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How do you deal with gravel?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by Jabba, Nov 11, 2014.

  1. I had a bit of an off about 4 weeks back and am just about to get back on the bike. My off was due to gravel I didn't see and I am pretty sure I am going to be ultra paranoid and skittish when I put my arse back in the seat. My question is how do you deal with it when can see it and more importantly how to when you can't see it or its too late to avoid?

  2. I hear you mate, gravel is scary stuff. I try not to panic and try to keep the bike as upright as possible and cruise through it off the throttle. Try not to do anything too suddenly. Hard front braking is a very bad idea. If its mid corner while the bike is over get it upright as quick as u can. If u come across a big load of gravel in your braking area your in the shit, I don't know what advice to give you for that situation.
  3. The wheel tracks are usually clear and the gravel is between them and on corners often pushed to the inside about where you want to apex. If you're on a wide line you get a look through the corner and can often stand it up and stick to the wheel track. One reason to hang off a bit is you can keep it more upright. Apart from that keep loose when it goes and don't chop the throttle.
  4. If you don't see it and its just a small patch you should be able to ride through it if you keep loose and looking ahead, the bike can recover from front or rear wheel sliding out.
  5. One thing I'd say is don't let your off make you too skittish about gravel -- hitting it doesn't inevitably put you down, and it seems you were unlucky that time. I've had two gravel slides in the last couple of weeks, one fast and one slow, and I stayed upright both times fairly gracefully. I don't attribute either 'success' to skill (I'm a novice), and am well aware my luck could change.

    Obviously you'll want to take all the advice you can to increase your chances of getting through next time, but don't let your one bad experience colour your perception of the risk too much.
  6. Best advice is don't break, don't panic. Stay cool, stay as upright as possible and coast through. If you're nervous, the panic is more likely to take you off than the gravel itself. Tough call, obviously, but try to keep it in mind.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. On the up side if your bike is scratched up, now is a good time to practice emergency braking and dealing with front wheel lock ups since it won't hurt as much scratching an already hurt bike ;)
  8. For me, the first thing is you've GOT to see it. I'm a bit obsessive about scanning the road for hazards like gravel.
    I agree with above, ease off the throttle (not snap it off), pick up the bike, choose the best available line and allow the bike to do what it wants 'til I'm through the other side.
    Sometimes that includes all-but-letting-go of the bars.
    I'll allow it to run wide if it wants to, unless it's too dangerous.
    If it's hard to see, I may get an indication of slight nervous movements from the tyres, which is also an indication to go 'light' on the inputs and get more upright.
    Very little or no braking.
    A bit of dirt road practise in controlled conditions will do your road riding a world of good, especially if you've had that kind of off. To this day I have to force myself to relax on dirt, but it works.
  9. You can hear gravel when you cant see it. It tinkles on the radiator,
    Depending on how deep the gravel is, How far your over in a corner, Whether your sliding in it already or not,
    I stand the bike up straight, Hopefully with enough room to go past the gravel before leaning over again and continuing the corner,
    Or just stopping with the bike up straight, even if it means running off the side of the road till you get your speed down,
    There are a lot of Variables that come into it, Ride to the conditions, If there are patches of gravel, Keep your speed down,
    You wont be riding at the speed limit on gravel, You will be well under it, If you see gravel, Slow down for it, Before your in it, Take care,
  10. #10 smileedude, Nov 11, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
    Depends on what gear you are in but taking the throttle off while crossings the gravel can lead to deceleration and loss of traction.

    If you are revving high then keep some throttle on.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. If you are concerned about gravel, maybe intentionally find some and practice on it. Car parks, gravel roads and road work areas all provide riding challenges, and getting used to how the bike handles on the gravel would be useful. I live in a gravel road, with a tight 90 degree corner in it, so I got used to how it handles pretty quickly.
  12. Thanks for the advise guys and sorry I haven't replied sooner. Work has been a bugger.

    I think what I am really worried about is how I crashed. I didn't see the gravel, I got the front wheel into it and then I was on the deck. I didn't have time to react, i was on the bike then I wasn't.

