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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Metzler Roadtec 01 end of life review

Regular readers of this blog will know the history of the tyres I’ve had on the GSX-S 1000 from previous posts.  By way of a brief recap, the OEM Dunlop D214 pure sport tyres were horrid things for road use in NZ where it’s eminently possible to get 4 seasons in one day.  Grip in warm, dry conditions was fine but when it was cooler and damp, they were bastards (to use a technical term). Hard to get enough heat in them in those circumstances for decent grip and I didn’t trust them.  Also bearing in mind that I was breaking the bike in during this period, a rear tyre life of 3700 km to a completely ruined state was pretty underwhelming.  It was also potentially bankrupting considering that I generally cover about 20,000 km/yr.

The replacement set of choice were the Michelin PR4's, having used them on my Street Triple and having found them a brilliant all-round tyre with exceptional wet weather grip properties. They even survived a track day without complaining too much.  A 55 profile tyre was chosen as opposed to the OEM 50 profile in the hope of getting a quicker turn-in and it worked – much easier to change line in twisty conditions.  Approximate rear tyre life was an entirely acceptable 12,500 km and both hoops retained a reasonable profile and decent handling throughout.  Photos and a more detailed account can be found HERE .  It goes without saying that tyre life is governed by many factors...... road characteristics (surface, temperature, ratio of twists and straights etc), total loaded weight, riding style and many more aspects.  However, life comparisons between tyres in my case are valid because I travel the same type of roads, most of my riding is tied up with advanced roadcraft coaching and I don't commute.

I would have happily replaced them with another set but the relatively newly-released Metzler Roadtec 01’s had been launched to critical acclaim by motorcycling journalists. Like the PR4, wet weather performance was reputed to be outstanding.  No harm in giving them a try so I purchased a set, also 55 profile.


 New Metzler Roadtec 01 tyres

The first ride on new tyres is always a cautious one to bed them in but also because the handling feels very sensitive after running on older tyres.  However, on subsequent rides, the 01's felt slightly quicker turning in than the PR4's and the front end felt marginally more planted. It may be due to the 01 front tyre not having transverse sipes like the PR4 but in any event, the difference is pretty small. My impression is that the Roadtec 01 has a slightly sportier feel than the PR4 but again, it's not a massive difference.

In the wet, I haven't noticed any difference in grip between the PR4 and the Roadtec 01, they are both terrific in both wet conditions and dry public roads.  Under rigorous measurement with a better rider than me, there may well be a difference between the two brands but for my standard of riding and end use, they are both totally fit for purpose in terms of grip and feel.

So what about life?  I've just racked up 11000 km and the centre of the rear tyre is close to the legal minimum of 1.5 mm. The front has a lot more depth but they will both be replaced within the next 1000 km.  That means that life is near as dammit the same as the PR4's.  I ran the same cold pressures at 39-40 psi rear and 36 psi front for both brands.

The rear hoop has retained its shape pretty well as the photos below show.  Not having a significant central flat spot must be in part due to riding on mainly twisty roads with no commuting.

Rear Metzler Roadtec 01 @11000 km

Rear Metzler Roadtec 01 @ 11000 km (45 degree angle view)

The profile of the front tyre is interesting as it has lost its shape, particularly in the last couple of thousand km, with significant "flats" towards the edges.  Part of this is undoubtedly due to the twisty roads in our region which I mentioned earlier and the amount of countersteering employed when riding at a reasonable pace.  I wouldn't have a clue whether carcass construction to give a bigger footprint when leaned over has any bearing on the wear pattern (see below).  Also, the leading edge of each rain groove is higher than the rear edge but doesn't seem to affect the handling. It doesn't show in the photos. It just looks odd. Not really classic cupping. 


