Riding on Gravel Roads

Motorcycling on Gravel Roads - Sometimes you just have to ride down a bumpy gravel road to get where you're going. Out of nowhere, there it is - rocks, stones - a narrow road filled with different sized rocks instead of nice smooth concrete or asphalt.
Like curves and rain, I used to fear riding in gravel, and when confronted with a bumpy less-than-ideal road, I would have to fight the impulse to do the worst thing possible: Brake.

Yep, I would see the gravel begin underneath my wheels and I would promptly grab for the brakes. The problem with gravel and uneven road surfaces is impaired traction. By braking, I was making the problem worse. So, learn from my mistakes.

When you see the gravel begin, remember these tips:

    Tips for Riding on Gravel

  • Don't do any quick braking or swerving.

  • Get used to some wheel wobbling.

  • Relax your grip on the handlebars.

  • Slow and steady is the key.

  • Try to maintain some speed - it is safer and more stable to be moving.

  • Find the part of the road where the gravel is less dense.

  • Keep your distance from other vehicles.
  • If you have to brake, avoid the front brake, and do it gently.

  • Remember, there is good road ahead!

A narrow gravel road in France, outside of St. Emilion

and...remember that gravel bounces!

Remember to put your visor down on your helmet - those little rocks have a tendency to jump up as you ride over them. The last thing you want is a piece of gravel in your eye.

Gravel and mud - a great combination for motorcycling My worse rocky road experience happened in Northern California - near the "lost coast" and Ferndale. It was a road that I didn't want to travel in the first place, being a very narrow left turn off yet another narrow road. But, I was riding with a group, and had no map, and no idea where we were.

So off we went. The road narrowed further, and began an incline - we were confronted with curve after curve, pot holes filled with mud, and eventually, pure pea-sized rocks. Great.

The road widened, but the gravel surface persisted. I was concentrating and cursing, and then I spied a sign that made me want to cry: Caution: Gravel road for the next 56 miles.

56 miles of hell ahead.

It wasn't fun, but I got through it. What were my options? I could stop, have a little meltdown, and then ride on. I could stop and refuse to go further. I could turn around. OR, I could just take a deep breath and ride.

The road was truly memorable, and proved to me that gravel - while not fun - can be safely traveled by motorcycles. There were parts of the road where the gravel was thick, as if freshly laid. On this part of the road, the back wheel was frequently wobbly - but I just pushed on, knowing that to slow down - or brake - was not a good idea.

We learned later that most of our group had also taken this route, and that there were quite a few flat tires. So, in that respect, I was lucky. No one when down, and we all earned our cocktails at the end of the day.

Sometimes gravel roads take you to wonderful places that you would miss out on but for the gravel road.

We could not have gotten here without traveling on some gravel. I still really don't enjoy motorcycling on gravel roads, but I have learned not to dread it so much. There is a reason that I have learned not to cringe at the sight of those pesky little stones: Usually, pretty wonderful sights and places are found at the end of the gravel.

In Europe, most castles are found at the end of a little gravel road. Some are even at the TOP of a narrow gravel road. But, seeing an ancient castle up close, as opposed to off in the distance is certainly worth the climb to the top of a little stone road. As least I'm not climbing the road on foot!

I remember being cheered on by other members of our group, when in Spain, I very carefully made my way up a steep, and curvy road to an old castle. Going down was also challenging, but I did it.

So, go for the gravel - do it slowly, carefully. Remember no abrupt braking. If you are really timid, put your feet down a bit until you get some confidence. Each road that you traverse will give you a sense of accomplishment, and you, too, will come to accept those bumpy gravel roads.

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