Front Tire for Sand; I Need...Something
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Thread: Front Tire for Sand; I Need...Something

  1. #1
    Senior Member retmotor's Avatar
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    Front Tire for Sand; I Need...Something

    I am frustrated as can be. I'm at the point where I need to quit trying to ride sand before I really hurt myself. I'm airing down. I've researched and practiced sand riding techniques and I think I'm doing it right yet, at my best, I still can't control the direction of the bike. Usually these practice sessions end with the front tire washing out and a twisted leg stuck under the bike. I'm looking at an equipment change -- bike or tires. (Actually, tires or nothing because replacing the TW isn't in the budget.)

    I've researched until my eyes don't work, several times:

    Fat vs Skinny: Some guys insist you need a skinny tire for directional control. Other guys insist you need a fat tire for flotation. Then there's the heavy-low-horsepower-bike variable; some guys who normally like a skinny tire say it won't work on the TW because it doesn't have the horsepower to keep it from sinking into the sand then corkscrewing the rider over the bars.

    While I agree that for four wheeled vehicles flotation in sand is ideal, It seems to me a narrow motorcycle tire will more easily cut through the wheel ruts instead of pushing your front end sideways down into the rut, right? I think this is a lot of my problem. And more narrow means more edge which means it tracks better, right?

    I do agree with a wider tire for the TW for just about everything else. A wider tire means more air volume which means a lower possible air pressure which means a longer (wider too obviously), more flexible contact patch.

    It's the back tire too: I've seen posts here where guys with the ATV tire on the rear say sand riding is more stable.

    Trials tire vs Knobby: On the dirt bike forums, guys appear to hate the trials tire for sand. Here, there are a couple posts saying a trials tire like the Pirelli MT43 is even better than the Golden Boy in loose stuff.

    My addled thinking: If I had extra money to throw at it, I'd just start buying tires and see if any of them made a difference. My plan, barring one of you changing my mind, is to order the Pirelli MT21. In what size, I don't know. I'm inclined to go narrow. It comes in 110/80x18, 120/80x18, 120/90-18, 130/90-18, and 140/80-18. I like this tire because of my research here and in the archives specifically regarding the front tire in the sand.

    If that front tires gives me the confidence that a tire change can help me, I'll look at putting an ATV tire on the rear. I do realize, it might be me -- I couldn't ride a skateboard as a kid so maybe I have a malfunction -- I don't know. But I have been encouraged by a couple posts from guys who said they were going to give up riding the TW in the sand before they changed tires.

    Yes, I realize I'm buying a tire just for the sand, but right now, I don't care. I'll deal with poor road noise manners. Besides I haven't really seen anything bad about the MT21 on any other surfaces including asphalt.

    Okay, I've talked myself into it. A little help in selecting the a good tire size would greatly be appreciated.
    Last edited by retmotor; 04-21-2015 at 11:41 AM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Werloc's Avatar
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    Kenda K760 in either 4.60 or 5:10 for soft sand. I've been riding and racing in the stuff my whole life. You could go narrower, but should match your rear and get the 5:10 which is the 120/100x18
    Last edited by Werloc; 04-21-2015 at 11:52 AM.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Ebbanflood's Avatar
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    I ride my TW in the sand on a regular basis. The stock front tire is actually a very decent sand tire. Many people change the front tire because it is terrible on every other surface except sand. I think that you just need to keep practicing and get used to how the bike handles in the sand. I would not give up. Wear the proper gear and stay at a reasonable speed and after plenty of practice, it will become second nature. There are plenty of times where the front tire will choose a path that I did not, just go with it and then go back on your intended path when it settles in. Figure out the position that works best for you, in soft sand I prefer to stand on the pegs. The difference is that many people advocate moving your weight toward the rear wheel and I move my weight toward the front. Move around on the seat also to see where the bike is the easiest to handle. There is no reason to change the back tire, it is a fantastic sand tire. Changing either tire is not going to make you a good rider in the sand, put practicing enough will.

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  5. #4
    Super Moderator Purple's Avatar
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    Trying to “steer” a bike in sand is not going to happen – its sand. Forget the handle bars, and steer the “momentum” with your body. Shift your weight from front to back – front will give you more “steer” – back will change direction of “momentum”.

    Varying between the two will allow you to change direction depending on whether circumstances dictate you need front wheel steer - or rear momentum - just “go with the flow”.

