Gèni Cabré shared a link to the group: Kawasaki Versys.


Some helpful tips for our less experienced or more nervous riders.

Thank you Jude!

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  • Ok, so before I start, let me declare that I lived 5 miles from pavement for 13 years, and commuted throughout the spring summer and fall on gravel, as well as rode weekend trips, often on more gravel, so an average of a minimum of about 400 miles a month of gravel, 6 months a year, or something north of 30k miles of gravel riding.

    First, contrary to the off-road riding schools instructions, you don't need to stand on the pegs, and you don't need knobbie tire's, (I rode street bikes with street tire's the entire time I lived on gravel roads). I often wonder how the "you have to stand" crowd manage a full day of standing, say doing the Dempster Hwy, (about 500 miles). Particularly when it turns to clay mud.

    The riding position that works for me, is to scoot forward a bit on the seat, keep your elbows bent and high like a motocross rider, and gently squeeze the tank with your knees. The bent elbows prevent death grip when you're scared, and give you leverage on the bar when you need it. Squeezing the tank stabilizes your body with the bike, and reduces wobbles.

    I often ride super soft gravel one gear lower than normal, so that my rpms are in the sweet spot for quick acceleration. Front wheel wobble is the common problem in soft stuff, and a shot of acceleration will lighten up the front end, and help you control wobble with your arms. It's a bit counter intuitive and scary; but it works.

    The article seems to indicate that you shouldn't lean your bike on gravel; but I don't know how to go around corners without leaning. The trick, is to lean the bike; but not your body. To do that, just push the bike down into the turn, and stay completely upright on the saddle. In tight turns, you should feel the corner of the seat up the crack of your arse. This position will allow the you to remain stable on the bike, even when it slides a little in a turn, (your centre of gravity is directly over the bikes centre of gravity). If the bike slides a bit too much, keep looking where you want to go, and push the bike down as far as it needs to go to get there.

    I always found freshly layer or graded loose gravel the most intimidating. It's soft, your front tire wants to dig in, and go it's own way. It's scary as heck the first time you try it: but speed is the answer. When you go fast on soft gravel, the bike gets up on top of it, and is much more stable. It's like skiing in deep powder snow - you can't turn until you get your speed up, and get up on top of the snow. The same is true on soft gravel.

    The one thing the article got right, is that mostly, you want to do slow transitions on gravel. Slow down gently, with gentle throttle movement and gentle gear changes, not braking. When coming to a stop, use your back brake gently. Accelerate gently, unless you enjoy rear wheel slides. The only quick accelerations required, are when you get front wheel wobble, and you need to lighten the front wheel to control it.

    For what it's worth, I've ridden thousands of miles of gravel at 80 mph, without incident. I wouldn't recommend going looking for super deep soft gravel for your first gravel ride; but rather some stuff that is reasonably packed for your early learning. Don't forget, when our ancestors invented these two wheeled machines, most of the roads they travelled on their skinny old smooth tire's were gravel, and what one fool can do, so can another. ;-)

  • Mike - Before I read all the above, I shall say that you have just earned the prize to the longest post ever! :O