If you’re heading off to Morocco or planning on riding some dusty trails then it pays to know how to ride in sandy conditions. It can be a bit of a tricky experience if you don’t know what you’re doing and you can end up having a nasty off or burying the wheels which makes it a chore to get the bike moving again.
Fortunately, five time British enduro champion and ACU qualified enduro coach Ady Smith has a few simple techniques that make sand riding easier and a bit more fun.
1. Get your weight distribution right
When riding in loose sand, get your weight towards the rear of the seat or get your bottom over the rear mudguard if you’re standing. Try and keep the throttle open as much as possible as, if you close the throttle, you will find the front wheel will want to bury itself, particularly if riding a four stroke with the extra engine braking.
2. Adjust the forks
Try and drop the forks through the yokes so there is less of the fork above the top yoke. By doing this you will make the bike feel slightly high at the front and less prone to diving and tucking in to the loose sand when cornering.
3. Turning the bike on compacted sand
If the sand is hard and compacted, like sandstone or sand quarry base, you can do the opposite. I’m 5’6” so I tend to stand on the pegs a lot of the time anyway. But the best way to turn the bike in these conditions is to stand up and get your weight over the front of the bike by leaning forward so that your head is over the top yoke. Once you’re in this position, power slide the bike by using the throttle to make the bike lose traction at the rear wheel. The closer you can get to the steering point of the bike, the better. What you are aiming to do is make the bike fish tail, while ensuring you cover the clutch at all times. As with most big trail bikes, they have a huge amount of power, especially if your bike is fuel injected. Couple this with the 90/10 road/off-road tyres and it becomes quite easy to lose grip completely and drop the bike, so be a bit easier on the throttle in this case.
4. Be prepared in the corners
When you are cornering, either sat down or standing , when you lean the bike, always put the majority of weight on the outside foot peg so that if you do have to put your foot down, you can use your inside foot easily.
5. Use an O-ring chain
If you are going to ride your bike in extremely dusty or deep sandy conditions, make sure you use a good quality O-ring chain. Ensure there’s no white chain grease on it as it will attract dust, dirt and sand to stick to it. The consequences can be that the chain tightens up as the grit and debris will get in between the teeth on both the front and rear sprocket and pack the chain out. When the bike hits a bump, the suspension will compress, causing the chain to tighten up so tight that it can snap or put so much strain on the output shaft that it can make the seal leak.
6. Make the right tyre choices
It’s worth fitting knobbly tyres if you plan on going on a long trip with a lot of sand and gravel roads rather than tarmac roads. These give added grip when the terrain is loose. It’s also worth dropping the tyre pressures a couple of PSI as this helps on the more stony and rocky parts of trails.
7. Double tube your tyres
If your bike has inner tubes (rather than having a tubeless design), you can double tube your tyres. This is where you cut an old tube around the centre and wrap it around the outside of the inflated tube. This acts as an outer skin to protect your inner tube from punctures, something you don’t want to be getting in the middle of the Sahara! You will also need to ensure the lock nut is screwed up against the valve cap to allow the tube to move inside the tyre.