How To Pull A Bike Out Of Deep Gravel, Sand Or Mud

How To -


How To Pull Your BIke Out Of Deep Gravel Mud Sand

Here’s a problem I have to tackle pretty much every single day. My garage lies at the end of a narrow, two-car-long driveway covered in deep, deep gravel. Often, there’s no room to turn the bike around in the packed garage, so I have to pull it out, backwards. It’s a pain, but with the right technique, it’s doable. Here’s how to pull your bike out of deep gravel, sand or mud.

Paddle, Pull or Push?
The easiest way to balance a bike while you’re rolling it is to sit on it, but doing so delivers less leverage for your legs than pulling or pushing. Standing to one side and moving a bike by its handlebars delivers the most control, but it’s relatively easy to over balance and pretty hard to catch a fall to the opposite side. Pushing it gives you the most leverage, but the least amount of control.

So, ask yourself which approach the situation calls for. In this driveway, my most common method is the paddle. If I’ve got a light bike, I’ll go to that first. Pull works well with a heavier bike, but I need a fair bit of room to make it work. Push only comes out if I’ve got to move something monstrous. Looking at you, Kawasaki Concours 14.

The Paddle
On a firm surface, you can just paddle backwards. No big deal. But on deep, loose gravel or pulling your dual sport out of mud? I like to make the bike’s suspension work for me. Holding the front brake lever, I bounce all my body weight into the front suspension, then release the brake and heave backwards on the bars as the suspension rebounds. This was enough to even extricate a Suzuki Burgman 650 down this driveway.

The Pull
But, moving a Moto Guzzi Griso was another matter entirely. To get that one going, I stood on the left side, put my left hand on the bar (mostly to steer) and had to lean my body weight on my right hand, which was grabbing the tail section. Lean the bike towards you until you find the natural balance point and push! You’ll wander around a little outside of a straight line, so it’s nice to have some extra room to work with; I’ve got to move all the cars out of my driveway to manage this one. The more you lean it towards you, the less likely you are to find the bike overbalanced away from you, which is how you drop it. Do this with the side stand up, but remember to kick it back down when you’re done.

The Push
With the bike on its side stand, stand in front of it with a hand on each handlebar. You can manipulate the front brake a little with your left thumb if needs be. Pick the bike upright, lean in, and put your back into it. You can move the most weight this way, but controlling it can be a challenge. Try and keep the bars as perfectly straight as possible. Beware, standing in front, you have very little leverage to catch the bike if it starts to topple.

And there you go, I hope you appreciate that I had to break a sweat paddling this Honda CB500X through the gravel to write this review for you.

Related Links:
Also Driveway Related: How To Prevent Motorcycle Theft
Leave The Garage Behind: How To Stay Comfortable On Long Motorcycle Rides
Something To Do In That Garage: How To Keep Your Motorcycle Intact In A Crash

  • ThruTheDunes

    I share your pain, sort of. I have to swing open a 10 ft gate on the side of the barn to get in and out. It is dirt on each side. Because it is a down slope on the outside and the gate swings out, getting back in is the pain. Trying to gauge the sweep of the gate so I can park and dismount without me or the bike ending up in the thorns of the berry bushes or heeling over in the soft dirt is part of the daily routine. And when I misjudge and need to move the bike, it suddenly hits me how unwieldy 450 lbs of deadweight can be, on a slope, next to a briar patch. Damn gate…

    But what really gets me is a couple times a week, I manage to tip the shifter into gear as I climb back on. About as graceful as a rhino, Damn big feet…

    But if that is the worst that happens, it is still a good day (since I am on two wheels). Not sure I’d feel that way if I had to haul myself (and the bike) out of that damn briar patch, though.

  • Wes Siler

    Yeah, I keep meaning to do that. But getting a puppy, launching a new company and fixing the house up in ways that the roomies care about too have taken priority.

    • Guzzto

      given the amount of new content lately I’d be surprised if you had time to eat ;)

  • JT

    I want to see video or this never happened.

  • Piglet2010

    Check out 0:54 to 1:00 in this video (if your bike has a center-stand).

    • Wes Siler

      If you’ve got four bikes jammed into a tiny garage, along with a work bench, tools, random crap…there just isn’t room to rotate.

      • William Connor

        Place a paving stone or stones, depending on what you can get cheaply and easily, into the gravel outside the garage an use it as a base to rotate on. Then you have the entire driveway as room to rotate. This would work for the side stand technique as well.

    • Price Action Guru


    • KeithB

      Brilliant! I have got to try that!

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    If you’re Marc Marquez you just leave in the gravel and let the track marshals drag it out.

  • Chris Cope

    Perhaps leave a 1- to 2-foot space, if possible, between the garage door and whatever’s behind the garage door (I’m assuming here that the picture is of your garage). When you come to put the bike in the garage, once you get the front wheel off the gravel, turn the bike so it is perpendicular to all the other bikes (i.e. other bikes are pointing north-south, this bike is pointing east-west). From there, do a side-stand turn that swings the bike backward into the garage. That way it will be facing forward when you next take it out.

    For reference, here’s a 14-second video of me doing a side-stand turn:

    I live in Britain and have to push my bike down a sidewalk to get to my garden gate (a door in a wall). The gate door is 8-inches up from the sidewalk, so I have to lay down a portable wheelchair ramp. Then I have to side-stand turn the bike so the front wheel is on the ramp. This puts the bike on an incline, and if it rolls back even an inch it’s likely to result in my rack going through the window of a car parked next to the sidewalk. Once the bike is in this precarious position I have to get back on, start up and ride forward through a doorway that is exactly 72 centimetres wide. This means having to turn the bars to wiggle the bike in — all while gently manipulating the throttle and brake so as to climb up the ramp and not roll back.

    Once I manage my way into the “garden” (actually just a 10-foot-by-8-foot patch of concrete), I do another side-stand turn to set the bike facing outward, making it easier for me to get out when I next ride.

  • Stephen Mears

    I wonder if just a long roll of some industrial floor mat from McMaster Carr would do the trick. Thick rubber stuff.

  • kevin

    Thanks for this article! I hate having to park on gravel because I always have such trouble getting the bike out again but hopefully these techniques will help. If I could add something, I’d say the best possible way to handle gravel is to take a little extra effort when parking the bike so that its pointed in the right direction to ride it out when you leave…

  • chupa

    Need a video to accompany this article.

  • Rowtag

    I usually ask my girl to lend me a hand.

    • Rowtag

      and it posted here again..

  • Rowtag

    call a girl fat and problem solved!

    • Rowtag

      i posted this and appear as a guest? ok then..

  • dinoSnake

    Wish I had your ‘problem’ like you did with the CB500X. If you have any recommendations for a technique to move a stuck bike when said bike weighs 5 times your current body weight, please forward it gratefully to me!

  • di0genes

    I get getting stuck in gravel and sand, I do that a lot, what I don’t get is getting stuck in front of your own garage. That would only happen once.

    Last time I bought some of these form a big store with initials H and D they were about 3 bucks each, 24×30, probably closer to 10 bucks now. A single line of these from garage to pavement would probably cost the same as an evenings worth of beer. Get the beer and the slabs and your buddies will lay them for you.