by Bard Boand

So, do you get intimidated with gravel, or curse at the road captain because of road construction, or are afraid to venture off the pavement to those quaint hide-a-ways you’ve only read about in magazines?

We’ll, here are a few tips to help you overcome these issues, build your self confidence as a rider, and take you places you’ve only dreamed about… There’s a whole new world out there once you leave the pavement, or, if you never want to leave the pavement, but the road captain forces you to traverse a mile or ten of road construction and gravel, this should help.

1. Empty your intestines before you leave if gravel concerns you.

2. Turn off your ABS, if your bike is so equipped, before entering long stretches of gravel or dirt. On some bikes, ABS (anti-lock brake systems) are integrated with both the front and rear brake. In other words, when you active EITHER the front or the rear, you actually get braking on BOTH.  Hummm…you don’t want that front brake locking up when you hit only the rear brake do you? NO…in the dirt, most of your braking should be done with the rear brake.

3. STAND UP on the pegs.  (If you can. It’s hard if not impossible, on most Harleys due to the pegs positioned as front bumpers) but if you can, STAND UP. This lowers your center of gravity from the seat to the pegs, and enables greater balance control by having the ability to move your weight around from right side to left side, and front to rear.Hard to do from the seat, comes instinctively when on the pegs. Whether you’re standing on the pegs on your BMW, or sitting on your throne with your feet stuck out front on your HD, “squeeze” the tank with your knees. This also improves balance and centering weight.

4. RELAX on the handle bars, let them “free flow” and let the front tire follow the terrain, ruts and contour of the road. Don’t fight the bars or natural tracking of the bike…stay loose on the handle bars and ride it out.

5. KNOW YOUR LIMITS…self explanatory. Adjust speed accordingly, and remember you can always turn around and paddle out with your feet. Be careful, however, of hitting the rear passenger pegs when you “Paddle” with your feet down.

6. LOOK UP and LOOK AHEAD. You have all heard about “target fixation”….you will go where you are looking. If you are looking at the rut or stone right in front of you, you will hit it. If you are looking up ahead and down the road, your God given sub-conscious reflexes and coordination skills will get you there…get you exactly to where you are looking.

7. Balance and Body Position. Unlike being on a paved race track, in the dirt or gravel, your weight should be on the OUTSIDE of a turn…shift weight by standing on or putting pressure on the right or left foot peg, right or left side of the seat if on a HD, and keep weight OFF the handlebars. Remember, light and loose on those bars.  Going UP HILL…move weight to the front, going DOWN HILL move weight to the rear.

OK…saddle up and find a gravel road and practice.  You’ll now LOVE the gravel!  You’ll then sell your “styling cruiser” and go out and buy a dual sport adventure touring bike.

“The Adventure Starts where the pavement ends”