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Riding Motorcycle on Gravel with confident downhill turning & parking tips

A rider riding a motorcycle on gravel with a turn and then parking
1877 Views Feb. 7, 2021, 8:52 p.m.

What's the problem with Riding Motorcycle on Gravel?

Being a Novice rider, there is riding a lot, getting tons of experience, learning from mistakes, and practising everything is a part of growing in expertise. The very nature of gravel roads means the bike will feel "looser" than usual. You'll never get your bike to behave like it is on the pavement when you are flying down a somewhat loose surface. It's a feeling you have to teach yourself to feel comfortable with.

So, here and there in your country, there are the occasional (almost) flat dirt or gravel roads, and you might wonder how well naked bikes or cruisers would handle this when riding around? Should you change the tyres to endure, dual-sport of just stock will do fine?

User experiences:

"I tried riding on gravel country roads once, one road was well packed, and I could manage about 60km/h before my bike was starting to squirrel around. The other route I could only manage about 20-30km/h, and several times I would hit softer Gravel patches that felt like they were sucking my bike out to the ditch. It was stressful.

Is there anything I can do to improve my stability further and make me feel a little less like I'm seconds away from a wipe-out? Change tire pressure? Change tires? Ride in a particular position in the gravel roads?"

Another user says, "Yesterday, I was coming up to a road where I had to turn right. The turn is not very sharp, it's like a curve almost, so I took it at a bit of speed (in 2nd gear around 30km/h). There was a car in the other lane parked at the stop sign waiting for traffic the other direction.

Right as I was about to turn (I had a few seconds before I was going to turn) I am looking at where I am going, and I see Gravel all over where I would be leaning the bike.

Instantly I wasn't sure how to handle it. I braked (not, in turn, I was maybe 10 feet from turning), then let out the brakes, and did possibly my worst turn I have ever done, going wide into the other lane out of fear of losing the bike by leaning it in Gravel.

My question is, how scared should we be of Gravel? What do you guys do in situations like that?"

A solution can be to switch to a dirt biking or adventure tourer. On the street, sliding at all is terrifying. On the dirt, sliding is just normal, so you learn to control the slide - throttle, weight bias and braking in addition to counter-steering. It's all just a lot of fun, but very different from the asphalt. The upside is riding dirt teaches you skills that can save you on the street!

When switching a bike is not an option try the below tips.

Tips for riding Motorcycles fast and confident on Gravel

People always worry about Gravel, but a road full of it isn't that bad. It's easier to ride with consistently-bad traction than alternating good and lousy traction like those nightmare asphalt corners with scattered Gravel.

  • Leave yourself a ton of extra room to stop.
  • If you lock the rear and the bike is going to want to jackknife. Just remember that the bike will go where the handlebars are pointed, regardless of what the rear end is doing.
  • Braking / cutting the throttle will make the front tire dig in and give you less control over steering, so slow down for turns ahead of time and then power through them to keep your front tire skimming the surface of the Gravel.
  • If you start to feel out of control, try standing on your pegs. Transfer your weight to the pegs, sit back to lighten the front wheel. Power through. It will move your centre of gravity way down and make the bike feel more anchored. As much as you don't stiffen up on the bars when riding, it's more important on a loose surface.
  • The best thing you can do is be loose on the bars and let the bike find its traction. Yes, it will move around a bit, but it's only doing that to keep itself (and you!) upright.
  • Don't be inclined towards front brakes. The front can easily lock up on loose dirt/gravel and cause you to go down by washing out from under you, quickly and unexpectedly.
  • Go slow at first and work up your confidence. If there are cars behind, you just stop and let them pass until you feel comfortable enough.
  • It would help if you were careful of once you get your comfort levels up is going too fast. It's very easy to ride more quickly than your brakes on Gravel, and if something pops up, you are in for a world of hurt.
  • You should also practice braking to get an idea of how fast things go to shit when you need to grab that handle and come to a stop.
  • It is basically the same principle as riding on wet or potentially slippery surfaces. Slow movements and ride as smooth as you can. No jerky movements and easy throttle control.

I think gravel riding is a lot of fun once you get used to feeling like the bike is on ice!

Should you change the Tires for riding a motorcycle on gravel roads?

Image of a motorcyclist riding on a gravel road at sunset

You don't need special tires, though the knobbier they are, you'll have more control.

So yes, Tires are the solution. The good tire will have a useful tread pattern and have your bike feeling well planted and not all squishy like underneath of you. They will be loud(er) on asphalt. A good guess would be an 80/20 (paved/dirt) that is better than usual stock on a cruiser or a street bike. Exact might not be available, but you can find something like a Mitas MC 30 that's 90/10 and 70/30.

You need to read through the product descriptions and also the 70/30 is a bit more hardcore than you might be looking for so you can stick to more on the 90/10 and get some more opinions on it, though it sounds like it could be a good idea.

Overall, 90/10, 80/20, 70/30 are all ok depending on how often you will be taking the Gravel and dirt. It's a trade-off, but 80/20 isn't too bad.

Turning or downhill Turning a motorcycle on Gravel

Image of a motorcyclist turning BMW R1250 on a gravel road

  • Select the proper gear before entering the descent. Downshifting suddenly will cause a loss of traction.
  • You want the bike to be as upright as possible.
  • It would be best if you leaned yourself as hard as you could off the bike, so keeping the bike as upright as it can be while still going around the corner.
  • Don't brake on it, don't accelerate on it, don't do anything sudden and then hope for the best.
  • Avoid the urge to snap off the throttle. This is to avoid Engine braking. It's generally a good idea to be rolling on the throttle slightly as soon as you have the bike leaned over in most turns, so just maintain that.
  • Key is not to panic, which is easier said than done.
  • Slowly accelerate out of turn with what you can see.

Even the most experienced riders sometimes wash out though, so, unfortunately, the outcome is "you low-side".

Parking motorcycle on gravel tips

If you parked your bike on dirt and packed Gravel, you will need a cover with vents to get airflow through the cover, thus removing the moisture. The lower vents don't let water in, but they do an excellent job of letting moisture out.

You should also put something under your kickstand if you're going to park on dirt, gravel or grass. Use a small metal plate from the hardware store or a piece of wood or rubber about 6 inches x 6 inches, but a rock or something similar would work.

Remember, your kickstand will sink if the ground gets wet enough, so place the kickstand on something that will not be too soggy.

Motorcycle Gravel Driveway Tips

There are situations when you are looking to ride your bike up to a way, and there is a long gravel driveway, maybe 0.5 miles that leads you to the house. It might be a downhill that isn't crazy steep but is noticeable. Obviously, softer tires will help you out, but it is not that worthy for a small driveway. So, here the same essential tips.

  • Avoid the front brake. Again a lot less traction means it's very easy to lock the wheel with bike powerful street bike brakes.
  • Weight in the pegs, out of the seat. If you can manage it, keeping the pegs' weight and off the saddle will allow the bike to move and correct. Don't stick your feet out. Outrigger feet don't help.
  • Don't panic. The bike will move around; it's easy enough to slide it. Just keep calm.
gravel downhill parking turning dirt patch tips
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