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Old 06-11-2012, 12:43 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by tedder View Post
Is this your first bike? First offroad?
Not my first bike, but my dirt experience is limited. I wrote up my first real experience with the S10 on a dirt road here:

I'm not looking to get into any crazy difficult terrain, but that little trip was a blast. Even if it scared the s out of me once or twice.

Keep the tips coming. I'm all about benefiting from your collective experience.
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Old 06-11-2012, 01:09 PM   #17
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still use the front brake.

on lighter bikes, i like to lock up the rear and make it plow sometimes. not sure that would be good on a big bike, though.

but, still the front brake is very important. definitely use it a lot when going straight and not over obstacles. release it to allow the front tire to roll over any obstacle and then get back on it after the obstacle. release it as much as you need to while turning.

you can actually use the front brake a lot more than you might think in gravel and loose dirt...even while turning. i suggest getting a feel for your particular bike by experimenting on flat gavel roads or the like at first. start out slowly and applying just a little front brake in a straight line. gradually increase how much brake you use...and then how fast you start off. until you start to skid the front. once you are comfortable braking just to the point of skidding the front in a straight line, repeat the whole exercise except while turning. that way, you will develop a feel for how much front brake you can use on your particular bike in different situations.

but, the two keys, imho, to stopping going downhill or going very slowly downhill are:

1. do use your front brake.

2. let off the front brake when the front tire is going over an obstacle. release the brake before the obstacle...roll over the obstacle...then reapply the front brake.


the real key to riding downhills in dirt and gravel is...don't try to stop. just keep riding as though you are on flat ground. it seems scary and counterintuitive at first, but it is way easier, uses a lot less energy, makes you *less* likely to crash, and you ride faster to boot. use the brakes to keep yourself from picking up too much speed and getting too out of control (especially if there are switchbacks), but, go ahead and ride down the hill...don't try to stop the whole way down. you can stop amazingly quickly once you get to the bottom (you don't even need a long run out at the bottom). the day that i really got that was, for me, one of those "aha!" moments that made riding much easier and more enjoyable from that day out.
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Old 06-11-2012, 01:29 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by GoGoGavin41 View Post
I ride gravel aggressively with the abs on and use both brakes at all times. I have a feeling this video has more to do with the rider than electronics.

...que abs argument...
I did sort of wonder a bit about the skill of the rider in that video - pity there were not some side view cameras of the same incident.

That said for safety purposes the off roads skills course in the UK uses BMW F650, F800 and R1200 GS models that have all had their ABS systems disabled for the year they are run by the course. The ABS is re-enabled when the beaten up rides hit the market for sale.
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Old 06-11-2012, 04:01 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by viverrid View Post
The front brake still has most of the stopping power. ESPECIALLY on a steep downhill where they will be even less weight than usual on the rear tire..

In really loose stuff, a lot of the stopping can come from "plowing" up a pile of the loose material ahead of a briefly locked or "partially locked" (yeah, oxymoron) tire. Unfortunately ABS often won't allow this and will release the braking, leaving you with a "no brakes" feeling. This is why many experienced riders prefer to turn off ABS for loose conditions.

If you want to stop most effectively in loose downhill conditions, use the brakes. If you have sufficiently planned ahead so as not to need maximum effectiveness, then engine braking and rear braking could be enough and will require less attention to the front. Your choice. Going too fast into a steep loose downhill so that you need to save it before you crash into oncoming traffic is like overcooking a corner entry. The better approach is to not be in that situation to begin with.


I'm a heavy front braker in all conditions. I prefer to get on the front as much as possible (it's all about feel), then bring the rear brake in and let the rear slide a bit if need be. At the not-a-rally a couple months ago I got called a nut. We were traversing a VERY VERY VERY steep downhill section with DEEP gravel. I was in second gear and accelerating hard down the hill and passed a fellow rider heading towards a right/left combo that was even steeper. I got on the front binder then slid the rear a bit through both changes of direction. Afterwards, the guy I passed said I was a nut job. I do it all the time and have yet to dump in a situation such as that.

