Gravel on the road - what it means for motorcyclists

Motorcycle on Country Road in Scotland

Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users. Two wheels are less stable than four, and as we are used to riding on roads of reasonable condition, we don't have the opportunity to practice and develop the different habits needed to correct our riding skills in less than ideal traction scenarios.

Loose chippings that accumulate on the surface are a hazard to motorcyclists. If you so much as touch your brakes, accelarate, or try and shift your body weight when on gravel, you stand a very real risk of losing control of the bike.
How do you ride on gravel? Many riders have the most problems around building sites, near farms (where mud also plays havoc with control of the bike), and on roads which have been recently resurfaced.

In situations like this, your instinct may be to slow down, but slowing down suddenly tends to load the front suspension and the steering becomes heavier. A good analogy is of a speed boat in water. At full throttle, the front of the boat lifts out of the water. Rolling off the throttle lowers the front of the boat into the water. Your motorcycle does the same thing.

An abrupt change of speed will mean the front-end drops, making steering sluggish and heavy. When cornering you may lose traction - it can feel like you are riding on marbles. The secret is to be smooth with your throttle, braking and steering. If you have to brake on gravel or sand, try to do so when you are straight up and down (not leaning or turning).

Avoid abrupt, hard braking - don’t grab a handful of front brake as the traction under your tyre’s contact patch will be very different to what you are used to on a well maintained road surface.

If you have had an accident caused by gravel on the road, you may be able to claim compensation. These sorts of cases are complex, and we would always recommend the use of a specialist solicitor. Our motorcycle team have experience of running and winning these cases. For more information about making a claim, fill in our online form and have a look at our guide to Gravel cases.

In areas around building sites, or where resurfacing works have been carried out, there may be lots of trucks carrying dirt or gravel and sometimes debris falls off of the truck onto your planned route. Gravel will accumulate where other vehicles push it into ruts. Try not to ride up the middle of the lane where you are bound to encounter more debris, and avoid riding at the extremes of the carriageway.
We all have to ride in less than perfect traction conditions sometimes and the best teacher is practice.

Bottom line is not to panic, keep the throttle and braking actions smooth and try to think ahead of where the trouble spots might be before you get into that corner

Digby Brown's specialist motorcycle team are on Twitter, Follow them @BikeLawScotland

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