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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.
 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Proper dirt/gravel riding is mostly about riding technique. Yes, sometimes better tires help, but that's typically not as important as most want to believe(it's more important if the terrain is muddy, especially nasty clay-based mud, and if the terrain is really steep). If you want to blame the bike, then the ergonomic setup is more important, IMO. Having the proper handlebar bend and height, and proper footpeg position goes a long ways in making the bike easier to handle on loose surfaces.

Now back to technique, 3 things are critical: smoothness, body english, and line selection.
1) You have to be very smooth in modulating the brakes, throttle, clutch, and your inputs to the handlebars and foot pegs. Too much input too soon and you will loose traction, and may end up on your behind. Just like driving on snow or ice.
2) Body english is what seperates the average rider from the good/great riders. As an extreme example, watch videos of trials riders and enduro racers, and you'll see what I mean. Instruction helps, but nothing beats seat time/experience. This is much easier to learn on a light bike. If funds allow, get yourself a sub 350 lb dual sport bike to practice. You'll be amased at how much energy you save and how much faster you can ride safely once your body english improves.
3) Line selection: keep your head up and look where you want to go. Target fixation will get you in trouble fast. This is SOOO important to good dirt AND street riding. Keep reminding yourself to do this until it becomes 2nd nature.

Good luck. If you have good skills you can take your Strom in some cool places and have a SAFE and fun time doing it!

YouTube - Broadcast Yourself
 

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Congrats on taking the plunge. Glad there wasn't any serious damage. While it's never going to be a"dirt bike" if you are planning to spend time off pavement a forkbrace, proper tires, handlebars with a cross brace, and practice really make a difference. :yesnod:
 

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As others have said, gaining some basic dirt riding skills is easier on a smaller light weight machine. It's more forgiving, you'll gain more confidence, a better understanding of you and the machine's limitations. (plus it's easier to pick up!)
 

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As others have said, gaining some basic dirt riding skills is easier on a smaller light weight machine. It's more forgiving, you'll gain more confidence, a better understanding of you and the machine's limitations. (plus it's easier to pick up!)
+1. Not to mention, if those hard cases happen to land on your ankle it will splinter all 3 major bones and require scaffolding and some big screws to fix it. And it will shatter the hard case. Then when you're at the emergency room and they ask if you're married, your brother in law will pipe up and say, "Up until now."
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you all for the feedback.

I'm hoping I can convince the wife to let me get a DRZ400 or WR250R or similar true dual sport. She's usually very understanding of my desire for toys but she's wary of those bikes because of their hooligan reputation. I don't have a truck and trailer and around here most of the places to ride are public roads and require something that is street legal. I'd been thinking about taking the Cornerspin class as I've read that it's helpful for street riding but it may also be helpful here too.
 

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2) Body english is what seperates the average rider from the good/great riders. As an extreme example, watch videos of trials riders and enduro racers, and you'll see what I mean. Instruction helps, but nothing beats seat time/experience. This is much easier to learn on a light bike. If funds allow, get yourself a sub 350 lb dual sport bike to practice. You'll be amased at how much energy you save and how much faster you can ride safely once your body english improves.
Yep. While I wouldn't claim to be highly skilled off-road, on a proper dirtbike I can quite happily throw the bike into corners and get it sideways and steer with the throttle. I've never had the guts to do that with my Vee - just too big, heavy, too little sense of what the front end is doing, and most of all, too many things to break (including myself if it lands on top of me) if it goes down. Probably more practice would help, but that would probably involve dropping it several times before I got really good at it.
 

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dirt-Gravel Technique for big bikes

1. Get a set of TKC80's, run lower tire pressures 25psi

2. Control your speed as you enter a corner before the turn

3. Counter steer as you enter the corner, turn your head and look through the corner

4. stand and lean to the outside of the curve and weight the outside peg.
(just the opposite of the street where you lean in and lower your weight) In the loose stuff stand, stick your butt out, lean to the outside and weight the outside peg......this keeps the center of your mass over the contact patch of the tire, instead of trying to break it loose if you lean the other way.

5. Steer with the rear tire and throttle

Good Luck it will scare the crap out of you the first time but it works. This is one of the first techniques they teach you at a Adventure Riding School.

Kieth
 

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Good advice Keith. I would also suggest practicing riding really slow while standing on the pegs (trials-like). This is a lot more difficult to practice on a large bike, but it will help you progress much quicker with your offroad competance. Start with just going straight, and then carefully progress into turns. It is actually rather difficult to do with TKCs though, as they make the bike feel unsteady at really slow speeds, at least on hard surfaces. One of the hardest things to do is to modulate your rear brake smoothly while standing on the pegs, but man does it help in the dirt to have that control!
 

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I respect riders who do real off road stuff on wee, simply because they possess skills that I like to have but do not. Still I cannot understand them, why do they take inappropriate weapon to loss the fight? If you ride off road for fun, why not to use something specially designed for it?
I do it to, but out of necessity so to speak, being on a multi day trip you never know what the road/trail conditions really are. For an instance a hart packed trail, asphalt nearly, turns into not passable mud pool in an hour getting certain amount of precipitation.
Anyway, respect to you guys.
 

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The Wee does OK off road considering how heavy it is. To get the thing turned, try giving it a little throttle to make the rear wheel drift flat track style.

In soft stuff, the faster you go the better. Plan on crashing often.

Aim for a general area on the trail. Don't try to steer to an exact spot. You want to let the bike wander around( within reason).

Stay out of mud.
 
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