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Thread: R1200RT on gravel

  1. #1
    Curmudgeon in training
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    R1200RT on gravel

    A riding partner and I are planning on riding to Alaska in July (I may get bumped from the trip due to work situation, but right now the plan is to go). We both have R1200RT's.

    Because of the potential for riding on gravel (construction, etc.), we decided to start practicing on gravel. We live in Omaha, NE, so there are plenty of gravel county roads just outside the city. Two types of gravel here. The big limestone pieces about the size of a marble (from quarry's) and the pea size river gravel from sandpits.

    Pretty much going well, except for one case. On one road, the county had just put down a new layer of thick, pea sized gravel. No car tracks yet. The bike was pretty squirrely. I almost lost it once.

    My riding partner suggested keeping my head up and looking far down the road. Sounds like a good idea.

    Any other suggestions for dealing with this type of gravel on an RT?

    (Thank in advance for suggesting I buy a GS, but no, I'm not going to buy a GS for a couple hundred miles of gravel. I just need to learn to ride better. ).

  2. #2
    GIZMO
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    Your friend is correct about looking straight ahead and down the road. This will help to prevent the tendency to over correct for the squirrelyness, when one is tempted to look down at the front wheel. Other tips to help: 1) If you you will be on gravel for a good distance, let about 10 lbs of air pressure out of your tires, which will provide better grip. 2) Standing on your pegs offers better control and steering because rather than steering with the bars, as you would on pavement, place more weight on the peg in the direction you want to go. 3) If you need to brake, use your rear brake. 4) Keep your weight towards the rear and resist rolling off the throttle, unless the situation dictates you do so, because you want the front end to "float" rather than dig in. 5) Relax and enjoy the ride.

  3. #3
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    Well, as they say on Adv Rider, it's the rider not the bike. Your bike will be fine, you just need to be positive and confident.

    My RT and a ZX14 took a 10 mile long dirt and gravel road last fall. We thought the dirt was only a mile. Oh well, we both did fine, no drops. So much for my map reading skills.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iITomfFclpM This video may convince you any bike can do the haul road or worse....

    Have fun!
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  4. #4
    Registered User rdalton872's Avatar
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    my k12gt is the most squirrely bike Ive had on gravel; I have gotten into the habit of standing up on the pegs whenever i get on thick gravel. Standing up allows the bike to shift back and forth on the gravel without your body weight moving around with it.

  5. #5
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    Actually, standing on the pegs is a dirt-bike standard for better control. It moves your body weight from the seat, high above the horizontal rotational centerline of the bike (front to rear), to the pegs, which are much closer to that same centerline. Sitting on the seat, slows or "dampens" the bikes natural reaction to attempt to self center and balance.

    When you body weight is closer to that centerline, the bike can react and correct itself much quicker than it can when your butt it stuck on the seat. Small corrections the bike must make to constantly self center are easier and quicker, with less input required at the handlebar.

    I was once riding solo in upper Michigan on my R1100RS. The road I chose to take, about 15 miles in, turned to dirt and sand. For the next 15 miles I rode dirt bike style, on the pegs most of the way, head/eyes up, almost always on the throttle whenever possible to keep the front tire from plowing in. Not pleasant, won't do it again by choice, but I kept it up!

  6. #6
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy VH View Post
    Actually, standing on the pegs is a dirt-bike standard for better control. It moves your body weight from the seat, high above the horizontal rotational centerline of the bike (front to rear), to the pegs, which are much closer to that same centerline. Sitting on the seat, slows or "dampens" the bikes natural reaction to attempt to self center and balance.

    When you body weight is closer to that centerline, the bike can react and correct itself much quicker than it can when your butt it stuck on the seat. Small corrections the bike must make to constantly self center are easier and quicker, with less input required at the handlebar.

    I was once riding solo in upper Michigan on my R1100RS. The road I chose to take, about 15 miles in, turned to dirt and sand. For the next 15 miles I rode dirt bike style, on the pegs most of the way, head/eyes up, almost always on the throttle whenever possible to keep the front tire from plowing in. Not pleasant, won't do it again by choice, but I kept it up!
    Hey Andy - you're going to love the new access road we have to the two new MSF ranges at Lakeshore Tech College - last quarter mile all gravel!

    Taught this past weekend, and took the R1200RT both days - kind of like riding on worms. Really helps to focus downrange and just let the bike 'drift' a bit when it wants to.

    See you soon!
    Kevin Greenwald - Touring Tips Editor
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  7. #7
    MAYLETT
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    As a guy who started out on and rode dirt bikes for years, I agree with most of what's been said here. Any kind of demanding riding in the dirt pretty much is done best standing on the pegs.

    That said...

    As much as I love my RT, it's definitely the worst bike I've had for gravel. You described it perfectly: it's "squirrely." Not that there aren't worse, but I haven't owned one.

    Loose gravel is problematic on any motorcycle because the tires sink in and that lessens one's ability to steer (deep sand is even worse). This makes it seems as though the bike has a mind of it's own and leads the rider to slow down and focus on minor corrections which, as often as not, worsens the problem.

