Strom on dirt and loose gravel - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 09:48 PM Thread Starter
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Strom on dirt and loose gravel

So, this past Saturday I went out for a ride with some locals from advrider (great group of guys) and got to experience some awesome dirt and gravel roads that I never new existed.

While I'm quite confident on paved roads, I have very little experience riding on surfaces other than tarmac. In fact, this was only the second or third time I've been on an unpaved surface and this was by far the longest so this was quite an adventure for me. Things went well for the better part of the day including a fun water crossing that must have been at least 18" deep if not closer to 24" so my confidence level was rising quickly.

Unfortunately my inexperience did catch up with me and I went down, low sided, coming out of a slight S at ~30mph. It wasn't even a particularly sharp turn or anything and perhaps that had something to do with it. I likely would have slowed down more for more of a turn. I'd love to be able to blame the stock tires or something like that but really the cause was my lack of experience on mixed surfaces. I'm still not sure what the best technique for turning in gravel on a big heavy bike like the Strom is so if anyone would like to offer advice / tips I'm all ears. So far, best I can figure is I'm just going to have to slow to a crawl for turns.

The good news is, all of my gear/equipment functioned as designed. The bike went down on it's left side with the SW Motech crashbar taking the brunt of it as seen in the pic below. There's some small scratches on the fairing behind the bars, and another small scratch on the back left plastic.




At first I thought that was the extent of the damage but later, at home, I realized the the left side passenger's foot peg was bent outward pretty far. This put one of the mounting points for my side racks out of position. Fortunately it was easy to bend it back.

My Olympia jacket and pants, Teknic gloves and A* boots performed their job as well. Other than a toe slider that is pretty chewed up and some very slight scuff marks on my jacket, that mostly wiped off when I cleaned the dust off, there's hardly a mark on any of my gear. I am positive that had I not been wearing proper gear my left foot, leg and arm would have been in bad shape.

Also, while this was not related to my get off, I've learned that if you're going to leave the tarmac with a Strom that has ABS you really need to be hyper aware of the fact that you're not going to have brakes going down steep hills. With that in mind you need to make appropriate decisions about the path you choose. Either that or you need to pull the fuse or install a switch.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my experience.

-Cambion
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post #2 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 10:09 PM
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There are a growing number of schools that teach Adv riding as well as MSF teaches a dirt class. The Strom and other heavy bikes will always be difficult.

I think the only way to learn without beating yourself or the bike up is to do it on a small dirt bike. I think for myself it was a lot like riding on the street, I learned on a Honda 175cc a long time ago. It is so much easier to learn how to shift your weight , let the tire kick out, how much brake to use etc . Even a weekend with a little bike is great

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post #3 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 10:35 PM
 
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Cambion - sounds like you had a great learning experience - that's always the best way to look at these things. Where'd you go? I'm an hour south of you and have been learning the same lessons, albeit without the drop yet, in eastern WVA south of Moorefield. Lots of great fire trails & water crossings.

Hope to run into you out there some day - ride safe, Buckee
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post #4 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 10:51 PM
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I had a similar experience last fall when I went on a TeTS Ride with some folks from Atlanta. I went wide on a switch back and ended up going into a ditch.. everything was ok until I decided to try and ride out of the ditch before the guy trailing me saw what happened.

Well long story short I lost it and wedged the bike pretty good in the ditch. The guy follow me pulled over, asked if I was ok (I was), and proceeded to rummage around in his top box for what I assumed was some rope to try and pull my bike out of the ditch. After a few momemts he pulled out his camera and started shooting away - I guess it is a badge of honor thing. I ended up getting some clearance around the bike and rolled back down the ditch again and then rode it out in a more controlled manner.

I did learn a few things that weekend while riding on gravel. Probably the most important was to air down your tires. I went down to 28 PSI but found out another guy on a Strom went down to 22 and then 20 until he felt comfortable. A guy riding his GS1200 took it down to 18 but he was not too happy with going that low.

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post #5 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 11:33 PM
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I went down last year taking a steep hill full of boulders. No damage but unpleasant for sure. It was very steep so difficult to pick back up but luckily I had a friend to help. I'm just not good enough on my wee in dirt and don't enjoy it. Just don't have any feel for gravel and where the limits are; but I do like dirt and forest trails so I may get a smaller bike that I can easily pick up and with suitable tires. Sorry to see the fairing got scratched up!

