getting your bars, levers, and foot controls setup properly can really help stability and balance, and will help you keep a better body position.
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  13. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Yeah...funny thing is I did hard core mountain biking for years, and am so comfortable in rough stuff and sliding tires on such a light agile machine. But this is a whole new ballgame. :)
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  14. NoiZboy

    NoiZboy Dirt to Track and Back Again

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    Lol - yeah - that's part of what you're dealing with for sure. I did the same. The bike's center of gravity is 100% different, and it weighs so much more. You have to learn to use your body completely differently, and use the engine & brakes to help you with keeping the bike in control. On a mountain bike, we can do so much just by shifting around, and our body "dominates" the bike in terms of muscling it into line. Motorcycles, even a smaller one, are totally different. But keep practicing - you'll get there. My guess is the mountain biking started so young your skill development just happened and is totally body-learned. Now you just need to do the same with more intention.

    If you're used to hammering on a mountain bike, that's probably also contributing to your sense that you "should" be able to go faster. Just back off the speed for now and build back up. Any ride you come home from is a good ride, even if it takes a little longer than it would take Graham Jarvis. ;)
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  15. Happy Snapper

    Happy Snapper GOMOB.

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    I have a new R1250 GS Adventure that replaces a 2018 R1200 GS Adventure..... young lady driver wrote that off for me. But I survived with just bruises. Bonus! When I had the 1200 new, I had come from a Super Tenere 1200. I found the GSA most unstable on dirt roads.. terrified me in fact. It came with OEM Anakee tyres. I replaced them with Metzler Karoo Street and the difference was really noticeable. I could actually enjoy the ride on the dirt. While these big bikes are never the best thing for dirt road only, they can do an admirable job. Learn to loosen up a bit.. the bike will move around under you as you ride along.. it's when you hang on tight to those handle bars (in my experience) you get into trouble. The other tip is start off slow and increase your speed aa you go along on dirt roads to find your "sweet spot" in speed. So far I haven't had the 1250 off road as I am still a bit sore and sorry for myself following the prang on the 1200. But I will get there once I loosen up a bit. The elephant in the room is that once these big girls get away from you... things can turn nasty pretty quickly. Start slow and go from there. Hope this helps. Above all.. have fun.
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  16. MirthfulThylacinator

    MirthfulThylacinator transitioning from Tradie >>>> Luthier :-)

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    I did BMW's 2-day off-road course last year in Feb, followed by a 4-day adventure rally in October which was like a course extension to me. Offroading & on gravel, lowering tire pressure is your friend. Even though the BMW instructors said there's no need and they didn't do it. But their skill level was sky high, I need every help I can get!! Standing on the pegs was the key which opened this new world to me. I can't ride sitting down anymore (on dirt). Changes it from worrisome slidy to fun and even fast & comfortable!! Really!! Who knew??? (duh, everyone :lol2 )
    The other hard lesson, through mud & water - motion is my friend. Accelerating/braking or steering via handlebars ... not so much. Took a while and a few spin offs to build up confidence to power through that. Learn to ride standing on the pegs, that's a life changer! Before, I would have never even contemplated to ride through the woods >>> now? Can't wait to get back out there :-) ... but yeah, it's no trail bike damhik :fpalm
    Web Westcott Rd-01.jpg
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  17. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Yeah...that's the thing. I spent the whole day standing on the bike in the BMW course, and then when I got on the actual dirt road on my own, I was sitting the whole time. Again, I think it felt safer to me to sit, but I need to stand! That's what they said, and that's what I didn't do :)
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  18. eri

    eri Been here awhile

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    only about 3% there are female...
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  19. Order_Unknown

    Order_Unknown Adventurer

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    Ha!
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  20. brooklyncountry

    brooklyncountry Adventurer

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    Just wanna agree that standing on the pegs is a game changer. Experiment steering with the balls of your feet, stay loose. Bend your knees. Look where you wanna go. Don’t look down at poor traction areas, look at the smooth area ahead you wanna get to. Hold the handlebars gently. Hug the tank with your quads. Just my $.02 about what I find helpful. Oh and get the Dunlop trailmax missions. They’re very confidence inspiring off-road and great on road. Good luck!
    #20
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