Thread: Yamaha XT500
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Old 04-23-2008, 08:40 PM   #68
Sycamore's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2006
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Oddometer: 1,697
Originally Posted by NamibFox
Hi guys. I thought I'd go and do a bit of practicing in some loose sand with my newly acquired XT today. I find that she is all over the show in the sand, even with reduced tyre pressures. There is obviously a trick to sand riding. I would appreciate any tips in this regard please!

P.S. I've been out of the saddle for 15 years now, so it's back to baby steps. What training routine would you advise to slowly build my skill level up so that I can ride on any loose surfaces with absolute confidence?

Hey Chris

I've you've been out of the saddle for a long time, and you go into soft sand, it's going to feel very weird - like you say, "all over the show". You lose a lot of the control that normally you take for granted, and that takes getting used to.

You can make it a bit better by keeping off the front brake and using the throttle aggressively (give more power when you feel like you're losing it) and keeping your weight back, but basically soft sand has a lot to do with just learning to live with that "almost out of control" feeling, and relaxing.
It gets better and better.

In soft stuff, think of the bike as a boat - you've got to keep the front end light to stop it digging in. That means weight back, and lots of throttle to keep the front up. Cornering is hard - as you slow down, front tends to dig in, and you drop the bike. So corner in a bigger arc, shift your weight to the peg in the direction u want to turn, and keep the power on.

Here's 2 threads with some good tips:

And I'll cut-and-paste this from the first thread.... worth a read:



Everything following is about soft sand....

Like people have said, stay loose on the bike - let the bike jump around and weave around beneath you. It will keep direction. It feels awful at first, just gotta get used to it. Look further ahead than usual - find a line and guide the bike there - forget about micro-steering. First reaction on soft sand is, "this feels all wrong". Just keep doing it, it becomes natural.

Keep your weight back. The idea is to keep the front end light. When the bike feels real unstable, give more gas, it will fix itself. When in doubt, give more power!
Instinct tells you to slow down when losing control. In soft sand, do the opposite. Speed & momentum are your friends - lose either one, and things can go bad.
Watch out when slowing down, try to avoid too much front brake - the front will want to dig in. Try to keep the gas on even when you're slowing. This makes for sudden stops.

You can deflate tires very low - i go down to 8psi if the sand is very soft. Normally 10 psi on sand for me. (Dunlop 908)
Don't sit - bike is more stable on soft sand when standing. It needs to move around a bit. Grip the bike with legs to avoid back and arm fatigue.

If you're doing a lot of soft sand, a steering damper is a good investment.

If you're riding a 4-stroke, keep in as high gear as possible, even if your revs drop low, you have plenty of torque to drive you. Use that low end torque.
Riding in low gear tires you out, gets the bike hot, and digs the bike in. Depending on the bike, you can probably use 2nd gear to pull away and go up from there.

Corner with your weight and with the throttle - put your weight on one peg to shift the weight, this will turn you. Imagine you are surfing on the bike... Sharp turns will dig the front wheel in - no good.

Stay within your limits, try to get a rhythm going.

Riding in soft sand & dunes is very, very mental - think / feel positive and you will ride much better. Try to feel very loose and fluid, and be the boss of the bike, if that makes sense. Let the bike move freely beneath you, don't grip too tight.

Riding with someone experienced and following their tracks is a very good idea, as long as they know your limits and don't take you places that get you into trouble. You can learn a lot by seeing what line they take through dunes.

Dunes...... - start small.
Don't try crossing the face of a dune at angle unless you're very, very good. Always climb and descend dunes straight up and straight down, at 90 degrees to the face of the dune.
When climbing a dune, get some speed up and keep the power on, don't back off. Just as you get to the to of the dune (maybe 1-2 metres before), throttle off a bit, you will lose speed immediately, and use your momentum to carry you over. Use this brief slowing to take a look over the top and see whats on the down side. The bike can handle very steep down-sides, just keep your nerve, go for it and stay on the power.
But its a very rare COMPLETE drop-off (i.e. a vertical fall) on the other side, probably better to jump away the bike at this point Falling down a dune is better without a bike below you.
You don't get much time to make a judgement when going over the lip, maybe half a second or less. It's got a lot to do with instinct. Hesitation can cause you to get stuck, try to keep momentum at all times. That means thinking / sesning things very quickly.

