Wheel alignment

Friday 20 May 2011

Chain lubricant and tyres - a couple of product reviews

Back in February, I bought a can of DuPont Multi-Use Lubricant to try out on the Street Triple chain. Up to then, Motul chain lubricant had been the long-term favourite.  The Motul did have one drawback though.... it flung sticky black residue onto the wheel rim, underside of the chain guard, rear of the numberplate and annoyingly; it baked onto the underside of the high level mufflers. Solvent was the only way of shifting it.  Oh yes, and it gradually built up in the engine space ahead of the front sprocket and gradually oozed down the hot engine.  Nothing like getting sticky grease onto your cleaning cloth to trigger a burst of bad language!
 DuPont Multi-Use Teflon spray

Fellow blogger Sonja also used the DuPont teflon product and said that she's well-pleased with its performance.  After 3000 km of its use, Sonja's comments are spot on.  Firstly, there's no fling which is just wonderful - no more use of solvents before getting out the soap suds.  Secondly, the chain doesn't pick up dirt, staying clean and bright as per the photo above.  Most importantly, does it do the job of minimising chain and sprocket wear?    Well, maybe 3000 km isn't much of a test but if we accept that component wear is one  contributor to chain slackening, there hasn't been any need to tension it in those 3000 km.  The signs are all good!  Price is a touch more than most other top end brands.  Although NZ$30 per can (~US$23) isn't cheap because of the relative lack of competition in our market, it still will last a decent length of time.  Oh, and the rear paddock stand bought earlier this year makes chain lubing so much easier than the old method of wheeling it along and spraying a section at a time!

Now if I see a motorcycle forum post about "Which tyre is the best?", chances are I'll pass it by as there's more bulls*it spouted about tyres than virtually any other bike topic!  Talk about people getting hot under the collar and arguing the toss without presenting any reasonable evidence to back up their claims!  I also have some reservations about the validity of motorcycle magazine track testing in relation to a real world environment.  Truth is that virtually any tyre made by the major manufacturers will meet the requirements of the road riding community.  They will all have their particular strengths, drawbacks and "feel" but the real trick is matching the tyre to your environment and style of riding. Let me give you give an example.

The Street Triple came equipped with French-made Dunlop Qualifier sport tyres.  Gripped like heck in the dry but felt slightly vague on corners in the wet - fantastic performance overall though.  Started to lose their profile shape before 4000 km and the bike felt like it wanted to drop in than progressively roll into a bend.  Rear tyre was worn out at 6000 km and the front hoop still had plenty of tread, but worn badly out of shape.  See the photos towards the bottom of this link to a previous post on tyres. However, the Qualifiers were a sport tyre and overall life is maybe about what you'd expect for a soft compound when ridden fairly hard.  The distinct change in shape and "feel" at around 4000 km was a bit disappointing as they didn't feel right for the rest of their life, but they did their job pretty well overall.

I replaced them with the Avon Storm 2 Ultra sport-touring tyres for a couple of reasons.  I wanted a bit more longevity than a pure sport tyre because of some longer runs which had been planned and I'd long been a fan of Avon tyres on my Blackbird, particularly in terms of superb wet weather performance.  The Storm 2 Ultra is a relatively new tyre which owes more to the Avon VP2 sport tyre than it does to the old Storm ST.  It has dual compound construction, harder in the centre and softer towards the outside for improved grip.  It also has other interesting features which can be ignored for this review.  I'm pretty sure that the dual compound helps to maintain the profile for a bigger percentage of tyre life too, but more on that later.

I've just passed the 8000 km mark and both tyres still have plenty of tread.  The rear will last for at least another 2000 km and the front considerably longer than that.   Rear tyre pressure is set at 39-40psi.  Incidentally, I never use a gas station gauge to set tyre pressures.  They're notoriously inaccurate and always carry my own fairly expensive digital gauge.

Rear Storm 2 Ultra at 8200 km

It can be seen from the photo above that there's plenty of tread right across the width of the tyre and more importantly for the sake of handling, the wear profile is pretty even with no significant flat wear area in the centre.  Ok, so the Triple only weighs ~170 kg and I mainly ride on twisty roads but it's still pretty darned good for 8000 hard km.