    There are times to use that front wheel, and there are times you need to lean back on that rear tire and just “blast” it. The TW is a rear wheel drive. Use it.

    As Ebbanflood says – there’s nothing wrong with that rear tire – you just need to get used to using it when it’s needed the most.

    There are so many choices for the front tire, it does my brain in – take your choice – we all have different answers to that one.

    But – practice makes it better. Learn to adjust your speed and style for different types and depths of sand. This only comes with experience, and the more you fail, the more you learn from it ………..
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  6. #5
    Senior Member retmotor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werloc View Post
    Kenda K760 in either 4.60 or 5:10 for soft sand. I've been riding and racing in the stuff my whole life. You could go narrower, but should match your rear and get the 5:10 which is the 120/100x18
    I was not aware of this tire, thank you. I see in tire reviews guys really like it for the sand.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ebbanflood View Post
    I ride my TW in the sand on a regular basis. The stock front tire is actually a very decent sand tire. Many people change the front tire because it is terrible on every other surface except sand. I think that you just need to keep practicing and get used to how the bike handles in the sand. I would not give up. Wear the proper gear and stay at a reasonable speed and after plenty of practice, it will become second nature. There are plenty of times where the front tire will choose a path that I did not, just go with it and then go back on your intended path when it settles in. Figure out the position that works best for you, in soft sand I prefer to stand on the pegs. The difference is that many people advocate moving your weight toward the rear wheel and I move my weight toward the front. Move around on the seat also to see where the bike is the easiest to handle. There is no reason to change the back tire, it is a fantastic sand tire. Changing either tire is not going to make you a good rider in the sand, put practicing enough will.
    Well, crap. It is me then. What's a reasonable speed? With stock gears I'm usually in the middle of 2nd. Going faster seems to start something similar to a tank slapper if the sand is "rutted" at all from tire tracks. I've tried different riding positions. I have not tried moving my weigh forward, not really. Usually I find myself standing with all my weight on the pegs -- no weight on the bars at all -- hanging onto the bike with my knees, or sitting in with the same weight distribution, or weight further back. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Purple View Post
    ... This only comes with experience, and the more you fail, the more you learn from it ………..
    Unfortunately, most of what I'm learning is that pains don't go away like they used to. Thanks, though. Sounds ... complicated. Sounds like I need to find a sandy place to practice with less hazards on the side of the trail too.
    Last edited by retmotor; 04-21-2015 at 01:04 PM.
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  7. #6
    Senior Member admiral's Avatar
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    I will just emphasize the main point Ebbanflood has touched on. I know you're not liking it, but practice practice practice. It's taken me 3-4 years of earnest attempts to get comfortable with riding on the sand, mainly cause I was too scared to stand up on the pegs. I'm not gonna go so far as to say which front tire is best, but what I can say is, I can ride in the sand with any of the tires you've mentioned. I guess I wanna say it more "us" riding correctly than it is the tire. Yes, the tire will play into it, but not as much as one would think.

    Standing on the pegs lowers the center of gravity, meaning you're actually less likely to fall over. And let the bike wiggle around. Don't go too slow or you'll just be plowing in the sand, which is why some experience washing out the front. Sitting on the seat is like riding on ice and you will never get comfortable riding in sand.

    Don't go buy any tires till you get the technique down, then you'll be golden!

  8. #7
    Senior Member NoHair McNair's Avatar
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    I'll have to agree with the riding technique as being the best way to improve sand riding.

    I have ridden a lot of desert sand and the things I was told that made an improvement on my riding the stuff were;

    Stand in sand
    Get way, way back and pull up on the bars, unweighting the front end as much as possible
    Don't grip the bars tight, rather, hold loose and wiggle the bars back and forth in very small, but fast movements. (You are trying to keep the front wheel from tracking a lighter density sand rut that may not be obvious)
    Keep power applied to the rear wheel, so the front end doesn't nose dive with deceleration.

    These things keep the front tire from digging in and under steering, causing the front end to plow in and dump you.
    It's not a very 'controlled' feeling to ride this way as you really aren't going to be precise in where you are going, but it will keep from dumping the bike.

    The biggest issue with a TW riding in the sand is that it just doesn't have the power needed to power through it. Just as it's hard for people to walk in heavy sand, so it is with the motorcycle. It just takes more power to stay up on top of it, to power through it as the sand tries to drag on you.

