Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School

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March Newsletter: Sand Riding Tips!

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Upcoming Dates
Last Nevada Classes of the Season

2014

March 22,23
Series 1 Essential Skills Course, Pahrump, NV (Class Full)
March 28-31
DV Noobs Rally (event sold out)

April 5,6
Series 1 Essential Skills Course, Pahrump, NV

(Single Cylinder Bikes)

May 17,18
Series 1 Essential Skills Course, Pahrump, NV

(All Bikes and Skill Levels)

We have rental bikes available for the April and May classes but these go quick. Rental and the class is $900 as a package. Our last few classes have been full to capacity so sign up early if you’d like to attend one of these last two classes.

 

Newsletter Riding Tip:  The Secrets To Riding In Sand

If you are venturing off-road, you will come across sand. Especially on a big heavy adventure bike, this can present problems for most. Sand is not as difficult as it is made out to be, yet plenty of bad advice and misconceptions about riding in it have prevailed. Hence most riders dread or even fear the soft stuff. Here are some of our tips for riding in sand:

  1. Tires matter.  If you think you can ride in sand with a smooth round road tire or so-called 50/50 tires, you are fooling yourself. Right up to the point you really need the tire to work for you and it doesn’t. You’ll be on your side or stuck, likely both and there isn’t much you can do about it, no matter your skill level. The open block pattern, especially on the sidewall of the tire do the majority of the work, especially when you are getting close to losing it. Airing down does not really make the difference one would think, it does not compensate for A PROPER TIRE. Run your hand on the side of your tire and that shows you what the ground feels. Smooth = bad times. JLR Off-Road recommends Kenda’s Big Block for true adventure touring off-road.
  1. Do not use the clutch. In sand it is an on/off switch. Learn to stay off it as the minimal traction will always have your tire spinning. Pulling in the clutch to get traction is like hitting the tire with 20-40 horsepower bursts– that will not get you traction. Slipping the clutch is pointless since your rear wheel is already spinning. The trick is to trust the torque of the motor and learn to back off the throttle to reduce spinning and get traction. The motorcycle will usually accelerate as you reduce the throttle. You have to be careful to not close it all the way and allow the bike to stall, but 1% throttle is generally enough to keep the bike running and the tire spinning just enough, then you only use the clutch when you get enough traction and want to ride and continue slower than first gear will allow. It is amazing how once you learn to quit spinning how the bike will float on top of the sand and literally coast on it, actually going faster as you reduce the throttle. Learn to spin it up using just the throttle but not too much to actually slow the bike down. Throttle control is the key. Like anything, learning to feel for the traction takes time and practice.
  1. Balance is critical. If you are out of balance you will compound anything the bike does when it starts going the wrong way. Sand will cause the bike to wander and shift, the handlebars to shake and the back end to wallow no matter what. Get used to it. Let the bike do that but don’t let it make your body shake and wallow and especially don’t tense up.  You need to be loose on the bars, balanced and centered over the bike so you can use your weight to influence where you want the bike to go and also to react to the bike going someplace you don’t want it to go.  You steer with your feet by weighting the footpegs which means you need to be standing. Additionally this will give you a second chance to correct the out of balance bike by using your weight to fight back. If you are sitting, you are going where the bike wants, it is taking you for the ride. And do not confuse speed and inertia with being in balance. If you can’t ride at 1-2 MPH on hard dirt you certainly can’t ride that slow in sand. Going slow is the right way to do it safely and comfortably in the beginning. All the time you need to be agile and loose on the bike knowing if it is safe to take a dab on the ground keeping your foot (not feet, if both feet are off the pegs you are sitting on the seat and out of control) from getting behind you and pulling you down or even worse run over by your luggage.
  1. Find traction while spinning. This is important and an art. Especially when starting in sand from a dead stop. You need to learn how to feel if you are going to dig a hole or going to go forward. You have to learn the proper clutch and throttle control to not spin the wheel but rather use it to take the sand and build a ramp to get a short one-foot ramp to give you an advantage in getting going from a dead stop. You’ll need to push forward as well as pull back on the bike to accomplish this. Do not sit on the seat when starting or building a take-off ramp, have your weight off the bike and on your feet. Luckily a sinking bike makes the seat height a lot lower! And the heavier the bike, the less likely it is that you will be able to start on an uphill if there is very little traction. That is why looking ahead and planning where you can stop is so important. Almost as important as knowing if you can make it through the sand in the first place. But the key is feeling and understanding if you have the traction to go where you want. Know what it feels like to spin by practicing spinning and learn to feel the bike gain speed when you let off the gas. The tire will then find more traction and you will pick up speed.
  1. Do not “get over the back and gas it!” This is a saying that everyone uses but few good riders, especially on adventure bikes, practice. It you are over the back of the bike, you are out of balance and pulling on the handlebars, so if the bike decides to go someplace, it will take you with it. If you are going fast enough, you are just begging for a bigger crash, again inertia masking an out of balance rider. The one truth in this is that a quick (short) burst of power can help you control (throttle control) the bike and regain balance, but if you do not get your bike and body back in balance and then control your speed back down to a level you are comfortable with, you might not want (or even have it available) to use a burst of power for the next incident. Constantly accelerating masks the fact that you are out of balance and when you stop accelerating you will find out very quickly how far out of balance you were.  In most instances when you do finally let off the throttle the front end will go where it wants and at the same time the rear tire will magically find more traction since you reduced power. It is better to “Stop, then take back off slowly,” but you’ll never hear anyone but me tell you that tip.
  1. Learn how to not get stuck (you do it to yourself.) If your rear tire is digging down faster than it is going forward, you need to stop. Stop digging a hole. The quicker you stop the better. Then when you are about to get going make sure you are off the seat and actively moving your body forward and pushing off like you are taking off on a skateboard. You want to give your bike a 200-pound break on having to lug your body’s weight when you want to get started. That timed with the dropping of the clutch (remember, do not slip it, the tire is going to spin no matter what) and then the quick reduction of throttle to find the traction. This will work wonders for starting off in sandy conditions. Once you embrace this technique you will find that it is very hard to get stuck on level or downhill sandy conditions. If you don’t get a good start and things are not right (balance or traction) just stop and start over before you fall over.
  1. Find a small patch to practice and gradually work up your skill and ability level. Just reading these tips will not do much, you have to go out and feel what is going on through your bike. Having a safe place to get comfortable in, and I mean getting comfortable, is the only way to get over the fear of sand. Remember you need to slow down before you get to the sand to allow yourself to be able to use bursts of power (throttle control) to make corrections when you need to, and starting and stopping in sand should be part of your practice so you are not afraid to do it out on the trail.
 DirtTricks
Dirt Tricks is famous for their Ironman sprockets, the stainless steel Swiss cheese looking sprockets that are as durable as a sprocket can be, without the weight! Plus the company makes a lot of other trick items that work for real riders, from cam chain tensioners to radiator fans. Additionally they sell Regina chain and make brake rotors that are as tough as the sprockets. Dirt Tricks offers JLR students discount when enrolled in our classes.www.dirttricks.com

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