    It sounds a bit counter intuitive, but keeping a steady speed, with your eyes focused ahead on the general pattern of the road, while avoiding the deeper, looser gravel, is probably the best technique. Standing up will help you balance by giving you better control over your movement — allowing you to act as a counterweight to the "squirrely" movements of the bike. Actually, this standing up isn't a straight-up stand — instead, it's a stand to the degree necessary, and it varies between standing and sitting, allowing your knees to act as shock absorbers of sorts while providing the rider with the springiness to move up, down and side-to-side while absorbing the jolts (not that you'll need much of that on an RT in gravel).

    Even so, keep in mind that the RT wasn't designed for off-pavement riding, and it's definitely nerve-wracking (the relatively small diameter front wheel is an issue). If you don't feel comfortable standing on the pegs, you might want to practice a bit in less demanding conditions first. No matter what, it's absolutely not a dirt bike, or even a GS, but with some practice and the confidence that comes with it, it ought to work out (assuming that there's not dozens of miles of deep, loose gravel).
    Last edited by Maylett; 05-04-2010 at 05:40 AM.

  8. #8
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    I don't know about the R1200RT specifically, but would it make sense to get some different tires for such a journey? Lots of road tires seem to be more or less cut slicks. A change in tread pattern might be most helpful.
    Also, a small bikeable compressor might make sense for lowering and raising pressures.

  9. #9
    BobFV1
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    Quote Originally Posted by alzyck View Post
    Any other suggestions for dealing with this type of gravel on an RT?
    If you have ESA use the "highest" setting you have, 2up, and if no ESA, manually adjust the suspension to give the bike as much suspension travel as possible. This may make the bike uncomfortably "tall" on pavement, but it may help you in the soft stuff.

    Try to stay out of the deeper gravel, and just stick with the bike if you start to lose it. As others said, don't chop the throttle and lift your butt off the seat so you can shift your weight around, off the front wheel.

    I don't know if they make a steering damper for an RT, or if it would help, but that is something else to consider.

    Good luck.

  10. #10
    look out!!! Visian's Avatar
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    good advice here... i am actually writing an article about this for Ironbutt magazine. you can also read my two-part Always an Adventure column on how to ride off-pavement in the June and July issues of BMW ON.

    a couple of things i will throw in:

    • Keep a loose grip
      The handlebar (heck, the whole bike) is going to wiggle. Let it.
    • Steer with your feet
      Instead of using your bars as primary input, weight the peg that's in the direction you wish to turn while gently countersteering with the bars.
    • Squeeze with your knees
      If you're standing, grip the bike with your knees and use this point as a pivot for moving your upper torso to guide the bike in the direction you wish to go. You won't believe how well this works.
    • Always use both brakes
      Ramp the brakes on gently in equal proportion. An advanced technique involves using the rear to skid your bike around a sharp turn.
    • Turn off ABS
      I don't do this, but if you're expecting a steepish downhill, do it.


    ian
    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
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  11. #11
    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    Every year folks pass through here on RTs on their way up the Dalton to the Arctic Circle or beyond. This picture was lifted from TallPaul's trip report from last year. As stated before, it is more about the rider than it is the bike. Among other reasons, I wouldn't take my RT up the Dalton is that I don't want to expose it to those sort of conditions.

    A good tire for the RT on dirt roads is the Dunlop 616 (http://www.dunlopmotorcycle.com/tire...tire.asp?id=93) It is pretty aggressive for an RT tire.
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  12. #12
    Registered User Bullett's Avatar
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    I try not to ride my Rt on the dirt much more than I have to because I feel that its hard on the bike and I don't want to drop it. Probably a personal problem. But I have taken my RT on several dirt and gravel roads like the top of Guardsman Pass in Utah, The Apache Trail and some improved dirt roads in AZ. I haven't had any problems. I do get on my pegs and ride the RT like a dirt bike.
    Sharon
    '07 R1200RT (my favorite!); '12 Yamaha Super Tenere (El Gordo); '07 Suzuki DR650SE (!);
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  13. #13
    Tourmeister gr8ridn2's Avatar
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    Good Riding Suggestions here. I have taken my RT to Alaska in 2006 and 2009. Both rides were great with no issues in the construction zones. The bike handled everything I handed it with ease and confidence.

    No damage to the bike. I sprayed removable protector on the leading painted surfaces to protect against flying rocks from on-coming trucks.

    Both times I declined taking it to Prudoe or Inuvik. My opinion was it is not the best bike to use for 450 miles of gravel road riding. I did take the Cassiar Highway on the way up in 2009. No problems with the RT there.

    Today my bike looks like it never went Alaska after a good clean-up. Next year I will be riding more adventure oriented roads on my GS. As long as you have reasonable expectations your RT will provide an excellent ride.
    2013 R1200 GSW

    Riding is the art of throwing yourself at the ground and missing

  14. #14
    RSPENNACHIO
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    I have found that selecting a gear one higher helps.

  15. #15
    MOA #24991 Pauls1150's Avatar
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    Along the lines of jforgo's idea about carrying a little compressor -
    My desert-riding neighbor always carries a BUNCH of CO2 cartridges in his kit, so he can change pressure as conditions (or flats) dictate. They are cheaper at party supply and paint-ball supply stores than at our dealers; he gets them by the bucketload (it seems!).

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