That Moment When You Realize The Difference Between Road Tires & Multi-purpose Tires

I went out for a blast on Saturday of the long weekend.  It wasn’t a long ride, just up and down the few windy roads near where I live that follow the Grand River before heading home for an oil change.

The Tiger was frisky and I was enjoying exploring its limits.  After a run up and down the north shore I crossed the river on a road I don’t usually take.  Coming up the south river bank hill, I think I’m still a few hundred yards from the stop sign when I finally pick it out of the growth on the side of the road and realize it’s only about forty yards ahead of me; I’m doing 80km/hr and the Tiger doesn’t stop that quickly from 80km/hr.

 

Ahead on the right you can see the stop sign, but this spring it’s in long grass and the trees have filled out around it.
 
Between smaller tires in general and a curved profile to
manage cornering on half as many contact patches,
motorcycle tires do an amazingly good job.

Motorcycle tires do an astonishing job of gripping the pavement with barely any contact patch.  I’ve had to dig deep into braking at various times and have always come away surprised at how well they grip with so little contact to the pavement.  Of course, I’ve only ever ridden road bikes with road biased tires until this spring (the KLX doesn’t count, I barely road it and besides, those big, knobby tires slapping on the pavement were a constant reminder that it wasn’t a road bike).

Finding myself astride an athletic Tiger coming in too hot to a stop sign with through traffic doing the better part of 100km/hr had me realizing I’m in a bit of bother.  You can feel remarkably naked on a motorcycle in that moment.  If I can’t stop in time I’ll end up in the intersection, possibly side swiped by a two ton box.

As the adrenaline begins to course through me I’m happy to note that my right foot is already deep into the rear brake and my right hand is squeezing the front brake hard.  Meanwhile my clutch hand has me in neutral already.  The rear has locked up and is snaking about back there.  I’ve never had a rear lock up that quickly before.  The bike is shedding heaps of momentum but I’m not going to stop in time.  I go deeper into the front brake where all the bike’s weight is concentrated and it starts to skittle as it too locks up.  You can slide down the street in a car all day, but staying vertical on a bike with two locked wheels seldom happens.  All of this is flashing through my mind while my body is doing its own thing, I’m not consciously doing anything at this point.  My foot remains locked on the rear brake, but to my surprise my hand immediately eases off and reapplies brake over and over whenever the front starts to wobble; I didn’t know it would do that.  Even with all that adrenaline I’m happy to learn that I didn’t freeze up or lock up and drop the bike; I’m glad I have smart hands and feet.  Maybe all that reading about motorcycle dynamics has paid off.

The big Tiger is crouched down on its long front suspension, trying to shed all that forward momentum into the ground.  I would have stopped already on the Ninja with its sticky Avon road tires and hard suspension, but this isn’t a purpose built road bike with pavement biased tires, it’s a tall trail bike with multipurpose tires – tires that are evidently very easy to lock up, though I didn’t know that until now.

I’ve shed the majority of my velocity but I’m still not going to stop in time.  Things have slowed enough, and my hands and feet seem to know what they’re doing without me telling them, so I glance up and down the road as I near the intersection; it’s all clear in both directions.  I immediately release the brakes and roll over the painted white line marking where to stop – impending lock up on that wouldn’t have gone well.  I glide through the intersection, release the clutch and continue down the country road in front of me in too high a gear.

“Get your head on straight!” I say to myself as I gear down and move off down the road.  You don’t miss stop signs until it’s too late on a motorcycle, especially when you’re going to be entering a through way with high speed traffic.  Getting t-boned in a car there would probably have been fatal, getting t-boned on a bike would have been a certainty.

There are two take aways from this little incident.  Firstly, pay better attention and approach unfamiliar, overgrown intersections in a more circumspect manner.  The Tiger’s big triple gets you going quickly so easily that it’s easy to forget how fast you’re moving – keep that in mind too.  Secondly, those Metzelers may feel fantastic on gravel and loose dirt (and they do, the bike is astonishingly stable), but they aren’t grippy like road tires and they’ll lock up early on you in an emergency.

I was remarkably calm afterwards and enjoyed the rest of the ride.  Even during the emergency braking and immediately after I didn’t get the shakes or anything like that.  This turned into a good learning opportunity about a few key items.  I now know how I handle emergency braking (better than I could have hoped), and I’ve learned the dynamic limitations of multipurpose tires, all with no penalty.

