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How to Ride in Deep Sand on Adventure Bikes

How to Ride in Deep Sand on Adventure Bikes

As adventure riders Eventually, we’re gonna end up in sand and if you have the right attitude and the right technique, it’s just not that big a deal. When you get into that deep sand, you’re gonna feel that front end moving left and right It’s gonna be shifting in your hand You can feel the back of the bike squirming around underneath you and you’ve got to stay relaxed You’ll hear lots of people say add throttle and hold on They might even tell you shift back add throttle and hold on but the problem is eventually you’re gonna run out of throttle and you’re gonna be going way faster than you want to crash and with a 500 pound or 600 pound adventure bike. It’s just not a real good idea. So we want to slow it down I’m gonna give you some ideas on how to ride an adventure bike through deep sand So we have to start with the basics and that is just vision You don’t want to be looking down at the front fender and that the sand direct you in front of you have to be looking Out the distance because sand changes and you have to be ready to anticipate what’s coming up next so keep the vision out far Stay loosely connected to your controls. We’re not holding on tight. We’re just maintaining contact so that I have control of the throttle and the clutch when I need them that way if the bike moves around I wrap these Two fingers around the handlebars and my handlebars are loose inside this way If I go into the sand and I miscalculate something I hit a rock I don’t see where the sand gets a little deep and it pulls a little farther than I expect when the handlebars turn I follow the handlebars and I’m still in control if I hold on tight the bike can’t track into that sand and then self-correct What makes sand feel so scary is that it moves more than almost any other? Surface out there the wheel is constantly moving back and forth, but the sand creates a damping effect That means this as the will is kicked off center it can’t self right as Quickly because it has to come back through the sand it slows it down and then it goes off the other direction So you feel this very large movement and very deliberate change in the handlebars It does exactly the same thing as when we’re on pavement. It’s just on pavement There’s no resistance so itself centers very very quickly and you don’t feel it The motorcycle wants to stay upright and it wants to keep going straight Rake and trail is what keeps that motorcycle going in a straight line It’s the angle of the forks and the relationship between the steering axis and the axle. Let’s talk about that a bit No, no, I can’t I can’t wait. I need to handle this now Oh Hey Ryan, can you take this? Oh, hey, Bret. I’m sure Gyroscopic forces of a spinning wheel are part of what makes it want to stay upright But even you’re not that fast in the sand so spinning forces Not super huge and like you say rake and trail deserves to take more credit rake Is this angle from the steering head and what it does? Is it put the steering axis up here ahead of the contact patch and this distance is what we call trail Now, let’s look at this picture of the front tire From the top down. Here’s our contact patch Here’s our steering axis, now say we hit a rift in the sand and it pushes the tire in that direction Well because of countersteering that’s going to make the motorcycle lean Over here and a leaning motorcycle pushes back this way on its contact patch now that force Spinning around our steering axis is going to point the tire straight again The tire and the motorcycle will always work and move together to keep it upright. You’ve got to let those movements happen Every time that wheel is pulled off Center it wants to come back to middle and as it gets pushed off the next direction it wants to come back and if you’re holding on tight to the handlebars you Don’t allow the bike to do that recovery And it’s much more likely to bury into the sand and pitch you on the ground The other thing that will put you down is the throttle if you close that throttle quickly if you just snap it shut you’re going to do a weight transfer and it’s gonna shift to that front wheel and it’s gonna bury it down to the sand and Down you go You have to stay coupled to the bike with your knees now Well, your body stays in one place and the bike moves freely about to squirm in the sand Keep your feet up and tight against the motorcycle down the pegs your right foot You want to be just over the top of the rear brake so you can use that when you need it When people tell you add throttle and hold on what they’re saying is you need to keep the front little up high But on these bikes at some point you’re gonna run out of throttle and you’re gonna be going way faster than you want to be going so let’s slow it down and Find another way to keep the front wheel up above the sand and the way you do that is Trail the rear brake when you start trailing the rear brake or dragging the rear brake It’ll pull the back of the motorcycle down to the sand just very lightly at the same time I can also shift back on the bike which will put my weight behind Those both will help get that front wheel up. I’m not gonna cut power in the sand I’m gonna trim power when you cut power you roll the throttle off when you trim power you use the clutch Just to feather in so you decrease the amount of power that’s going to the back wheel Because you’re dragging the rear brake as well and you don’t want to stall the motor and you don’t want to stop the forward momentum Once you stop and sand it’s a lot harder to get going again. It’s much easier just to keep moving Attitude is important when riding and sand as long as you’re scared of sand or you don’t look forward to sand you’re gonna keep struggling It’s really important to practice in sand until it doesn’t scare you anymore when you get scared You naturally tense up you naturally drop your eyes and that’s just gonna create the situation you’re trying to avoid You’re gonna end up down in the sand picking it up trying to get the bike going burning up energy breaking stuff That’s just not the goal here Practice is important find some deep sand someplace practice the techniques and tell it Until you have a smile on your face. This can be a lot of fun But if you’re grimacing this is not a smile This is a smile have fun with it that way when you’re on the trip And you see some sand it’s not a big deal. You just ride through it