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post #6 of 64 Old 06-06-2011, 11:54 PM
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I love riding my Strom on dirt jeep trails, mild 2 track dirt roads, etc, but as a long time MX'er, I'm definitely not under any illusions, no matter what my ADV fantasies tell me!

Face it, the Strom is not a very good dirt bike. Sure, you can ride it like one, but don't be surprised to wipe out on one if you're riding it like a dirt bike should. Dirt bikes get dropped - a lot! It's not IF, but WHEN. Since it's so big (comparatively), it's very difficult to sense what the front is doing, especially when running tires more suited towards pavement, than dirt. The Strom tends to push the front end, instead of carve. Don't get me wrong - I love how supremely easy steering the Strom is [on the street], but it offers up very little feedback thru the grips when ridden on gravel/hardpack, with stock/near stock type tires. Still - don't blame the tires entirely! (+1 on the air down strategy)

Biggest change I noticed with my Strom on gravel + dirt surfaces, was only after I installed a fork brace [I use a Richland Rick's brace] Prior to that, the front end would wander and get deflected a lot by rocks, grooves, etc. Deeper gravel on hardpack caused the bike to go wherever it just damn well pleased - very white knuckley! It was really unnerving at times, and I was convinced my Bridgestone Battle Wings were to blame. I thought I'd need to buy some TKC's or semi knobby. How wrong I was!

The brace really tied things together and I'm a lot more relaxed when riding on "slippery" gravel on hardpack surfaces which are so common. Until I actually get round to throwing on some more dirt appropriate tires, the fork brace is a major help in increasing the front end feedback to my brain. Best noticeable performance mod I've done to my Strom, by far.

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Last edited by jokermtb; 06-07-2011 at 12:05 AM.
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post #7 of 64 Old 06-07-2011, 06:57 AM
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Dirt OK, gravel not

Dirt offers a reasonably (excluding mud) predictable surface. While you need to slow down a bit from pavement, not really much different, so long as it is fairly smooth, free of ruts, etc. Gravel on the other hand is highly unpredictable, depending on what depth of gravel, gravel size, etc. And the 'Stroms are tall heavy bikes. The Vee is very over-powered for gravel and will lead you astray, feeling nice and stable under acceleration, then feeling very unstable when trying to brake hard for a turn. Since I am unwilling to crash, I tend to tip-toe around on gravel if it involves any turns, although a long straight stretch can be a hoot. If I know ahead of time that the route will be mostly gravel roads, I take the XR650 instead, which I can confidently power-slide on gravel. If you want practice on gravel, borrow a lighter (preferably dual-purpose) bike, but be aware that the 'Stroms are always going to be tricky on gravel. Just not enough traction for a 450 lb. bike.
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post #8 of 64 Old 06-07-2011, 07:17 AM
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A related question ...had the vee on a long ride last weeke.d whi h had a still sa.ded/lightly graveled pass w tight s curves on it. Did fine if i slowed to recommended speed limit on curves (25mph) but the back tire really felt like it was swimming. Front tire fine (fork brace helped i think. Is that swimming rear tire normal? Tire pressure was about 41 and i was two up. Thanks!

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post #9 of 64 Old 06-07-2011, 08:41 AM
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Ya'll got some stones. I'll go off-road in a 4x4 cage but I'll never do it on a bike. I absolutely lack the skill set necessary to be successful. I admire ya'll that can, and do, do the dirt-thing on a bike...but I ain't one of ya's.

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post #10 of 64 Old 06-07-2011, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jokermtb View Post
Biggest change I noticed with my Strom on gravel + dirt surfaces, was only after I installed a fork brace [I use a Richland Rick's brace] Prior to that, the front end would wander and get deflected a lot by rocks, grooves, etc. Deeper gravel on hardpack caused the bike to go wherever it just damn well pleased - very white knuckley! It was really unnerving at times, and I was convinced my Bridgestone Battle Wings were to blame. I thought I'd need to buy some TKC's or semi knobby. How wrong I was!

The brace really tied things together and I'm a lot more relaxed when riding on "slippery" gravel on hardpack surfaces which are so common. Until I actually get round to throwing on some more dirt appropriate tires, the fork brace is a major help in increasing the front end feedback to my brain. Best noticeable performance mod I've done to my Strom, by far.

+1 on the Fork Brace. I had that on the bike before the TeTS ride and can't imagine what it would have been without it.

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