The photo below shows the front tyre with slight evidence of "triangulation"/flattening on the edges of the front hoop.  If I have to change it at the same time as the rear because of that wear becoming more pronounced, it won't be a big deal.  Maybe I could afford to raise the front pressure from 36 psi to 37 or 38psi in future to reduce any risk of significant carcass deflection, but the former figure was the tyre manufacturer's recommendation for this bike.  Countersteering is also probably a significant contributor to the front tyre wear given the extremely twisty roads with coarse chip that I ride on.  By comparison, the Blackbird was a heavier bike with a weight-forward bias and more conservative steering geometry, so the recommended pressure was 42 psi.

Front Storm 2 Ultra at 8200 km 
Note a hint of flattening off on the sides

A final comment about rate of wear.  It's hugely dependent upon where you ride, how you ride, the weight of the bike and a few other factors like how good your suspension is etc. It's noteworthy that a top aftermarket shock on my Blackbird added nearly 2000km to rear tyre life.  A great excuse to get permission to go upmarket!!!

The only valid comparison is where most of the contributing factors are pretty constant such as on your own bike and the area you mostly ride in.  Expect other people from other areas to have completely different results in terms of tyre life.  If you mainly tour, then tyre life is probably going to be a sight more important than someone with sport tyres who enjoys trackdays or caning it in the twisties!

Let's deal with wet weather first.  They are fantastic and support Avon's deserved reputation for being great in the wet.  I've had the odd small slide over wet tar snakes and the like but they've been utterly controllable.  There's really nothing to say apart from them being totally confidence-inspiring.  In the dry, they are as confidence-inspiring as the Dunlop Qualifier tyres the Street Triple came equipped with.  This may well be because although I like to press on a bit, I'm probably still well within the design parameters of the tyre on most occasions.  That speaks volumes for modern tyres.

The other thing I've always liked about Avon tyres is that they tend to roll in rather than drop in.  This characteristic, combined with them retaining their profile for a big percentage of their life; also adds to rider confidence.

The Avon Storm 2 Ultra tyres completely suit my "fitness for purpose".  Fantastic in the wet and more than sufficient for my road riding ability in the dry, even when pushing a bit.  They "feel" great too.  That suggests that I'll simply replace them when the current ones are stuffed.  There is a slight chance that I'll fit the Avon VP2 sports tyres with the softer compounds which I had on the Blackbird in the last year of ownership.  If I do go this way, it will only be for curiosity about comparative grip and life rather than real need. You depend heavily on tyres to keep you safe.  It's false economy to skimp. 


  1. Tyres: PR2 FTW! 12,000km on a fat bike! (May have to try the new PR3 soon).

    Scott oiler on the Strom seems to work ok (bit messy). Shafts rock!

  2. Andrew me ol' mate!
    I reckon the Michelin 90X tyres I had on my Blackbird from new would have lasted almost forever but they were rock hard and absolute crap. That's one of the points I was making. You probably use the Concours a bit differently to my Coro Loop hooning too ;-). However, the PR2 is certainly an excellent tyre.

    Yep, had a Scottoiler on the 'bird. They really work but as you say, they're a bit messy. That's why I didn't go down that route this time.

  3. 65,000 kms with a Loobman cheap and cheerful oiler. Messy, but simplicity is the friend of reliability and ease of use means the chain and sprockets are in an oil bath.No adjustments in the last ten thousand kms on my second chain.
    Scott oilers are for engineers. Loobman ($50 from Aerostich) is for the rest of us.

  4. The Michelin tyres on my car have so far lasted 58,000 MILES from new.

    I swopped front to back at around 25,000 miles to equalise wear and that's it!

    Maybe it's because I drive around like an old fart to conserve fuel but this sort of life is quite remarkable IMHO.