If you need to fully stop at the top of a dune to survey the other side (a good idea if its a very big dune and you don't know what's over the top), using the same technique of throttling off VERY near the lip, just one or 2 metres, and let your momentum carry you over - you want to come to a stop with your front wheel over the lip. This takes practice to judge speed.
If you throttle off a second too soon and come to a stop before the lip of the dune, you'll have a very hard time getting over - bike will dig in when u want to move. Basically always try to avoid stopping on a steep uphill slope in soft sand. If this does happen to you, get off the bike, stand next to it and give power, and "walk" it to the top. Then get on and ride down.

Keep your eyes far ahead, try to read the dunes. They happen in patterns / waves. Try to spot the patterns, if you're getting into really big stuff and you can't deal with it, get out of that area, don't go deeper, cos its usually going to get worse before it gets better.

Never ride alone out of sight of civilization.
Rider communication is a big problem in desert - if your buddy is riding 50 yards ahead and you keep on losing sight of him over dunes, and he's going deeper into big dunes and you wanna get out....
or, you've dropped the bike in deep sand and he's disappeared - these are bum situations.
So, small 2 way radios are a damn good idea - they have saved me and buddies from many problems. Clip it near your shoulder, you can hear calls above engine noise and u can talk without removing your helmet. Mobile phones just dont work well in those situations.

Try to agree with your buddies BEFORE you start up, about routes, and what degree of difficulty you can do.
Once you're riding it's TOO LATE. You are going to lose 50% or more of communication ability once you are in the dunes. Don't rush to get moving. TAKE TIME to secure your gear and talk - if you're not comfortable about route or what you're gonna be doing, say so and agree on something else. I've gotten into bad situations out there by not discussing the ride beforehand, everybody rushing. Confusion and /or disagreement out there on the dunes is a bad situation. There's a very fine line between having a good ride and things getting out of control.
Agree beforehand about a plan of action, if one of you gets lost or into difficulty. This sounds heavy but take safety seriously. Can't emphasize this enough. COMMUNICATE BEFORE YOU RIDE.

If you drop the bike, first thing to do is turn off the gas tank fuel line, to stop it flooding. Then pick up the bike.
If you drop the bike on the face of a dune (it WILL happen ) and you need to pull it round to face down so you can ride down again, first grab the front wheel (while the bike is still lying down) and drag it round so its facing the right direction, then pick the bike up. This sounds hard, but it's a lot easier than picking up the bike, and then trying to turn it around.

Picking up a bike in soft sand (repeatedly ) can take a lot of valuable energy, find the easiest possible way to do it. Using the very end of the handlebar gives you a surprising amount of leverage and makes it much easier. A good way is to pick up the bike using the handlebar on the "bottom" side of the bike, when it's lying down.

Getting stuck....When the back wheel digs in and you get stuck... just using a bit too much power when not moving, can cause the back end to sink in fast, so the bike is sitting on the bash-plate or bottom of the frame. Basically you're deep in sand, up to your rear axle, if u know what I mean....

In this situation, turn off the gas at the tank, kill the engine, then lie the bike down on its side. This takes time, you need pull and jerk slowly to overcome the "suctiion" of the sand. You might need to move sand with your hands to clear the back wheel. When the bike is finally on its side, fill in the hole where the back wheel was, then pick the bike up again. It will now be on top of the sand again.

Lastly, get fit - riding in soft sand is VERY physical, know your limits especially in heat. Carry a lot of water. When you're overheating and tired, just picking up the bike out of soft sand on a steep dune can be a freak-out. Heat seriously affects your judgment - you become irrational make bad decisions without knowing it.

And very lastly, have fun!!!!! Don't push yourself beyond what you can do. Unless you want to compete - then it's a different story I guess.

Some videos here:


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