Riding Ruts On An Adventure Motorcycle

Mastering one of the biggest challenges off road.

Riding ruts
Riding ruts on an adventure motorcycle can be tricky, but with the right skill set and practice, tackling the fearsome features will be less stressful.KTM

Riding in ruts can be one of the most challenging parts of trail riding, they grab your wheels and don’t want to let go, making it easy to overbalance and take a trip into the bushes. There is no secret code to unlock rut riding, but a few important techniques to work on that turn you from a timid paddler to a confident cruiser on a chewed-up track.

With Your Head

Ruts naturally draw your eye in, tempting you to drop your vision closer and closer to the front tire. Rather than trying to stubbornly force your gaze into the distance, actually look for features, changes in the rut shape and surface that you can use to your advantage. Obviously there’s not much in the way of line choice within the rut, but there are usually changes in depth, surface, and shape that require you to speed up and slow down. Actively looking for these things will help you keep that vision ahead.

Ride at a speed you are comfortable with; riding too slow in a rut makes balance tricky. As your confidence improves, getting up into second or even third gear depending on the severity of the rut will feel much easier than wobbling along at walking pace.

With Your Hands

Cover the clutch. If you remember nothing else, just remember to cover the clutch. That way if you get knocked off balance, you can take away the drive and get the bike back under control.

The throttle is one of the key elements to ruts—aim for a positive throttle that pushes the bike through the rut. As soon as you start to roll off the gas, that’s when the front wheel begins to work harder, climbing the sides of the rut and throwing you off balance. You don’t need a big handful of gas, just a nice constant drive. If you need to slow down, be decisive, close the throttle, and get on the brakes, pushing the tires into the bottom of the rut rather than out.

proper riding position
Softer sand ruts require more throttle than hard-packed or muddy ones. A proper riding position helps as well.KTM

With Your Body

Get your weight down through those footpegs and tuck your toes as tightly into the bike as you can. Sticking-out feet will catch on the edges of ruts, which at best will knock you off balance. Aim to stay in charge of the bike for the whole rut. If it starts climbing out to the left, push the right peg to steer it back down and vice versa.

Good riding position and confidence in steering the bike using the pegs on a regular trail will make life easier once you get into the ruts—get that stuff dialed in first. Practice using either foot at slow speed to maintain balance without sitting down. You can start off slowly in the rut standing up, but with one foot on the bank and keep moving that foot forward to keep up with you. As you gain confidence you can build speed and you’ll need the foot less and less.

riding through a rut at high speeds
Confidence is key when riding through a rut at higher speeds. Confidence comes with practice.Kevin Wing

With Your Bike

Decent off-road tires make life easier in ruts, especially when things get wet and slippery. Good, grippy footpegs will keep your feet planted and give you more confidence and control of the bike. If you’re heading into deeper ruts and rocky terrain, consider some protection for your sidestand switch and exhaust headers, as these can be the first victims of a deep, rocky rut.

Ruts have an ability to knock the confidence of even the best riders, catching you out when you least expect it. Build up slowly, concentrate on the points above and get practicing. The more you do, the easier ruts become.