Water crossings don’t need to be terrifying experiences, Boyd Emmerich enlightens us on how to get it right.
If you’re out green laning or adventuring, at some point you are going to have to deal with water crossings on your motorcycle. They can be fun, challenging and exciting, but they can also end in disaster. So, it’s a good idea to give them some consideration.
Before charging into the water, you need to weigh things up and use your noodle. Firstly, try to assess how deep the water is. If you are in rocky terrain the river bed will be strewn with boulders, if you can see eddies in the water or the odd rock poking out then it’s probably not too deep.
If you can’t tell the depth from observing, then it’s time slip into that bikini and take a walk. On foot, make your way across the river, check the depth, the route and the strength of current. By doing this you could save an enormous amount of time and hassle. Once you’ve decided on the best line, it can be a good idea to remove any luggage, tools and any electronic items, and walk them over to the other side.
Keep up on the pegs and look ahead
Now you’re ready. Drop into the river at a fast walking pace, this will aid stability. Stand up and look ahead through the water, scanning for hazards. Without your knees gripping the tank, steer and balance through the pegs. Be focused on your planned route.
The water will tend to drag on the bike the deeper you get so compensate with slight increased throttle. If the mechanical noise from the engine (not the exhaust silencer) drops in tone and volume it means that the engine itself is physically submerged, at that point the bike will be experiencing quite a bit of water drag and you need a little more throttle.
Assuming an illustrious victory, and with your status as a world-conquering adventure motorcyclist affirmed, you can re-load your machine, perhaps enjoy some nice tobacco and ride on. However, if things start going wrong during the crossing you have now entered the recovery phase of the operation.
If things go wrong
If you are stuck halfway across and you feel the bike going over, immediately hit the kill switch. If she goes under with the motor running, water will flood through the air intakes, filling the cylinder and hydraulically locking the bike.
If you managed to stop the engine in time, right the bike and as long as the air intakes are above the waterline, the bike should start. In that case, walk it out with engine power assisting you. In the event that the bike has done a U-boat impression whilst running, on no account press the ignition. Water can’t be compressed and you might bend the valves and wreck your engine. There is no alternative but to manhandle the machine out of the river.
Once out, and assuming you haven’t had a heart attack with the effort required, put on your dry clothes. The situation is now serious and the first job is to look after yourself especially if it’s cold. As I said, a little stroll across and a good decision in the first place and things will tend to work out without too much hassle!
Gain access to every ABR masterclass
In each issue of Adventure Bike Rider magazine, we feature a riding masterclass, showcasing the skills you need to handle your adventure bike both on the road and on the trails. You can read them all online by signing up to the digital library, which gives you access to the latest issue of ABR, as well as a decade’s worth of back issues.