Tires, tecnique, or me? - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Tires, tecnique, or me?

OK, it has gotten to the point where it's getting downright scarry to ride, and I need to know if it's the tires, my riding tecnique, or if there's something else going on. Here's the layout...

I commute 25 miles each way from Kirkland to West Seattle every day. Of that 50 miles, a little over 36 of them are on grooved pavement and there are 3 bridges involved. I'm using the stock tires with about 5k miles on them. They're not showing much wear so far, but I do have Epic chicken strips and there seems to be only about 2" of road contact. The grooves in the pavement are about 1" wide on the top ridge and 1/2" wide in the grooves between them.

The wind buffetting has always been nasty, and I figure that's just a combination of ZOMGXBOXHUGE luggage and the oversized windshield that only comes up to my collar bone. My center of gravity is about the seat height, maybe a hair higher, but less than the top of the gas tank.

What I'm running into now, and it's seemed to be getting worse, is that the bike feels like it is trying to kick out from underneath me when I'm going around turns and swerves on the grooved pavement. The I-90 tunnel Eastbound is by far the worst, to the point where it's genuinly pushing terrifying. The only other place I used to get this kind of shimmying, shaking, and slipping was on the steel grate bridge further south.

It has been getting colder out, but no signs of ice or anything other than clear and dry on the roads. Riding in the rain across those isn't much worse than dry as long as it's been raining for a while. I usually don't even do the speed limit through the tunnels and such because I just feel like I'm going to lose it too easy.

So, is there something wrong with my tires (2" of contact on 1" ridges), my riding tecnique (I'm not doing something right), my massively horrible aerodynamics (Freight Train is BIG), or could there be something else going on that I'm not getting.

I know there are some Seattle-ites around, maybe they could pitch in with their observations of those stretches of roads. My route goes:

I405-S --> I90-E --> I5-S --> West Seattle Bridge

Reverse that on the way home.


OK, now you guys can post the obligitory "Man up" and "You're just a wuss" posts.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 06:56 PM
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Its the Puget Sound traffic. The roads dont help much either. I know your commute. Pretty nasty one.

Joking aside. I found out thet the stocks tires tend to follow grooved pavement more than the RoadSmarts I replace them with. @ 5K miles the stock tires might be over 60% wear. I replace the stock tires @ 7,500 miles. They looked they had a few hundred miles on them. However, when I measure the wear they were well past the time for replacement. The new tires did a lot for the handling of the bike than I would imaging. Riding in the wind is not comfortable combine that with less than optimal pavement and it can be quite unnerving at times. However, you learn techniques to cope with both. With bad pavement, just let the bike move aound. Many times it is not the pavement but the rider getting all stiff and or overcorrecting to the normal movement of the bike. You need to relax and just go with the flow of the road. One common mistake is to hit the breaks when the bike move around. Hit the break when you want to stop. When the bike moves around stabilize it. Sometime a little more throttle is what you need. Wind, you just lean against it. On gusty wind stick a knee out on the windward side and use it as a sail to help stabilize the bike. The knee out technique works well when you have gusty and changing wind direction.

Just keep on riding.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 07:05 PM
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I don't know if this will help, but from years of MX I learned to relax on the bike. Don't hold on hard and let the bike go where it wants. I suspect that gripping the tank with your knees will add to the connection you have with the bike, but I liked the other suggestion to stick one out on the winward side.

I learned riding deep ruts, roots, etc, that the bike will go straight if you allow it to.

Don't put too much into my input since I don't even have a Versys yet, but I'm hoping to share my experience in uneven terrain.

I had a jeep with oversized tires that scared the sh$%^ out of me when crossing a bridge beacuse it would track the groves.

Try relaxing and let the bike flow. It works in the woods and ruts if you stay centered and let it find its own way.

Good luck! Learning to relax and relax your grip goes against your natural instincts, but give it a shot in an area where you are not at risk.

Shaun
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 07:56 PM
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Rain grooves ain't groovy

It's not just you - it's a combination of overly aggressive rain grooves and the crappy stock tires.

Some genius in Michigan decided a few years ago that really deep, really aggressive rain grooves made car travel safer, and then they went and paved every highway within 50 miles of my house with them. They're so bad around here that I literally have to take surface streets everywhere I go on my Versys. I try to avoid the freeways at all costs.

My rear tire on my Versys started getting slippery on me at around the 2000 mile mark. It's slid out from under me 3-4 times while making medium-speed turns on sidestreets, into parking lots, etc. I have no confidence in the stock tires at all.

Now combine crappy tires with poorly thought out rain grooves, and it's no wonder some people are experiencing some handling problems. BTW, I've been riding motorcycles for years, and I don't have any problem driving in any other situations. I have several other bikes that I ride all the time, and I don't have any confidence problems with their tires. YMMV.

