Wondering what to expect when you trade a dirt track for dunes, a beach, or a bike rental in Dubai? Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated—and it’ll be a lot simpler if you set out with these eight tips in mind.
Change your tires
Ideally, you’re going to be riding on the sand with tires designed for the endeavor. Even if you aren’t, you’re going to want to lower the PSI so your tires can get a better grip on the loose sand.
When driving on sand, you’re going to want to rely on consistent power to keep you moving cleanly. Every time you let off the fuel and slow down, you risk getting bogged down in the sand. Momentum is your friend on sand; the slower you’re going, the more sand you’re displacing, the less efficiently you’re traveling. Go slow enough, and you’ll sink down.
It’s almost like skiing in a way.
Pack more fuel
Sand isn’t the most efficient surface to ride on, even under the best of circumstances. You’re going to use up more fuel traveling the same amount because the sand is moving more than dirt or hardpack would under similar circumstances. So make sure you have plenty of gas available to you, lest your fun gets cut short far sooner than you anticipate.
If you’re not used to a warm environment, you’re going to want to stock up on extra fluids to stay hydrated on sand—especially if you’re out and about instead of in a controlled sand riding environment. Of course, this isn’t just about your hydration. When possible, you should ride on wet sand, because it’ll hold up better and pack tighter, giving you a cleaner, more efficient ride. Of course, half the fun of sand is dealing with the sand, so whether you follow this point of advice or not is up to you.
Balance and stability are crucial when you’re riding on sand, so make sure you’re maintaining a firm grip on the body of your bike with your legs and a tight grip on your handlebars. Making the most of sand riding means precise control so you can react quickly and consistently to the unpredictable behaviors of sand. Efficiency is more important on sand than on firmer mediums, so do your best to meld with your bike so you’re not wasting its power dragging your uncoordinated mass around.
Position yourself further back
Most riders advise seating yourself further back on your bike when riding sand, but it’s not your seating that really matters—it’s the adjustment of your weight. You want a bit less pressure on the front tire than usual, so it can slide over sand instead of digging in hard. You want to be positioned over a trouble spot before you lose momentum, that way you can get better traction to pull you out.
Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be doing wheelies over the dunes, lest your back wheel get bogged down just as hard as you’re worried about your front wheel. Of course, this isn’t nearly as dangerous as sitting too far forward, where you risk your front tire digging in and sending you sailing over the handlebars.
When you’re riding on sand, especially looser sand, your clutch is basically a kill switch for your bike. Whether this means ‘less clutch’ or ‘no clutch’ in most cases will depend on the type of riding you’re doing, the type of sand you’re on, and your overall familiarity with sand riding. As you get used to the flow of riding on sand, you’ll find it easy to know when and where you can slow down, use your clutch, etc.
Practice, practice, practice
There’s really nothing better for learning to ride on sand than getting out there and getting a feel for it. All the preparation and tips in the world can’t tell you how to feel a shift in consistency in the sand beneath your bike or train you how to shift your weight forward when powering through a tight turn on the dunes.