3.05.2009,9:56 AM
Square Wheels
My Flintstone bike is no more. No longer am I riding on a square tire.

July of this year will mark three years I've had the DL650 V-strom (2006 model). As of last night, the bike has seen over 37,000 miles of gravel and paved road (and occasionally grass). It sat lost and lonely for six months of last year while I recovered from a broken ankle and surgery. And, at times, it remains home while I ride the little KL250, a more dirt and sand capable bike.

The wheels have seen only two sets of tires these 2.5 years: the stock Bridgeport Trail Wings (often called "Death Wings" by V-strom riders) and Metzler Tourances. By far, the latter are preferred: quiet, increased life, better traction. But all tires succumb to fysicks (aka physics, that 'f' word).

A symptom of many commuting miles on a bike is a greater ratio of wear in the middle of the tire tread. Inevitably the tire develops a wide flat ribbon that circles the middle of the tire. At some point this affects handling in turns. It feels like the bike falls into the turn and becomes more pronounced as the flat area becomes wider. Eventually it can cause the rear to slide, especially in or near 90-degree turns. In fact, it's dangerous.

Since getting back on the Whee last November, the degeneration in handling rapidly became worse. It was time for new tires. I decided to stay with the Tourances. A good friend gave me a front tire off of his V-strom that had only 10% wear; he replaced both his tires with another model when his rear tire needed replacing. I ordered a new rear tire and a flat tire during last Sunday's ride forced me to mount it sooner than planned. Since my bike seems to go through rear tires faster than front (still don't know why), this worked out well.

We mounted the rear tire last night and the short ride afterwards made me realize how awful the bike was before then. I felt like I was riding a bike with square wheels, like those on Fred Flinstone's car. The old tire stood unaided after we removed it; it was that square. Now the bike easily flicks sideways, smoothly maneuvers turns and curves, and doesn't vibrate as much. It's almost like having a new bike again.

So now I can cross off one item on the list of Things To Do before a short bike trip to Big Bend at the end of this month. This time I will be riding the Whee-strom with a good friend on his FJR. This Saturday I will change the oil and oil filter, repair the sheepskin seat pad, and determine how I can fasten a set of highway pegs on the crash bars. I'll think about packing later. All I can think of everyday is just being there.

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posted by Macrobe
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