100 comments on “How to Ride in Deep Sand on Adventure Bikes

  1. What I learned from this video:

    Hold on loosely, don't let go.
    If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control.

    That kind of sounds like a song….eh, nevermind, it won't sell.

  2. Real nice learnings. As said, in deep sand the handlebar is moving left and right and could bring you to fall. If YOU move the handlebar left and right, you'll find it easier to keep control.

  3. Зачем все он все время дрочит сцепление и задний тормоз. Долго, нет он по пустыне так проедет? Газовать надо в песке.

    … And the rest what he said!

  5. Awesome. Did a lot of deep sand last summer in Colorado. Found myself in a spot where the sand went on and on and on and… for hundreds of feet. I knew enough to know I didn't want to stop and I got through it, but it wasn't fun. I didn't hate it, but it definitely wasn't fun. I'll go back there when the snow is gone and practice, practice, practice.

  6. Bret, Great, Great videos. Please keep them coming. My biggest problem in deep sand is getting going. I add gas and the back wheel spins a grave as it tosses the loose sand back into my friends faces. I noticed your video doesn't really tackle the hassles of getting the bike going in the first place. Once I'm riding on the sand things seem to go fairly well until I approach a crest and need to slow to see over it before I go tumbling into space. At this point, sometimes I lose momentum and then I have to get off, rotate the bike downhill, pull out the back wheel, fill in the hole and muscle the bike back up to speed. I need the best techniques to do this. Can you help out with a video on getting the bike moving in deep sand?

    Ryan, great explanation of Rake and Trail! So if wheelies aren't permitted in the drive through; can I at least do donuts in the Tim Horton's parking lot?

  7. Great video tutorial! I was out on the dirt & some sand early this week & this really helped me go through without getting stuck nor dropping my GSA. It really was scary at 1st but felt very rewarding when I got through without a scratch. Everything said on this video is absolutely true & correct! Bret, pls. correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you turned off your ABS when you were making this video?

  8. If the bike "wanted" to ride in a straight line on the sand, you could ride around no handed all day on sand, which you can't, unless the sand was perfectly smooth. Bottom line is handlebar input is REQUIRED to ride in the sand, but you have to let all the forces the sand puts on your front tire average out. Kind of like sailing and holding the tiller in waves, you don't steer every single second based on the nose of your yacht because the waves make your pointing direction fluctuate back and forth. In the yacht situation, you steer the average pointing direction. And notice sand and the ocean both form waves because they behave like fluids, due to liquefaction in the case of sand.

