The Breakdown:  Walker on Sand

The Breakdown Walker on Sand

August 17, 2012 3:00pm

Hello everyone! It's been a minute since my last article, so I'm not going to waste any time. Let's jump right in and get started with tips for riding in sand.

Southwick has always been good to me. It's where I got my first podium in a moto as a rookie. With that said I feel like I know the track well, and I know sand well too. Now I'm not a John Dowd or Doug Henry, but then again, who is, right?

Okay first off let’s talk about some tips on bike setup. When riding in sand race teams start off with stiffening the suspension. That's an easy fix. It's normally just a few turns on the clickers. I've never had a team change to a whole stiffer fork and shock setup for sand. It may happen, but normally it's just a few clicks stiffer. I'm not a suspension guy so I can't explain exactly what stiffer suspension in sand does, but I can say that the bumps are bigger in sand, and a little stiffer fork always helps in bigger bumps.

The next thing is adding a tooth to the rear sprocket. If you normally run a 50-tooth sprocket, trade it for a 51 in the sand. This gives you more bottom-end power and helps the bike pull harder coming out of deep corners. You’ll have to shift more, but having power in the deep turns definitely outweighs the constant shifting.

Carl Stone photo

You may notice that the bike is hard to shift in sand. Any time the bike is under strain, like coming out of a deep turn or off the start in really plowed up dirt, it’s hard to shift. The solution here is shifting with the clutch. You shouldn't let off to shift gears. That kills all your speed. Keep the throttle on and simply pull the clutch in a tad at the same time as you’re shifting up. Just like that, your shifting problems are no more.

The next thing is body position. On a rough track like Southwick, you tend to stand because it's so rough, right? Well, you definitely have to stand, that's a given, but a lot riders stand with their weight way too far forward. I've said this before: KEEP THE FRONT END LIGHT! You don't want a lot of weight on the front end. This makes the front end knife, and will make you crash. So the next time you’re standing, remember to keep your butt back. Your helmet shouldn’t go past the crossbar pad.

Have you noticed that your back hurts more than normal when you’re riding in sand? Yeah, I know the feeling too. It's because you’re standing up more than you normally do. Kidney belts really help on rough and sandy tracks. I’m sure a lot of you guys don't know what kidney belts are, but they really do help with your back not getting so tired during your race.

I've said this before and I’ll say it again. All the great riders can ride sand very well.  Sand is forever changing, as opposed to a hard-packed track, where the line constantly stays the same. In the sand, the line never stays the same each lap. Great riders have the ability to see those ever-changing lines and change with them. Sand really teaches the importance of line memory. That's remembering the way a section looked from the lap before and changing your line if needed.

Carl Stone photo

When I'm doing a sand berm I'm constantly reading the dirt and searching for that certain part of the berm that isn’t too powdery and has good stability. I also try to stay as low in the berm as possible because I know that's where the sand will be the hardest.

Because Southwick has such a hard base, we use to run hard-pack front tires with a sand rear tire. Yes, I got that from Ricky Carmichael, but hey, it works. When we tried the sand front it would always wash out. We put the hard front on and the problem was solved. So remember, if your sand track has a hard bottom to it, don't be afraid to try a hard front. It might just save you from sampling soil.

See you guys next week. Thanks for reading.