Wheel alignment

Monday 8 July 2019

T time!

Life with Bad Girl Lola, the 790 Duke has been pretty darned good.  It makes me grin every time I ride it, quietly whispering in my ear to misbehave.  I can ignore those whisperings..... mostly.  Goes like heck, sounds fantastic and handles like a dream..... but now winter's here, something needs my urgent attention.

The OEM tyres are Maxxis brand pure sport, designed especially for the Duke.  They've done about 3500 km and probably have another 1500 km in them before replacement.  Up to now, they've gripped pretty well, even in the wet on warm days.  However, pure sport tyres need heat to maximise grip and that's hard to achieve once the mercury starts to dip into low single figures Celsius.

Winter in NZ - equipped with the OEM Maxxis pure sport tyres

I was going to replace them with a longer-lasting sport touring tyre anyway when they were closer to being worn out but an IAM coaching ride last weekend suggested that I'd better do something pronto.  Towards the southern end of our peninsula, some stretches of the twisty main road get little or no sun for a few weeks.  Things can get a little slimy on the surface and on a really cold day, maybe even a touch of frost.

A bit of prudence is required at those spots and with low single digit C air temperatures, I was riding accordingly.  Rounding one corner, the front end started washing out, then gripped.  It wasn't a trouser-soiling moment but it certainly got my attention!  For anyone who had lost the front end on a bike, it's not a pleasant sensation.  Easing back even more, I stuck the bike in rain mode to get maximum traction.  No more incidents thank goodness but even on dry roads, wasn't game to really push because the steering felt slightly vague on corners when I upped the pace.  It was only when temperatures climbed to around 10 degrees or thereabouts that I felt comfortable.  With more winter rides coming up, it was time to do something.

With my IAM responsibilities, I don't always get to choose the conditions I ride in, so a sport touring tyre makes a lot of sense.  Sport touring tyres warm up quickly, disperse rain well and give excellent grip in marginal conditions.  They last a sight longer than pure sport tyres too.  First thought was to fit Michelin Road 5's like I had on the GSX-S1000.  A fantastic tyre in all respects with one slight worry hanging over them.  On the Suzuki, I had 3 punctures in 4 months last summer on the Road 5's and in one case, the rear tyre was a write-off.  It may have been sheer bad luck, a susceptibility due to the conditions and road surfaces I normally ride on, or a combination of both.  Living a long way from a source of new tyres or professional permanent repairs, getting stranded somewhere is a real concern, even with a decent repair kit on board.

Whatever the reason for the punctures, it's left me slightly gun-shy of Road 5's so started looking at alternatives.  Without going through all the options I looked at, the one which stood out on all the road tests was the Bridgestone T31.  I've never used the Bridgestone brand before but the T31's stood out, both when fanging it and in adverse conditions.  A mate had also tried them on his Hayabusa and was glowing in his praise.  The rain groove pattern isn't as radical as the Road 5's but any innovative work on the carcass or compound is well out of sight anyway.

Bridgestone T31 sport touring tyres

Arriving at the Drury Performance Centre in south Auckland, the bike was put straight on the hoist for the changeover.

No mucking about - 2 minutes after I arrived

Rear fitted with new rubber

The front away being balanced

Less than an hour after arriving, I was on my way again, having also been given freshly-made coffee, a new neck warmer and a polishing cloth - excellent service.  I use two dealers for tyres, both about the same distance from home.  Both of them give terrific service so I tend to use them alternately. 

Took it fairly steady for most of the trip home as it wouldn't be a good look to bin a bike with new tyres.  The roads were also damp and distinctly green in places where the sun doesn't reach.  Even so, the T31's felt really good, with a nice, progressive roll-in into corners.  A proper evaluation will have to wait until later, but no anxious moments at all.

Something else happened on the low temperature ride last week which triggered the thoughts of getting new tyres pronto.  Leaving home early in the morning, the air temperature according to the instrumentation was 9 degrees Celsius.  Heading south, it progressively dropped and looking down at the instrument at one stage, it had gone completely white with a large snowflake icon!  The words "Ice Warning" were clearly displayed.  The digital speedo km/hr readout was the only other data showing at that stage and even that was displayed in much smaller font.  

It was all a bit of a surprise and as the lack of other data irritated me, I started prodding various buttons until the normal display returned. Even then, it had a small lit warning triangle displayed until temperatures climbed somewhat.  Went through the 790 manual on my return and it's not a listed feature.  However, I went on line to do a bit of research and it's listed in the PDF manual for the 790 adventure model.

