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Thread: R1200RT Riding on Gravel Roads

  1. #1
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    R1200RT Riding on Gravel Roads

    I have a 2011 RT and was wondering if anyone had any insight into getting it to handle better on gravel. I'm running Michelin Pilot 3's. On pavement it is to die for but all of my other bikes handle gravel roads with much more stability. Specifically, The RT has a sort of wandering front end in gravel. The rear end feels like its tracking just fine, no fishtailing. In looser, thicker gravel the front end wanders to and fro. It usually gives plenty of warning and is always very forgiving but after a while it produces concentration fatigue.

    I imagine the first answer would be to get a GS. To that I would say that I am accepting donations in the form of GS's. Having ridden a bazillion miles on gravel I also don't think that this problem could be solved by just getting a "knobby" (even if one was to be found in a size that would fit the RT). I haven't heard of any successful ride height adjustments for this bike (i.e., dropping the rear end an inch or so).

    I'm not looking to remake this bike, it is already about as perfect as I can stand.

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    I have a 2002 RS The shinko raven tires I have been using, (4th set goes on soon) have a deeper thread and wider grooves. The front has a center groove. While this is annoying on pavement, it does track better on fine gravel. They are the best street only tire I have used. Now when the county uses 6 inches of marble size limestone, well, you better be lucky.

    Rod

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    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    Pirelli makes the Scorpion Trail in sizes to fit the RT. It is sold as a 5% dirt 95% pavement tire. I've run them on my R12R in Alaska and they are okay on dirt roads; not sand or mud.

    The Dunlop 616 is a street tire but with a very aggressive tread that is sold as being extra good in the rain. I have not used them, but a friend has used them on her R12R and ridden to Purdhoe and Inuvik on them.

    Continental TKC 80s are available in sizes to fit the RT. They would be the most effective off pavement tire available for your RT. They would offer poor mileage if used extensively on asphalt. A reasoable set-up would be to run a TKC 80 up front and a Scorpion Trail or Dunlop 616 on the back. A TKC 80 on the front will give reasonable wear and getting good grip from the front is the much more important aspect of off road tires.

    Avon used to make the Distenza in RT sizes, but apparently no longer does so. If you could find a set of those it would work well for you.
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    Polarbear Polarbear's Avatar
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    Loosy goosy:)

    Remember your dirt skills, loose is best, don't tense up. Keep arms fluid and ignor minor gravel wiggles. Mental fatigue is right and will make weary after a while, so keep an eye for deeper gravel, ride the tracks mostly and always remember if you find yourself in too much gravel, deeper stuff, a little extra throttle will straighten you right up. If you find the gravel deeper and not letting up, or giving breaks, you'd do well to consider getting off that path. My GSA is still very much same wiggles in deep gravel terrain with K60s 50/50 tires and does really well, but wiggles a LOT in that. Lifelong dirt rider in me, so enjoy the RT and explore within its abilities. Many ride RTs on dirt byways, seen em myself. Front tires for that bike, dirt style just not out there. Best regards, Randy

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    Ponch ponch1's Avatar
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    Depends on what gravel is. I rode 23 miles on a dirt road once (Apache Trail) and never again. I thought the bike was going to rattle apart. While it didn't, I do think it loosened my top case a bit . Use the right tool for the job, which would be a bike meant for such things.
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    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    When I lived in Fairbanks I saw 8-10 RTs go up the haul road to Prudhoe. I do not recall any having issues. The old "it's not the bike, it's the rider" adage is pretty accurate. To my knowledge, the fastest ride down the haul road was done by the late John Ryan on a FJR using Metzler 880s in rain much of way. He left Prudoe at 9 PM and arrived in Fairbanks at 3:45 AM. 500 miles, about 375 of it dirt, at an average speed of 74 MPH, including a fuel stop in Coldfoot.