    As for the bike, I seem to do too much motorway stuff and the squaring off is apparent with my Metzelers after 3,000 miles.

    regards from ffffreezing windy England, N

  5. Conchscooter:
    Hahaha! The Scottoiler I had on the 'bird was a bit of a pain to adjust perfectly but then again, I'm an engineer, haha! The chain and sprockets had done 55000 km when I sold it and were in perfect condition.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    That's impressive by any standards. Are they old and cracked, haha? There aren't that many straight roads in NZ, certainly not where I live and I don't commute on the Triple so that definitely helps. My wife is away for the weekend so I'll be helping the tyre wear along in a couple of hours :-)

  6. Nice post Geoff. Discussions on tires can be like talking politics. :) I've stuck with Metzeler which are BMW stock tires on the R1200RT. When I got the bike the previous owner had recently installed a Michelin Pilot on the rear. I got about 12,000 miles on it. It seemed to have a wider stance than the Metzelers. I don't know if it's my imagination but it seemed like I had to push a little harder on the handle bars to get the bike to lean. When I went with the Metzelers the bike seems to corner effortlessly in comparison.

    Regarding the chain lube - is Tri-Flow a good product for motorcycles? My motorcycle is shaft drive so I'm not up to speed on chain lube requirements but in my bicycling days Tri-Flow was the best.

  7. Hi Mike - absolutely! Lubricating oil is another contentious topic! Yep, the profile of a tyre does have an effect on steering effort. It's noticeable between the old Avon Storm ST and the new Storm Ultra which has a higher crown on the profile.

    I'm afraid I can't help you with Tri-Flow as I've never heard of it. Yes, I miss the shaft drive on my K100 too!

  8. Hi Geoff interesting post. No Dupont in the UK but there is a similar product on the market...'Finish Line Teflon Chain Spray' perhaps our equivalent?
    One day last year the weather turned warm on a long ride out (rare occurance!) and I started having a few hairy left hand turns! Yes you've guessed right oil from my scottoiler on the rear tyre chain side only. So the oilers will be staying on the bikes and not replaced. They were good on the Blackbird and the VFR giving good chain life that was evident in the less number of chain adjustments.
    The Storm rear and Viper front are a lovely combination thanks for the advice, wearing evenly and really planted all weathers. Also to mention on Avon tyres, during manufacture Avon use a water based mould release agent instead of the silicone used by most of the others so less scuffing in.

  9. Hi Dylan... surprised it's not available in the UK - local competition I suppose. Ah, I had that problem too. Only did it the once which was very strange!

    Thanks for reminding me about the water-based release agent - an important consideration if you're a bit incautious! I was out today doing more practice for the next observed ride. Will sleep well tonight!

  10. Geoff, I'm sick of the melted chain lube gunk oozing out from near the primary sprocket so this was a timely post as I seek an alternative. My VFR had a Scott oiler on it when I got it, which I hated, so removed and sold on ebay.

    Now when it comes to oil and tyre threads on forums I love 'em. Obviously everyone except me is biased, however, I think it is actually possible to discern some reliable trend data out of all the bovine excrement that is posted.

    I was interested to hear that you ran your Blackbird at 42 psi front, that's what Kawasaki recommend for the ZX14 and I just haven't been able to bring myself to run the front at that yet, settling on 38 psi at present. I'd better give it a go. I have an good quality Michelin tyre gauge which I use exclusively rather than gas station gauges.

    Like you, I also experienced longer rear tyre life on the old VFR after I had the suspension upgraded, though it was a costly exercise to do so.

    I nearly forgot to tell you that Michelin Pilot Road 2's are the ducks guts for real world motorcycling and you oughta get onto them!!

    Cheers Jules.

  11. Hi Jules!
    Without word of a lie, I could tell whether the tyre pressure on the Blackbird was correct to within 2 or 3 psi on the front tyre, particularly when I was pressing on a bit. The ZX14 is similar to the 'bird - long wheelbase, fairly conservative steering, well over 200 kg with a weight-forward bias. That gives front tyres a hard time - causes carcass deflection when leaned over. That's why you have high pressures to counteract that tendency.

    I'm not taking the bait on Michelin PR2's, but nice try, haha. I hear the PR3 is even better!!!

    Cheers mate!