    One thing I'm really surprised wasn't mentioned (unless I missed it) was center of gravity and moment of inertia. The reason Dakar rally bikes are so tall is because you want to separate the mass from the rotation point (the ground) as far as moments acting on the bike causing it to lean left or right. That is why you "stand in the sand", to get your body weight up higher. But then comes the more important part, if you are too loose with your legs, your moment of inertia (read greater force required to move about a rotation axis) will not be increased as much because the bike is leaning independently of you. Keep your legs snug against the bike, forcing it to rotate you every time it wants to lean one way or the other. Not ridiculously tight, but not loose either.

    Sand is all about "going with the flow". You can control the bike, you just can't micro-manage it. Give yourself LOTS of extra space to speed up, slow down, turn, avoid obstacles, etc. Tire pressure is BIG BIG BIG too, obviously. If you don't have a small pump with you, you should. A few PSI down in the front and rear will make an enormous difference for large areas of sand.

    Weight front to back is important, too little weight on the front and you will have a harder time steering, too much on the back and you might bog down (b/c you don't have paddle tires) and because sand gets muddy/wet/boggy/silty at times.

    AFA speed, he said "don't ride too fast" but you do want a bit of speed in general. Don't use throttle as a "get out of jail free" card but keep your speed up to give the bike a bit more momentum to carry it in a straight line.

    I honestly find sand to be an incredibly fun material to ride in because it gives you amazing muscle memory as you are constantly correcting a bike that has all these small forces acting on it in weird ways.

    Great video series though.

  9. For those who would like to understand a bit more about two wheeled (or two skated) vehicle stability, check out

  10. I will not do wheelies in Tim Hortons driveway… I will not …. LMAO. The best trainer with the best reviewer. What more can one ask for? Great tips. Not ready for it yet though……

  11. Hi
    Great vedeos, well explained, makes total sense. Thank you. I don't know much about motorcycle mechanics, therefore my question is: is it ok to keep you clutch partially engaged for longer time? It's not gonna overheat or something? I'm unexperienced off-road rider, it's all new to me.

  12. Everything these guys are saying is ON POINT!

    If you're new and/or scared of sand, listen again and again! Then listen/watch one more time and get your moto out there and practice. Once you get good in sand you'll be a sand surfer and can share these tips and your new found experience with others! 😁👍

  13. I used to ride a 1100xx blackbird, but due to soreness in shoulders and back ( ok it’s an age thing )I purchased a Triumph Tiger 1200. Awsome bike and so comfortable. I am getting a lot out of these videos and so much to learn. I wish these guys were out here in Australia.
    Thanks 😁

  14. Thank you for this video! I had seen it some weeks before. Yesterday I had my first deep sand experience and I reminded your tipps about.
    And…it works well!!! Your channel is the best!

  15. Hi Bret….Could you please tell me what front and rear tire were using in this video?Thanks and as always great video!

  16. Bret, thanks for another great instructional video. What are your thoughts and recommendations regarding tire pressures while riding in sand? Any differences between large ADV bikes (R1250GS, Super Tenere, etc) versus medium ADV bikes (KTM790, etc), and small dual sports (WR250R, CRF250)?

  17. Recently I subscribe to your channel. Thanks for sharing the info. Could you share a video for how to ride Royal Enfield himalaya in snow.

  18. Well I gotta say that there is way more skill to riding these than meets the eye!!!
    I have been on the hunt for one of these bikes for a couple of months & purchased a 2013 1200 GSA. The wife & I was out last night & encountered some sand & did not have a good experience. I ended up twisting my ankle trying to save the bike when I should have just let it lay on it's side. Plus for me I need more hr's on the bike before off roading with a passenger on loose surfaces. Anyhow I am very experienced dirt biker road for 20+ years and still ride currently. I have learned very quickly that these bike require a bit of a different skill set & theory of riding to get them to do what you want.  
    Humble Pie tastes like shit, but I am man enough to admit when I need more practice.
    I have been watching a lot of your vids & will continue to watch more of your library. I can only say thanks for the time & effort you put forth to make your videos in real life scenarios.  
    Putting more ice on the ankle and watching the next vid.
    Already can't wait to get back out & ride…

  19. So – Funny thing. I bought a 1250 GSA this spring. I have about 1300 miles on it right now. Last night I decided to turn down a gravel road. Turns out I had to ride a decent distance through some significant sand that I wasn't mentally prepared for or expecting. Thankfully I had watched this video and was able to remember enough to get through it. Thanks a ton for this content!

