Follow my tips and you will be riding a dirt bike in sand like a pro in no time at all!
#1 Keep the throttle open so you don’t bog it down and fall off.
#2 Keep your weight to the back of the bike to get that front wheel as high as possible off the ground.
#3 Stay up on the pegs to increase balance and to shift your weight easily.
#4 Gripping your bike with your knees provides greater stability and takes the strain off your arms.
#5 Lean forward into corners and let the rear wheel drift a bit to corner like a professional.
#6 Deflate your tires or consider using a paddle tire on the rear wheel.
#7 Adjust your suspension to get that front wheel up as high as possible under speed.
#8 Consider placing extra teeth on the back sprocket to get a lower gear ratio for more power through sand.
#9 Change the lube on your chain and sprockets to a light lube spray to avoid gumming up your chain.
#10 Protect your air filter and air box with covers, tape and a filter skin.
#11 Watch your radiator coolant and keep your radiator guards clean to maximize air flow.
#12 Give your bike a short rest every 30 mins to keep your engine cool.
#13 Always bring extra fuel with you as riding in sand burns fuel at a huge rate.
#14 Installing a bike flag is the law in most places and will help you to avoid collisions.
#15 Always ride with a buddy in case of breakdowns and flagging down other riders when you are jumping.
#16 Bring a light hydration pack with you to stay hydrated in the hot sandy climate.
#17 After riding, make sure to clean off your chain and sprockets and engine casing.
#18 Clean out your air box, wash your air filter and re-apply filter oil.
#19 Give your bike a good wash to avoid corrosion.
Riding a dirt bike in sand can be either really great or really shit. I know some riders that love it and some that despise it and will do anything to avoid it.
I usually find that the riders that hate it find it difficult to keep the bike under control when sand riding. These are the riders that usually end up crashing and eating a face full of it.
Well at least the landing is soft!
Not being successful in sand comes down to a few factors that I will be talking about in this article. They are easy to fix though and once you have mastered them, riding in sand becomes a lot more fun.
There are some awesome benefits to riding a dirt bike in sand!
Firstly, the soft sand is very forgiving if you crash, and this gives you confidence to be more aggressive than usual so you can practice your wheel stands and jumps.
Secondly, riding in sandy areas gives riders a feeling of big freedom because there are no fences or tracks (usually) to stick to.
Riding in sand also looks great in photos as you can produce some big air shots and massive roosting pics from cornering and taking off which look great on social media.
Before you decide to charge your bike into the sand though, there are a few pointers you need to know to keep the bike upright, to protect yourself and other riders. The pointers will also protect your bike from the damage caused by giving it a good sand blasting.
In this article, I will be detailing the essential pointers for riding on sand and I will also be showing you how to modify your dirt bike so it is way more stable to ride in the looseness of sand.
I will also be talking about ways to greatly reduce damage to your dirt bike caused by sand and grit and talk about some dirt bike cleaning tips after you have finished riding.
# 1 Keep the Throttle Open.
The one thing about sand riding is that if you go too slow, the bike will bog down and you will fall off.
A bike will only go where you want it to go in sand if you keep your wrist twisted and keep that engine revving hard.
This can take a bit of practice if you have only ridden in dirt before where consistently high revs are not necessary.
It may feel a little scary at first but you should get used to it after a few hours of practice.
#2 Keep Your Weight to the Back of the Bike.
Remember that you want the front as light as possible and the back tire doing all the work. To do this, shift your body weight to the back of your bike when you are riding.
#3 Stay up on the Pegs.
When you are riding in sand, you will notice that you will rarely be on the seat. This is because standing up will give you greater balance in the slippery sand and will allow you to lean back more.
#4 Grip the Bike With Your Knees.
Gripping the bike with your knees will provide you with extra stability and it also takes the strain off your arms. This is a valuable technique that you can use not only in sand riding but with all other types of riding as well.
#5 Lean Forward Into Corners.
This is another really useful tip you can use in any type of riding where you want to power into corners. By shifting your weight up onto the fuel tank, and putting your leg forward for stability, you are placing all the grip on the front wheel while letting the rear wheel drift through the sand sideways when you are taking corners at speed.
