14 January 2011

FZ1 Maintenance: The Tires

The Pirelli Lesson.
A few months ago, I needed new tires and purchased the Pirelli Angels based on reputation and price.  I decided to change from the Bridgestone BT-021s before I even decided which tire to use because I'd been reading how bad they were on the forums.  I thought that I needed to find out for myself so I'd try other brands for a couple of tire changes then decide my brand loyalty.

I've only used Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin, and Pirelli tires in the past on my motorcycles.  The Bridgestones, Dunlops, and Michelins were on the VX800.  Based on that experience, I put Bridgestones on my FZ1 because I didn't like the feel of the others.  I know feel is subjective and everything anyone ever says about tires is based on it.  So before I wore out the previous set of Bridgestones during the FZ1 rally, I decided I'd revaluate my idea of feel.

During the rally, I rode Cruzman's Stella who was wearing Michelin's Pilot Road 2s shoes while Baby was wearing his usual Bridgestone Battleax 021s.  I couldn't really tell a big difference between the two tires but the conditions were not ideal.  However it seems everyone on the forum really liked them so I thought I've give them a try.  But when it came time to buy, I'd read so much about different brands of Sport Touring tires that the Pirelli Angels ST had creeped up my list of which brand to try first.  Combined with the Competition Accessories tire sale, I took the opportunity to get some and put them on at the beginning of July.

My usual routine after putting on a new set of tires is to find a good sized empty parking lot and practice braking after a good ride to wear the "new" off of the tire.  The first thing I noticed about these tires was how smooth they felt compared to the Bridgestones.  They had a different profile that made turn in quicker too which I enjoyed.  My first tentative "aggressive" stop attempts in the parking lot after the ride resulted in some sliding.  I anticipated that because they were new but hoped that it wouldn't happen until I used more effort.

I planned to ride the next day with about 50 or 60 freeway miles before the meat of the ride and hoped those additional miles would wear off any of the new I missed during the short ride and braking exercises.  Turned out I was wrong.  The first time I had to stop suddenly, both the front and rear tires skidded and I slid into the curb and dumped the bike.  The guys said they thought I'd saved it until I bumped the curb.  I only sustained minor damage to the bike and none to me.
Skid marks from the slide and the curb I bumped (on the right).

Minor Damage
We continued the ride and everything was great!  I loved the feel and response of the tires but I didn't like how slow they were to lose that slick "new" feel.  After it wore it way, it seemed I'd found a new tire option and I was very happy.  Unfortunately, the happiness didn't last long.  The rear end got squirrelly very soon after the "new" feel went away.  I guess I had less than 1,000 miles of optimal performance from these tires.

The rear tire slipping kind of felt like the motorcycle racers look toward the end of the race when their traction goes away.  FZ1_Vadar noticed it too on the Super Ambitious ride but by that time I'd gotten used to it and it didn't bother me any longer because I always got the traction back.  Cruzman suggested that I hadn't worn the new off of that part of the tire until that ride and I chose to believe him, fighting back all of the growing doubts.

Then I read another FZ1 rider's comment about the squirrelly feeling when he used engine braking to set up for the corners.  I use a similar method so afterwards I made a conscious effort to brake more before the curves vs using engine braking.  It seemed to help but the rear still felt slick after the tire warmed up.  The slickness was something I'd attributed to the heat but when the conditions continued in the cool weather, my perceptions about the Angels began to change.

The news that Bridgestone came out with a new tire, the BT-023 to replace the 021s, made me re-think the whole concept of changing tires based on reputation.  I liked the way the 021s wore and rode; I had no real reason to change brands other than comments on a forum.

So for the first ride of the new year, Cruzman and I planned to ride the Little River Canyon in Alabama.  I rode over to his house on Friday night and we cleaned up the rat's nest that was my wiring and made some repairs to my heated gloves.  We got up early Saturday morning and headed for Alabama.

Not long after we passed through Ceadartown, I noticed Cruzman was making a right turn a little too late.  I got hard on the brakes and slid into him.  I was going faster than the first incident and couldn't slow down in time to avoid him as the bike skidded instead of slowed.  I noticed Cruzman aborting his turn into the space I hoped to occupy just before I plowed into him, smashing his Akropovic muffler and forcing us both off the bikes with me tumbling down the road.

A quick note:  Rolling down the road is not like it is in the movies where the actor jumps up as if they haven't rolled three or four times and runs or walks away.  I tried it.  I rolled and thought, "I'm not stopping, this can't be good."  By the third time I was beginning to really worry but before I could do more than think about what would make me stop, I did--face down.  I tried to get up so I could get out of the street but I couldn't breathe.  So I laid down and concentrated on breathing.  I opened my eyes when Cruzman called, "P, you all right?"  I nodded and opened my face shield thinking, what happened to just getting up like on tv?

Anyway, both bikes received a good amount of damage and both riders were sore immediately afterwards.  Cruzman separated his shoulder and I banged my knee and hurt my left index finger.  Relatively minor injuries considering what could have happened.  Cruzman took the time to tally up our damages:

My and Stella's damages est. $1000  
$500 medical (could be less I only paid $125 at hospital so far.)
exhaust pipe $185
slider $20
shifter $15
dent in tank  $0.00  Will keep as is
tail section $230
hurt thumb $500 deductable
dislocated sholder  see above
Jacket  (replaced under warranty)
Pants $100

P's and Baby's damages est. $900 (+ Medical if necessary)
dent in tank. $0.00  Will keep
Slider $20.00
ding in pipe  $ 100 (will replace with used Yoshimura RS-1)
GPS Receiver $20

GPS Mount $20
front fairing $250
windscreen $47
PDA protective case $25
Jacket (replaced under warranty)
Pants $100
Helmet $60
index finger  (???)
Tires $220  (Rear has a flat pot)

The panic stop resulted in a flat spot on the rear tire, unlike last time.  I know that my panic stop may not have been perfect but I do not think it was so bad as to lock up the rear tire had it been anything other than that Pirelli.  I am also aware my reasoning may be flawed but either way I no longer have confidence in the Angels.  As a result today I took delivery of a new set of Bridgestone BT-023s.

This lesson was much more expensive than the HJC Lesson!  From now on, I'll trust my feel over the internet hype.  A week later, Cruzman and I are both feeling much better and lighter in the wallets.  I can't say any lesson I learned from this accident other than pay careful attention when riding and work more on my panic stops.

It's unfortunate timing because I thought I was done shopping and buying parts for my sports tourer when I made the final acquisition of Throttlemeisters from an FZ1OA forum member.  I was looking forward to more rides and trips this year.  Instead, I received the helmet and tires today.  The slider, windscreen, and gps receiver are en route.  Cruzman's slider, shifter, and new muffler is en route.  The rest is waiting to be purchased.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer


  1. Yep not our finest moments captured here, but all things considered I'll take it as a lesson. And am very thankful that both of us got off only a little lighter in the wallets, and no permanent damages.

  2. I think you two better get some of those "shields" that they have in Star Trek. You keep banging into one another and one day you may have a serious one. Just joking, glad no one got seriously hurt. (I know David, you did get hurt but your a guy so that's okay...) Both of you BE CAREFUL!

  3. Chuck, I think this was our serious one. I'm glad we weren't hurt more and thankful it was what it was. I know I'll try to be more careful in the future.

  4. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
    Tires For Sale


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