The front has much more stopping power than you might think, even in loose stuff.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:29 PM   #20
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First off, this in not on gravel, so adjust your technique as required. This is what I do on a steep downhill snow- & ice-covered surface: Feet down and sliding. Engine off. Transmission in 1st gear. Releasing the clutch to slip it - gently - is like applying the rear brake. Use all the front brake traction allows. If things start going to hell in a handbasket, I bring it to a full stop and start over. If the bike won't come to a stop upright , then I toss it onto its side and bail. Trust gravity to get it to the bottom of the hill with me or without me.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:34 PM   #21
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Going Downhill

Little Red Toyota and B.Curvin are giving good advice, but what they are doing requires an enormous amount of experience. In the video, the GS rider dumped it because he was going too slow and he used the front brake. Using the front brake in gravel, especially when leaned, is usually an instant wash out of the front tire. On hard pack you can do what you want and keep traction as long as you're not going too slow. As Little Red Toyota mentioned, doing what's counter intuitive by staying slightly on the gas or blipping the throttle to keep from going too slow when going downhill takes practice. You have to override your mind's instincts to slow down. I use engine braking, some throttle, and slightly drag the back brake on downhills. Using the front brake in that situation requires a lot of skill.

Although it's geared to road riding, here's what I had to say about front braking in my book, Accident-Free Riding:

Many new riders fear using the front brake, but they needn't worry.
A motorcycle can be steered with out the front wheel turning.

Just don't use the front brake at low speeds when you're leaning or it may

lose traction and "wash out".

It also applies to off-road riding.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:40 PM   #22
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F800GS ABS + washboard = zero brakes.

Turn it off.

Dunno about the other models.
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:29 PM   #23
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As always it's the front brake that stops you. The rear brake helps in good traction...

Use the rear brake, engine braking, clutch and throttle to keep the bike tracking, allow the bike to roll over obstacles and brake ( all brakes) wherever you can get traction to control your speed, try to keep the wheels rolling.

Use the front brake to control your speed. If it locks, release it and get back on it...

On a long hill, scrub speed as much as you need when you can, some spots won't have enough traction... Don't start out too fast.
A blip of throttle will help you get around that corner that you're sliding into.
Stand up, hang your ass over the back of the bike and let the bike move around under you, ride the bike over the obstacles, that's what the suspension is for.
Keep looking out ahead of the bike... where you want to go.

"A hill is just a straight stretch on an incline" Once you get used to it you can ride it that way.

ABS seems like almost exactly the wrong thing for a poor traction dirt situation. Turn it off.

If you really are out of control and accelerating with no hope of regaining control... maybe you should just get off the bike....
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Old 06-12-2012, 05:17 AM   #24
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Viverrid has it right. Curvin' too. I must say I tend to drag the rear brake and use the front brake when the rear isn't enough. The main thing is not to get into a situation where the bike wants to runaway downslope on you. Patience and planning help when you're on a 500-600lb motorcycle. It's hard to get those things woa'd up.

Happens on trailbikes too, but usually it's the steepness of the decent that'll get ya.
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Old 06-12-2012, 05:30 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Alcan Rider View Post
First off, this in not on gravel, so adjust your technique as required. This is what I do on a steep downhill snow- & ice-covered surface: Feet down and sliding. Engine off. Transmission in 1st gear. Releasing the clutch to slip it - gently - is like applying the rear brake. Use all the front brake traction allows. If things start going to hell in a handbasket, I bring it to a full stop and start over. If the bike won't come to a stop upright , then I toss it onto its side and bail. Trust gravity to get it to the bottom of the hill with me or without me.
I've used that method once, only time I've ever dumped my bike in the winter , with feet as outriggers I balance my body, not the bike, when the bike dumped right between my legs, I was still standing, never again, I ride with feet on pegs
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:46 AM   #26
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Hardest part here is that, unlike pavement, there are so SO many different kinds of gravel and gravel coverage conditions that what works well one place may suck in another. The only thing that really works is getting out and riding in enough conditions (hopefully without falling off) to learn how, where and when to do under what conditions. That really only comes through practice...

