Speeding up on gravel roads
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  1. #1
    Junior Member cordite's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    Well I've been riding my 2009 TW a lot, getting more used to it and just trying to get experience. All on back roads, paved and gravel. When I get on the gravel and feel that unstable surface under the wheels my first impulse is to roll back on the throttle. But I've been doing some reading and see that slowing down may just make things worse. Speeding up is supposed to help you float more on top of the surface instead of wallowing down in the gravel.

    So my question is; Is 45 mph really better than 25 mph? I'm talking decent straight gravel roads with good visibility. Curves may be a question for another time. Your advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member Black Hawk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Black Hills SD Yuma AZ
    Take your time, with experience will come speed.

    After while you will begin to like that little dance

    the bike does on the loose stuff.
    Summer in the Black Hills of SD

    Winter in the desert around Yuma AZ

    2004 TW

    2003 KLR650

  3. #3
    Senior Member admiral's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Frosty Hollow

    Black Hawk is on the right track with his advice. Unless someone is an experienced motocross racer, most of us need to approach gravel road driving more causiously.

    In most cases a steady slower speed is perhaps better than trying to speed up and "float" over the road surface. In deep gravel you may need to go a little faster to "float", but don't get carried away. Because the road surface is loose, as Black Hawk mentions the TW or any M/C for that matter will dance around. Additionally, sometime the gravel will have created what I call "grooves" from other vehicles tires and a motorcycle will want to "follow" in those tracks. It may start directing or pulling you in a direction you don't want to go in. To change direction or get out of a groove, slowly lean to get out. This will feel similar to rolling over the wake in water if you have been in a boat following the wake of another boat. Slowing down can present some problems as well. If the gravel is deep and loose and you try to stop or slow down too quickly, the front end will want to burrow into the gravel similar to sand or skid out to the side.

    My advice:

    Accelerate slowly, maintain a steady speed, don't turn the handle bars abruptly (use your balance to help guide your path), decrease speed slowly (don't abruptly let off the throttle).

    With time you will become more comfortable riding on gravel, but always be on guard.
    Hidden Content A ride in the woods helps me relax and release tension. The fact I'm dragging a body should be entirely irrelevant?

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  5. #4
    Senior Member JarrodWeaver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Austin, Texas
    If the gravel is deeper than just covering a hard surface make sure that you slide your weight back on the seat. If it is several inches deep you will want to get as far back as possible, even to the point your backside is hovering over the rear fender. Dropping your tire pressure down to around 10 psi also helps. With practice, confidence and experience you should be able to go full speed over the loose stuff this way.

    EQUAL TIME: Is it really worth going fast? Getting across gravel/sand at 50-60 mph is fun but how much time does going 25 mph add to your trip? A new set of handlebars, grips, levers, mirrors and some plastic is expensive. Even more so if you get dinged up too. Picking gravel out of freshly ground off skin is something you will remember for years to come...

  6. #5
    Banned qwerty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    NW Tennessee
    12psi and a better front tire help a lot.

  7. #6
    Member Casper's Avatar
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    Aug 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty View Post
    12psi and a better front tire help a lot.
    Slide back on the seat get the weight off the front and crank the throttle !!! Gravel is loads of fun if you get the weight over the rear tire .

  8. #7
    Senior Member Rohnsman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    1993 TW200 in Meridian, Idaho
    Having just had a "close encounter" with a gravel road yesterday, speeding up is not something I'd advocate. Going uphill or on the flat isn't so bad, but going downhil and realizing your going too fast leaves you one option... braking, and that on gravel is dicey at best. I have the scratches on me and on the TW to prove it.

  9. #8
    Junior Member Ben Parry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    I find the trick with gravel is to drop tyre presure a bit. Also, being tense on the bike makes it harder to ride. You see the fast guys on motocross bikes just let the bike do what it wants. Hence let your arms go a bit lose, let the bike do what it needs to do. You will find the dynamics of the bike work in your favor and when you are more relaxed and not hanging on tight and trying to control every little movement of the wheels out of line, the bike will still track pretty true.

    If you do go faster, you can slow by using lots of small dabs of the front brake, then it won't slide away. This works well going down hill too.

    Ben P.

  10. #9
    Junior Member mrutkaus's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    Would that be the rear brake in the northern hemisphere because of the coriolus effect?


  11. #10
    Senior Member hightime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    I'm reading all this with great interest. I had kind of a loose feeling on the back roads this last weekend. I had just boosted the tire pressure to 20 lbs. I'm going to try dropping to 12.

    One thing I have felt was usefull was to ride slower but accelerate to regain control. Deceleration can make it worse. Thus the axiom [when in doubt throttle out].


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