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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One year into learning my off road skills on a Vstrom 650xa 馃槵 ...what can possibly go wrong 馃槀

Didn't watch any instructional YTube videos, but figured out that when on "ball bearing size" pebbles, lose gravel roads (freshly graded)... it seems that SPEED is your friend... first I started at lower speeds 65kph, 40mph and the bike was all over the place and the front wheel was bitting in and hard to control.... then I gradually increased the speed, to a point that I now ride the same "logging maintained roads" (like a maniac) at 110kph, 70mph... yes the bike feels like it's floating, but it keeps the balance better and doesn't wonder around as much (due to a greater gyroscopic effect)
I keep a loose grip on the bars. Let the bike float, Try not to fight it. The bike is finding it's line, it feels like a 12" wide line, but its a line.
Sure I slow down a bit in corners, too stay on the road :)... also I try to follow the "cleaner, logging trucks tire tracks" but it's not always possible, cause you then hit those piles of loose pebbles that are about 3-5 inches deep... and when you hit those at speed it's like "magic carpet ride" :oops:

Is that how it's done? Any suggestions are welcome (as long as you don't recommend switching to paved roads) 馃槈

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when riding roads like that speed is your friend . In the corners drop 2 gears and as the front end starts to wash out power the rear to push the front .
 

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Tires and pressures make a big difference as well, but overall, yes, more speed is better than less.
Initially you really have to fight the urge to back out of the throttle when the dreaded head shake starts. And it will!!
 

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I'm definitely not very experienced in dealing with challenging terrain. However, if it were me -- and on occasion, it has been -- this is why I carry a small tire pump. I'd drop my pressures to 20 and 30-ish, which makes the entire experience a LOT less dramatic. Then I can relax and take my time, and fill 'em back up when I'm clear of the golf balls.

70mph on gravel is not what I'd do, personally, but hey, I'm the novice in that environment. If anything goes wrong at that speed on that surface (which, where I ride, could be an oblivious animal or a human on four wheels that I'll never see in time coming the other way around a blind curve in the mountains), it's not going to end well for me.
 

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I ride along nice and slow, enjoying the scenery. Great to sneak up on wildlife. Riding time is special, trying to make it last.
 

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I'm definitely not very experienced in dealing with challenging terrain. However, if it were me -- and on occasion, it has been -- this is why I carry a small tire pump. I'd drop my pressures to 20 and 30-ish, which makes the entire experience a LOT less dramatic. Then I can relax and take my time, and fill 'em back up when I'm clear of the golf balls.
I should say, that's what I do if I have to ride a signficant distance (a few miles or more) on that kind of large, loose gravel. If it's a relatively short distance, then I leave the tire pressures alone and just handle it by tensing up, fighting the bars, and sweating it out like an idiot. 馃榿
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I ride along nice and slow, enjoying the scenery. Great to sneak up on wildlife. Riding time is special, trying to make it last.
I agree, I also go slow and enjoy the scenery, stop and take lots of photos
...but when on freshly graded gravel road (with 1/2" to 3/4" round pebbles cca 3" deep), going slow didn't work for me, it's almost like riding in a deep sand or mud 馃槵
 

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I agree with the use of speed. Two old sayings to keep in mind
If in doubt, accelerate.
Steer with the throttle and correct your mistakes with the handle bars.
It works most of the time, but when it doesn't, you hit the ground harder. Your choice.
 

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A few tips I've learned are
1) Lower tire pressures to 25/30 psi F/R. Can even go down as low as 20/25 psi F/R. When I get back on to pavement I raise them to 33/41 F/R.
2) Corners- Do my braking before entering corners, then enter corner under power. Doesn't need to be accelerating, just a constant speed or slight acceleration, unless you want to practice drifting a bit! Also, I weight the outside footpeg, sit to the inside arms slightly bent and lean the bike to keep the tire as close to center as possible. Kind of like a flat track Rider does.
3) Look Ahead- No, farther even! Look way ahead and keep it up. I'm so surprised how much smoother I am when I do this. I also try and select my line beforehand. I think about what I'm going to do.
4) Stand up- In those deeper gravel moments, I stand up and stand so there is no weight on the bars. I also bend my knees at times so I remain lower.
5) Handlebars- Speaking of bars, I was told to hold the bars as if they are two raw eggs. Very good advice.
6) Don't go too fast- A good Rider doesn't need to go 110 km/h to survive the bad gravel. They can go any speed they wish to. I do agree that above 60 km/h is easier. Also, don't shift up to sixth gear right away. Keep the engine spinning. The crankshaft is a gyroscope. The faster it spins the more stability you'll have. On the 650, I stay at least at 4000-5000 rpm.
7) Have fun- If it is scary or uncomfortable riding, or you have "white knuckles" most of the time, why bother? Slow down a bit, or make your route 10% gravel to start with. Then increase the mix until you are comfortable. Ride with a Group of people that insists that you run a safe pace! If you're by yourself consider an inReach or SPOT Satellite communicator.
Hope this helps. I know it helped me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@gt750
Good pointers, yes I ride alone and have a Spot, always some dirt bikes or quads in the area. I do keep the rear wheel under engine power, TC light flickers, tried to ride with another vstromer but if you follow you choke and die 馃お... maybe on a windy day, or when damp.
I do have a mini compressor and adjust pressure as needed.
110kph on a wide and straight road, mostly around 80kph otherwise, with no previous off road experience it was 馃槵:eek:馃槗 in the beginning, but way more comfortable after a year of practice.
Yes the engine crankshaft provides some gyro effect, but at speed I think the front and rear wheel spinning mass is what's holding you vertical.
 

