With the plethora of Adventure bikes available to us these days, it’s had us thinking long and hard about how we get our bikes through the muddy waters that are just another rainstorm away…

Words and pics: BRM

With the constant, let’s say, “interesting” weather of late, we thought we’d address one of the common hazards you might find when you next go out adventuring on two wheels – a river crossing. And we’re not just talking a 30cm trickle here.

First Things First

Do you actually NEED to do a river crossing? Consider the options on the trail that are available to you. There might, in fact, be a shallower spot just around the bend, or even a bridge. Take a look and weigh up the best plan.

Don’t Assume

You know what they say about making assumptions – so don’t assume that just because you’ve crossed a certain river a few dozen times that it’ll be the same each time. Other road users and the weather can significantly change a river crossing, so always keep this in mind. Always check your crossing for depth and hidden obstacles before you race in at full throttle, as we all know there’s nothing funnier than watching a hero arse off.

Know Your Bike

Or should that be, know your intake? Your bike’s air intake will always have the final say on whether a water hazard is too deep to cross. If you’re riding with a group of mates, it’s the bike with the lowest air intake that will determine if you attempt a crossing.

Plan Of Attack

When you enter the water, you want to be going fast enough to create a good bow wave ahead of you, that will effectively lower the water level around your air box. You also want to be going straight to increase the possibility of success. However, as cool as it might look in YouTube videos to enter the water at 80km/h on the back wheel and mono it through the waves, this takes a certain amount of mojo and planning. You are not that guy, and it will go wrong – fact.

Typically, you want to aim at crossing between 10 to 15km/h in first or second gear, and ideally, you will not change gear mid-stream. Keep the revs in the meat of your powerband and be prepared to slip the clutch a bit to maintain momentum, but without spinning the rear wheel.  If you’re crossing a river and not a big muddy puddle, enter the water as upstream as possible. This will allow you to be pushed by the current a little but remain on track.

Stand And Deliver

A low centre of gravity will be your friend here, just as it is when you’re riding along a loose gravel road. Not only will you be more agile, but it’ll also allow you to have a good view into the water.  It’s the best position every time. But if you are not confident standing, by all means, stay planted on the seat but try to keep your feet up, as putting them down will act like sea anchors and pull you off course. Dab if you have to, but keep those feet up out of the wet stuff if you can!

Taking A Swim

Even if you’ve done your due diligence, things can still go pear-shaped when you enter the water. You could slip on a rock, stall, or hit a hidden hole and dunk your bike. Whatever the reason, if you go too deep, you want to kill your engine as soon as possible to limit the damage.

Do not, we repeat, DO NOT try and start the bike if it’s been underwater. Water ingested into the engine can cause it to hydraulic lock, meaning you’re going to do some serious internal damage if you try to start it up. This is a time where carrying tools pays off, as it is very handy to have a spark plug socket and a wrench with you as you’ll want to pull the spark plug out and remove the air filter before you crank over your engine to flush all the water out. If you and your buddies are up to it, stand the bike on its back wheel or even totally invert it (after removing the tank) to add gravity into the mix to help you pump the water out faster.

That said, take your time to get all the water out and don’t freak if it takes a while to start back up once you’ve put it all back together. You’ll have just done the equivalent of heart surgery after all…