First time in the dirt in 17 years - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
Riding Proficiency Tips and suggestions for improving the rider's safety skills and riding techniques

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post #1 of 26 Old 08-31-2016, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
Junior Trooper
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 7
First time in the dirt in 17 years

I am the newly proud owner of a 2009 wee and just got it out into the dirt for the first time. It's been 17 years since the last time I've hit the dirt and that was on 2-strokes. At the time I was a fairly decent rider, but had little training and I've long since forgot what I did know.

Needless to say it was a different experience now. I've thought about how I did and where I had trouble and wanted to solicit advice/tips.

I went to an off-highway vehicle location called Rowher Flats north of Los Angeles. I followed a friend in a pickup truck as he led the way. It started out as a 1/4 mile dirt road with lots of gravel and some rocks. The road went up over some hills and back down. I was in a state of near-panic so I don't really remember anything about my technique except that I got to the staging area without stalling, falling, or looking too stupid (I think). I did remember to stand up on the pegs after a few minutes. After that short ride I was exhausted to the point that my legs were shaking, but in good spirits.

After that I took another short trip along a road in slightly worse condition, but mostly flat with short ups and downs. It started to get fun at about that time.

Another short road in much the same condition and I was starting to feel comfortable, but the physical effort was really catching up with me. My arms were tired, but my legs were on fire.

Finally I got to the location we were going to ride around in. It was a mostly flat area with a bunch of very short and easily avoidable technical sections. A pretty good place to practice. By that time I was confident while steering at speed, but still couldn't turn well while going slow.

I did some up-hills and down-hills, some rocky stuff, and even caught a little air off a jump. Then I dumped the bike at around 5 MPH while trying to u-turn and flipped over the bars. I was fine and the bike was fine, but I am in the market for a new turn signal! I got a bit more cautious after that and we ended the day a while later.

On the way back out to the highway I managed a few more technical errors like downshifting two gears on a downhill and getting the bars to slap the tank a few times before I got it under control. On downhills I thought the front end was really mushy. I stopped to check if I had a flat tire but nothing was wrong.

Things I learned: Stand up. Feet forward until you balance and don't have to use your calf muscles. Hold the tank with your legs. Don't death-grip the handles (still having trouble with this).

Specific questions: At low speeds (first gear and a little in second gear) I was in constant danger of stalling and had a lot of trouble regulating my acceleration. I eventually remembered to "feather" the clutch, but really didn't have a clue if I was doing it right. I mostly just kept the clutch half-in when I was in first and that helped. Also: "Don't look at that rock!"

While turning, I remembered that I shouldn't lean in the same way that one leans on the road. I tried to keep upright and let the bike lean under me but felt extremely unstable while doing so. I always felt like I was about to lose it. Steering while at speed was easier but I didn't really know how I was doing it.

Big question: People ride off road for hours and hours. I couldn't possibly have done that. I needed to rest regularly and I am not a weak person. I know for a fact that much of my exhaustion was the result of poor technique, but don't know what exactly. I felt like I was fighting my own muscles and the bike all the time.

Long story short: I had a great time, but came away with more questions than answers regarding off-road technique. I'd love to hear your input!
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post #2 of 26 Old 09-01-2016, 12:02 AM
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Motocross riders are one of the fittest athletes of any sport and now you get a feel for why.

First time my kid did dirt I thought he was in a coma on the way home he was so tired.

Its a mix of relaxing and muscles.... bottom line ....the Wee is really not much for off road ....get a 250 or 400 weighing 150 lb less or more. Different world....much closer to your remembered 2 strokes. Wee is great on dirt and gravel road and light two track with decent tires.....much past that ....nah
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post #3 of 26 Old 09-01-2016, 09:44 AM
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Location: Pasadna area
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"My arms were tired, but my legs were on fire."