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It's not just in gravel, it's in many off road situations speed can help, as long as the surface is smooth enough that speed is not going to cause the wheels to loose contact with ground.

I can think of a few times that while in a group ride I was not happy with the pace so I have slipped on past the others, when they see I'm doing better that them in most cases they will pick their pace up, this has been in mud and rock ballast.
 
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I found a steering damper to be a lot safer answer. I do understand what you are saying but surprises can happen and make you seriously regret the speed.
Here it's mainly kangaroo's but 4WD's even the occasional bulldozer have made me very very glad to not be relying on speed.
 

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While higher speeds are easier to keep your balance, I don't recommend it as you really aren't in control.

If the gravel gets deep or slippery downshift into first or second and keep your revs up to let the rotating engine mass help you out, forget you have a front brake, and stand up on the pegs with your weight on the outside peg in a curve while the bike leans in.

I was riding gravel in the country last week and popped up over a rise to find horses had wandered into the road. I was only doing about 25 mph so it was easy to roll off the power, slow down, and appreciate a cool moment. Flying over that rise at 70 mph would have been a disaster. What's your plan when a truck pops around a corner taking his lane out of the middle of the road?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I found a steering damper to be a lot safer answer. I do understand what you are saying but surprises can happen and make you seriously regret the speed.
Here it's mainly kangaroo's but 4WD's even the occasional bulldozer have made me very very glad to not be relying on speed.
True, anything faster then 50kph, 30mph on gravel is "please, please you all crazy wildlife, please Don't jump in front of me... :oops: :eek:" it's like driving a semi, can't stop very quick, one of the reasons they mount those bush guards.

Sometimes I honk when approaching tight roads with dense bushes on each side, I wonder if I can attach something to my exhaust to make it sound like Harleys, so they can hear me coming?
Like most dirt bikes are screaming and I can hear them around me in the woods.

Something like this, maybe 馃槀
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Damirio, you have more experience than I do that's for sure. I've been watching a lot of Mototrek's videos, and a couple of them was done by Bret Tkacs and Dusty Wessels. On those two separate videos they cover something similar to yours, loose gravel. They both say the same thing: speed helps. But like the others said, the faster you go, the harder the crash, and you will not be able to avoid unexpected obstacles (like corners, another vehicle, etc). Mototrek's instructors recommend some speed but not a lot. They also recommend a neutral riding position for the most part, but be ready to shift your weight slightly back to unweigh the front wheel and give the rear wheel a bit more traction when you encounter even softer terrain. Obviously you want to be standing.

In your pictures the gravel doesn't appear to be deep or soft, but larger than pea size. So I can see why your front wheel will dance around over that. My own personal instincts tell me you just have to let the bike dance and don't go more than 45 mph on that. That and a nice set of TKC 80's or Shinko 805's!
 

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The floaty feeling is the bike hydro-plaining on dry land. Consequently you're kind of "just along for the ride" it will take longer to make the bike do what you want. Couple that with higher speeds and well you can see what the problem is, reaction time.

Long straights clear line of sight go fast have fun. Resist the urge to "Joe racer" into the turns though fight the front if you have to. Deep gravel/sand don't front brake to slow just back off the throttle that will keep the front from diving into the soft stuff.
 

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Damirio, you have more experience than I do that's for sure. I've been watching a lot of Mototrek's videos, and a couple of them was done by Bret Tkacs and Dusty Wessels.
Leaving tomorrow for Dustys advanced class in NM. Hopefully I will learn to ride the gravel better at speed. Btw, Dusty teaches counter leaning on the gravel curves and I can say by experience, the guy is fast and smooth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
In your pictures the gravel doesn't appear to be deep or soft, but larger than pea size. So I can see why your front wheel will dance around over that. My own personal instincts tell me you just have to let the bike dance and don't go more than 45 mph on that. That and a nice set of TKC 80's or Shinko 805's!
Yes, not the best picture, but trust me if I slow down, the bike is all over the place, and lots of "washboard" sections, they properly rattle the bike, so I have to slow down a bit for those too.

I like Motortreck videos, but nothing better then actually doing it on your own bike. Although it would have been much easier on the Quad :)

And yes I had TKC80'S and now my rear is Mitas E07
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Leaving tomorrow for Dustys advanced class in NM. Hopefully I will learn to ride the gravel better at speed. Btw, Dusty teaches counter leaning on the gravel curves and I can say by experience, the guy is fast and smooth.
Don't forget to pack some extra elbow and knee pads 馃槈
 
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