If it happens again I might give myself a smack in the head, but it won’t.

A picture perfect day for a ride along the Grand River…
Back home and all cleaned up – that engine will get you going faster than you think you are, and the bike’s athleticism will encourage you to push it, but those tires aren’t up to 10/10ths road riding, so keep that in mind ya big git.


One Bike To Rule Them All!

I think I need 3 bikes, a road bike, an off road/scrappy bike and a touring bike that lets me 2 up easily.  The wee garage would easily swallow this stable.  The Ninja was $3500.  I think I could cover the other two for $4500.  Keeping the bike stable at half what our cheapest car cost seems reasonable.

The Ninja is the sport bike… $3500
This Kawasaki Concourse was $2500 in the summer.  With a pillion seat-back it would make a great long distance shared riding bike.

If I could pick up a good dual purpose bike for under $2000, I’d be able to fill out the stable for about $8000 (£5000).  This KLR fits the bill, though I’d be longing to paint it (not a problem).

Unless I can find a way to throw legs over as many bikes as I can, I can’t see another way to get an idea of how various bikes ride.  Finding a bike that does everything is a fool’s errand.  Bikes that claim to do this are a series of compromises.  The key to riding a variety of styles is to ride a variety of bikes.
The first bike that would suffer in a diversified garage would be the somewhat sensible all round Ninja.  In its place I’d be looking for a naked streefighter… a Triumph Speed Triple would be on my short list.
Motorbike show NOTE:  I had a chat with Riders Plus Insurance.  They insured me in my first year of riding and were helpful and efficient.  This time round I was curious about how insuring multiple bikes work.  They told me that buying a second bike means you’re doubling your insurance payments.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as I can only ride one bike at a time.  I expected something like you’re insured at the rate of whatever the highest cost bike is plus 10% for the paperwork on the other bike.  What I was told was that you get a 10% discount on your second bike and pay another full set of insurance on it… which makes owning multiple bikes not really financially viable, so that dream goes down the toilet.

Bikers

The other week I posted a discussion on the Concours Owners Group asking how to pass a large group of bikers on the road.  That discussion sparked an angry rebuttal condemning me for mocking the happy pirate look that a large portion of the (especially) North American motorcycle community identifies with.  Personally, I’d say people can dress however they want and ride whatever they want, but I get the sense that the pirate types don’t feel that way.

On COG I was trying to be funny, but with an edge.  On the Georgian Bay circumnavigation I ran into some corporately attired Harley riders who wanted to point out how much unlike them I looked.  It felt like hazing with the intent of getting me to look like a proper biker.  Nothing will get my back up faster than someone telling me I have conform to their standard.  The irony wasn’t lost on me that these rebels without a clue whose look is predicated on nonconformity were uncomfortable with a motorcyclist not in proper uniform.

One of the reasons I make a point of reading British biking magazines is because they are free of (and willing to make fun of) this dominant North American biking culture.  They don’t worship Harley Davidson as the one and only motor company, and they try to look at the breadth of motorbiking rather than forcing a single version of it down everyone’s throats.  Had I the boat load of money that they cost I would happily buy an HD V-Rod (not considered a ‘real’ Harley by purists because it’s liquid cooled).  It’s a fine machine and I’d get one for that reason, but I don’t think I’d ever buy a motorcycle because of the manufacturer alone, I’m not that politically driven.

When I first started riding I was shiny and new about it and told one of my colleagues who rode that I was just starting out.  He asked me what I got and when I told him a Ninja he put his nose in the air and said, “hmm, isn’t that like riding tupperware?”  Just recently I told him I was thinking about getting a dual sport.  He said, “why would you want that?  It’d be like riding a toolbox!”  In the biker ethos there is only one kind of bike with a single aesthetic.  If you don’t conform, expect criticism.

In talking to other motorcyclists the non-mainstream/biker crowd sometimes find biker types to be holier-than-thou, not returning a wave or giving you the gears at a stop for not conforming to the dress code.

Motorcyclists tend to be iconoclasts, they have to be or they’d be doing what everyone else does riding around in the biggest cage they could afford.  Yet the act of riding isn’t enough for some, there are also social expectations that these rebellious non-conformists expect all riders to conform to.

