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Sand Driving Tips

Sandy terrain is very loose and offers little to no traction for vehicles. Because of the low traction there are a few principles to be understood.

Guidelines for Sand-Driving

Driving Tips
  • The less the traction the more the momentum.

  • Even momentum plays a very important role in sand riding.

  • Send input as little as possible, i.e. all 4 wheels must work in one direction.

  • If you get stuck in the sand, you have to drive small steps forward and backwards in low gear until you hit a long enough track that is firm and then gives you enough momentum to drive over the sand in front of the wheels.

  • Vehicles also need to be as light as possible for sand driving, so take out all the unnecessary stuff!

  • The vehicle's wheels must not turn too fast (spin) while the vehicle is moving slowly, because then the vehicle only digs deeper. There must be a balance between the vehicle's forward momentum and the spin of the wheels. If the wheels spin too fast, release the pedal a little bit (not completely, power must remain on the wheels) and the vehicle will "rise" out of the sand like a boat that is flat. These are difficult to master and must be practised.

  • The rear differential lock can be used in straight lines or on climbs where the sand is very loose. Remember if you want to turn with the rear differential lock locked the vehicle will tend not to turn or turn very slowly, i.e. you will experience "understeer".

Tyre Pressure

​Because sand is soft, the vehicle treads deeper tracks in the sand and drives up an embankment the whole time. The loose sand forms an embankment in front of the wheels which tread deep ruts and push sand like a bulldozer. The vehicle should therefore preferably run on top of the sand like a boat that must first "plain" out of the water.

Tyres, therefore, play an extremely important role and should preferably have as large a surface as possible resting on the sand, i.e. its traction section. Therefore, tyre pressure is also important and tyres are deflated for sand driving to get a larger footprint pattern so that the downward pressure (mass) of the vehicle is distributed over a larger area. The larger the area, the lighter the tyres tread and the better the traction. So we deflate tyres for sand driving to as low as 0.8 bar to get a better flotation.

The deflated tyres allow the vehicle to run more lightly on top of the sand and also cause less damage and are therefore more ecologically friendly on the site.

Tyre Pressure Guidelines
  • Tarmac pressure: according to manufacturer's guidelines (for example 2 bar)

  • Dirt roads: tyres are deflated to 80% of tarmac pressure (1.6 bar)

  • 2 track roads, rocky terrain and obstacles: tyres are deflated to 60% of road pressure (1.2 to 1.3 bar)

  • Sandy work and mud: tyres are deflated by 50% of road pressure (1.0 bar)

  • Dunes and lose sand above low water mark: 0.6 to 0.8 bar

Warning: if tyres are deflated below 1.0 bar, the tyres can easily come off the rim if sharp turns are made at high speed.

Recovery Gear

Always include the following:

  • Good tyre pressure gauge.

  • Decent quality battery-powered tyre pump.

  • Air jack because a regular jack will push you into the sand, or get a large base for the regular jack.

  • Dig to dig yourself out of trouble.

To Tread Lightly While Enjoying Driving On Sand Dunes, Bear The Following In Mind:

  • In areas adjacent to sand dunes, travel on designated roads and trails.

  • Obey all speed limits. Reduce speed below 25 km per hour near campgrounds, campsites and people.

  • Dunes are constantly changing. Use stationary landmarks or a GPS to help you navigate.

  • Watch for ravines, depressions (witches eye) and steep drop-offs (slip face and razorbacks) formed by blowing sand.

  • Use a spotter when jumping hills or dunes.

  • Scout areas before travelling at higher speeds. 

  • Reduce speed in blowing sand or whiteout conditions.

  • In coastal dune areas, watch for quicksand in low areas between dunes.         

  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers.

  • Buddy up with two or three riders, reducing vulnerability if you have an accident or breakdown.     

  • Designate meeting areas in case of separation.

  • Listening to headphones or earbuds can make it difficult to hear and communicate with other recreationists.

  • Don’t mix riding with alcohol or drugs.

Respect The Rights Of Others
  • Respect the rights of others, including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed.

  • Be considerate of others on the dunes.

  • Leave gates as you find them.

  • If crossing private property, be sure to ask permission from the landowner(s).

  • Do not idly ride around in camping, picnicking or residential areas.

  • Make no wake – slow down in “Courtesy Speed Zones” around crowds and camping areas.

  • Keep the noise down.

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself before a trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies, planning for your trip, taking recreation skills classes and knowing how to operate your equipment safely.

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