This is the fastest and most efficient way to get around big corners. Also, the large roost that you shoot out from the back of your bike looks really impressive in photos as well!
Prepping Your Dirt Bike for Riding in Sand.>>
The first thing you need to look at are your tires. Normally, your tires should be fully inflated to handle the hard ground and mud. Not with sand.
If you use fully inflated tires for riding in sand, you will dig your front wheel into the sand and you will lose control. Your back tire will also dig too deep and you will get bogged down.
To stabilize your bike in soft sand using standard tires, you will need to reduce the air pressure down in your tires to about 10-15PSI.
When they have been deflated, the rubber acts like tracks on a tank and your tires will run over the top of the sand, not through it.
Make sure you don’t completely deflate your tires otherwise the rims will tear up your inner tubes.
If you really want to get serious about riding in soft sand, take a look at putting a paddle tire on your back wheel (or tractor tires as I like to call them).
Paddle tires have 8 deep digging ribs around the tire that bite deep into the sand, providing maximum traction, stability and speed.
The other advantage with a paddle tire is that you don’t need to deflate your tires.
To see paddle tires in action, take a look at this cool video –
This tip is a little more advanced and only for those riders that have experience with adjusting their suspension.
The trick with successful dirt bike riding is to keep your front wheel as light as possible!
To make this happen easier, I recommend increasing the sag on your rear suspension by about 5-10 mm. By doing this you will be altering the balance of your bike and placing more weight to the back wheel, which is what you want.
For the front suspension, increase the stiffness by a couple of clicks, this will keep the wheel a little higher off the ground when you are charging over the sand.
To learn how to modify the sag and adjusting the front forks, read my article here are about setting up a dirt bike the way you want it.
Always check your bike manual for maximum suspension changes before altering suspension.
Sand needs more power than usual to power through so you will need to maximize power from your bike.
To do this I recommend putting on a rear sprocket with an extra tooth. This will give you more power in the lower range to plow through the really deep sandy spots.
For more information about gearing the sprockets down, watch this video –
I recommend adding on about 3 teeth on the rear sprocket for 125’s and only 1 tooth on the rear sprocket for 250-450 engines.
Use steel sprockets! The problem with aluminium sprockets is that the teeth will wear down faster when sand is running through them. Install steel sprockets and you will have minimal wear.
I use ‘Talon’ for my front sprocket. It is made out of a special heat treated chrome alloy that is extra hard. It’s outlasted any other sprocket I have ever used. The gold color also looks really cool. The sand doesn’t stand a chance!
The problem with riding in sand is that heavier chain lube grease turns into a thick nasty, sandy gum that will mess up your chain and it’s a real nightmare to clean off.
Before riding in sand I recommend that you clean all the standard lube off your chain and sprockets and replace it with a light multi purpose lubricant spray like WD-40.
After you have finished sand riding, cleaning off the sand and reapplying the regular chain lube is a breeze.
#10 Air Filter.
The only way sand can get into the engine is by being sucked through the air box and air filter. You want to avoid this at all costs as sand can make a real mess of dirt bike engines.
To avoid this you should consider doing 3 things –
1. Coat your air filter to catch sand, dirt and dust. To do this you can use air filter oil to catch any sand trying to penetrate the filter.
I use PJ1 spray on filter oil. I like it because it is a sticky substance that catches all the dust and sand trying to get through. It also comes in a pack with a cleaning foam for washing the air filter when it gets too dirty.
2. Use a filter skin. A filter skin is a thin skin of acrylic that you stretch over the filter, preventing any sand from getting in. On hard days ride through sand, expect the skin to be completely used up. They have a short life but they do a great job.
3. Make sure the air filter is properly sealed. The normal way to do this is to use standard grease along the seal of the air filter. This is the most common way to do it but it is messy.
My preferred way is to use a rubber seal. I prefer a rubber seal because the grease gets really messy. I use the PC Racing Pro Seal.
If you are considering this option, have a chat with your dirt bike store to make sure it fits your bike.
#11 Radiator Coolant.
Dirt bikes work extra hard in the sand because the engine has to rev consistently higher to keep the bike going through the sand.
