Bike ClothingRoad SurfacesRiding Skills

Motorcycles and Rding on different Road Surfaces

Handling very bad patches of road

By always looking ahead you can usually see a bad patch before you actually have to ride over it. This is your cue to slow down. That way you have room to gently accelerate through the bad section without starting to go too fast. If you find the bike moves around a bit, gas it a bit more! and the bike will steady up. (see diagram below points 1 to 5)

As the road surface becomes more radical, push down harder and harder onto the foot pegs until you may finally find yourself standing up, allowing the bike to bounce around freely beneath you as it moves over the uneven surface (knees gripping bike lightly, legs bent, upper body moving freely)

Beware the blind rise and/or corner

Once you have mastered the basics of off road riding your next challenge is to recognise the special dangers inherent in blind rises and/or corners. The rule here is to maintain a speed that is in relation to the amount of visible track ahead of you. What you cannot see, you cannot avoid - if you are going too fast when you do see it, you will be in trouble

Crossing a shallow weir

Many small rivers have a concrete causeway or weir instead of a bridge. Beware! The surface can be as slippery as a well oiled piglet. The secret here is not to stress the little traction you have i.e. don't speed up, don't slow down, don't turn, don't move your weight about. Just keep the bike upright, straight and go through smooth and clean.
Cutting across an incline (traversing)

Going up and down inclines is normal, even for a road bike. Cutting across a steep incline is commonplace when riding off road. Most difficult of all is going up, turning around while still on the slope before come back down again - a skill tested in the GS Challenge every year.

Standing on the foot pegs helps to avoid the Bike A scenario and gets the bike balanced and vertical! Once the bike is vertical relative to gravity (Bike B) the motorbike is going to be inclined to loose traction and slip sideways downhill. This can be avoided by putting your weight on the downhill foot peg. This downward force assists the tyre to keep traction while traversing.

Riding in Mud

There are no secrets or easy answers for a rider wanting to move a heavily laden touring or trail bike through mud. This is a slow process often involving a lot of paddling with your feet as you move forward. If the mud is not too deep you can still stand up but this time move your weight backwards off the front wheel. This can prevent it from digging in. A gung-ho approach of blasting through a long patch of bad mud at speed seldom works for bigger bikes. Instead commit, look up look ahead, and aggressively keep the bike moving at a brisk walking speed.

Your bike may also overheat during a period of slow riding and higher than normal revs. Also check the radiator to ensure that it is not caked with mud. A motorcycle with a fender (mudguard) situated high up is more likely to suffer from this problem.

Big, heavy dual purpose trail bikes.

Riding a big, heavy dual purpose trail bike over a bad surface with deep washes, ruts and channels is a skill. Don’t do the "hero thing" and try to fly your bike over - this is for the MX crowd or for emergency situations. Instead, slow down to a walking speed and hung far back on the saddle. As the bike drops in, you allow your body to move forward - thus the momentum of your body moving forward assists the bike to keep moving forward as well.

A heavy, slow moving bike and rider has a lot of stored momentum energy and it takes a lot to stop them. i.e. once they are moving, they tend to keep moving. Use this momentum! On very bad technical surfaces ride slowly and accurately. Maintain perfect balance. Use the momentum in your body and motorcycle in conjunction with quick blimps on the gas, to move your bike in and out of the deep, bad stuff without causing damage to your bike and wheel rims.

Short, very steep inclines

Being potentially hazardous, short very steep up hills deserve special mention. Before you commit yourself to going up make sure you have the correct combination of skill, bike, power, tyres and track surface for a successful ascent. Getting half way up with the bike stalling is very dangerous! You also need to know something about the terrain at the top. If you power up over the lip you will have little chance of stopping if there is a 20 meter drop on the other side (common when riding sand dunes and in old quarries)

Getting up a steep incline successfully depends on the preparation you make before you actually start. Thus the technique is broken into two separate phases and applies equally well to mud as to uphill sections

1) Preparation phase.
Is this a wise decision? If ’yes’, you must be totally committed!! Choose a line up the incline. Choose a suitable gear. Increase the revs and move into the power band (torque). The bike will accelerate but moderate it to a suitable speed. Move your weight forward over the front wheel. For a quick short incline you can remain seated but for a longer one you may need to stand up on the footpegs and move your weight forward. (Do not rest your weight down onto the handlebars as this prevents you from steering effectively.)

2) Maintenance phase.
Maintain!!! Keep the revs a little below the power band. Ease off the throttle if you have too. If the bike’s revs begin to drop, ease the throttle open.. You do not want the back wheel to spin and loose traction. If the revs continue to drop change to a lower gear. (this could mean that you approached the incline in the wrong gear in the first place!)

If you find you have miscalculated and the terrain in front of you becomes too steep, aim your front tyre for a ledge, boulder or pothole and ’hook’ your front type over / into it and anchor it there with the front brake. Lay the motorbike down on its side and slide it down to a safer area where it can be mounted again.

If you cannot get out of the situation and you see that you are going to stall on a section that is too steep for you it is time to part company. Jump! . . .sideways as far as you can and allow the motorcycle to fall down and away from you. A controlled fall is always better than an uncontrolled one.

Steep Declines, Loose Stones

Descending steep declines with a negative camber, loose stones and a turn to the left or right is very intimidating. Like a steep incline you must be totally committed and have faith in your machine to take you down. Your anxiety will be the bike’s worst enemy.

1) Preparation phase.
Stop (or pause) at the top of the decline and choose your line. Drop down into first gear and let the clutch out. The bike will speed up and move over the lip of the descent! (Scary Stuff!). Stand up on the footpegs, just enough to get your butt off the seat but keep your weight as far back as possible. Place one finger on the front brake lever.

2) Maintenance phase.
The motorcycle will ’plunge’ down the first few meters but suddenly the bike’s speed will level out as the compression increases. Navigate your way down, arms easy and relaxed, gripping the bike with your knees when the needs arises. Use the "Stomping Grapes" skill mentioned above to flick the bike from side to side as you navigate down. If the bike does move too quickly (or you need to slow down for a tricky maneuver), gently squeeze the front brake lever with your one finger. It has a lot of downward pressure on it and is unlikely to lock up . . in fact you can increase the downward pressure and thereby the traction, by leaning on the handlebars with your body weight as you squeeze the front brake. If the surface is very loose, dab the front brake on the good stuff and release on the bad. Despite moving slowly and not giving it any gas, the bike will not stall unless you stop.

The bike will move briskly down the decline in a very controlled fashioned but now you find you are heading for a turn!!! Release the brake at the last moment, push down hard on the outside footpeg (you are still standing?) and with a decisive movement, dive the bike into the turn. Hey Presto! Despite your worst fears, the bike will decisively and solidly turn the corner as easy as can be!

The whole maneuver just takes commitment, confidence and belief that the bike can deliver. Remember, that a moderate amount of speed is your alley. Your bike becomes light and maneuverable without stressing the limited traction too much.

NOTE: The back brake, although a more logical choice has very little downward pressure on it unless you have a pillion passenger. It therefore locks up too easily and offers very little stopping power.