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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.
 

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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.
 

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Cordite,



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.
 

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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...
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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].



Owen
 

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Re: Gravel



Maybe it's just that I am getting old but when I hit a dirt road with loose gravel on it, I just 'granny' it until I get back on blacktop again. My tires are aired up for road speed and it is not worth airing down just for a mile or so. You know you are going too fast when the front tire starts dancing from side to side when it hits loose gravel on the dirt. A little too dicey for me. I would rather not have to endure the embarassment of dumping the bike in the middle of the road or not making a corner and kissing a fence.



I thought Gerry was running at a decent pace in his Youtube video of Elimes Cabin. That's about what I would be doing to survive the ride.



Dave
 

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I use a pretty simple formula. I go fast in the straightaways, slow down for the corners and if it feels scary I slow down even more. If I can't see ahead because of hills or tree's I slow down.

Most of my experience has been that 25 mph is enough to get on top of the gravel. In thick gravel I seem to be most unstable at 5 to 15 mph. On thin gravel it does not seem to matter as much.

I just slow down before I get to the corner's not in the corner. It is a lot easier to speed up than to slowdown if something unexpected is around the bend. The last thing that I want to do is

brake and turn at the same time on gravel.



Brad
 

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12psi and a better front tire help a lot.


+1



Biggest weakness is the TW31 front tire - especially in turns... The size of the front seems to make the front want to float above 15MPH, and with the small knobs of the OEM, the turns are spooky.
 

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+1



Biggest weakness is the TW31 front tire - especially in turns... The size of the front seems to make the front want to float above 15MPH, and with the small knobs of the OEM, the turns are spooky.


This is what I understand from reading all the tire threads on the old forum. Stock front just doesn't quite make the grade. The bike doesn't live up to it's potential until ya get good rubber up front.
 

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This is what I understand from reading all the tire threads on the old forum. Stock front just doesn't quite make the grade. The bike doesn't live up to it's potential until ya get good rubber up front.


Asking how fast I can ride on a gravel road is like asking how loud do I have to talk to communicate with your granny. I ride roads that suddenly jump from hard gravel to soft sand instantaneously and when I hit that transition I want to be in mid range of my power band. I can slow down by easing off of the throttle if things get harry or power up if more speed is needed. If I'm in too high a gear, when I back off I'm lugging the bike, and if I'm too low I can't zoom out of the muck without bogging down. If you are going too fast and get into a rut wobble, (you know what it is if you've been there). the only thing to do is relax and back off slowly before you go zooming out into the desert and kiss an ocotillo. Relaxing and going with the balance of the bike is much more important than zooming up or throttling back. If you bog down or wobble out of control either way its disaster. If you find that balance between the extremes, its called fun and safe. Ride carefully and don't look for any rule about 45 vs 42 mph. What you want is the right speed for the right conditions and control above all. If you are laying on your side or bored to death, you are at the wrong speed and need to try harder. Cheers.

Tom
 

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I always find it funny when a person posts this as their Avatar and talks about riding like a granny.






I agree it looks at odds. I save my 'quick' riding for the pavement and use caution on the dirt ones. My tires are always at max highway pressure so I get a lot more bounce on the dirt. It is just for a mile or two so just as well to take it slow for awhile.



Dave
 

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Acceleration through compromised traction is an interesting theory. I ride gravel roads 56 miles long. You're going to accelerate 56 miles? Sorry, wicking it up through gravel is bad advice.
 

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Acceleration through compromised traction is an interesting theory. I ride gravel roads 56 miles long. You're going to accelerate 56 miles? Sorry, wicking it up through gravel is bad advice.


I'd have to agree with QWERTY on this one. If you are new enough to have to ask what to do on gravel, then you need to be going at a slow enough pace to regain control when something happens. Now, once you get accustomed to it, you will naturally speed up some. At which time you will understand what everyone is saying about how it IS EASIER to ride a little faster through some of the rutted/deep/loose stuff. By then though, you will have experienced what to do when it gets out of shape.



Now, when you do get comfortable with offroad conditions, "the dance" will be one of the things that keeps you wanting more.
 

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I have to chime in on this one. I live on a gravel road, it's wide with lots of blind corners and no real straights. I mostly like Ben Parry's thoughts on being relaxed. Very helpful to keep arms, upper body and grip loose. Let the bike do it's thing. This is easier said than done but will come naturally with experience. Tdubs on gravel are a bit unpredictable. When I dive into my gravel driveway from my gravel road I shift my weight forward hoping the front end will stick. If it hangs I goose it and try to throw some rocks at the neighbors dog (if he's after me).
 
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