Because of this, the engine is going to get extra hot. That’s why I always make sure that I keep my coolant level at maximum level.
Also, make sure that your radiators are free from dried up mud to maximize airflow. Which leads me to my next pointer…
#12 Watch Over-Heating.
Not only does your engine get really hot from revving so hard but also, sandy areas are usually really hot places to ride.
Because of this, I recommend taking regular breaks at least every 30 mins to not only keep your bike cool but also to keep you cool as well. The last thing you want is to cause overheating to you or your engine.
#13 Extra Gas.
Dirt bike riding in sand burns through gas like crazy because the engine works extra hard. Bring a spare gas can because you will definitely be needing it.
Check out the SureCan VP Racing Gas Can. It is made in the USA and it the best quality made can I’ve ever seen. What I like about it is that it has a thumb trigger so you can control the flow of gas. Very cool!
Safety Tips For Riding in Sand.>>
#14 Bike Flag.
If you are riding in sand dunes, a bike flag is law in most parts of the USA.
Having a bike flag is all about safety. There are 2 dangers to sand dunes and they both involve collisions which are really common with sand dune riding.
Firstly. sand dune riders are riding every which way with any particular direction.
Secondly, the rolling sand hills make it easy to hide oncoming riders.
These 2 issues are a hazard and collisions happen all the time. Don’t be a statistic and get yourself a bike flag, it may save your life.
Normally, you would install a bracket on your swing arm and the whip (flag pole) would fit into that bracket. The problem with this setup is that the whip gets a little crazy and whips all over the place when riding. I find that it whips me in the back of the helmet constantly which can get really annoying.
To fix this problem you can drill a hole in your rear fender and feed the whip (pole) through the hole to stop it from whipping around.
A much better solution though is the ZenXTen Universal Motorcycle Flag Mount. This cool rubber bracket mounts to the rear fender where you can fit the whip onto. It is a much better solution then having to drill a hole in your rear fender.
Here is a 2 minute video to show you how it works.
#15 Don’t Ride Alone.
This rule should apply to all dirt bike riding but it is especially important for riding in sand dunes.
If you break down and have an accident in the middle of a desert, it could be disastrous.
Always make sure you ride with a friend so you can get yourself out of trouble really easy. If you do ride by yourself, don’t stray too far away from the general crowd of riders so you are easily spotted.
The second reason why you need to bring a friend is for spotting you when you are jumping. A spotter can look out for oncoming riders and waive them down so you can hit the big jumps safely.
#16 Stay Hydrated.
In the desert or sandy areas, if you don’t stay hydrated then you are in big trouble and heat exhaustion will take over which can cause serious injury or worse.
When I’m planning on going sand riding, I always bring along my light hydration pack, I keep it light because a full size hydration pack gets really hot and uncomfortable really quick.
I have the Fly racing hydro pack for sand riding because it’s lightweight and doesn’t get in the way.
I also recommend using a hydration electrolyte formula to keep your body fully hydrated.
For more tips about riding in the heat, have a read of my 9 tips for staying cool when riding in the summer heat.
Post Ride Cleaning Tips>>
#17 Clean Out Your Sprockets and Chain.
You will want to do this before you take your bike out for another ride so the chain and sprockets don’t continue to get ground down from the sandpaper effect of the sand.
To do this, take your chain off and soak it in gas to wash off all the grease and sand. Then re-apply standard chain lube so it is fresh and ready to go.
Grab yourself a clean rag with some fuel on it and wipe down the engine casing and front and back sprockets thoroughly to remove all the muck.
After you have done these 2 things, put the chain back on and you are good to go.
#18 Clean Out the Air Box.
Clean out all the sand, remove the skin if you used them and check the air filter. If it’s full of sand then wash it out in some gas and re-apply air filter oil.
#19 Wash Your Bike.
Give your bike a good spray down, especially if you have been riding on the beach. It doesn’t take long for the salty air and salt water to begin to corrode your bike.
If you want to know how to wash your bike the right way, read my article about washing a dirt bike properly.
Are you a regular sand rider? Let me know your tips in the below comments and if you liked this article, please give it a share on social media.
Title photo courtesy of two wheel gypsy.
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