Riding on a dune can be an amazing experience
Riding skills: how to ride across a sand dune
04 September 2009 10:30
The Paris-Dakar organisers have thoughtfully banned the dominant KTMs from entering, so now would an ideal time to dig out your XT600 winter hack and give it a stab. You’d be well advised to bone up of your desert riding skills though. Here Chris Scott, author of the book Desert Biking, gives us his tips for crossing a dune.
Step 1: Reduce tyre pressures
Going as low as 5psi lengthens your tyre’s footprint on the ground, so it acts more like a caterpillar track, increasing traction. The bike should track better like this as your bike’s tyres can bite the sand rather than burrow into it.
Step 2: Stand up on the pegs
As you approach the dune, stand up on the pegs and grip the tank with your knees for balance. You can see further ahead but the change in posture actually lowers your centre of gravity by putting your bodyweight through the pegs rather than the seat. This makes the bike more stable. Keep a slight bend in your legs to aid shock absorption.
Step 3: Slow down, then accelerate
Northing saps momentum like soft sand, but speed itself is not the key to making progress on it. Acceleration is what you need. Slow down to a speed at which you can accelerate all the way across the dune. This keeps the front wheel light and optimises traction at the back wheel.
Step 4: Drive down the other side
The same rules apply to riding down the dune as to riding up it. You must accelerate to counteract the tendency of the front wheel to plough a furrow deeper and deeper into the sand, which will eventually pitch you over the bars.
Step 5: Coming to a stop
Do not brake. Braking digs a trench for the front wheel it can be hard to get out of. Rely on the retarding effect of the sand if you want to stop and admire the view.