Riding techniques: riding in sand

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Basic technique:

Sandy trails can vary in the thickness, type and consistency of sand. On trails with thicker sections of loose sand, you should focus on controlling your front wheel and throwing more of your weight on your rear wheel. It is important to keep your front end light so that it doesn’t dig into sand and keep your rear firmly planted to maintain traction. Use a low gear and keep your pedal movement consistent and maintain your momentum. Limit handlebar steering (in deep sand you will easily loose traction at the slightest movement of the handlebar) and try to change directions using your own weight instead. In really thick sand sections, you might need to stand and pedal hard. It is usually best to gain speed on harder terrain and try to” float” your bike over sandy sections.

Sand uphill, sand downhill:

If you encounter sand going uphill, you need more speed and momentum. If the thicker sections are on your way down, you will need to focus on traction and bike control while throwing even more weight on the rear end.

Bike setup:

Trails with deeper, thicker sand require wider tires (such as the WTB Motoraptor 2.4) and lower tire pressure. On trails with light sand on a harder surface, a narrower tire can be an advantage since it will slice through the light sandy surface and allow you to push more on the harder surface below. In Egypt, most trails involve a variety of rock, sand or a mix of both, so your best bet is to run wider tires full-time. If the trail involves a lot of thick sand, it might also help to lower your saddle a few centimeters.

If you find yourself frequently plowing in deep, loose sand more than the usual, you might consider getting a “fat bike” with over-sized tires (3’+) and a frame and fork to accept them, such as the Surly Pugsley.