Tuesday, 26 October 2010

12 Tips & Hints For Riding On Gravel

The long ride to Tawau is just around the corner, this time we are taking the short way through to reach our destiny, but the only obstacle on this particular route to Tawau is the 145km long Gravel Road, never been on a gravel road this long before, so it will be great to find some information about riding a road bike on gravel road, for those who's in the ride, it will be a life saver to help you reach the destiny.....

1. Go Slow

Of all the hints presented here 'going slow' is the most important. The time you have to react to your bike and the road itself will increase the slower you go. This means that if your bike does slide out fro under you there will be time to react. At speed you won't have this luxury. Going slow will also bring your legs into play. If you are traveling slow enough you can use your feet to stop your bike from tipping over. If you are traveling at speed this won't be possible.

2. Stay Upright

Your primary focus should be to minimize any slippage your tires may have on the gravel surface. Keeping the bike upright maximizes the surface area of the tire that is in contact with the ground. Once again it also gives you as much time as possible to react if your bike does slide out from beneath you.

3. Corner Gently & Slowly

Basic physics allows us to lean the bike over quite far when we are turning, if we are traveling at sufficient speed. This simple action requires strong tire grip on the ground. On gravel there isn't sufficient grip so we can't lean the bike as much. Therefore our turns have to be gradual and slow.

4. Don't Accelerate Quickly

Once gain a lack of traction with a motorcycle on gravel means the wheels will spin erratically, gripping in patches on the road surface. This means flying gravel with bursts of speed that are hard to control. When accelerating do so slowly and make sure your bike has sufficient grip for you to control the bike. The slower the acceleration the more constant the grip.

5. Use Rear Break

Don't use the front brake when moving on gravel. I repeat, don't use it at all. The front wheel will find it hard to gain traction and when it does gravel will shift beneath it. This will cause your front tire to slide. When this happens you will lose control of your bike. Instead use your rear break and only do so lightly. Your slow speed with hopefully have reduced your need to use a break anyway.

6. Install Crash Knobs (especially with fairing)

Install crash knobs on your bike. These are protective stubby bars that take the brunt of any impact with the ground. Especially consider these precaution if your bike has fairing. I had crash knobs installed on my bike and they saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars when I came off my bike.

7. Ride in the Car Tracks.

When cars travel on gravel roads their tires naturally shift the gravel out to each side or compact it beneath the car's weight. Over time this creates tiretracks that are harder and smoother than the surface around them. Aim to ride in these tire tracks. Less unstable gravel means more control for you.

8. Stick your Legs out.

Don't be afraid to stick your legs out when negotiation particularly difficult gravel sections of road. In fact stick them out if you are unsure at all. Of course make sure you are traveling slowly at the time. This means if your bike does tip over or slide you can use your legs to steady your position.

9. Grip Handlebars Lightly

Riding on gravel can be stressful especially if you aren't used to it. Our natural tendency can often be to grip the handle bars too tightly. Over time this can be fatiguing, both mentally and physically. Loosen your grip on the handle bars and you will extend your stamina on long gravel roads and maintain alertness for longer. This technique can also help you control your bike better as the next tip explains.

10. Let The Bike Guide You

Our first tendency when riding on gravel can often be to tense up and over-react to every movement the bike makes. In reality we need to let the bike shift beneath us as the tires find grip on the gravel. This means keeping a light grip on the handlebar and feeling what the bike is doing as it travels on the gravel surface. It sounds 'airy fairy' but we need to let the bike guide us through the contours of the road. Attempting to dictate every movement of the bike can exhaust you unnecessarily.

11. Maintain Speed

Keep a steady speed. Slowing down and speeding up on gravel roads can invite slippage. Maintain speed and you can concentrate on navigating.

12. Keep distance Between Vehicles

Obviously gravel is loose. Spinning tires can collect gravel and spit it in almost any direction. You can't help it if someone is stupid enough to get too close behind you on a gravel road but you can certainly avoid doing the same to someone in front of you. Get too close and you or your bike can get hit by flying debris. It goes without saying that a helmet is a must.


When riding on gravel it is better to be safe than sorry. I was really embarrassed when I came off my bike and angry at myself about the damage I did to my bike. So don't put yourself in aposition where you might have that accident. Avoid gravel in the first place and if you absolutely have to ride on it follow the tips above. Don't feel silly if you feel the need to stick you legs out 'just in case' or if you feel you are riding too slow.

1 comment:

  1. it's very important to test out braking when u guys hit the first gravel section. try braking from 10KMH to 0 by locking rear brakes. it's important for bikers to be able to balance while locking rear tires, especially on gravel.