Over the years, I have learned there are a handful of things that can make even the most experienced riders immediately uncomfortable. The unexpected appearance of gravel on a curve is one of them. Some riders have told me that even a little gravel in a corner has triggered them to stiffen at the controls and ride straight out of a turn. Minimizing such extreme reaction to the sudden appearance of an unpleasant condition begins by anticipating it in advance and having a planned response. Will there be gravel in the curve ahead? Count on it. Will we have a strategy to deal with it? When it comes to gravel, count on it. Quite literally.
This time of year, after a long winter of precipitation, washouts and snow plowing/salting, you can expect to see more gravel—especially on those back roads we all enjoy so much. As always, ride only as fast as you can see, asking yourself if you could safely and comfortably slow the motorcycle in the space you have ahead should gravel appear. Then start counting. We coach riders to determine if gravel is “countable” or “uncountable.” As a rule of thumb, if one could easily count the pieces of gravel and can see the road surface between the stones, then there is likely enough traction to simply continue riding smoothly through it without altering the line. However, if the gravel pieces are too numerous to be counted, traction is surely compromised and the cornering line must be altered to avoid riding through the debris with the bike at a significant lean angle. The bottom line? When it comes to gravel on the corners…count on it. Then count it.