    But if I do have time to react, it's keep it as upright as I can to get around the corner, loosen up and light inputs. Nothing jerky.

    The most important thing I need to improve on is my awareness of the road surface and being able to anticipate that kind of stuff.

    Sound about right?

    Oh and I like the idea of looking for gravel to practice in. I might get around to that after I do a training course of some sort and get my confidence back up.
  13. It's strange - I don't mind riding on gravel roads - doesn't faze me. But if there's even so much as a hint of gravel on a bitumen road - I take it really easy...
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. I speak very sternly to it :)
    • Like Like x 1
  15. lol, me too. I think its because the gravel sits on top of the bitumen, so it rolls over the surface and creates a conveyor belt like situation.
  16. That's been my thoughts as well.
  17. The smaller width bars on many road bikes makes it difficult for subtle and relaxed riding on dirt and gravel. The big 250kg adventure bikes have no trouble as the wide high bars allow a relaxed rider to feel comfortable as the bike moves around under them. These can be piloted quite well even with road tyres, and slippage can be utilised under power to steer the bike with the rear.
  18. Don't beat yourself up over your stack. Even the best rider on the planet would have very little chance of not going down if they were tipped over in a corner and hit a patch of unseen gravel.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. You don't find gravel on tarmac far more sketchy than just gravel and dirt?
  20. I deal with as much gravel (only) as I have to, these days. My previous two bikes were larger trail bikes, and gravel was just fine, just throttle on and go where I want to go - a patch of gravel or sand on bitumen being the exception. On the scale of things - a little bit, but easier, than some of the liquids that vehicles spill on the road and often easier to see.

    I learned a few things the hard way, once running out of nerve which had me running out of road and out into the weeds on a curve that came up a bit quick on me once, another time, I closed the throttle suddenly when the gravel road I was on turned to super slippery clay, rather than try to ride it out. I probably could have, but panicked and didn't. OOPS I did ride that bit of road quite happily wet on occasions later on. And no, I never rode on knobbies, as most of my riding was on bitumen, I used dual purpose tyres.

    Learning that judicious use of power on loose or slippery surfaces was the answer, was a revelation. To come to this, (after initially not believing it) I made many passes down a bitumen road with a gravel shoulder - The first one was not cambered steeply, driving off and along the shoulder at maybe 30 kph, then a little faster and faster again, and then discovered that with power on, the rear would drift a little, but it all felt good and was controllable enough so long as I was under power. So I tackled a few other locations with looser gravel, steeper cambers. Similar result - a bit of drift, a sense of control with the power on. There were always going to be limits. Hey, doing this on a cambered shoulder is a bit like going around a corner insofar as the lateral slip factor is concerned, so migrated to a suitable sandy gravel road with a nice flat turn in it and discovered it was pretty much the same, and if one was going to run wide, it would be from chickening out and trying to slow down mid corner unless one was just going WAY too fast to begin with. So I played with familiar gravel corners for a while until I became comfy losing the adhesion while crossing the loose gravel or sand "hump" and became accustomed to the return of accurate tracking once I had drifted across it far enough to get into the other wheel rut. You can learn these things by going slow, increasing the speed by increments and much repetition.

    Now I ride road bikes. (one is 170 kg, the other maybe 230) The steering geometry of neither of my bikes favours gravel or sand. They are comparatively "twitchy" in the grooved sand that I used to ride with impunity due to a shorter "trail" in the front forks. Arms become steering dampers at times to keep that little wobble from becoming a big one in the deep stuff. The same principles about keeping the power on and avoid hard braking apply, remembering that road tyres don't have nearly as much lateral grip and there really isn't any joy in big corrugations, no matter what you ride. I've still put these bikes through the process. No, they are not as stable as the trailies were, particularly in deep sand or deep loose gravel and I would not ride onto a cambered shoulder at the open road limit, as I would on the trail bikes but it's been a useful exercise in that I know what speed I'm comfortable at to leave the bitumen, and on gravel roads there aren't any surprises. Most important of all, I know the limitations of the bikes and my own nerve beyond "oh shit, this doesn't feel good"

    Gravel takes practice, just like anything else.
    • Informative Informative x 3