If you fancy a spot of green laning or are thinking of heading off to ride in the great unknown, it’s worth knowing how to ride safely in ruts. Dylan Jones from Yamaha Off-Road Experience explains the technique
One of the most important things to remember when riding off-road is to look a long way ahead to see the obstacles or ruts in plenty of time, to enable the best choice of line and decide whether you will need to sit or stand. If you don’t see the rut until you are in it, there is a fair chance that you end up cross rutted and falling off.
Also, try and slow your speed to a level that you are comfortable with before you enter as heavy braking in the rut will make you lose balance.
There are two approaches to rut riding depending on the depth, width and severity of the rut and your riding ability. You can either stand up on the pegs and try and balance through or sit down and paddle along with your feet.
As you approach the rut make sure you have the front and back wheel lined up so that they follow each other into the same channel and you do not end up getting cross rutted. You will need to decide if you think you can stand on the footpegs or need to sit down and put your feet down, this decision will usually depend on how deep, narrow, long or twisty the rut is.
Generally the more narrow the width of the rut the more difficult it is to ride. In a rut that is very deep (around footrest height) and narrow we would generally sit down and get one or two feet off the footrests ready to dab and ski to help keep the bike upright.
If the going is less severe and not as deep we will try and remain standing up on the footrests. It is much easier to stand up while riding through ruts on an enduro bike than it is on a bigger adventure type bike because there’s much more ground clearance, the bike will be lighter, and have a much narrower sump so is less likely to hit the sides and knock you off balance.
The technique for standing up through a rut is to look well ahead and focus further up the track rather than looking down at the front wheel. Stand up with legs reasonably straight and leaning so your weight is forward on the handlebars to keep the front wheel in the base of the rut.
Make sure to cover the clutch and front brake with one or two fingers in case you need to use them. Providing the track is not going downhill try to maintain a small amount of constant throttle rather than going on/off with it.
This will help to keep the bike going along smoothly.
We control the speed of the bike using the clutch, if you feel yourself going a bit quick, just slightly ease the clutch in to regain your balance.
To keep your balance, you will need to weight the footrests and use your upper body. If you want the bike to go towards the left, push weight down through the left footrest, and vice versa to the right. If you need to have a dab with your foot to keep your balance, you can do this without sitting down.
If things are starting to go completely wrong, get sat down and put your feet on the floor before you end up upside down!
If the rut looks very deep you will need to ride through it sat down with one or two feet off the footpegs. A lot of beginner riders make the mistake of trying to ride ruts sat down without taking their feet off the pegs.
It is very difficult to balance a bike sat down because it is now much more difficult to weight the footrests as most of the weight is going down through your backside into the seat. Therefore, the likelihood is that you will go five or ten metres along the rut, lose balance and by the time you go to put a foot down the bike will already be over on its side, especially on a bigger adventure bike.
Sit towards the front of the seat to help keep the front wheel in the base of the rut. As with standing up, look ahead and cover the controls, keep a constant throttle and use the clutch to control your speed.
You can use one or two feet to dab on the ground as you go along to keep your balance. Your legs and feet will need to be off and out in front of the footrests, just above the ground, with a slight bend in the knees.
Unless it’s really muddy, try not to drag your feet on the floor as it will pull you towards the back of the seat. If you are sliding towards the back of the seat, you must pull yourself forward using your arms. If you sit at the back of the seat, the front wheel will start to climb out of the rut.
Don’t go too slowly and try and keep the bike driving forward.
If you are going downhill in a rut sitting down, try to keep the right leg on the footrest so you are still able to use the rear brake to slow down. On larger adventure bikes, unless the rut looks pretty easy, we will usually go for the safety-first option of sitting down rather than trying to look flash standing up!
Obviously, the better the rider, the more chance you have of standing up.