Sit Down and Shut Up…or Stand Up and be Counted!
The beauty of the internet is that there is information at your fingertips and you can access it pretty much from anywhere. Whether it’s mapping on your smart phone, or bits of local information…it’s all there just waiting for you to discover.
This is one of the greatest tools a rider can have in their planning arsenal and doing a web search or video info request before you go anywhere can often provide you with the answers you might need.
We’d all like to think that we’re embarking on some monumental and ground breaking expedition on our motorcycles, but the reality is that there are very few places in the world that have not been accessed by rider and machine…and documented too by blog or youtube video either.
However, as with anything on the wonder web, there can be some spurious information too…or even conflicting information that can get you all confused and never quite sure which is the right path to take.
Take for example riding your motorcycle on the dirt tracks…do you sit down on your saddle and enjoy the view…or do you stand up on the pegs because you were told it was the best thing to do?
The reality is that there isn’t a straight answer for this as it depends on so many other factors that can affect the ride or more importantly the stability of that ride. However, there are some things that you may want to consider before settling on your own ‘code of practice’.
Firstly, determine what is the purpose of standing on the pegs. If it is to give you a better view of the track ahead or potentially to add some weight to the front wheel…or even to let the bike meander beneath you as you float above it…then this is probably a good place to start.
However, by standing up on the pegs you may have totally disturbed your riding ergonomics too. The rear brake pedal and gear selector will be in different relative locations to your boots…and your grip on the handlebars will be different too, thus making manipulation of the clutch and front brake lever more cumbersome.
If you were to say that the majority of your time would be to ride standing on your pegs, then it would be wise to change the settings of the levers and pegs too, to accommodate your preferred position to make it more comfortable.
However most riders are never permanently on the dirt trails. They will be mostly riding on the tarmac to get to where they need to get to, so the conventional settings for a seated position would work best. Again this would make it more comfortable for the riding position you adopt most of the time.
Comfort is a big thing for me whenever I’m riding. I don’t mean that I want fluffy pillows or an armchair to sit in…although that would be nice of course. What I mean is that I don’t want anything that will necessarily hinder my riding or distract me in any way.
So, when I go off the beaten track and I end up in the forests with a lot of low branches…it is more comfortable for me to sit down in the saddle, rather than constantly trying to avoid getting hit in the head by a tree. By the same token, when I am riding on a flat, compacted trail with a great view of the trail ahead, then I’ll favour the seated position because it allows me more time to take in my surroundings which is something I really like to do too.
However, if the trail is bumpy or undulating a lot and the trail is partially obscured by overgrown grass or vegetation, then I might favour the standing position so that I can get a better view directly ahead of the front wheel, but also by allowing the bike to move beneath me freely, affords me more control too…especially when going through soft sand etc.
But…here comes another issue that you’ll need to factor in too. RUTS! WET GROUND & SLIPPERY MUD! If you’re going out in these kind of conditions then you’re running a greater risk of losing the front tyre and dropping the bike. So the first thing that should be on your mind is whether you even want to do this. The second thing is to purposely slow down to a crawl pace that will minimise the potential of coming unstuck.
Now, do you stand or sit? Well, it also depends on various other factors..such as types of tyres, how muddy, how soft and how slippery the surface is too. If you’re still on road tyres, then the potential for the front tyre to slip from beneath you is much higher too. The rear tyre will want to slip and fish tail the rear of the bike and the tyres will want to slip to the lowest part of the track or into a rut too. Once you’re in rut…even a shallow one, it will be very hard to get out of too.
The next question you’ll need to ask yourself is this. If you’re riding this slowly because of the conditions and there is a greater risk of the tyres slipping or dropping the bike, which position are you most comfortable with which will allow you to control ‘YOUR BIKE’ and to give you the best chance of recovering the bike if it begins to fall or slip out?
Well, for me…in the ultra slippery conditions and when I’m on the road tyres and riding on rutted tracks, then I stay seated, go very slowly by modulating the power with the clutch and the throttle barely above idle. I may even put my feet down on the surface to act as stabilisers but this also reduces my centre of gravity on the bike which will help to prevent a drop or make a recovery possible. Of course any rider doing this would have to be extra mindful of not snagging their feet on the ground…but because the speed is slower than walking pace, it shouldn’t really be an issue.
However, being in the seated position reduces my view of the trail ahead and also takes weight off the front tyre too. It can get quite sketchy out there sometimes and for sure you’re working a lot harder just to keep the bike in the upright position. And here is the key to the whole thing really, especially in the wet and muddy conditions. You really need to keep the bike in the upright riding position and perpendicular to the surface as this will give you the best stability of all. This will enable the largest part of the tyre to grip with the surface and by keeping the revs low and preventing the rear tyre from spinning in the mud, will enable the rider to get the best traction possible.
Being seated will bring you lower down to the surface but you can connect or anchor yourself to the ground a lot better too, but also be in a prime position to left the bike drop and have your legs free and clear from any danger.
Of course, there are those that would say the opposite to this, but my main focus is to identify which variables are most likely to get me thrown off my bike. Muddy ruts, slimy surfaces and road tyres are a poor combination…however even with these, there is no reason why anyone cannot begin a dirt trail and reach the other end in one piece…it just requires some thought, planning and risk mitigation too.
The reality is that everything takes practice and every rider going off road with their motorcycle will find what works best for them. However, when I’m on the dirt, I’m constantly alternating between standing and sitting, shifting my weight side to side, forwards and backwards, feet on the pegs…off the pegs but I’ll always be conscious of what type of surface I’m riding over and make my speed as slow as possible too. Not only enabling me to enjoy the scenery but also helping to keep the bike upright when in the mud too.
Ultimately no matter what advice you’re given, if it doesn’t feel comfortable or you don’t feel you can control the bike properly…then even if it is unconventional…find what works best for you and gradually build up your arsenal to tackle the dirt, remembering that the surface is rarely static…it’s constantly moving and will want to move the tyres and the bike in all sorts of directions. Sometimes standing on the pegs is absolutely the correct method..and other times it is isn’t needed or may not be the best solution for your style of riding and the type of bike you’re on too.