There is a wide variety of modifications for off-road vehicles and motorcycles, each showcasing unique styles. The desert undoubtedly stands out as a paradise for off-road adventures. However, upon visiting the desert, one might notice that the majority of vehicles present are off-road cars, dune buggies, and other four-wheeled vehicles. As a motorcycle enthusiast, it’s only natural to want to ride a motorcycle and roam freely in the desert landscape.

1. Choice of Vehicle Model

Lightweight – The desert’s characteristic terrain includes soft sand and numerous flat areas with sand dunes. Therefore, a motorcycle for desert riding must be lightweight. Dealing with sand traps and potential crashes, a heavy motorcycle would lead to exhausting efforts. It is generally recommended to opt for off-road motorcycles, and even local herders can skillfully navigate the desert on basic 125cc motorcycles due to their light weight. While rally bikes might have some off-road capabilities, entering the desert is not advised unless you possess significant strength to lift your bike or possess the skills of a Dakar rally participant.

High Torque – Driving on loose or uphill terrain requires substantial torque to avoid getting stuck. If your motorcycle lacks the necessary torque, trying to rev the engine in low gear while slowly releasing the clutch will likely stall the bike. A high torque can be achieved through higher engine displacement, which is a commonly acknowledged principle. However, if your motorcycle’s displacement is not large, having a large rear sprocket will provide the necessary torque to escape challenging situations. In the desert, top speed is not a major concern.

Cooling – Off-road motorcycles typically come in air-cooled and liquid-cooled variants. In the desert, daytime temperatures are generally high, and maintaining high speeds can be difficult. Air-cooled engines might not perform optimally under these conditions, leading to power loss and difficulty shifting gears. In extreme cases, engine damage might occur. However, air-cooled bikes are simpler and lighter, eliminating worries about damaging a radiator in case of a fall. Liquid-cooled bikes are heavier but can maintain performance in the desert for extended periods. Different cooling methods each have their advantages; unless you’re consistently riding in the desert without breaks, this isn’t a significant concern.

In my opinion, most 250cc off-road motorcycles from various brands are suitable for desert riding. Their power output is generally sufficient, as long as you’re not attempting extreme sand dunes.

2. Tires Tire

Type – Off-road vehicles usually come equipped with all-terrain tires, and some might have paddle tires. While various tire types have been experimented with, it’s better to opt for specialized desert tires. Among these, the tire shown on the left in the image below is preferred by experienced riders.

However, this particular tire would struggle on the desert’s periphery or when encountering hard terrain conditions. Generally, the editor recommends the tire shown on the left in the image below, as it balances the characteristics of a regular off-road tire and performs excellently in the desert as well. This type of tire offers better balance, allowing for transitions between different terrains without compromising performance on the desert’s edge or on hard surfaces. Simultaneously, they provide sufficient traction and stability in the desert.

In short, the key is to have sharp and well-designed features on the tires. In soft sand, it’s important to have as much digging capability as possible. Regular off-road tires and paddle tires can also be used, but they might lack the necessary power when encountering sand dunes.

Deflating Tires – One of the biggest mistakes often made when entering the desert is deflating the tires. This is based on experiences with driving cars in the desert, where reducing tire pressure increases the contact area. However, motorcycles are lighter, and the materials of off-road tires are relatively harder. After deflating, the difference in contact area is not significant, and during deeper off-road riding, it can lead to complete tire detachment. The inner tube can get completely crushed, and the bike might need to be pushed out by hand. Therefore, it’s advised not to deflate motorcycle tires when entering the desert.

Don’t mingle with cars while playing. Motorcycles don’t have the visibility advantage of having a flagpole, making them harder for cars to spot, which can be dangerous. Additionally, the tracks left by cars can make the sand extremely loose. Riding a motorcycle in these tracks makes it difficult to control the direction, especially for beginners. It’s better for newcomers to ride on the original sand areas where the sand is more compact and stable.

Try to avoid riding directly into the sun. In the desert, under the sunlight, everything appears golden and dazzling. Riding directly into the sun can be extremely glaring, and when looking in the direction of the backlight, the desert loses all color contrast, making it nearly impossible to judge if there are ruts or faults in the road ahead.

3. Driving Techniques

First and foremost, ensure you have all the necessary protective gear. This is fundamental knowledge for off-road riding. However, in the desert, where it can be hot, opt for lighter riding gear with armor, and goggles are a must. Don’t assume that the soft sand of the desert means you can be lax; in fact, the desert can be a place where accidents are more likely.

One of the most common mistakes newcomers make when entering the desert is their riding posture. When you’re not yet familiar, avoid sitting down. Stand up and shift your weight as far back as possible, as if you’re preparing to lift the front of the bike. This way, the narrower front wheel won’t easily sink into the sand, making it easier to control the direction. For posture, you can take cues from the riding posture of Dakar rally participants. Once you become more familiar with the varied off-road conditions, you can naturally adjust your posture as you see fit.

Starting in second or third gear is more suitable than first gear. First gear provides too much torque, making it easier to lose traction and sink the rear wheel if you haven’t gained enough speed. Depending on your bike’s characteristics, starting in second or third gear is often more suitable for the desert’s terrain.

Having an ample supply of spare fuel is crucial. Gas stations can be quite far from the desert, and riding in the desert often involves using the throttle extensively. Your fuel consumption estimates should not be based on normal usage; they might be several times higher. It’s essential to carry extra fuel in containers since you might burn through a tank of gas in just an hour.

Regularly clean your air filter. In the desert, sand is constantly blowing around, and after a few hours, your air filter will likely be clogged with sand and dust. Cleaning the filter during breaks is necessary to maintain proper engine performance.