ADVENTURE TIP: TECHNICAL DOWNHILLS

 

Getting through technical terrain when you’re riding downhill isn’t easy, especially on an adventure bike

STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY SHANE BOOTH

ADV Tip

 

SET YOUR SPEED
This is critical. Get it right and you’re on your way to staying in control; go into this stuff too fast and you’re a passenger. Your speed will need to be pretty slow here, probably as slow as you’re comfortable riding. You need to be nice to the bike and also try to pick the best line through this stuff. Don’t ride too slow — that can cause you to lose your balance more easily than you should. Find a sweet spot with the speed: not too slow and not too quick.

GET YOUR WEIGHT BACK
The steeper the hill, the more you want to get your bodyweight back. This is for two main reasons: to keep your weight over the rear as much as you can and also to allow you to brace yourself on the bike and be in a more physically efficient position. By leaning back you can really brace yourself off the handlebars and not feel like you’re falling over the front of the bike.

LOOK FORWARD
You should be constantly scanning the terrain, looking forward and seeing if you can pick the best line available. Don’t lead yourself into a dead end or a more difficult position — it’s not easy to back up an adventure bike on a downhill like this!

BOTH BRAKES
Be sure to use both brakes to control your speed. The front brake is the one doing the majority of the work but use the rear, too. It will help squat the back of the bike slightly and also help slow the bike down. Avoid locking it, though — that can cause it to skid around sideways. Smooth, progressive use of both brakes is what you want; you’ll be constantly modulating the brake pressure to get it right and match the changing traction conditions, so be ready for that.

ABS ON OR OFF?
A tough one to answer but it should be a decision you make yourself based on your knowledge of the system you’re using as well as your experience. Bikes that have off-road-specific ABS systems, like the BMW R 1200 GS in this shot, will handle this type of terrain very well. If you have a road-only ABS system then things may be different.

SEARCH FOR TRACTION
Your goal in choosing a line through this stuff is to find the most traction you possibly can. You should be constantly on the lookout for a solid surface your tyres can grip; anything loose will make it easier to lock a wheel and build speed, something you don’t want to do right here. Don’t be scared to get creative in the search for traction. Weave side to side if you need to. Sometimes rocks that are fixed solidly into the ground can offer good traction as well. The better you do this, the easier this stuff will become — and the only way to get better is through experience