I'm not really one for adding stuff to the bike for aesthetics alone but I broke that rule the other day.  The original KTM brake and clutch levers are pretty basic-looking and finished in matte black.  On eBay, I saw some levers with a titanium and black finish which are fully adjustable in terms of both hand span and length.  They looked good, weren't hideously expensive so decided to take a punt.  They arrived a couple of days ago and are beautifully made.  Took less than 30 minutes to fit the pair.

Cool-looking levers

I also fitted a non-reflective film to the instrument face as it's hard to see when the sun is reflecting off it.  Have yet to test how effective it is.  The only other modification on the cards is to spray the rear face of my mini-screen matte black.  The LED headlight reflects some light onto the inside of the screen.  It's absolutely fine in daylight but when riding at night, it can be a bit distracting.  A matte finish should take care of that.

To end on a non-motorcycling note, winter is the time when various birds come into the garden looking for a bit of supplemental food.  The succulent shown in the top photo weeps nectar and attracts Tui, a songbird a little larger than a blackbird.  In sunlight, their plumage is a spectacular dark metallic green-blue.  Here's a photo I took a few days ago.

The Tui (also known as a Parson Bird because of the white ruff)

The most spectacular bird in the garden is the NZ native pigeon.  About twice the size of a European pigeon, the plumage is stunning.  Pigeons come into the garden to feast on Kowhai tree leaves and in a few weeks, on the Kowhai flowers. They don't show much fear of humans and allowed me to get pretty close for the following photo.  Gorgeous, isn't it?

NZ native pigeon


  1. Crikey, you go through rubber faster than an Aussie R1 nut!

    Yeah, it's a bit slippery out there at the moment. Had a big Adv bike slithering around a bit yesterday - and that was on sealed roads. It always amazes me at how good Adv rubber is at hanging on, even in the wet. If I was only ever on the seal then both big bikes would be wearing Michelins ;)

    1. Errr..... that's what Jennie said too (minus the R1 bit 😁). Yep, some of the IAM guys with adventure bikes really fly on the road with their dual purpose tyres.

    2. Heyyyy, Geoff is going through tyre's much quicker than me. I haven't put any on for ages. Wait, just checked and I need some new one's. Dang 😟

      Your getting some miles up on the new bike now geoff and sounds like your Gelling with it.

    3. Hiya Steve!
      Loving the bike, it's a hoot! Fanging it in cold, wet weather is a bit risky but it's so much more fun than the Suzuki. BTW, regarding my past comment about you soon needing an old man's bike, one of my "mature" mates has just bought a MT10SP. Picks it up in a few days - can't wait to see it (and hear it!).

    4. One of the guys that ride with us has an MT10SP. Its a naked R1 with comfort. Where do I sign up. It sounds great with an Akra and decat.

  2. On my previous trips to the Ron Haslam Race School in the UK all the bikes used Sports Touring model rubber. Bridgestone were their sponsor at the time so all the bikes used either 023s or, in later years, T30s. Their rationale was that the tyres were good enough to be able to withstand the track riding and lasted longer than the pure sports model items. That left quite a lasting impression with me as knowing what I'd put those tyres through made me realise that they'd be able to handle anything I could throw at them on the road. Impressive stuff.

    1. Hi Lee,
      Yep I run out of talent way before I reach the limits of a modern tyre. I still want to get the best I can though as they give an extra margin in my moments of enthusiasm (read stupidity) 😁

  3. Hi Geoff

    I've just re-read your comments about the new levers. You're right about them making a difference. In terms of bike changes they rate up there with grips and seat in terms of making a difference out of proportion to their cost/size. I guess it's also one of the areas where OEMs cut costs without it being too obvious - Understandable if you think about it.

    1. Hi Lee,
      I added the photo and a bit of narrative after the levers arrived. They're a Chinese semi-copy of Pazzo levers but very nicely made. I haven't ridden with them on the road yet but they feel good at a standstill! The standard levers were adjustable in terms of hand span but not length. They were still pretty "vanilla" in terms of design and finish though.

    2. Hi Geoff,
      That's good to hear about the levers - How are the new hoops performing? I guess their wet weather performance will be getting tested at the moment...

    3. Gidday Lee,
      Have only done the delivery trip home so far but will be out with Tony tomorrow as he picked up a brand new MT10 SP on Thursday. Then there will be a run to Whangamata on Monday whilst you're hard at work 😁

    4. Enjoy. I'm a bit jealous... I managed to get an electronic Scottoiler fitted to the Street Triple today, a job I've been meaning to do for a while. You tempted to do something similar to the Duke?

    5. Nice one! Will be interested in your experience with it. I had a non-electronic one on my Blackbird. It was superb in terms of performance but it made the rear end of the bike and in the front sprocket housing a bit messy, even on a very low performance. Just use teflon chain wax these days.


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