BUT that said, finding what others have done and tried gives hint to things to try and practice. Heck, there were racers - good racers - back in the early 70s that still "bulldogged" their bikes down loose rocky trails in desert racing. That is where they actually get off the bike and work it down hill as they walk along side it. Not much of a practice now to my knowledge, but when they were running desert sled 650 twins with fat 4.00-19s on the front it was a method.

I learned riding trials and off roading in general, so I had a fair amount of knowledge beforehand. On really loose stuff, thinking of a few places I ride, I am in 1st or 2nd working clutch/throttle and brakes. Very light front, more rear, and clutch/throttle to keep the rear wheel turning. The loose stuff in those cases is so slippery the front could easily wash out, the rear can lock and a sliding rear wheel is like no brake at all. Thus keeping the rear wheel turning keeps some traction. But that is simply one kind of situation. One of them is relatively similar to the OP's situation, I have to come to a stop at the bottom of a bit of a hill, but it has egg size limestone on it.

One thought not mentioned is to do what the trials often taught me. Obviously look for the clearest bare spot possible (tire tracks) where the gravel may be thinnest. If there is any bit of banking or very shallow tire gullies (not to be confused with a damn rut!) either inside or out use it to stop the front from sliding out. You're trying to find where the corner has some inward camber rather than flat or off camber. The inward camber will counteract the outward push, where flat or off camber may make the front or rear wash out easier. I tend to get to the inside as much as possible (when you can see no traffic will be coming at you) in most cases because that is often where the gravel may be thinnest there as cars tend to force it toward the outside and everyone cutting in close on corners may put a shallow track there for the wheel. It's all observation while entering though to pick the best line.

Take what is learned, apply and learn. Nothing is fixed when it comes to gravel. I just don't see a "Keith Code - Riding Gravel" book coming out soon, it'd have to have more volumes than the World Book Encyclopedia (for those of you who remember what encyclopedias were).
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:33 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by CafeRacer99 View Post
What are your tips for riding downhill on gravel? The scenario is a big bike, Super Ten in my case but any big bike, going down a fairly steep switchback gravel road with some six-inch loose rock thrown in as well.

Are you on the front brake as well as the back? Are you using engine braking or no? How about when you have to come to a full stop to wait for traffic going uphill? ABS?

In your case, just letting the ABS do its job might be the best option.

Disclaimer: I don't own a Super Tenere (XT1200Z) but there are several posts of Super Tenere owners that are astonished at how well the ABS works in those conditions (slippery downhill), especially compared with the BMW ABS which has made us all believe that any ABS must be turned off for anything off-pavement.
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:00 AM   #28
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A-------------Plan ahead! Don't outride your ability or the conditions! DUH!!!
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:14 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by car94 View Post
A-------------Plan ahead! Don't outride your ability or the conditions! DUH!!!
B---- learn how to ride dirt on a dirtbike, not a goldwing with dualsport tires.

It's amazing how much you can learn on, say, a DR200 or DR650 or CRF230.
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:32 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by EggChaser View Post
I did sort of wonder a bit about the skill of the rider in that video -
Would he have been better off turning the engine off with the key? Bike not on, no ABS, right? (Those behemoths don't have "power brakes" like a car where the engine needs to be sucking vacuum to pwer the brakes, do they?)

I don't say "ride down in neutral" after turning it off, because in case the rider gets thrown OR loses his grip on the bike while trying to dismount, the bike could ghost down and pick up major speed. And possibly damage a bike or injure a rider waiting below. Leave it in 1st and pull in the clutch to roll, so that if the operator loses the bike it will stop and fall over.
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