At the end of the day I’m a fan of two wheeling.  I’d call myself a motorcyclist.  I get as excited about looking at historical Harleys as I do at racing tupperware or riding toolboxes.  I only wish more bikers would be less critical of anything other than their singular view of the sport.

I refuse to conform to their nonconformity.

Possibilities

A friend’s daughter came by last night because she was interested in The Ninja.  I’m rabidly interested in riding as many different bikes as I can, so when they asked if I wanted to follow along on the Honda Firestorm she’d ridden over I quickly grabbed my gear.  With aftermarket everything on it, the Honda backfired loudly and took off like a scalded rabbit.  The steering geometry on it is very vertical and the grips small, making the bike turn in very quickly even though it feels heavier than the Ninja.  It was definitely a young man’s bike, riding it for more than an hour would be agony, but I totally get it, it was a blast!

The test ride ended up not fitting the rider (she found the Ninja tall and the riding position too upright), but the possibility of Bike2.0 got me thinking…

They have a nicely-looked-after ’06 Concours at Two Wheel Motorsport.  It’s an athletic mile eater that easily 2-ups and is in its element as a long distance tourer.  This particular one is low kilometres (~50k) and well maintained, it would run for ever with no problems.

I’m pretty weight fixated after riding the Ninja and doing a lot of thinking about bike dynamics, and the Concours isn’t light even if it is light on its feet for a big guy.  I was wandering Kijiji yesterday after suddenly facing the prospect of maybe being bike-less and came across another interesting choice.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the new VFR800f Interceptor.  This is another athletic mile eater that is at home in the twisties, and at over 150lbs lighter than the portly Concours it plays to my sense of what athletic means in a bike.  I’ve always been a Honda fan, I had a picture of one on my wall when I was a kid, it’d be cool to own one.

The VFR on Kijiji is an ’02, almost half the miles of the Concours for sale and ‘meticulously maintained’.  Not to be an English snob or anything, but the add is nicely written too:

Mint condition, meticulously cared for, very low mileage (28000 km) VFR 800 VTEC with ABS. The VFR 800 has the distinctive single sided swingarm, ABS and the legendary Honda Interceptor V4 engine that is famous for producing one of the most intoxicating exhaust notes of any motorcycle powerplant… it’s music. This bike is just as comfortable eating up corners in the twisties as it is taking you on multi day trips in comfort. It comes with 2 seats, the stock one and a Sargent seat, 2 windshields, stock and a tinted Zero Gravity windshield, solo seat cover, PDF Honda VFR800 Service Manual and a set of frame sliders still in the box. Also installed are the 2006 VFR clear tail light and smoke front turn signal light lenses. $5700 or best offer.


There is something about a rider who knows spelling and grammar that gives an air of competence.  When this guy says it has been meticulously maintained I believe him because he knows the word meticulous (and how to spell it).

I’ve got such an itch for this bike that I’m tempted to give him a call and ride down to Hamilton to give it a go.  I only wish I had the money aside to snap it up if I liked it as much as I think I might.  The process of selling the Ninja means that the VFR might be long gone by the time I’m ready to pull the trigger.

That was quick.  I’m glad he sold it, but sad too…

 

North American International Motorcycle Show

Hey NAIMS, you coulda had my wife there… a master’s degree,
great job, but you’re not appealing to her demographic…

My son and I went down on Friday morning in -25°C  temperatures for our first ever motorcycle show at the International Centre in Mississauga.  My wife didn’t come because the advertising on the website (which also had a complete lack of social media) put her off.  I suspect you’ll get a better class of customer with more in their pocket if you appeal to educated women interested in the sport.  I’m not sure who you cater to with the twinkies, but I suspect they aren’t great customers.  You’d also bring in many more younger riders (I think the average age at the show was about 50) if you embraced social media.

Old white guys & twinkies, it’s a weird,
backwards, and kinda creepy
dynamic, time to change it up

Since it was my first time at a show like this I was a bit worried that I was bringing my son to a de-tuned strip club, but I was pleasantly surprised.  There were a few other families there and the crowd represented a typical Canadian cross section.  With the bike clubs on hand, the variety of bikes on show and the various supporting retailers, this wasn’t a biker bar scene at all – it’s a shame that the advertising doesn’t show this for what it is.

