The majority of my motorcycle riding buddies see gravel as something to be avoided, to them it’s sure to lead to a crash. Some of them break into a sweat merely thinking of riding on an unpaved road. It’s too bad, but I understand them., I was once like that too. Some of it is because in my home country of Belgium there’s barely any legal gravel roads, but mostly it’s because we just start riding on asphalt and don’t ever think of trying something else.
But back in Sweden there was plenty, and that got me hooked! Every time I see a small gravel road split from the road, my mind jumps I wonder where it would lead, what sort of places I could explore if I follow it all the way to the end. And I really wish I could take some of my friends on some of the roads I’ve been. I practice almost two different styles of riding (which my previous motorcycle‘s setup clearly showed), since they’d just opt out of riding with me if I’d take them to those nasty gravel roads!
So I started thinking and here are some reasons I’d use to convince someone to give it a try.
There’s almost no traffic
The amount of cars you’ll run into can be counted on one hand. I’m absolutely convinced that other cars on the road are a much bigger threat to a motorcyclist than some gravel. It’s actually liberating; not having to ride while constantly watching out for cars. Things become much more focused on the riding experience once other traffic is out of the picture.
You ride slower
The combination of an adventure bike with these kinds of roads means my average speed is much lower than on asphalt roads, and that’s a good thing. I really don’t have less fun because of this, it’s the opposite; being able to do powerslides and feeling like your are pushing your limits while going only 50 to 70 km/h means if you would crash, things will probably not be as bad as when going 100+ on an asphalted road.
You run across much more interesting things
I’ve run into a partly abandoned military training area, some amazing views and twice so far even wild moose with calves. While I admit my own appetite for abandoned objects might be a bit hard to understand for others, there’s just much more of the outdoors to experience this way.
You need to be better prepared
There are some things to keep in mind of course, but they add to the sense of adventure.
You need a motorcycle that’s suited for this stuff. One with higher suspension clearance, suitable tires, preferably big spoked wheels.
You might want to consider taking a course to sharpen your skills. I took SVMC’s Gruskurs twice last year, and it helped a lot to loosen up and gain confidence.
You need to accept your bike will get dirtier, have more visual wear and is a bit more likely to get dropped. No trailer queens!
However, proper adventure bikes can take abuse very well, and with some mods like metal-reinforced handguards, frame sliders and crashbars, you can prevent nearly all damage.
Since you are often out a bit more remote, it’s best to be more prepared. I’m talking water, food, tools and spares. This is almost one of my favorite things about this kind of riding, proper survivalism! I’ll discuss this in a later post at some point.
It takes much more preparation work, and requires more navigating to even find these routes. Using a GPS is almost essential.
I hope I expanded your mind a bit. Try it out, I know I don’t want to go back anymore!