  12. Geoff, I got hold of some Du Pont good gear lube this morning at my local Repco automotive store. The recommended retail price here in Oz is $18.50. The internet tells me that you have Repco stores in NZ, so now might be a good time to check it out as the lube was on 'Managers Special' and I got it substantially cheaper than the RRP.

    I'm getting the Michelin PR2s fitted tomorrow, so I will pump up the front to 42 psi as recommended and see how it feels.

    Cheers Jules.

  13. Cheers Jules - that's where I got it from in Feb. Must check the recycle bin and see if I can find a Recent Repco flyer.

    Good luck with the tyres - might feel very light-steering until you get used to it.

  14. There was a time when I thought that I could find a stockist for just about anything in the UK. Well Geoff you have shattered my belief. All of the people in NZ who moan that they do not have a product choice like the Brits do eat your hearts out! DuPont Teflon anything to do with motorcycle chain protection/lubrication is a no go. The number of UK bikers who have heard of the products good ratings can be judged by the same 'where can I buy it in the UK?' posts.
    Will have to persevere with the Scottoilers for a while longer then!

  15. What a bugger Dylan... I'd send you the equivalent of a food parcel but I'm afraid it wouldn't get on board a plane! That must be the clinching reason for emigrating :-)

  16. Definately no longer staying in a country that cannot even see the benefits of stocking DoPont motorcycle lube's!.....the last straw!

  17. Geoff, I was thinking of emailing you to ask how the Avons were holding up & you go post a long-term review. Thanks.

    I've been using the DuPont chain lube since my Street Triple's previous owner recommended it. So much cleaner than the Scottoiler on my old RF900 and the chain & spockets look fine at 10K miles.

    Cheers, Tom

  18. Dylan:
    The perfect reason to travel half way round the world :-)

    Hi Tom - thanks for dropping by!
    Must have been a bit of thought transference going on there!

    Great to hear of another endorsement of the DuPont product. You'll have Dylan frothing at the mouth as it seems that the UK is the only place in the world where it isn't available!

  19. I should of used his instead of putting the scott oiler on. Will know better for next time. Although it does mean it is one less thing I need to think about and it does work quite well. I will be trying thoses Avons or something similar next. I tend to be chewing through the BT023's, although the gravel road on Saturday did some damage to it, a few chunks missing out of the rear. Small but not good. Mind you any sports tyre would of suffered.

    I do a lot of two up touring so my rear seems to get pretty knackerd at around 12000kms mark, The new suspension is helping though.

  20. Hi Roger!

    I'm not sure whether an Avon rear would last quite as long as a BT023 but to a large extent, there's always a fairly strong correlation between grip and tyre life. My average life of an Avon rear on the 'bird was 8000+ km and over 10000 when a fair percentage of that was touring the south island then up north on one particular set.

  21. Coro Kid:

    I'm a lucky Duck. SonjaM gave me a can of Dupont Teflon, but I wanted to use up my greasy Motul first. I just purchased tyres but they are Michelin Anakee2's, not yet installed, it was that or Metzler Tourances. I was told that my Trailwings were "deathWings".

    happy riding

    Riding the Wet Coast

  22. Good for you Bob! Use your Motul on everything else round your house and go straight for the Dupont - that's what I've done.

    Don't know much about road/adventure tyres except that my riding partner with the 1 litre 'strom swears by Tourances.

    Hope you're resting that foot!

  23. Sam just got a new chain and sprockets, along with some general maintenance stuff that came due. Because of my mileage, Sam gets her chain done once a week.

    Changed my tires this winter. Both tires wore out about the same time, but the front had a lot of that flattening. It seemed like they really wore out fast in the last few weeks I had them. Kind of caught us by surprise. The back tire didn't get as misshapen. I guess Sam is now ready to Summer! :)

  24. Hi Kari!
    Good move on keeping the chain lubed. That's the beauty of a Scottoiler in keeping the chain lub constant. However, they are a bit messy so that's why I didn't re-fit one to the Triumph.

    Interesting that your front tyre wore out at much the same time as the back as that's relatively uncommon. Slightly low tyre pressure can do that, or enthusiastic countersteering (my problem, I suspect on the twisty roads I travel!) Enjoy your summer!!


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