Wear profile of front Metzler Roadtec 01 @ 11000km

Front Metzler Roadtec 01 @11000 km
Arrow shows the area of flattening around the circumference

In summary, I'd be perfectly happy to fit either the PR4 or Roadtec 01 but will be going with the 01's again to build up a bit more comparative experience with them.  Both fantastic tyres for the all-weather riding I do and both exceed the 10,000 km minimum life that I mentally set for my particular use,

Tyre prices in NZ tend to be higher than in bigger countries because of the shipping costs, economies of scale and relative lack of competition. Current prices vary a bit between dealers but the fitted price for a pair of standard load rating Metzler Roadtec 01's (120x70 -17 front and 190x55-17 rear is around NZD640/USD425/AUD603.  Michelin PR4's for the same size are around NZD605/USD425/AUD570 .  Does the price difference matter to me?  Not really that important, tyres are such an important safety factor that skimping simply isn't worth it.  


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Shoei GT Air Review

This isn't a full review of the GT Air helmet, you can find plenty of reviews on the web, including the YouTube videos hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Anthony from Revzilla.  This is a bit more personally-oriented in selecting one for my specific needs and finding out whether the selection process actually worked!

The GT Air Expanse TC4

A confession......

My much-loved old Shoei helmet is 9 years old.  Funny how time gets away on you without noticing! It's been so comfortable that it's one of those things you tend not to think about, particularly as it looks pristine.  Still, looks aren't everything and it's about twice as old as normal recommendations for the life of a helmet - rather embarrassing!

What actually triggered thoughts of a replacement was the recent purchase of some custom-moulded silicone ear plugs. They don't deform like foam ones and there was pressure on them from my Sena comms speakers which was quite distracting.  I need comms for my IAM mentoring and it's pretty handy on social rides too.  Once the trigger was pulled to look for a replacement, speaker cutout space became the main consideration.  Another factor was dazzle from the sun.  I've gone down the route of carrying two visors for weather changes and riding in the dark and it can be a pain for various reasons.  Also, a really dark visor causes problems when you're entering shaded areas having been out in bright light.  Iridium-coated visors offered a partial solution and so did my last visor with a graded tint but boy, I've spent some money on visors over the years - I've just counted 10 good ones in the cupboard!

My good mate and fellow IAM Observer and blogger Rob Van Proemeren has just bought a Shoei GT Air and the first thing I asked was about space for speakers and he said that they seemed quite deep.  The other feature is an internal flip-up smoked visor which seemed a sensible alternative to a cupboard full of visors!  I should mention that I then floated the idea of a new helmet to my Chief Financial Officer on safety grounds and bless her heart, she thought my head was worth preserving.  Discussing the myriad of colour schemes shown on the web, I preferred a blue and white livery and she preferred the one with green highlights.  See the photo above - you know what's coming, don't you??  Anyway, armed with comms and new earplugs when visiting my favourite dealer a couple of days later, the GT Air was indeed the bees knees (or the dogs bollocks, depending on where you come from in the world).  Shoei helmets are perfect for my head shape.  Arai's and some others aren't. But what about the chosen colour, I hear you ask?  My more cynical friends would say that I caved in to Jennie.  However, hand on heart, the green highlighting and gold pinstripes looks far nicer in natural daylight than blue.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it..

So far,  I've done an almost continuous 500 km ride which is a good test of comfort.  So what are the things I've noticed?  Let's start with a small negative... I wear spectacles and in the still air confines of the house before I jump on the bike, a bit of huffing and puffing can mist up my specs, even with the visor open. I think this is because of the detachable breath guard.  It's designed to deflect breath away from the visor but in doing so, I think it deflects it back onto my specs.  I could fix the problem by removing the guard but it's not a really serious matter so will leave it in place for the time being. It doesn't happen in the open air.

Right, onto the positives....

It's supremely comfortable.  The speaker cutouts are indeed deep enough to accommodate the Sena speakers and new ear plugs without interference.  Soft infills come with the helmet if you don't have speakers.  It's a perfect fit all round and I didn't experience any irritating pressure points during the ride.

