Offroad Steering Wheel Handling
Daily Dirt Education Tips

Offroad Steering Wheel Handling

LON-Daily-Dirt-Feb-15"What do I do with my hands?!?" Who doesn't remember Ricky Bobby in Taladaga Nights? What a great movie! This article isn't about what to do with your hands while being interviewed though, this is about how to properly place them on a steering wheel while driving or racing. 

Where to Put Your Hands

9 and 3: Think of a clock position, your hands are at directly across from each other at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. This is the more modern recommended position for your hands, especially off-road.  It is a much more comfortable position and you will be able to make turns with ease.

10 and 2: Also thinking of a clock position, put one hand at the 2 o'clock position and one hand at the 10 o'clock position. 10 and 2 started because it gave the driver the most leverage to pull with their body weight on the wheel. Why, you ask? The very first cars had large wheels similar to wagons and the roads were mostly unpaved with large ruts or deep grooves.  Because of this, drivers had to pull hard on the rather large steering wheel with both hands to get the car “out of a rut”.  From this early need evolved the position of holding ones hands at 10 and 2 o’clock giving a driver the most leverage. (And that is also where the phrase ‘stuck in a rut’ came from).


One of the more challenging habits is to release your grip.  When driving offroad you want to have a loose grip of the steering wheel, you need the wheel to be able to work with the vehicle.  A tight grip of the steering wheel will do nothing except increase tension in your neck and back, leading to a very uncomfortable day.  If you are feeling like there needs to be a tighter presence on the wheel, push with your palms, don't grip with your fingers.  

This goes for all my handlebar girls too!  When your riding, don't tightly grip your handlebars, push with your palms.  Have a light roll of your fingers around the bars to keep control, but the actual steering of the bike is coming from your palms, not your fingers.  You have more control over your bike when it's a push, not a pull, turn.


If there is one thing you remember from this article please let it be your thumbs.  You love your thumbs, don't you?  Well, lets protect them!  When holding the steering wheel, never ever ever grip the wheel all the way around to the inside with your thumbs locking. When driving offroad especially - ruts, potholes, rocks, hidden objects in mud, etc - can cause the the wheel to suddenly turn.  A sudden jerk of the wheel can cause the spokes of the wheel to whip around resulting in the thumb being bruised, dislocated or even broken if it is left inside the wheel. 

Today with power steering, this technique is not as important at it once was when manual steering was more common and steering stabilizers were rare.  Still with today's higher horsepower engines and faster driving styles, it's a good idea to think of the thumbs and saving them from the force at which the steering wheel turns when hitting an obstacle. 

Try to focus on keeping your thumbs out of harms way during your daily driving too, consciously done it should become second nature to you.  This technique can help save the thumbs when harsh bumps or accidents are encountered and you are jerked forward. 

Advanced Shuffle Steering

Shuffle Steering allows you to maximize your energy by keeping your hands on the proper side of the steering wheel.  If you draw an imaginary line down the middle of the steering wheel your right hand would stay on the 3 o'clock side and your left on the 9 o'clock side.  As you go into a turn the hands never cross to allow for easy and smoother transitions.  

Honestly, this is really difficult to describe in words, so I found this video with Tanner Foust that does a great job of showing and explaining.  Forward to 1:20. 


What Next

Practice in your everyday vehicle.  If you focus on your steering skills while driving around town, you will surprised how well it transfers when you jump into your offroad vehicle for a weekend.  The short version of this long article is: 9 and 3, loosen your grip and keep your thumb outta there!  Then move on to the advanced shuffle steering, you will like it, trust me!

Author:  Charlene Bower        P 1/19/2017

Share with your Facebook Friends:


Share with your Instagram Friends:

Share with your Pinterest Friends: