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 Off-Road Riding for On-Road Riders
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Cash Anthony
Female Administrator
1470 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, Texas
USA

Honda

Magna 750
Peer Review:

Posted - 02/12/2005 :  12:00 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like

Jim and I were invited to lunch at a farm a hundred miles or so west of Houston one summer. It was blazing hot, and although I generally knew the roads in the area, I hadn't been on the last two on this particular map.

When we made our turn off the familiar FM roads onto the last "major" leg, we were facing nothing but gravel and mud, probably 10 to 12 inches deep, and dusty on top. The roadway was being prepared for paving, and we had about six miles to go before the last turn.

We slowed down of course, trying to find a 'sweet spot' for crawling along as the road squished and squirmed beneath the tires. The rocks weren't pea-size -- more like prune-size -- and they squirted out from under our tires and bumped us off track constantly. Facing an oncoming truck at one point, I really had no idea whether I could maintain the 'lane' position I had or not, and sweated (even more) until we were past him. And it was close to 100 degrees out there.

In exasperation, hotter'n hell and completely soaked, I said to Jim on the CB, "I want to stop and take this leather jacket off!"

Jim said instantly, "No, you don't. If you ever were likely to go down, it's riding on this! And why would you give up your protective gear at the very time you need it most?" I had to agree...

We slogged our way through it -- it always seems like the road is endless when you don't know where you are or how much farther your destination may be -- and then turned into a cowpath up to the house. It had its own surprises, including a cattleguard gate <sigh>, but we finally got there and poured cold water all over our heads.

Unfortunately, the folks who were hosting were almost strangers and the rest of the folks not too friendly, so we only stayed about half an hour! Didn't even eat lunch (so you know it wasn't much fun!). But at least that six-mile run in the gravel seemed a little shorter on the way out.

The interesting thing is that, the very next day I was leading a ride for the Lonestar Ladies to a lakeside park where we were going to watch some jet-ski races all afternoon. When we turned off the main road into the driveway down to the lake, the road was almost as bad a gravel pit as the six-mile trek from the day before. I led the way into the park without hesitation, though, since I'd just done a whole lot more riding on gravel than I ever thought I would, and for sure I knew how.

I've been spending a lot of time researching motocross racing for a screenplay I'm rewriting, which included going to the nationals at Ponca City and in Tennessee, at Loretta Lynn's ranch. I've had a lot of people tell me that riding in the dirt is some of the best experience you can have to prepare for "exciting" times you may have riding on the road: you can learn the feel of the bike and how traction works, or doesn't, on something softer than asphalt and concrete.

Anyone have any thoughts about how dirt riding affects your street skills? (Including "dirt riding" with a street bike?!!)


Cash

nomad dan
Advanced Member
1276 Posts


Denver, Colorado
USA

Kawasaki

06 Vulcan Nomad 1600

Posted - 02/12/2005 :  12:52 PM
I have ridden dirt bikes since I was in 8th grade. My last dirt bike was a Honda CR500. I’m not sure that riding dirt bikes is the reason for my comfort riding my 1500cc touring bike on dirt roads, but I think that it is.

On a dirt bike you get used to the feel of the back end stepping out sideways (over steer); it helps you get around corners. You also get comfortable with the feel of the bike “squirming” so to say.
On a dirt bike, here in the west, you get used to the feel of riding on hard packed dry clay, wet clay, gravely dirt, deep sand, and other combos. All feel different and you get used to your bike behaving and feeling different. At first it’s a little disconcerting, but you get used to it and automatic reflexes take over for cognitive concentrating eventually.

Now on my touring bike I go on dirt roads with no problems, one time 40 miles out and 40 miles back just to see something that’s out that way. I didn’t get passed by a single vehicle; there were plenty of Subaru’s, trucks, SUV’s, and a few bikes. I passed a lot of them, slowing down to not dust them or throwing rocks up at them.

Other times I’ve gone riding with an acquaintance with a BMW adventure tourer. He goes places I can’t go because of clearance and I have to wait for him to return, but I’ve also been places that people in trucks ask, “how’d you get that here?” Believe it or not, I’m not beating up my bike, it still looks pristine.

My point is that if you are experienced with how a bike reacts/feels, riding in dirt and gravel is no problem, I even see it as a fun challenge. The only thing I wouldn’t want to do on it is ride in sand. You would have to keep your momentum up to keep moving forward and if it were too deep you couldn’t do it at all. Everything else except mud is interesting enough to not dissuade me.
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nomad dan
Advanced Member
1276 Posts


Denver, Colorado
USA

Kawasaki

06 Vulcan Nomad 1600

Posted - 02/12/2005 :  1:03 PM
Cash, I just reread your post. You were in pretty deep gravel, which is much harder to ride in, but doable as you found out. I wanted to point out that the type of gravel makes a big difference. Some gravel is made by machines that chip rock into gravel; therefore the gravel is very angular and locks together somewhat. Other gravel comes from ancient streambed deposits and is rounded. If the “prune sized” gravel you were riding in were of the rounded variety, it would feel very squishy and disconcerting if not used to the feel.

As to your original question again, dirt biking gives you experience with all the different feels, reducing the pucker factor greatly.
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Jerry Godell
Male Senior Member
441 Posts


Kansas City, kansas
USA

Harley-Davidson

FXD SuperGlide

Posted - 02/12/2005 :  9:18 PM
Cash, one mistake almost all of do in abnormal riding situations is tighten our grip on the handlebars. (Stiff Arm) A big mistake. As Jim will tell us a bike is an inherently stable machine. Only the rider is unstable. Causes the bike to become unstable. Loose gravel. Relax your arms. The bike wants to go straight. If You fight the bike it only gets worse. The same applies to crosswinds. Relax your arms. It only takes small counteering corrections to keep in a straight line.
One of the hardest things to learn correctly is to "panic brake" and not stiff arm the bike. Drop your elbows. Keep loose.
I ride in high winds. Kansas. You know, the winds that come up from Texas in the Spring. The bikes in front of me will use the whole highway. I stay in my lane. They are fighting it.
Again braking is the hardest. It takes a lot of practice.
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Cash Anthony
Female Administrator
1470 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, Texas
USA

Honda

Magna 750

Posted - 02/13/2005 :  7:03 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  

A very good reminder, Jerry -- same one we use on pavement that has been scraped. The front wheel will wander a little bit, but not really all that much unless you fight it.

Another point is to sit back, not hunched forward, when the road surface is weird. (I've learned that one from riding horses!) Let the front wheel 'dance' and don't worry about it.


Cash
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htdb33
Standard Member
167 Posts


somerville, al
USA

Triumph

Trophy 1200

Posted - 02/14/2005 :  8:44 AM
I think dirt riding is an excellent way to learn motorcycling. Of course that is how I started out so my opinion is shaded. My reasoning is that anything that can go wrong on the street will go wrong while dirt riding, but at much lower speeds. You will lose traction, lock up your brakes, and generally crash and burn on a regular basis. You will learn how to handle all these situations without having to worry about being run over by a truck.

And besides that, it is great fun.

John
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