Deep cutouts for speakers

At 1.6 kg, it's a little lighter than my old Shoei thanks to composite construction and thanks to the good fit and decent aerodynamics, it feels very stable at normal road speeds.  This reduces fatigue as does the other notable feature - it's very quiet compared with the old Shoei.  Listening to the coms is just like having the person stand next to you.  As well as the good fit, there's been attention to detail to reduce noise levels in terms of a chin guard, vent design and even the flip-up tag on the visor has been aerodynamically shaped.  Also, due to the visor closing mechanism design, it's pulled back hard against the rubber seal, eliminating air whistle.  The other benefit is that it seems unlikely that water will dribble down the inside of the visor.  It certainly didn't during a short downpour on my ride.  Another feature which I hope never to use is quick release side pads so that the helmet can be easily removed in the case of an accident.  Incidentally, the whole helmet lining is removable for washing. Only the cheek pads were removable on the old helmet so I'm sure that various life forms had set up residence in there over the years.

Visor mechanism - all sorts of springs and cams and stuff - leave well alone!

No misting.  The pinlock insert which is supplied with the helmet takes care of misting but the vents also seem quite efficient - you can feel the air movement inside the helmet.  Very reassuring in adverse conditions.  The helmet is also a little longer fore and aft than the older one, meaning that my face is a little further away from the front.  Also handy as it gives a bit more clearance for the Sena microphone.

And finally...... the internal visor!  Diving in and out of the shade on the coast road, not to mention sun-strike off the sea, it worked a treat.  Looks like it might finally offer a near-perfect solution.   The slider shown just below the visor in the photo above is mechanically linked to the internal visor and extremely easy to use with gloved hands.  Looks pretty cool in town too with the clear visor raised **cue Jennie rolling her eyes and sighing**

Robocop wannabe

At NZ$899 (US620 or GBP479), it's not a budget helmet but the price is surprisingly comparable with overseas sources. However, it's well made, comfortable and totally meets my needs.  I'm a happy camper!

Finally, a plug for a product I've only been using for a few month but does exactly what it says on the tin!  The bane of any motorcyclist's life is good vision in wet weather. To bead moisture off visors quickly, I've used all sorts of products with varying degrees of success.  Rain-X which has a silicon base has been pretty good but seems a little less effective than it used to be.  I recently started using Plexus (not to be confused with health products of the same names as they'd smear the visor), which was developed for the aviation industry - helicopter bubbles and the like.  Shifts moisture really well and splattered bugs are easy to remove.  Not cheap, but economical to apply. Prices seem to vary wildly with an on-line NZ motorcycle accessory shop being the most expensive and an on-line aviation accessory business being the cheapest.

Plexus - doesn't disappoint

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Some idle thoughts about inspirational people

This post really isn't about motorcycles although one of the subjects is a keen motorcyclist and one of the other two used to be a keen motorcyclist - perhaps there's a link if we want to push statistical credibility **grin**.

A couple of weeks ago,  I had a meeting with the Chief Motorcycle Examiner of the NZ branch of Institute of Advanced Motorists, Philip McDaid.  It's a registered charity and office-holders receive no remuneration -  purely voluntary.   As past trainees, we all received world-class advanced motorcycle mentoring and as we have progressed through to being mentors ourselves, we are now helping others; as well as continuing to learn ourselves. Very much a case of paying it forward - a perfect outcome.

Philip trying a member's Fireblade for size

After briefing Philip about developments in our region and listening to him talking about his vision for the future, it reminded me that even with great processes, it still takes a really great leader to make an organisation outstanding. I guess that everyone has an opinion about what makes a great leader but I'll try and share my thoughts in without making it too dry.

