10 Tips for Mountain Biking in Sand.

10 Tips for Mountain Biking in Sand.

Its fall and time to start heading south to ride which means desert riding season is upon us!  Riding in deep sand can be frustrating experience. If you follow these tips it will be much more enjoyable.

1. When trying to apply power in a straight line, sit back on your saddle a little and pedal forward like on a recumbent (so the “bottom” of your pedal stroke is about 4 o’clock instead of 6). Missy Giove taught me this 15 years ago in Moab and it really works.
2. Use an easy gear (pushing a hard gear will dig you down into the sand) and be realistic about your speed. You will not be able to accelerate quickly or even maintain much speed in deep sand.
3.  When going from hard pack to sand realize that this is going to suddenly slow you down. Although I always stress riding with your weight centered on your bike, this is one of those instances where you want to get your weight back a little as you transition from hard pack to sand. If you hit sand centered you will immediately be forward as your bike will slow down in the sand but your body will keep going forward.
4. When coasting, stand and shift your weight back a little so the front tire doesn’t sink in.
5. Don’t worry if you get a little off line, as long as you are vaguely going where you want to go
you are fine.
6. Do not steer! Changing directions in sand is done gradually by leaning/using counter pressure, trying to quickly change direction will make your front tire “crab” and dig into the sand.
7. Stay centered on your bike in corners, the urge to “creep back” will take weight off the front wheel (good in a straight line in sand bad in a corner) causing it to slide out.
8. Look ahead, where you want to go (I know that you already know this but you aren’t doing it), I stress this a lot because it is huge! Looking ahead is not 3 feet in front of you (the last time you stopped in sand where were you looking, that’s right, you were looking right where you stopped, it is so easy to say, “yeah, I know to look ahead” but it is very hard to actually look ahead (2-10 seconds ahead on the trail)). We spend 45 minutes explaining vision, how to use it correctly while riding and doing vision drills in our BetterRide camps and clinics and then expect you to spend the next 3-8 years doing the drills we teach to master this. Knowing to do something is way different than actually doing it.

9. Relax! Relax your grip, breath, smile and don’t fight the sand (as it will win).

10. Wide tires really help you float on top of the sand. If you are headed to Moab or other areas with a lot of sand a big 2.3-2.5 inch tire with big tread will help greatly in the sand.

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4 replies
  1. Don McKinney says:

    You don’t have to ride in the desert to encounter sand. One of my local trails is on an island in the Missouri River and after it floods we have sandy singletrack. It reopened last week after being flooded and I got to ride it tonight for the first time. The tip to ride like on recumbent worked great! Not steering but leaning through sandy, tight turns will need some work. Thanks for the timely tips!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Don, that is great to hear! The not steering but leaning tip included counter pressure which is a complex skill to understand. That part of the tip was aimed more at our students who have taken the cornering portion of our clinics and camps.

      Do you live in MO? I have ridden some great trails in Joplin and right off I-70, Landall or Landsdown? Good stuff!

      Reply
  2. Liz says:

    These tips work! If it works on Moab’s 24 hour course, it works anywhere there’s sand.
    I like the non-steering part – I think of downhill sand sections as sand versions of water-slides. Wicked-cool when a burm forms at the end for the turn.

    Reply

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