One of the more popular spots to go 4-wheeling is wherever sand dunes may be. The desert or at the beach, sand dunes are the closest thing to an ATV roller coaster as you can get and far more fun and entertaining.
Riding in the sand is a vastly different experience than the track or trail and can even pose a challenge to any seasoned ATV rider who has never set a tire in the sand. Be forewarned – it is addicting and thanks to nature no day at the dunes will ever be the same.
ATVs offer a rugged and dynamic ride whether on the track, trail or sand. They are made to be ridden hard and can withstand just about anything you run over, ride into and of course ride on. If you’re a lifelong track or trail rider – take a weekend to test out the sand, you’ll be glad you did and wonder why you waited so long. But before you trek to the dune nearest you, sand does require additional prep work that a day in the woods or racing on your hometown track typically does not necessitate.
Sand seems to stick to just about everything it touches and since it consists of fine granules it finds its way into every nook and cranny – your ATV especially included. The best defense therefore is your best offense. Trust us, you’re going to get sand everywhere so use the following tips to get you not only moving on the sand, but keep you riding for the day, and your ATV riding for another day.
Sand or Paddle Tires
You’ll need to change out your existing knob tires for rear paddle tires and blade tires in the front. Paddle tires have what are essentially paddles for grip, hence the name paddle tire, and provide much more traction than knob tires provide. Be prepared to throw around a lot of sand!
Blade tires get their name for the blade or rib down the middle. The blade tire profile adds flotation, increased steering and optimal corner traction.
If you don't have a paddle tire or don’t want to spend the money on a tire to play in the sand once a year you can still use your regular knob tires though it’s far from ideal. The key here is to let a lot of air out and run them between 8 and 12 psi. The lower pressure flattens the tire which gives you grip and floatation in the sand. Be aware you may still have traction issues therefore investing in paddle and blade tires is your best bet for an enjoyable day on the sand dunes. When using a paddle tire consider running one tooth up on your rear sprocket.
Don't use regular chain lube! You’ll gum up the chain, spokes and everything in between before you hit the first dune. Additionally, sand as you know is quite abrasive so the more of it you have stuck to your chain rotating at a high rate of speed the faster you'll wear down all your drive parts.
Instead of regular chain lube, use a light chain oil or even WD40 (but check first to make sure WD40 is adaptable to your drive parts), or don't use any lubrication at all. Inevitably, you're going to get sand in your drive chain and gears but using a viscosity lube will not be nearly as abrasive to your parts and you won't end up with an oily, sandy mess to clean.
Chain Lube for the Sand Dunes
Price: $7.99 - $10.99
If you're riding aluminum sprockets, switch them out for steel sprockets especially if you spend a lot of time on the sand. Steel sprockets are harder and stand up to the constant grind of the sand much better than aluminum.
Steel Sprocket Kit
Price: $49.99 - $69.99
You're air filter is not designed to block a tidal wave of fine sand. You'll need to add some extra protection to keep your engine free from all the grit. We suggest using a K&N pre-filter if you're using a K&N air filter or an airbox cover. The pre-filter prolongs the life of your air filter and makes it easier to maintain. The airbox cover is exactly as advertised - a cover that covers your airbox providing additional protection from the sand while maintaining optimal airflow.
Check your engine coolant before starting your day on the dunes and then often throughout the day while you ride. Bikes tend to run a little more lean on sand plus the bike's engine works harder. Add on the paddle tire or low-pressure tires and you have a recipe for overheating your bike.
Make sure you bring along extra coolant and keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge. Some riders find success by taking frequent breaks from riding to allow the engine to cool off. Additionally, since sand dune riding often occurs in the desert you may be riding in the hot sun which only adds to the ingredients necessary to overheat your bike’s engine.
Get a Safety Flag
Yeah those flags may look like something you had on your bike as a kid but you don't want to ride off without one. Sand dunes are not only a great place to hide but almost act like a cloak of invisibility. Those steep hills hide even the loudest of 2-strokes. So get a flag that stretches at least eight-feet tall from the ground to the mast so others can see you. Most state sanction parks require the use of a safety flag anyway.
Bring Extra Fuel
Lastly, bring fuel! Riding in the sand eats a lot of fuel so if you want to make it all day on the dunes, you're going to need enough gas to refuel several times.
Written By: AndrewT