  20. Кто на русский может перевести – кратко и по теме??? Спасибо.

  21. Lol, of course I find this AFTER trying my hand at sand for the first time and wiping twice (thankfully just a broken OEM hand guard on the africa twin). Great content 🙂

  22. Great video as usual. Wish i would have seen it a couple of weeks ago before I found myself in some deep sand in the middle of nowhere in SW Montana. Had a hell of a time getting through it and probably wouldn't have if it weren't for a couple guys in a truck that were behind me and picked me up several times. Before i watched this, i would've thought it impossible to get through that crap.

  23. I did a lot of sand recently, but find that my arms get really tired from standing and hanging unto the handle bars, throttling, that works for me, until my arms go num from effort. Any advice on how my arm wont get tired when i am standing and riding Please. [email protected]

  24. I love the fact that I always come back to your videos to get a refresh lesson, as we forget the basics and keep doing the same mistakes when we ride. Also very happy you and Ryan teamed up on this video, you both are my favorite motorcycle YouTube Channels that I always look forward to watching and learning.

  25. It's really troublesome for me to run through sand on my R1200GS with Michelin Road 5, don't have enough experience, ride feels extremely unstable and any attempt for a somewhat sharp turn results in a dropped bike.
    Would knobbies make much of a difference?
    Talking about 50/50 and even more off-road oriented tires here.

  26. Conveniently, the video only discussed/illustrated going through deep sand in a straight line. What do you do when you are on a gravel road and you enter a curve with deep sand? Answer: You dump the bike and hope it doesn't land on you.

  27. Closest Tim Hortons to me is about a 2 hour ride. Maybe when I get my first bike I’ll go there and do some wheelies in the drive through. 🏍

  28. Shit I've got an acre of deep sand and trees. I play around out there sometimes and I like to think I've gotten decent at it.

  29. What a odd coincidence to see this vid today; yesterday on my off road bike ride, I fell in deep sand and sprain my left ancle(again) Now, I’m even more afraid of sand, and heavy KTM 1190 R. Guess, I need practice more

  30. But if you pull the break, doesn’t matter either rear or front, isn’t it gonna load the front wheel and burry it into that sand? Because when you are breaking the center of mass is being shifted forward… probably not if you won’t be slowing down

  31. Tips for turning in sand? I was up in Maine, and somehow found myself in a huge sandy area in the middle of an otherwise tame path in the woods. There were a few big hills that were scary to hit fast (Because of limited visibility) and yet the path was only 10 ft wide, with obstacles sometimes in it to go around. Steering around these and not stopping was so so so hard.

    I eventually stopped at one point when I dropped the bike, and while it wasn't hard to get back up, getting it moving again was nearly impossible and kept burying the back wheel and overheating the GS. Luckily I was able to walk out to the road and find someone in a pickup to help me get out. It was exhausting and scary.

    I need to find somewhere to practice it more, but I'm not aware of anywhere near RI to practice.

  32. Very educative video, thank you for posting it. One question though.. at 2:30 you say that the difference between pavement and the "worst case scenario: – sand in this case is that on pavement there is little resistance. I would think the exact opposite – on pavement you have way more resistance, that is why the wheel has more traction and it does not move that much side-to-side, centering alot quicker. On sand, because of the low traction, the self centering motion takes more less time and the tires move more from side to side because they have less resistance and that is why they create the dreaded "wobble" effect you need to be prepared for.

    Love your channel, love the detailed explanations, makes me a better rider so a big THANK YOU!

  33. What about when there are really deep 4×4 ruts in the beach? Should I ride in them or what? What if my wheel jumps out of the rut and all that, know what I'm saying?

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