Riding in the deserts and surfing the dunes is the dream of many bikers, today accessible to everyone: you can learn it directly on the field, with the right bike and the right instructor.
Pietro Tupputi explains, in 2 articles, the theory and technique that are the basis of his classes in the deserts of Tunisia and Morocco.
PART TWO – DRIVING SKILLS AND TECHNIQUE
Ready Set Go!!! Remember that the clutch should never be stressed beyond measure, once left it is useless to insist with continuous removal, the wheel will probably turn empty and you can help a bit ‘with your legs to get a little’ speed to the bike, good to this point is necessary to know that if we insist with the first the bike will continue to sink with the rear without acquiring speed, at this point the second must be inserted and as if by magic the rear will come out of the sand and the bike will take speed, well as soon as you have conquered your floating speed, the one that will allow you to do more or less everything, as long as you turn wide with trajectories that never let you lose that minimum speed. It is necessary to immediately understand how to stop, the front brake should be almost forgotten, you can caress the rear a little and you must always put the bike down slightly and never with the nose uphill, the rear will sink that prevents the next restart.
Parking! It’s finally time to park the bike, face downhill, get up from the bike, leave the clutch holding the front brake and gently sink the rear into the sand, with the foresight to stop before “bury it” “Completely. Parking for the night it is advisable to open the stand before sinking the rear, the same will then act as a stabilizer. For the restart, the above applies.
Let’s face the dunes! Initially the advice is to tackle climbs and descents following the line of maximum slope and never cutting diagonally. We said that we must have at least the second inserted, the engine will have to be cheerful, which means no limiter, otherwise we will not be able to accelerate further, but not at the minimum because it would not allow us to resume in case soft sand.
The difficulty at the beginning is to be able to get to the top of the Dune and be able to stop putting the front on the other side, with the nose down as already said. If we close the gas too early we will stop on the climb and the only solution is not to insist with the gas to not sink the bike, go down, take the handlebar firmly, drag the bike up to bring the front downhill and start again, turn wide and try again. If the bike had already sunk, it is necessary to tilt it from one side to the ground so as to bring out the rear, then raise it and continue as above. I remind you that it is better to make a mistake by stopping first, than reaching a cannon by flying over the dune, which I would never forget to miss. Here someone will say “but did not you see in California that jumps do on the dunes?” … forget it and think about health. It would be enough to think of the fearsome Barcane, the cut dunes made famous by the videos of the first Dakar.
The descent must be faced with weight completely back, front brake to forget (except the sand is hard as the asphalt, for example after a heavy rain) and in case the front curtain to sink is necessary to give a little ‘gas to lighten it . In case you feel intimidated by long descents and very steep slopes, it can be reassuring to keep the left foot on the ground that will help stabilize the bike. It is still necessary to have a minimum speed, going down too slowly will give you a precarious balance, go down to “cannon” could make you do a nice coat in case of gradients or steps, often present at the end of the descent, then as always the advice is not exaggerate.
The sand strips: when entering sandy areas characterized by soft sand channels it is necessary to slow down first, in the case to even climb a gear and face the channels with all the weight back and in light acceleration, the front must remain light so to float. One thing not to forget is to always look exactly where you want to drive the bike.
The trajectories: we said that they will have to be wide to avoid losing speed, with the experience you will be able to understand the best slope, the one that the wind has compacted. The advantage of following an expert guide allows you to understand the best trajectories that are not immediate to recognize, how to deal with the soft sand slope, identify the exact point where to pass and much more.
The sand: some after an hour think they have understood everything, I after fifteen years of sand, I still find situations that had never happened to me. The consistency of the ground changes according to possible rains, sandstorms, repeated passages of vehicles… The sand can be more or less soft in different areas, even relatively in short distance between them. The wind or worse the storms deposit a lot of soft sand and definitely complicate the evaluations on the best trajectory. The isolated dunes are very often less consistent, because they are created by sand of continuous deposit. Behind a dune you could find obstacles, you must always take into account, bushes, holes, stones, a bike on the ground… It is necessary to know the different types of dunes, the barges Barcane, the spectacular Sif, the troubled Ghourd and the winds that model them…
The Desert is a spectacular world that needs, like all nature, respect and attention. You just have to try this wonderful experience and its thousand emotions, in the company of an excellent guide that will take you, in complete safety, to fantastic places to discover on two wheels!
Pietro Tupputi has over a decade of experience as a pilot, driving instructor, mechanic and rescuer. He spends most of his time in the desert on motorbikes or in 4×4. Since more than 10 years with LIVE OUT, it organizes and accompanies people on the road and off-road.