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ADV Prepping5 Tips To Help You Master Deep Water Crossings

5 Tips To Help You Master Deep Water Crossings

Learn to navigate deep rivers on an Adventure Motorcycle with confidence.

Published on 03.14.2014

Deep water crossings can strike fear in the hearts of even the most experienced Adventure Riders, and for good reason. You can expect long delays of more than an hour de-watering your Adventure Bike if it gets submerged. Water in your oil can quickly cause damage and reduce the life of your engine as well. Of course getting drenched in cold water is never fun either.

Here are five tips to help you navigate deep water crossings with more confidence.

1. Decide Whether to Cross


If it looks like it might be deep, stop and evaluate the situation before crossing. Being cautious is always the best approach when you encounter a deep river crossing. Make sure that the trail continues on the other side of the river to confirm others have crossed at this location before. If the river is over knee deep, fast flowing and has an unpredictable bottom, it’s always best to avoid it if you can.

2. Choose a Line

It’s always best to use a long stick or wade-in to determine depth before proceeding. Look for rocks and debris and find a smooth shallow path through the water to cross. Water moves slower in the deeper sections. Areas with broken water will be shallow, but also rockier. Crossing just upstream from the broken water should give you a clean line. You can also try staying within the tire tracks of 4WD vehicles to get a smoother path. If a river is particularly fast flowing, the best approach is to start upstream and cross at an angle moving down stream. This will allow you to ride with the current instead of against it.

3. Pick The Right Speed

Keep your thumb on the kill switch so you are ready to shut the motor off if the bike starts to tip into the water. Start in first gear and approach the water at a fast enough pace to keep forward momentum, but slow enough to not create a splash that obscures your vision. Standing up on the bike increases your ability to absorb obstacles and also gives you a better view of what’s ahead. If you are not a confident stand-up rider, then choose a seated position and be ready to use your feet in the water to maintain balance.

4. Maintain Forward Progress

Use your clutch to maintain smooth forward progress throughout the water crossing and avoid wheelspin at all times. You should always be looking ahead toward the exit of the river while using your peripheral vision to scan the path directly in front of you. You want to create a small bow wave in front of the bike, which will help reduce the height of the water a few inches around the bike. Be ready to drop down quickly and dab a foot if you get knocked off balance while standing. If seated, you should use your feet to paddle through the water and maintain your balance. Remember to use smooth throttle and gas to keep your forward momentum and traction over obstacles.

5. Ask For Help If You Need It

If you do get stuck in the water midstream, get off the bike, regroup and decide how best to proceed. Caution is always the best approach to avoid long delays. Your feet are already wet, so you might as well push the bike across the rest of the way while slipping the clutch in first gear (be ready to kill the engine if it tips). Sometimes it’s better to not push your luck though. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help pushing the bike across with the engine off. They will much prefer helping you for five minutes, rather than waiting an hour for you to clear water out of your bike.

See How It’s Done

Here are two short videos that help demonstrate proper techniques for water crossings. The bikes used in the videos are small Dual Sport motorcycles, but the fundamental techniques remain the same for large Adventure Bikes.

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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Caution Is Always The Best Approach With River Crossings » ADV Pulse
March 15, 2014 6:35 pm

[…] Also, check out these 5 Tips that will help you improve your confidence on river crossings. […]


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