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Off-Road Excursions


Gr8Dane
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As a pilot, rule number 1 is always: FLY THE PLANE. If the engine quits, no big, you just happen to be suddenly flying a glider. FLY THE PLANE. Captain Sullenberger demonstrated consummate pilot skills when he landed in the Hudson. He knew exactly what to do: FLY THE PLANE. Everything else is secondary.

 

 

Sooner or later, we all experience an off-road excursion. Your track-bike has just become a dirt-bike. Now what?

 

 

  1. Don't panic. You will be just fine. RIDE THE BIKE.
  2. Roll off the throttle. Obviously. (Read comment below)
  3. Keep the bike in a straight line, as upright as possible.
  4. Try not to have a white knuckle death grip on the bars. The bike will be moving around quite a lot. Let it.
  5. Use the rear brake only. Locking up the rear works great in dirt. The rear end will step out a little. Let it.
  6. Be aware that a rider behind you may have target fixated and followed you off the track.
  7. The bike will eventually slow down to a speed where you can gently begin to turn back towards the track.
  8. Pay attention to the corner workers. Hopefully they are paying attention to you. They may wave a yellow flag.
  9. The corner workers may be trying to get your attention. Maybe you have parts falling off. Pay attention.
  10. When stopped, get off the bike and inspect it. Look for debris in brakes and drive-train and tires.
  11. Satisfy yourself that the bike is safe to ride. If unsure, park it.
  12. If good to go, re-enter the track carefully, preferably with assistance from a corner worker. Hopefully they are waving a yellow flag to warn other riders.
  13. Some track day organizations may have specific rules for dealing with off-road excursions. Ask about this during the riders meeting.

 

 

Always remember: Don't panic. RIDE THE BIKE.

 

If you have never ridden a dirt-bike, consider doing so. You will gain valuable skills that will make you a better overall rider.

 

 

FYI : I've run out of track any number of times. These are the two most memorable: Once at Laguna Seca I was looking over at a buddy and ran right off into the gravel at Turn 11, LOL, another time I over-cooked it coming into turn 5 at Big Willow, and made the conscious decision to go straight off into the dirt. So far I have saved it every time by applying the above techniques.

 

 

Roll off the throttle: I had a student who panicked and ran off Laguna Seca at Turn 11, locked up the front AND had the throttle pinned at the same time. Deep gravel stopped the bike without major damage. When we discussed the incident later, the student refused to believe that he had the throttle pinned. Panic makes people do weird things.

 

Oiling down the track: Sometimes off-road excursions are caused by a mechanical issue, such as an oil-filter coming loose and lubricating the rear tire? If so, DO NOT re-enter the track, trying to limp back to the pits. Oiling down the track will make you very un-popular!

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Roll off the throttle: I had a student who panicked and ran off Laguna Seca at Turn 11, locked up the front AND had the throttle pinned at the same time. Deep gravel stopped the bike without major damage. When we discussed the incident later, the student refused to believe that he had the throttle pinned. Panic makes people do weird things.

 

I've seen someone do that, too! That gravel is DEEEP, I'm guessing riding out of it is NOT an option.

 

Are you a coach with the school? Or an instructor with another orgnization?

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Quite a bit of info up there, a point to consider:

 

If one can, pick the bike up, and brake hard before running off the track, then out of the brakes when hitting the dirt or grass. Sometimes a little front can be used. Sometimes one can slow it down enough to come out of the brakes and turn it before leaving track surface.

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Nice analogy with the fly the plane/ride the bike example. I like that!

 

While on the road, ride it as a road bike, when in the gravel, right it as an adventure bike! Adventure is defined as "taking inappropriate equipment to out of the way places", so taking your sportbike into the gravel classifies as adventure, right? laugh.giftongue.gif

 

I don't run off track very often, but did when I was at my CSS Level 1 day. I was pushing on trying to keep raising my corner entry speed, but ran into the gravel at "more" than 100km/h. The "relaxed/funky chicken" drill really paid dividends then, like you say stay loose on the 'bars. Didn't try to turn, didn't try to brake, just let the gravel slow it down (gravel traps at this particular track are designed to arrest V8 Supercars, after all). Don't forget to pull your clutch in, either (at least as you lose speed). Worth thinking about, because it can be easy to forget the simple things in a desperate moment.

 

Additional point if you stop in gravel: don't try and ride out, you'll likely just dig the rear tyre deeper. Step off to the side of the bike and walk it out of the gravel, slip the clutch to avoid spinning the rear. (Kicking up dust won't help you, and won't do your air filter any favours either.)

 

A question about locking the rear wheel - I can see how this could help if you're going slower, or nearly stopped (if you need extra slowing), but would that really be the best thing if you're going fast? The rear wheel provides the majority (all?) of the gyroscopic stability behind the steering head, if you remove that stability on the dirt you really don't have much left...?

 

I've also seen people go all the way through the gravel and hit the wall. Not sure if the throttle was stuck, or if they decided to keep it pinned and ride through the gravel, but that's a bad plan in either case. Which brings up the very last desperate option - ditching the bike. The way I see it, if you're still going way too fast and running out of gravel trap, I would just get ready to go down, then turn the 'bars to bring the bike down. Better to fall down in the gravel than to ride head-first or slide into a wall? (Bonus points if you remember to hit the engine kill switch before doing this!)

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