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 07:58 PM
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Trust the gyroscopic effect of the wheels when travelling in a straight line and even when cornering on a solid surface. It's impossible for a bike to fall down flat when travelling in a straight line at speed, no matter how much it shimmies around. In fact, slowing down is usually worse than speeding up, as gyroscopic forces are diminished. Over-correcting can lead to trouble too, just try to relax. Maybe find a different route to commute on. Better tires would probably help too, if you can afford them.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 08:05 PM
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Dude.. I ride from Kirkland to Seattle every monday and it always feels like the tires are flat. The roads in Seattle are TERRIBLE. When you get off the Mercer exit and you catch any one of the dozen grooves there by Daniel's Broiler then you damn near eat it with ANY front brake. I'll be on my way there in 2 hours.


Up yours Seattle streets!!
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 09:55 PM
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Your tires are most likely squared off which is making it feel real twitchy in addition to everything stated above.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 11:20 PM
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Have you checked your tire pressures? Colder weather often means it's time to add a bit of air...

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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 11:25 PM Thread Starter
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So what happens when your tire pressure guage is busted? You get readings of 35psi when your roommates guage and his wife's guage both say 20psi.

So we'l see just how much of a difference having the last third of the air pressure in there makes. I didn't notice any play in the wheels when I shook the bike while I was out there, and the tread depth looks pretty good actually.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 12:34 AM
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When I bought my 08, I'm pretty sure it had the stock tires (only 1500 miles on the bike). The front tire had one continuous rain groove that ran right around the contact patch. I thought that tire tracked like crap on Seattle's grooved freeways (although my worst experience was I-5 north of UW towards Lynnwood). I changed tires out early (in part because I found a screw sticking out my rear) to Metzeler M5 Interacts. I think these have settled the bike down on the grooves, although it isn't perfect. I still need to carefully wear the edges some more as the Metzelers come with a ton of mold releasing agent and still feel a bit squirelly in corners at times, although I think I'm also experiencing more of the little road imperfections that were hidden by the stockers.

I am getting more accustomed to the bike making its own track on the grooves. Coming from snowmobiles that rarely go where you point them, I've gotten used to simply letting it find its way.

I still get pitched around in the wind on the bridges (I tend to be on 520 more than 90). I find myself reacting like a pilot and simply countersteering the bike back upright when I get pushed over. I try to think about correcting slightly with my hands, not leaning, which I think helps not tightening up and fighting the bike.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 12:50 AM
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Hi Alex182,

1. If you are still on stock tires, recommend get a pair of new decent ones.
2. Check the air pressure. 32/36 is for me but you can play around to what suits you.
3. Check your suspension settings. Gustavo had posted something on this.

Good Luck.

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Ride safe,
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 07:31 AM
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+1 to what Stlee29 said and if that doesn't help, check swingarm bearings. Had some go bad before and made the bike feel the way you discribed.

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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 12:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackberry View Post
Your tires are most likely squared off which is making it feel real twitchy in addition to everything stated above.
X2.
X2 on air pressure as well.

Invest in a good set of rain tires and inflate them properly. If you don't need all the baggage then take them off for the winter.

The rest of the 'relax and go with it' is absolutely true as well. Tensing on the grips makes it all the more scary.

Seattle roads are bad, eh? So are LA's. I don't think they could build a smooth road if they tried. Even new pavement is bumpy as hell. WTF?????
As soon as you get out of the basin the roads are great.

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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 12:57 PM
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While riding up the Alcan on my KLR (with Kenda K270 knobby tires), going across most bridges which have those metal grate decks was absolutely terrifying till I tried standing on my pegs which lowered the CofG and stopped the wobbling.

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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 06:51 PM
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Quote:
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Your tires are most likely squared off which is making it feel real twitchy in addition to everything stated above.
+1. My rear tire was squared off after 4k miles, making the rear of the bike feel 'squirrelly' on curves. Replaced the rear ( front not as bad ) and it is MUCH improved.

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post #16 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-19-2010, 08:15 PM
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Your tires are shot, I'd say. I only got 6k out of my stockers, and they were near cords at that. Roadsmarts are noticeably better tires, and corner nearly as well, IMHO.

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post #17 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-20-2010, 02:10 AM Thread Starter
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Nope, I was down about 1/3 of my air. Front tire was at 20psi and rear was at 22psi. I pumped them back up last night and the ride today was much, much better. Thanks for the help guys.
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post #18 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-20-2010, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Boricua View Post
Its the Puget Sound traffic. The roads dont help much either. I know your commute. Pretty nasty one.

Joking aside. I found out thet the stocks tires tend to follow grooved pavement more than the RoadSmarts I replace them with. Just keep on riding.
Every tire I have had since replacing the stock Dunlops have handled grooves better. The Diablo Stradas were good, the Roadsmarts better and the Angels even better. With the angels I hardly feel them, but it sounds like your grooves might be larger than ours.

Steve

I bought a motorcycle because my wife said that I couldn't! Now I have two and she still says I can't have another one!
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Sounds like a challenge to me!

Now I have four!
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post #19 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-20-2010, 11:27 AM
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Looking forward to your results with appropriate tire pressures. As others have stated; tire pressures, relax your grip, new tires. If you get to number three without improvement, go back and try one and two again.
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post #20 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-20-2010, 01:01 PM
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Your tires are most likely squared off which is making it feel real twitchy in addition to everything stated above.
That's a fact, jack.
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