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Offline Jacobsroodt

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The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« on: August 24, 2011, 12:12:34 pm »
You have a 30% chance of falling on your first day of Namibian gravel road riding.

During a 2 week trip through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia I met 3 groups of BMW riders who took on Namibian Gravel roads. Each group had one fall serious enough to be sent home.

Here are the stats:
3 groups, 9 riders, 3 serious offs within the first few days of gravel. 2 riders were sent home with broken bikes and injuries serious enough to not to continue with their trip. One rider managed to rebuild his bike and continue with a dislodged shoulder.

Group one: 3 riders (2x F800GS, 1x 650 Dakar Single). On the first night in Namibia we camped at a campsite called Oppikoppi 12km south of Mariental. On the steepish double track pass up to the small plateau (we eventually had to come down again, the campsite was on the flats below the plateau!) two riders fell over in slow, technical riding conditions. On our first day of dirt riding one rider had a serious fall on the gravel road south of Leonardville with a F800GS. Damage to the bike was severe: bent exhaust, broken clutch handlebar assembly, broken screen, instrument cluster completely broken off, front brake fluid rubber pipe severed, plastic covers holding radiator broken on both sides, and this was the damage we could see. The bike is most probably a write off. The rider had severe bruises to the upper left leg, torn foot ligaments and complained of neck and rib pains.

Group two: Rider on a 1150GS came off on a smooth gravel highway south of Herminghausen. He was travelling at 130km/h on a good road when he hit a gravel patch on the other side of a rise. The bike started snaking severely and dumped him in the bushes next to the road. Damage to the 1150GS was severe – broken instruments, bent handlebars, aluminium panniers broken. He could get up and ride again but had to stop for 2 days to disassemble the bike and rebuild as good as he could. Xrays showed a completely dislocated shoulder that had to be kept quiet for 6 weeks. He decided to ride again.

Group three: Four bikes – 2xF650GS twins, one 650GS single. I briefly met the group in Keetmanshoop, but one rider fell and had to be sent home. Sounds like he was sent over the handlebars after a slow puncture.

Reasons for falling:
I cannot comment on the 3rd rider but one can accept that all riders were experienced tar riders. Two were gravel roads newbies.
Lack of experience. I cannot comment on the 3rd rider, but both riders from group one and two in my opinion underestimated Namibian gravel roads. Both might have been going too fast – they were the fastest riders in the pack and were found by the side of the road by fellow riders after falling.
Both were sitting on their bikes at the time of falling. The bikes started snaking and they had no way in bringing the bikes back under control.
One rider saw the sandy patch and tried to change direction prior to hitting the sandy patch – most probably inducing a tank slap.
Both did not adhere to the rules of Stand Up, Look Up and Open Up, despite the fact that at least one had undergone off road training less than one year ago.

Why the rest kept going:
The fact that the rest of us remained upright was grace alone, but a few factors contributed significantly:
1.   Adjusting tyre pressure to 180Kpa prior to hitting gravel
2.   Not going too fast – 80km/h was a good speed. It would increase slightly to 90 or 100 in very good conditions (watch out not to be caught out by sandy patches or corners after blind rises) but rapidly decrease to 30-40km/h on deteriorating roads).
3.   Choosing and holding your line.
4.   Stand Up, Look Up and Open Up!!! Allow the bike to handle the undulations and keep your cool.
5.   A healthy respect for the road. After we lost one guy we still had 133km gravel road to go from Leonardville to Gobabis. We were scared out of our wits but had no choice and proceeded with utter caution.
6.   The right gear. On a F800GS I found that 5th was the best gear. 6th is too low, and 3rd and 4th runs at too high revs – with too much power and the throttle became very sensitive as a result. 4th worked the best for the 650 Dakar single that has 5 gears.
7.   I fitted an Accelerator Module prior to the trip. It fixed the sensitive throttle on the F800GS and improved power and torque at low revs to pull me through the difficult bits at 40km/h and 2000rpm.

We could have been more cautious about tyre pressures. The fact that one man went down because of a slow leak is alarming. Later in the tour we had one slow puncture as well. The 650 most probably picked up a snakebite (damage to the tube after hitting a rock and catching the tube between the rock and rim) on the terrible road between Walvisbaai and Sossousvlei the previous day. Luckily the tyre only went flat after we stopped ad Canon Roadhouse on the way to the Fish River Canyon lookout point, but it could have been so much different.

The control group is by no means big enough to generalize or make the 30% a scientifically proven fact, but the stats and implications of one week’s experience is damning enough to publish.

Going to Namibia? Please take care.
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Offline Road Hog

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2011, 12:22:10 pm »
Nam is leeu wereld en Africa is nie vir sussies nie, it is a tough country....!
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Offline RobC

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2011, 12:23:57 pm »
I suspect most were out of their experience range and going too fast. >:D
 

Offline fesh fesh

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2011, 12:38:17 pm »
GS is n goeie teerpad fiets ! As jy dan wil grondpad ry sit ten minste net growwe tyres op.
Hoekom is dit altyd BMW wat die meeste valle aanteken, ten spyte van al die kursusse wat hulle moet bywoon. As jy die regte fiets het is al die kursusse nie nodig nie.
 