    Sure an RT can handle a little dirt road riding.
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    On gravel speed and correct gear selection is your friend. Carry enough speed and you float on top rather than sink in. There are 3 nice massive gyroscopes BMW thoughtfully provided. 3 you say, I don't ride no slow trike. The third one is the engine flywheel. Keep it at 5 to 6k RPM and feel the difference. Having full power and engine braking available at the twist of the wrist is also helpful, with practice. Of course, loose hands are helpful the big beast is going to wiggle a bit. Just herd her, give her a little freedom to wander and you are fine. Last, stand up. It helps. then feel how to weight the foot pegs to help herd the beast where you want her to go. Of course, don't go faster than you are wiling to fall, if things go south. Carry a pump and air down the tires a bit too. 20 PSI is much better.

    Last, have fun. There is a whole world of gravel out there, and with a knock down fishing rod some mighty fine fishing. Farmers almost always seem to grant permission to fish to any damn fool dumb enough to ride out there. I think they are bored and expect seeing you ride that big ole thing out to the pond will be very amusing. They mostly know and appreciate a BMW. You will be surprised how many times they point to their 4020 tractor and say German engine design.

    Note, if taking fish home, you can put ice in a bag wrapped in bubble pack in a panier. You want it well insulated, otherwise the outside will sweat, collect dust and you have one brown muddy panier and one sort of clean one. Double wrap the cleaned fish, and have a nice dinner.

    one last note, I think everyone within reason should ride a little on gravel. You get used to the feel so when things start to go south on the street, road construction etc, muscle memory kicks in and you have an uneventful outcome. That is the goal for all my rides, no adverse events.
    Rod

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    Ponch ponch1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ragtoplvr View Post
    On gravel speed and correct gear selection is your friend. Carry enough speed and you float on top rather than sink in. There are 3 nice massive gyroscopes BMW thoughtfully provided. 3 you say, I don't ride no slow trike. The third one is the engine flywheel. Keep it at 5 to 6k RPM and feel the difference. Having full power and engine braking available at the twist of the wrist is also helpful, with practice. Of course, loose hands are helpful the big beast is going to wiggle a bit. Just herd her, give her a little freedom to wander and you are fine. Last, stand up. It helps. then feel how to weight the foot pegs to help herd the beast where you want her to go. Of course, don't go faster than you are wiling to fall, if things go south. Carry a pump and air down the tires a bit too. 20 PSI is much better.

    Last, have fun. There is a whole world of gravel out there, and with a knock down fishing rod some mighty fine fishing. Farmers almost always seem to grant permission to fish to any damn fool dumb enough to ride out there. I think they are bored and expect seeing you ride that big ole thing out to the pond will be very amusing. They mostly know and appreciate a BMW. You will be surprised how many times they point to their 4020 tractor and say German engine design.

    Note, if taking fish home, you can put ice in a bag wrapped in bubble pack in a panier. You want it well insulated, otherwise the outside will sweat, collect dust and you have one brown muddy panier and one sort of clean one. Double wrap the cleaned fish, and have a nice dinner.

    one last note, I think everyone within reason should ride a little on gravel. You get used to the feel so when things start to go south on the street, road construction etc, muscle memory kicks in and you have an uneventful outcome. That is the goal for all my rides, no adverse events.
    Rod
    I've thought about hunting with a motorcycle. Finding a rifle that breaks down or is small enough is the trick though.
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  9. #9
    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ponch1 View Post
    I've thought about hunting with a motorcycle. Finding a rifle that breaks down or is small enough is the trick though.
    Rifle? What about the 1200 pound moose?
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    A bozo on the bus deilenberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ragtoplvr View Post
    one last note, I think everyone within reason should ride a little on gravel. You get used to the feel so when things start to go south on the street, road construction etc, muscle memory kicks in and you have an uneventful outcome. That is the goal for all my rides, no adverse events.
    Rod
    Tough call.. it's a good idea to be prepared, but perhaps starting out on a less-heavy, more naked bike better suited for the use might be a "good thing.." I wouldn't necessarily suggest starting this with an RT.. unless you have some dirt bike experience.

