Monday, March 21, 2011

Bridgestone Battle Wings compared to Metzeler Tourance

Once I got the stock Trailwing tires off of my V-Strom (after less than 6,000 miles) back in 2007, I switched to Metzeler Tourances and loved them. I've had three sets on my bike and got between 8,500-10,000 miles per pair with outstanding grip on dry pavement and reasonable performance on gravel/dirt (although I didn't exactly put them through their paces off-road). They are a great tire and I highly recommend them, but they are expensive.

For my latest set I switched to Bridgestone Battle Wings (BW502 rear, BW501 front). I've put 5,000 miles on them so far, a few hundred on gravel (including a flat tire in Frenchglen, Oregon) and quite a lot on wet pavement, and feel they equal the Metzeler's in performance but at a lower cost. I fixed my own flat using one of those mushroom plugs and it's held air ever since.

The Metzeler's seemed to flatten in the center fairly quickly while the Bridgestone's are maintaining their rounded shape. I'm not riding at extreme lean angles, and in fact have probably put more straight-ahead miles on this set than any of the Metzelers.

The Battle Wings have excellent grip on wet pavement, and although I don't push my tires to their performance limit they provide a grip that inspires confidence.

I expect to get a full 10,000 miles out of this set of Battle Wings and have felt they are a great value -- very good performance and capability at a very reasonable cost. Just like my V-Strom.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clutch assist

I have plenty of strength and grip in my hands but on long rides, especially those with stop-n-go city action, my left wrist gets fatigued and sore to the point of outright pain. This is probably due to my career as a programmer -- I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome but all that typing has definitely taken its toll.

The extreme reaction is to get rid of my V-Strom and get a bike or scooter with an automatic or semi-automatic clutch/transmission, such as a Honda Silverwing, Suzuki Burgman, or Yamaha FJR. Those rides all have their pros and I would consider each for their own merits, but for now I want to keep riding my Suzuki V-Strom. An easier approach is to find a solution that reduces the amount of force required to pull in the clutch lever on my current bike. That's where Moose Racing products come in.

On the advice of someone on the forum, I ordered the Moose Racing Easy-Pull clutch system from It costs $36 and I received it the very next day (their warehouse is in Medford, Oregon, just a few hundred miles from my home in Sandy). It's a small device that is installed in-line, between the clutch lever and the clutch cable. It uses an internal cam with three settings that adjusts the amount of force required to engage the clutch. Because it uses a cam, the amount of force required is not linear; initially the amount of assistance is minor but increases through it's range of motion. The amount of force required to hold the clutch fully engaged feels to be about half of what it was previously.

Installation took less than an hour, half of that time involved removing my OEM hand-guards. The device has four screws that give access to the cam inside. The cam can be adjusted by the position of a small metal pin in one of three holes. I chose the 'best assist' position. Once the cover is put back on, the whole device goes back in place in a matter of minutes. An adjustment could easily be made within minutes on the side of the road using nothing but a small Phillips-head screwdriver.

Here are two pictures of what the device looks like installed on my bike:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tweaks and short rides

It's a nasty time of year when it comes to weather. We've had record rain fall, nasty cold, and even snow. My riding opportunities have been rather slim lately, and I've been working long enough hours that commuting on the bike isn't safe enough for my risk levels (from being tired).

I spent some time during a past weekend doing some wrenching on my bike, getting things tightened up and adjusted. I got a short ride in to test things out before heading back home to warm up. The forecast is fairly dry this coming Sunday and Monday so between those two days I'll probably log a file miles on two wheels.

This is also the time of year to day dream about possible trips during the upcoming riding season. One idea I have is to ride down to Laguna Seca and watch the MotoGP races. Another is to do a big loop of national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier. No matter what, I plan to do more adventure touring on back roads this year, spending time on unpaved routes and sleeping in a tent instead of a motel.