BASIC LEVEL trials training: riding in soft sand
Once you learn the key techniques, trials bikes cope with soft sand very well due to their light weight and the large footprint of the tires. They will cope much better than enduro bikes which will usually dig a hole to China! However, you will need to practice - it's always interesting to see A grade riders struggling with soft sand sections if they have never ridden sand before.
body position? loose as a goose
You really need to relax in soft sand and to some extent let the bike find its way. New trials riders often tense up in soft sand but you will be much smoother and in control as you relax and let your body absorb the bike's movements. And your trials bike will behave strangely in soft sand!
Keep your legs bent and apart. When your legs are bent they will help to soak up the bumps and achieve a smoother ride. When your legs are apart, you are more likely to be able to recover from the bike slipping sideways without putting a foot down.
Keep your body positioning toward the rear as much as possible. This keeps the front light and it won't dig into the sand, and allows an easier recovery if the front wheel is deflected. Body weight to the rear also provides extra traction for the rear wheel as it increases the "footprint" of the rear tire.
smooth turns, throttle & clutch control
Keep your turns, throttle and clutch control very smooth. Any jerky responses are likely to get the front wheel digging in, or the rear wheel digging a hole. Riding in a higher gear and slipping the clutch as required may help.
Picking the right speed is important. When the sand becomes incredibly soft you will need a certain amount of speed to stay on top, similar to a speedboat planing on water.
changing terrain, changing traction
Remember the people setting your sections are evil and not to be trusted - they are likely to mix other types of terrain in with soft sand. The trick is your rear wheel will suddenly grip the moment it hits the solid terrain, so you need to get used to suddenly losing or gaining your traction. Practice riding into and out of soft sand and adjusting to the level of traction you have.
cornering in soft sand
You definitely want your body weight to the rear for cornering to stop the front wheel digging in. It may dig in anyway, but with careful balance you can usually ride it through - practice is definitely needed to get used to this! Get used to the front wheel washing out to some extent when it pushes a bank of sand up, and try to balance properly in response.
getting started in soft sand
Deliberately stop, put your foot down then see if you can get the bike moving again with only the one dab used - remember to hang your butt back over the rear fender! As you get the hang of this, try stopping and balancing, then move off again without dabbing. Throwing your body weight forward should move the bike out of the hole it has dug.
tire pressures for sand
Lowering tire pressures will definitely help with creating a bigger footprint with your tires. However, make sure they aren't so low that you may dent your rims on any rocks or tree roots in the section.
the front wheel wiggle
If the sand is so soft that your front wheel is digging in regardless, one technique is to slightly wobble the front wheel from side to side. This lets the front wheel turn around the mound of sand it is building up instead of just digging deeper.
As you become comfortable with soft sand, try increasingly tight turns, wheel hops and all your other trials techniques.
See our Youtube video Riding in soft sand for a visual demonstration.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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