If you have been riding your dirt bike on motocross tracks or mountain trails, you might be ready for a new challenge. Riding on sand dunes is an experience like no other, and it’s a great place to find out what you and your bike are capable of handling. By checking these four things in the days before you head out, you’ll make sure that your day on the dunes is filled with fun, adrenaline, and whoops of delight, rather than with swearing, tool boxes, and frustration.
Keep It Cool
When you are riding in sand, your bike’s engine has to work very hard. When you add hot, sunny temps, your engine could be in danger of overheating. Before you head out for a day on the dunes, check the coolant level in the engine to make sure that you won’t be stranded somewhere. High temperatures will shorten the life of your engine or could ruin it altogether. Additionally, you will probably want to bring along some extra coolant, so you can top it off as needed throughout the day.
Let Your Engine Breathe
Of course, maintaining your bike is always important, but when you are getting ready to hit the dunes, it is crucial that your air filter is clean and in top condition. An air filter and all of the items needed to clean or replace it will cost you less than $50, but that $50 can save you hundreds by keeping grit and sand out of your bike’s engine.
Remove the air filter from the bike and inspect it for wear. If it’s worn, replace it. If not, soak it in cleaning solution, and then wash it out with soap and water. Let the air filter dry completely before you spray it with filter oil. The oil will help the air filter be more effective at trapping dirt and grime. Reinstall the air filter, greasing any part of the filter that touches the airbox with waterproof grease.
If you are riding multiple days, it is a good idea to bring a spare air filter along. It is also a good idea to use a filter skin when riding in sand or dusty conditions. The skins are easy to install and remove and are relatively inexpensive at about $15 for a three-pack.
Install the Right Tires
The key to doing any job right is having the right tools. Utilizing the correct dirt bike tires is key to having fun and reducing frustration on the dunes. For dirt biking on the dunes, a paddle tire is a must. Paddle tires will help you float over the dunes, giving your bike greater traction in loose sand. Without them, you will spend more time bogged down, spinning out. Additionally, if you try to ride the dunes without a paddle tire, you can end up stressing your dirt bike’s engine. Because you will have to give the bike more gas to get going, you will quickly overwork the engine. Even if your old tires are new and in great shape, take the time to install the right tire for deep sand. A good dirt bike store will be able to help you find the best paddle tire for your bike and your budget.
Additionally, you should lower the air pressure in your tires when you are getting ready for the dunes. Lowering the pressure will give your tires a wider profile and increase your traction. Aim for 8 to 13 psi in your tires.
Don’t Forget the Whip Mast and Flag
Yes, they do look absolutely ridiculous, but for many areas, you can be ticketed for not having a whip mast and flag installed on your bike. This is a safety issue. Sand dunes can absorb the sounds of an extremely loud engine, and you could pop up in an unexpected place on a collision course with an unsuspecting rider.
A tall mast and flag gives other riders the heads-up that you are on your way. Thankfully, flags and fiberglass whips are both pretty cheap, but if you plan on doing some night-time dirt biking, you should consider a lighted one. Double check the requirements of the area in which you will be riding. Some places have very specific rules about the height of your mast and the size, shape, or color of your flag.
Last but not least, don’t forget to fuel up. Trudging through miles of sand in moto boots is no fun and night time temperatures in the desert can fall by 30-40 degrees. Aftermarket gas tanks can expand your range and time on the dunes. If that isn’t in the budget, an add-on fuel canister can get you home safely before the sun goes down and the temperatures drop.