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Dirt Bike Sand Riding: How To Stay Upright

One of the best things to do on a dirt bike is to go sand riding. It’s a lot of fun if it’s done properly.

Many riders prefer to stick to the mud or rocky trails as they think the soft stuff is too challenging. While it’s certainly twitchy, once you master it…it will open up a whole world of fun.

Dirt bike sand riding is actually easy and a lot of fun too. Whether it’s the dunes, the beach or merely sugar sand, let’s help you get started today.

Getting started with dirt bike sand riding

First up – dress the part. Even though you’re going to fall on sand and it will be soft, a dirt bike helmet just isn’t enough. Wear all your standard protection gear.

It’s also best to pick your day well. If it’s recently rained then this is a good thing as the sand is wet creating better traction and control for the rider. Some riders head to the beach where they can better hone their skills and develop their technique on their own bike.

Getting started with dirt bike sand riding

Now, before you go tearing up, you’ll want to lower your tyre pressures. Dirt bike riders often lower their tyre pressures anyway but ADV riders are apprehensive, however, you can lower a few PSI to create a wider rear-tyre footprint. This is going to reduce the risk of getting your dirt bike bogged in the sand.

The 3 basic fundamentals

There are 3 basic fundamentals to win at this game of sand riding. Once you both know these techniques and master them, then you’ll be blasting sand everywhere in no time.

The correct dirt bike sand riding position

Such techniques require lots of practise so keep at it. Essentially, it’s hard to learn from behind a screen.

The 3 fundamentals of sand riding are:

  1. Keeping powering on forever. You really need to keep that gas planted and stay high in your rev range. Go to a lower gear if you need to, but keep that power blasting through. As you keep that power on, the technique lightens the front wheel and allows the rear tyre to dig further in for traction.
  2. Let your knees grip the bike. Too many beginners make the mistake of letting their arms go into a death-grip on the handlebars. Sand is naturally twitchy and you’ll be inclined to hang on tight, but you shouldn’t. Instead, use your knees to grip the fuel tank and let those arms go relatively loose.
  3. Your body position is key. Don’t sit on your dirt bike unless you have the confidence of a Dakar Rally rider. You need to be in ‘attack mode’ with your knees and elbows bent, while also being as far back as possible. Since you have the power on hard, this will naturally be possible.

Literally – that’s it. When it comes to turning, you certainly can’t turn as you typically do on a forest track. Instead, you need to lean mildly into corners while powering on. Essentially, you need to plan your turns long before you’ve done it.

Wheelies are recommended

You might notice that a lot of dirt bike riders pop wheelies when riding on the sand. Not only is this OK, but it is recommended and often a by-product of good body positioning and throttle control.

As you do these wheelies, it stops the front tyre from charting its own course through the sand. Unfortunately given the volatile nature of dirt bike riding on sand, it’s hard to prolong these wheelies so be prepared for some instability when landing.

If you get to the point where you are regularly lifting the front tyre off the ground, then this is the ideal point. If you need to keep that front tyre down, then simply pull the clutch in slightly.

The right bike for sand riding

While those fundamentals are important, so too is your dirt bike choice. Taking a 150cc farm bike or a 1200cc BMW are both not recommended.

A 250cc dirt bike can ride on sand but only if it’s 2-stroke. 4-stroke 250’s will struggle unless the rider is very light and is well experienced on the sand.

The right dirt bike bike for sand riding

We would recommend a 450cc 4-stroke at a minimum so you can have a good technique to stay upright. This is typically what Dakar riders use during their annual rally with much success.

If sand riding is something that you’ll expect to do regularly, then look at tyres which are sand-orientated. These have paddles as opposed to knobs.

One thing to note

Dirt bike sand riding is easy for you once you practice it, but very hard on your bike’s components. You’ll probably have to take additional fuel with you while ensuring you clean it properly after each ride. This is definitely true for riding on the beach since saltwater is terrible for dirt bikes.

Light CRC spray is great for your chain as it deflects sand from sticking to it. Also, some salt-away spray is a good idea for some components.

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