Offline Bashplate

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2011, 12:41:18 pm »
As jy jou dinges af val, hou dit vir jouself.
 

Offline Dwerg

Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2011, 12:43:57 pm »
Am I the only one that's confused?  :patch:
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Offline Renier

Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2011, 12:45:09 pm »
I suspect most were out of their experience range and going too fast. >:D

+1 my first thoughts
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Offline africanSky

Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2011, 12:47:54 pm »
Namibian dirt highways lull riders into a false sense of security and as a result, speeds increase and when things go wrong / conditions change, they are caught out. As your post points out, it was the faster riders that had the problems.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2011, 12:48:41 pm by africanSky »
 

Offline Brandt

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2011, 01:00:00 pm »
Hoekom is dit altyd BMW wat die meeste valle aanteken, ten spyte van al die kursusse wat hulle moet bywoon. As jy die regte fiets het is al die kursusse nie nodig nie.
Persentasie gewys is daar baie meer BM's net logies dat meer BM sal val...
« Last Edit: August 24, 2011, 01:05:24 pm by Brandt »
 

Offline Renier

Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2011, 01:04:24 pm »
somewhere at this time someone in namibia is typing on a forum :
"be careful going to south africa"  :pot:

in a strange place where you do not know the roads, common sense prevails...
take it cautious and know your enema...i mean enemy ;)  :3some:
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Offline MrBig

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2011, 01:10:38 pm »
Namibian dirt highways lull riders into a false sense of security and as a result, speeds increase and when things go wrong / conditions change, they are caught out. As your post points out, it was the faster riders that had the problems.

Indeed.

There's no such thing as a 'dirt highway'.
When off the tar you need to focus on the road 100% of the time.

Distances in Namibia are vast and people often underestimate travelling time between towns and planned overnight stops.
During holiday times most roads can become terribly corrugated and conditions changes constantly.



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Offline Road Hog

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2011, 01:12:38 pm »
Namibian dirt highways lull riders into a false sense of security and as a result, speeds increase and when things go wrong / conditions change, they are caught out. As your post points out, it was the faster riders that had the problems.

Indeed.

There's no such thing as a 'dirt highway'.
When off the tar you need to focus on the road 100% of the time.

Distances in Namibia are vast and people often underestimate travelling time between towns and planned overnight stops.
During holiday times most roads can become terribly corrugated and conditions changes constantly.






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Offline Stofdonkie

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2011, 01:21:53 pm »
Ek en ChrisL het albei op dag een ons gatte gesien.
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Offline DUSTRIDERS

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2011, 01:24:51 pm »
Ek en ChrisL het albei op dag een ons gatte gesien.
Sommer in watergate ook!!! :imaposer: :biggrin:
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Offline Archangel

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2011, 01:31:50 pm »
I had the same experience when we did Nam. Within the first coupla days of Namibia (not the first day of the trip), one GS went down bad, rider had concussion and shoulder injuries.

Offline DUSTRIDERS

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2011, 01:45:34 pm »
The main problem riders have with Nam roads is that they do not see the middelmannetjies.
The reason for this is that everything is the same colour. Nam roads have some monster middelmannetjies.
Long distances and people tend to open up and before you know it moerse tankslapper and off you go.
Some roads are so blindingly white you hardly see anything.
Riderfatigue also plays a roll. For someone that sit behind a desk all day to go on a 2 week trip is trouble.have to be rideingfit.
You do not sleep normal, party a bit and by day 5 the shit hits the fan.
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Offline Buff

Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2011, 01:52:57 pm »
The common denominator in all those falls is a BMW  :pot: Therefore if you ride a BMW on a Namibian gravel road you have a 30% chance of falling  :peepwall:  ;) The rest of us are safe  :D
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Offline Tiger8

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2011, 01:53:41 pm »
The tar road surfaces in RSA are just as changable, me and the wife aften do long road trips and after the East Capes rain the roads (tar) are just as treacherous, one section of road almost through us over an armco barrier as the road had washed out under the tar and in the shadow of the cliff you don't see the dip in the tar............seriaaas pucker marks on seat and 2 valium later, we stopped next to the drop-off. We were doing +- 110km on the tar.

Moral of the story is - Always pay attention to the road no matter how good it may SEEM!

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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2011, 02:10:32 pm »
We all have pals that brag about doing 160km/h+ on gravel.....
Fact is, we most probably go too fast......
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Re: The inconvenient truth about Namibian Gravel Roads
« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2011, 02:13:22 pm »
My wife has a lowered 650 twin. I took her on a whole day trip of 600km of which 300km was dirt - she had never ridden dirt before.

The 'rules' mentioned in the first post are all the training I gave her and we had no problems. The roads we went on, were not as good as those Namibian roads. Deciding factor for me, girls do not ride with ego. I told her what to do, she did it and did not try and prove anything to anyone.

She mentioned being afraid a few times as we hit sand patches but because speed was correct, she could just open up a bit and get through.

When going off the tar, leave your ego behind and you will find a pleasant experience waiting for you.

TA