There were little herds of Harley aficionados trying too hard in their leathers and badges, but they were a minority.  On our way in from the parking lot an older fellow we were walking in with gave us a discount coupon, and the people in the show were encouraging, accessible and not at all snobby (which is nice when you’re a n00b).

We spent the better part of four hours walking around and missed an entire hall.  The amount of material was prolific, from the gear to the bikes themselves.  Two brands really stood out for me and the others were generally a disappointment.

You’d normally be hard pressed to get me interested in a
Harley, but they make it easy to like them, and what a
good looking bike!

I’m the furthest thing from a Harley Fan, but Harley Davidson Canada put on a great show.  They took a good chunk of floor space, had a lot of room to try out bikes and were more than willing to focus on developing a relationship with their customers rather than leaving it to dealers who are only interested in moving units.

Having dealers take care of your brand loyalty is like have the tigers at the zoo do the job of the zookeepers.  If they can drum up any customer relationship building at all they’re only pretending, all they really want to do is feed themselves a sale.

I ended up throwing a leg over a bunch of Harleys and I’m much more curious now than I was before, well done HD.

Shows like NAIMS are an ideal opportunity for manufacturers to develop a relationship with their customers, and I was surprised that so few did.  I want to be a Triumph fan, I’m from the UK, I love their bikes from a design point of view, but they were only there through a local dealer who parked the bikes so close together that it was impossible to sit on many of them (which was no doubt the idea).  The special ‘deal’ on Triumph t-shirts had them on ‘sale’ for $60… for a t-shirt.  Between the inaccessible bikes, the over-priced merch and the dealers rolling their eyes whenever your kid wants to try and sit on a bike, we didn’t spend much time in Triumph land.

After the show I’m reconsidering how and why I might become attached to a specific make, or even whether I should (though motorcycling seems particularly intense in its tribal approach to brand).

Beautiful naked bike, the Z1000… it’s got me
thinking…

Another manufacturer who didn’t take my loyalty for granted was Kawasaki.  My first bike was supposed to be a Honda or a Suzuki and it ended up being a Ninja. It’s been a great first bike and the KLR has long been on my mind as an alternate/multi-purpose bike (though the insurance chat later is making that unlikely).  Kawasaki has been good to me so far, and the show only made me more of a fan.

Like Harley, Kawasaki showed up instead of only being there through dealers.  The reps they had on hand were friendly, helpful and approachable.  The bikes were displayed in a way that encouraged you to try them out, and Kawi also brought the bling (which I immediately put up in the garage).  

Kawasaki was never on my bike lust list when I was younger (I was all about Interceptors and Gixers), but as an adult buyer they have my attention.  Well done Kawasaki!

The rest of the bike show was a whirlwind of gear and meet and greets.  Two Wheel Motorsport was there, and I had a quick chat with my motorcycle course instructor (while getting a great deal on a Bell Helmet for my son – I’m all about Bell helmets since seeing Rush).

I had a chat with Riders Plus Insurance.  They insured me in my first year of riding and were helpful and efficient.  This time round I was curious about how insuring multiple bikes work.  They told me that buying a second bike means you’re doubling your insurance payments.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as I can only ride one bike at a time.  I expected something like you’re insured at the rate of whatever the highest cost bike is plus 10% for the paperwork on the other bike.  What I was told was that you get a 10% discount on your second bike and pay another full set of insurance on it… which makes owning multiple bikes not really financially viable, so that dream goes down the toilet.

I was looking for Motorcycle Mojo as we wandered about since I’ve been emailing with the publisher, but couldn’t find them!  This show really is huge.  But I did find The Widow’s Sons.  After a round of secret handshakes I got some contact information.  A number of guys in my lodge have bikes but don’t ride with others.  I’m wondering if I can start a local chapter, or perhaps join the Grand River Chapter.

My son and I both really enjoyed the show.  It let us throw our legs over a lot of bikes and talk with a wide variety of people in the sport.  It was a wonderful thing to get excited about riding again even as the temperature outside turned truly arctic.  Kawasaki & Harley both get nods as my favourite manufacturers of the show.  Their stand up showing has me questioning brand loyalty based on some weird sense of belonging rather than a manufacturer’s interest in genuinely developing a relationship with their customer.  As a new rider I’m looking to be wooed.  Harley & Kawi both did some quality wooing.

My suggestion?  Get yourself out to the North American Motorcycle Show and bring your family along, they’ll have a great time and maybe even get a sense of why you love riding like you do.  

