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Shane Watts

Dirt Wise Riding Tip #13 – by Shane Watts

In our last column we went through how to un-drown your machine should it get submerged whilst traversing a water crossing. Preferably we don’t want to have to perform this procedure so let’s look at some tricks to help us successfully get through to the other side.

First off, try to gauge these following things of each specific water crossing; 1. the depth, 2. the velocity of the water, 3. whether there are any big rocks under the surface and if they are covered with slime, 4. and whether it has a hard or soft base.

If it looks really deep you could walk across first to get a better indication of the possibility to ride across.

If the water is flowing fast and deep it is best if possible to point your bike slightly upstream before entering as the current will have an effect of pushing your bike in a down stream direction. If there is a lot of force on your bike from the current then it’s probably best that you get off the bike and walk beside it on the down stream side so as you can brace the bike better from being tipped over. Wet boots are better than a wet engine!

Standing up is the preferred position to be in when riding through the crossing as it allows for you to have a better chance to maintain your balance especially should there be any boulders or slippery rocks under the surface. Remember to focus ahead with your vision for better balance but use your peripheral vision to scan for obstacles immediately in front of you.

The faster you go across a soft base the less chance you will have of sinking down and getting stuck or submerged. However doing this also increases your chances of getting splashed. Sometimes a sandy base can be totally rock hard, as can be found in Florida in a lot of instances so being able to “read” and judge trail conditions well is an essential skill to have.

If it’s a fairly smooth base to the water crossing, or if it’s deeper but not too far of a distance to the other side then doing a wheelie across it is a good option. If done correctly this helps keep the engine and carby higher out of the water and allows you to carry much more speed without drenching yourself and getting your gloves saturated. Beware though that when doing this that when the rear tire hits the water it will slow the bike down significantly, causing the front wheel to touch back down much sooner than a wheelie in normal conditions, so plan to loft that front wheel for a higher and longer distance.

When riding slowly through some deeper water your bike has a tendency to “load up” and start running really rich, sounding like it’s about to stall out on you. A lot of riders panic in this situation and thus try to rev their bike out which usually makes things worse. The reason the engine loads up is because the ends of carby vent hoses are under the water which prevents the carby from “breathing”, therefore causing the burbling engine. To prevent this you could install some extra vent hoses that run up under the fuel tank on your bike and then tee them into the existing vent hoses. It’s best to keep the throttle at a lower setting when in this situation as this will provide stronger and more predictable power to forge forward. Go stop in a deep pool of water and try this out for yourself. Remember though to have your tool bag with you just incase you have to drown out while doing it!!!


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