It goes without saying that Philip is an exceptional rider.  Listening to his helmet to helmet commentary, describing what he is seeing all around him (situational awareness) and how the observations are impacting on his riding decisions borders on the unbelievable.  Fast or slow, his riding looks absolutely sublime and effortless.  His riding alone commands respect but there are other advanced riders in the organisation who come close too.  However, there are also additional qualities which combine to make Philip a true leader.  One key aspect is his humility and complete lack of ego. It's such a powerful and inspirational quality that it completely permeates the IAM culture and is embraced and reinforced by the membership.  Add Philip's vision for the organisation, an unrelenting passion for excellence, making sure that individual members have every opportunity to contribute and flourish and you start to get an inkling about what makes a true leader as opposed to a good manager.

There was a recent article in a national newspaper regarding a survey about why people leave their jobs.  As you might expect, the reasons were quite varied but there was a strong undercurrent of feeling undervalued by their manager having a major impact, irrespective of remuneration or other working conditions.  In my whole working life prior to retirement, both in academia and industry; I have worked for some good bosses as well as some truly awful ones.  However, in all those decades; I have only worked directly for two people who could be described as true leaders.

The first was my Head of Department at Cranfield University, who passed away many years ago.  Incredibly intelligent with a love of the good life, he had a bit of an ego but it was never at the expense of his team.  Consequently, it was looked on more as an eccentricity than a shortcoming.  He could be an irascible old bugger but irrespective of status, everyone in the department was treated the same and certainly got to know when they fell short of his expectations.  He also had the knack of sweeping everyone along with his drive and vision for the future and pushing people to achieve the near-impossible.  In my case, his influence lead me in a direction that I could not have envisioned and it had a direct impact which continued for a couple of decades both in the UK and NZ.  It's probably fair to say that John was not loved but hugely admired for his abilities.  He didn't really fit the conventional definition of a "people person" in an obvious way but he quietly cared about his staff and made sure that we were all challenged but supported at the same time.

The last is John White, who became my boss at the pulp and paper manufacturer I worked for until retirement.  Since retirement, John and I have remained friends so I'd better choose my words carefully!  Before working for John, I got to know him through a company-wide quality systems project I was implementing and we got on well.  We also rode bikes together on the odd occasion.  He rode motorcycles in his university days but then out of the blue on a business trip to Japan, he bought a Honda CB1000 "Big One" with all the performance extras and had it shipped back to NZ on one of the vessels which carried our products!

Sometime later, he "poached" me from the department I ran to introduce good technical systems into his own particular sphere of influence. From my perspective, John had a number of qualities which when put together made an exceptional leader.  He was a brilliant innovator but didn't have much time for detail.  That's why he assembled a team with diverse skills.  When he came up with a concept, he'd get the appropriate person in his team to look at the practicalities and if it was a flyer, he'd back them all the way with the resources and time to do the job.  No micro-managing from John - if you'd earned his trust, it was support all the way.  He was very aware of his strengths but also things other people were better at than him, hence building a team with diverse skills.  He had strong personal integrity, was very approachable and open which meant that discussions were extremely productive.  From time to time, employee satisfaction and performance reviews were conducted by an external agency across the company.  It was no surprise that our team came out on top and it could be directly linked to John's inspirational leadership and our respect for him.

In more recent years, John has taken up cycling.  More specifically, mountain bike endurance riding.  Clearly, his focus and determination from business has transferred to his cycling prowess as twice, he has won his age group at the World 24 hour solo endurance championships (WEMBO) and is off to Italy to defend his title in June.  If that's not inspirational, I don't know what is.  There's a case of wine riding on a good result in Italy!

World Champion John White in his rainbow jersey

There are lots of books on leadership and this post hasn't been about adding anything insightful about the key qualities of leadership.  What I've tried to do however, is to show from a personal viewpoint how inspirational people can positively affect the lives of others, very much for the better and help us to lift our own game.  The news is full of so-called leaders from the world of politics, commerce and everything else under the sun making all sorts of nonsensical utterances which add bugger-all value to anything or anyone.  My view is that the title "Leader", is not one to be automatically conferred.  It has to be earned through deeds and respect.

Back to motorcycles next time!