GS Riding - How To Do It by Roland Cooper

Some bikes are easier to ride down dirt roads than others, however all BMW GS’s work great on “dirt roads”! That said, first you need to define what a dirt roads mean to you. Some folks will ride a GS on virtually anything off pavement, including single track, but that not what I’m talking about. Should you be new to the “dirt road” thing and want to avoid bodily harm, avoid those nut jobs that are thinking single track, fire roads, 4WD roads or any other form of unimproved roads. While all the above are great fun if you're riding skills and ego are up for them, but a real nightmare if you are not.

So let’s just talk about the rest of us mere mortals that own GS’s. What can you do to maximize your fun while taking your clean machine down a dusty road? The bike is already designed to do this kind of thing, so about the only thing your bike needs is to LET A LOT OF AIR OUT OF THE TIRES. We know this sound like lunacy to you pavement burners, but this is the number one thing you can do to make your dirt road riding experience safer and more enjoyable. Your typical 35 lbs plus air pressures you run on the street will make any bike feel like you’re riding on marbles in the dirt. While it may take years to “embrace” that ride on marbles sensation, it just not a natural thing for most people. Believe it or not, I’ve often run less than 20 lbs of pressure in my tires running pretty hard and fast all day on a GS. This is a VERY personal choice and most people have a hard time believing they are not going to die if they run less than 25 lbs of pressure. While I’m not suggesting this, I only run 9 lbs of air pressure in my “real dirt bike” and have never had a flat (read jinx).

If you want to get seriously into the dynamics of going around a curve fast on pavement, you learn that you put virtually all your weight on the inside foot peg to lower your center of gravity and get maximum traction. In the dirt, you can never go wrong by getting your weight down on the pegs, however as goofy as it sounds, you shift your weight to the outside of the turn. Think of it this way. If I trying to “maximize the experience” on pavement, I try to get my butt crack right on the inside edge of the seat. If I’m trying “maximize the experience” in the dirt, I try to get my butt crack right on the outside of the seat. If you really want to have fun, go ride your GS on pavement and dirt in the same day and work on this. It will blow your mind and give you "monkey butt".
What about stopping or slowing down? Just like on pavement, your stopping power is on your front brake, however grabbing a handful has much more serious consequences. In fact, on my very first motorcycle ride, I experience this when I grabbed a handful of front brake on my buddies brother’s Honda 90 and proceed to trying pull a lot of dirt pebbles out of my palms. When I started riding dirt on a GS, I NEVER used my front brake for fear of crashing. Now I use the front far more than the rear and actually am trying to find a balance. I know a couple guys in the club that ride dirt roads far better and faster than me with ABS on their GS’s. THEY DON’T TURN OFF THE ABS! In fact they “embrace” that studdering sensation of the ABS kicking in on dirt, saying the ABS does a far better job of modulation the brakes then they ever could. Of course this only applies to “dirt roads” and nothing with challenging
downhill terrain. I’m just beginning to “embrace” this ABS thing and the logic side of me says it really makes sense.

While we could on and on regarding all the nuances of riding on dirt roads, I'll just leave you with one final bit of advice..........stay in your own lane because you never know who, what, or how fast that thing around the corner is coming at you when you're on country roads. So if you have a GS, come with us on the "GS Ride" in Buena Vista, the weekend of the club campout. Just make sure you bring a lunch!