Had the same experience with a half day at Raw Hyde. Boy, is we out of shape!?
Tires make a YUGE difference too. The Shinko 705's are OK for some dirt but the 805's would be mo bettah for loose surface or inclines.
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post #4 of 26 Old 09-01-2016, 11:50 AM
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How are the ergos of the bike for you especially standing. Did the bars feel like they were in your lap? Pegs tall and forward?

That's the way the OEM setup felt for me. It was the first thing I addressed. I got rid of the OEM bars they had a weird shape. Installed CR Hi-bend and Rox risers to adjust the fit. Richland Ric's peg lowering kit.

Much better sitting and standing position. You have to compromise somewhat between the 2 if you really want more off-road comfort. The bars will be a bit high and forward sitting but a bit low for standing.

As far as being comfortable standing off-road for longer periods you need to find a neutral balance point. Legs mostly straight leaning forward usually. Like this: (not me BTW)

You adjust that position as needed of course but you stay balanced so that the bike is not jerking you around.

One more thing hold the bike with your lower legs and ankles. Don't squeeze the tank with your knees. You want the bike to be fairly loose under you. No need to have a death grip on the bars either.
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post #5 of 26 Old 09-02-2016, 09:26 AM
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Location: Pasadna area
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The guys at Raw Hyde wanted up to try putting both legs on one side of the bike or the other while standing. Supposed to help crossing those off camber trails. I guess to put yourself on the high side so you don't go down with the bike when it hurtles itself off the mountain side. Gack!
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post #6 of 26 Old 09-02-2016, 09:40 AM
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Location: North Las Vegas Nevada USA
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I'm in a similar position, just trying to get the hang of off road riding. Not an easy transition.

2014 650 Strom
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post #7 of 26 Old 09-02-2016, 10:56 AM
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
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The Wee is not an off road bike.
I am coming from a WR250r which could go anywhere. The Wee is too heavy and no ground clearance.
I hope you have a skid plate, crash bars and 50/50 tires on your bike.
The death wings have no grip in loose gravel at low speeds.

I went with the Heidnau K60s and now wished I would have went with a knobby tire for the FSR riding I do.

As already stated you need to be able to stand comfortably, so bar risers are needed.

If you are slipping the clutch, the bike is either geared too high or you are in some rough shit.

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post #8 of 26 Old 02-26-2017, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: San Diego, California
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I took my XT of pavement for the first time yesterday. 20 miles worth of dirt road through some great little canyons that lead to a small Indian reservation near my home in North San Diego County. The roads were graded pretty well with occasional patches of erosion channels. Only a couple of times did the bike feel like it was doing or sliding under me.

Like mentioned above, my death grip on the bars for the first couple of miles quickly made my hands numb. I got more comfortable with the slow speed turns, but tried really hard to avoid turning in loose gravel or sand.

I thought the would be a good chance that I'd dump it in a slow turn, but it never happened.

I think dirt roads are probably as rough as I'll ride on until I replace the stock tires and get a skid plate, but luckily, there are hundreds of miles of really great dirt roads nearby.

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post #9 of 26 Old 02-26-2017, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by ejfranz View Post
The Wee is not an off road bike.
Yes it is. I think rider skill and determination makes the difference...then add protection skid plate, bars, mitas e-07, raising link or custom shocks, ...I bet you can go 85% of where a klr can go too.

Making the Suzuki V-Strom 650 Off-Road Ready? - ADV Pulse
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post #10 of 26 Old 02-26-2017, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by slipstream View Post
Yes it is. I think rider skill and determination makes the difference...then add protection skid plate, bars, mitas e-07, raising link or custom shocks, ...I bet you can go 85% of where a klr can go too.

Making the Suzuki V-Strom 650 Off-Road Ready? - ADV Pulse
No, it's not an off road bike. Sure, with appropriate tyres and skill you can take it to extreme places but it is a road bike with longer travel suspension, conservative steering geometry, and an upright sitting position intended for all roads touring.

Got a big truck at home? They are great when you have stuff to move, but a pain in the butt to park at the supermarket. The V-Strom will never be as capable as a dirt bike off road but who wants to ride a dirt bike interstate?

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