I hope the show will reconsider the marketing angle and get away from the twinkie/biker thing on the website and embrace social media next year.  If they do, maybe I can convince my wife to come along with us.

Some pictures from the show.

Money To Burn Wish List

Another wish list… we were talking about what we’d do with a lotto win while camping last weekend.  I’d be aiming to expand into road racing and off road riding.  Here’s what my cost-no-object-moto-summer would look like.

LOGISTICS


I’ve been thinking about a Ford Transit van, Guy Martin style, but now I’m thinking about a trailer.  Stealth Trailers make an aluminium bike trailer that is pretty awesome.  It weighs about 1200lbs and carries another 1700lbs, so something with a three thousand pound towing capacity would manage it.  Fortunately, the Jeep Cherokee I’m currently fixated on can tow 4500lbs.


Trailer: ~$6000
Jeep:    ~$36500
———————-
~$42,500

I’d also pick up a custom pop up tent with Mechanical Sympathy printed on it.  They look like they go for about a thousand bucks plus whatever the custom screening costs.  Setup off the back of the trailer I’d have an instant pit stand.


Tent ~$1500

ROAD RACING


Track Bike (newer)

Kawasaki ZX-6R if I wanted to keep it Kawi as I have thus far.

Other short listed bikes would be the Honda CBR600RR or the Triumph Daytona 675R.  All three are mid-displacement bikes that would allow for an engrossing track experience.  A litre bike is a bit much for track day riding, unless you’re either an ex-professional or compensating for something.

Price range (new) : $12,500 (Honda) to $14,500 (Triumph) with the Kawi in between.  I’d pick the one that fits best.  Rather than a new one I’d probably find a used one and then strip it down to race.  I could find a lightly used one of these for about six grand and spend another four to get it race ready.
~$10,000

Track Training & Track Days

 Racer5The three day intro-weekend would do the trick giving me the basics on a rented Honda.

$1000

Getting in some laps at Grand Bend
$100 a pop x 5 a summer = $500

Pro6 Cycle track days at Calabogie
$350 a pop x3 a summer (x2 meet up with Jason) = $2100

Vintage Racer

Join the VRRA and take their racing school.
$475

A mid-80s Honda Interceptor would be my classic bike of choice.  I couldn’t care less how competitive it might be, this is an exercise in nostalgia.

You can find well kept ones for a couple of thousand dollars online.  Converting it to a race bike would cost that much again.
$4000

Road racing ain’t cheap…

————————–
~$18,000 + race costs (tires, etc)

OFF ROAD

Suzuki DR-Z400S x2
Build out a couple of Suzukis, do some training, complete some multi-day enduro events.
~$7000 each + maintenance and upgrades

Join OFTR
~$65

Trail Tours Dual Sport Training
$250

Smart Adventures All Day Training
$260

$2000 competition budget
————–
$16,575


Forty-two, eighteen and sixteen and a half thousand (~$76k) and I’d be having a very busy summer expanding my motorbiking repertoire both on and off road.  That’s only a two thirds of the price of a new Range Rover!  What a deal!

Old Motorbike Electrics



Turns out the Concours didn’t need a new bulb, it just needed some more electrical connection cleaning.  After replacing the bulb that wasn’t blown I finally took off the fairing only to discover that, like all the other electrical gremlins, it was a matter of dirty connectors.

After cleaning up the wiring harness, suddenly all the lights work again.  I posted what happened on the COG discussions and got this pearl:

As usually happens in a case like this, you immediately see the good advice repeated. Only a couple of nights later I was reading Performance Bike Magazine. They do a bit each month on what to look for in finding an older model sport bike, in this case the thirteen year old Honda VTR1000 SP2. In the article they suggest that cleaning and protecting all electrical contacts on a bike that old is a good winter-time activity.  If it’s true for well cared for sports bikes half as old, it’s even truer for my field-found Connie.


As WillyP states above, bikes aren’t built to keep out the elements, even the most covered bike is virtually naked compared to a car. Even in the case of a well cared for, covered sports bike, cleaning the electrical contacts is a worthwhile off-season ritual. In the case of a field-found Concours, it’s where I should have started in the first place.  A breakdown and electrical cleaning is my go-to next time around.

As a project bike the Concours continues to teach lessons even as it becomes more and more roadworthy.