Even if it’s not in your motorcycle tour plans, being able to deal with surfaces that are not tarmac keeps you ahead of the game. It may only be a gravel track to scenic viewpoints, heading over grass to the campsite or a stretch of road works, but it is worth considering off-road training. We’d always advise going with an adventure-focused training school like Adventure Bike Training, who offer packages for novice, intermediate and expert off-roaders and on a one to one or small group basis. Or you can consider the schools that the bike manufacturers operate such as BMW Off Road Skills or Triumph Adventure Riding Experience.
In the meantime, here are some top tips if you’re tackling the gravel for the first time:
1. Bike set-up – remove the rubber inserts in the footpegs so that you don’t slip off when standing up or consider fitting wider footpegs. Check your tyre pressures and lower them below what you would normally use for road riding, as this will give them a bigger footprint to move the tyre through the gravel. Think about the type of tyres you have too – we love the Continental TKC80 tyres. Also rotate the handlebars and adjust foot controls to suit the standing position because you will need to . . .
2. Stand up – stand up on the pegs, with slightly flexed legs and in a relaxed position, but not crouched – you don’t want to be hovering just above the seat! And keep your elbows out and not stuck to your sides. Your legs and arms act as an extension of the bike’s suspension and this also makes you and the bike more stable, by lowering the centre of gravity. Standing up also gives you better vision, making it easier for you to . . . .
3. Look ahead – just like riding on the road, planning is an essential skill. By looking ahead you will be able to avoid obstacles and assess the different surfaces. You can also pick your line – often on gravel roads that have been used by 4x4s, there will be tracks that you can follow (but avoid deep ruts if you can). Avoid fixating on items such as rocks, potholes, sheep etc. or you will most likely hit them.
4. Two fingers – use two fingers to cover your front brake and clutch when riding (your pointer and middle finger) and the other two fingers on the grips. You will be in command of the controls and you won’t grab a handful of throttle if things get a bit hairy. You want a light but firm grip.
5. Use your feet / knees to steer. By loading the weight on alternate pegs, and using your knees to put pressure against the tank, you are able to steer the bike.
6. Hitting the loose stuff. If you’ve not read the road right and you hit deeper gravel or sand, keep the momentum going (note momentum not speed!) and get your weight back.
7. When you drop your bike (because the chances are, you will!) If you do lose control of your bike and get to the point of no return, don’t try and rescue it. Aim to separate yourself from the bike, by jumping or stepping away and try not to put your arms out. You are much more difficult to repair/replace than your bike.
8. Know your Modes. Most of the big adventure bikes have ABS and Traction Control which is optimised to work off-road. Make sure you know what modes your bike has got and how to turn them on and off to match the terrain you are riding, especially Traction Control.
Using these simple techniques can really help to give you confidence on the dirt. And then you will be ready to have great fun on our Iceland Motorcycle Tour in July 2019 – 40% gravel roads around this amazing island!
Iceland Gravel Roads