    If the gravel is loose enough, the nice fat front tire on an RT can dig in rather suddenly (it fails at riding over the gravel, instead pushing it in front of the tire and eventually along side the tire) and put the bike on it's side just like *THAT*.. In order to overcome this - you have to go faster, which is counter-intuitive to most people (to get the tire up on top of the gravel and keep it there), which can result in a fall-down when you have to slow down a bit. The fairing isn't going to be happy if it goes on it's side, plus the fairing limits visibility for when you have to come to a stop in the gravel, hard to predict well what is gonna be under your feet.

    BTDT on my R1200R a few times, always managed to just step off and let the bike rest for a minute. My last horizontal excursion, in about 4-5" of very soft sand didn't work out that well, and not riding for 7 weeks because of a broken leg really isn't any fun at all. At least the bike didn't get scratched. I rode dirt for about 10 years.. and know the R is not a GS, nor a Hodaka 125..

    There is a reason the GS has a skinny large diameter semi-knobby tire.

    I will do gravel if absolutely necessary. Hard-packed crushed sea-shells, no problem; sand - nevermore... but my suggestion is find a local dirty bike shop, ask if there is anyone who will let you try their bike out in some soft stuff, and then do the learning on the right equipment.
    Don Eilenberger http://www.eilenberger.net
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  11. #11
    Ponch ponch1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akbeemer View Post
    Rifle? What about the 1200 pound moose?
    It's too expensive to hunt moose. Elk is expensive enough. Quartered out, a deer or cow elk could be packed out by a GSA with a nice set of Jesse's panniers on it, I would think.
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    They make scoped longer barreled pistols. Dad had a Thompson center contender in 44 410. It has a scope. He sold it a few years ago since -someday it will illegal as a short barreled shotgun. It was as accurate enough for deer to 100 yards. Not with me shooting, with dad.

    Rod

  13. #13
    Ponch ponch1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ragtoplvr View Post
    They make scoped longer barreled pistols. Dad had a Thompson center contender in 44 410. It has a scope. He sold it a few years ago since -someday it will illegal as a short barreled shotgun. It was as accurate enough for deer to 100 yards. Not with me shooting, with dad.

    Rod
    I hunt in Colorado now. My last deer was 258 yards out when I shot it. It wasn't a long shot for the area we were hunting. When I lived in NY, the longest shot I ever had was 80 yards, shortest was 40 yards. Big difference. My current tools of choice are a Mauser in .30-06 and a 444 Marlin, which isn't much good in CO unless I get lucky and get a short shot. Browning makes some takedown rifles in long range calibers. I would think that would work.
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    The RT is never going to feel as planted on sketchy surfaces as a GS , I have a sort of beater 07 1200 GS that feels pretty good on dirt and gravel , I have spooled it up to some pretty dumb speeds just to watch the dust plume and float over the washboards. The RT on the same road feels like it is disconnected from the road at about 30 mph and I fear the windshield would snap off if I ever tried to float the washboards. Did quite a bit of dirt and gravel on a trip to Montana and there was no fun in it for the RT . Only funny that I didn't bust it! Wife on her F650 GS would still be telling that story!

  15. #15
    Ponch ponch1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larrywlong View Post
    The RT is never going to feel as planted on sketchy surfaces as a GS , I have a sort of beater 07 1200 GS that feels pretty good on dirt and gravel , I have spooled it up to some pretty dumb speeds just to watch the dust plume and float over the washboards. The RT on the same road feels like it is disconnected from the road at about 30 mph and I fear the windshield would snap off if I ever tried to float the washboards. Did quite a bit of dirt and gravel on a trip to Montana and there was no fun in it for the RT . Only funny that I didn't bust it! Wife on her F650 GS would still be telling that story!
    +1, especially in the windscreen and I would add top case.
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