    The other technique is to ride slow and dog-paddle your way through it. That works too.

  9. #8
    Senior Member Werloc's Avatar
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    These replies saying it's more practice needed than better tires, well, they are 100% correct. Like I said, been riding and racing in the sand my whole life, so kinda forget how hard it is on those that don't ride it a lot. Momentum is key. Also stand on pegs keeping your weight back more. NEVER look down at the ground in front of you. Always focus way ahead of you, I mean "way" ahead. Keep your RPMs up, and steady, and stay on the gas. Don't bogg your engine. Sand is NOT easy to ride in, but I keep forgetting that....

    BTW, All the knobbie tires that we are using on the front of the TW, are Rear tires for most other bikes. So you can't go by those reviews. Having a better tire won't improve your riding that much. It doesn't make a bad thing good. It only helps a very little. It's 90% rider skill. Just spend more time in the sand, and you'll get better at it.
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    Senior Member RockyTFS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retmotor View Post
    .....
    Well, crap. It is me then. What's a reasonable speed? With stock gears I'm usually in the middle of 2nd. Going faster seems to start something similar to a tank slapper if the sand is "rutted" at all from tire tracks. I've ......
    I switched to the Kenda quite a while ago, but I can't say that it does better in sand. Gravel, definitely. I too rarely go faster than the middle of 2nd. I usually ride alone and at 65 really don't want to crash. The result is that when I encounter sand that changes rapidly from about 1 inch hard pack to soft 3 to 6 inch deep I slam it into 2nd and goose the throttle. Or sometimes just slam it into 2nd. NEVER use the front brake.

    I can't see the advantage of moving forward, but I HAVE had some luck with this unusual technique in deep sand: In either first or second, jerk the handlebars rapidly back and forth about halfway while keeping up in the power band. It's tiring, but it does work. The reason that front tire washes out in sand is because sand builds up in front of the tire to the point that the trail goes negative and the front wheel, instead of wanting to correct for any sideways displacement, wants to jerk over to full stop. When you do this rapid jerking back and forth you are moving the front tire to the side of that build-up of sand and momentarily re-establishing proper trail. Although it is generally a good thing to get used to the bike moving around and not trying to correct with the bars, using this technique requires you to hold on in order to muscle the bars back and forth. It works for me and helps build confidence because I now know I can handle deep sand well enough to get out of it. I still don't go looking for it though....

    I haven't mastered the stand up method, but this is because I don't want to fall from any higher than the seat! I know it works though. I also know that the faster you go in sand, the easier it is but I won't do it because of fear of crashing. I WILL do it in sand I'm absolutely sure will not exceed 1 inch in depth. Variable depth sand, which is most sand other than beach sand, is highly unpredictable and I just chicken out and revert to the above method. Try it out, you might like it! I'm usually done in after a mile or so, but I would never go to a place I knew had mile after mile of deep sand. One other thing about this technique is that the distance you have to jerk the bars varies as the depth of the sand and its consistency. It may take only a dozen three inch wiggles to get you through a slightly deeper patch....but then I'm still learning. Experience will help you to detect sand getting rapidly deeper, if there are any other wheel tracks...if I see only V's where a few feet back I saw tread prints it's time to downshift.

    I know, I know, I'm just chicken, but at my age avoiding injury is the over-riding concern and I can crash at 10 mph a lot more safely than at 30. (At least in sand!)

    BTW, when I bought the Kenda 270 four years ago I got it in 120/80-18, the narrowest available, because it was 5 lbs. lighter than the 5.10, and I felt that anything I could do to lighten the front end would be better in sand and technical terrain. I think I was right and have been very happy with this size.
    Last edited by RockyTFS; 04-21-2015 at 02:01 PM.
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  11. #10
    Senior Member Borneo's Avatar
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    You are getting good advice above. Sand just takes practice. You have to learn to go with the flow so to speak. You can't fight your way through sand. Forward seating position works for Jim, and I like to get back on the bike and lighten the front end. But, remember that in sand speed is your friend. You regain stability in sand by accelerating. So, one of the ultimate secrets to sand is to shift down in advance so that you can power on through the sand, and even upshift to keep up your momentum. Stay with it, you will get it.
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