From the Educator


This monthís tidbit of information will focus on things that you should do in setting up your motorcycle for the days ride. Planning and taking the time to make sure your bike is in proper order before riding is often not done! And this is to say that most think about it, but decide, oh I checked it last week and it should still be good. So, we think we will be okay for the next few rides. If I have thought this sometimes, Iím sure you have too. If GWRRA members would check a couple of things before each ride we might reduce some of the unforeseen accidents.

††††††††††† The most important single issue on the pre-ride check list is/are your tires. Plain and simple, this is the most important thing you need to really check before each ride. Certainly the air pressure is important, but many will suggest that the pressure should remain somewhat normal for a while, unless something is causing them to loose air. And this is really the safety issue I want to really address. You should at the very least, inspect the tread surface of both tires. Rotate the wheels and look for the following: foreign objects, wear pattern, cracks and splits, condition of the valve stem, side wall condition, and damage to the wheel. Usually when I am in these areas inspecting things, I will also notice the parts near by, like the shocks or final drive housing. I look for leaks, mostly. Foreign objects are usually obvious, but take the time to look in the meaty part of the tread closely, sometimes small nails can be hiding. Wear pattern, here we are looking for results of long term use. How is the tire wearing, even, uneven, are there chunks of rubber missing in spots, is there cupping on the edges. The results of these things can mean tire pressures are wrong or maybe there is something wrong with the tire. Cracks and splits, cracks are usually from age and depending on there depth and number might indicate replacement time, splits are more serious and mean immediate replacement, donít ride on these. Valve stem, leaks and looseness of valve in the stem, cracks in the rubber near the base. I had a loose valve and I came out to find the tire low, and it wasnít until I tried to fill it, that I found the air just came back out. Now I keep a small valve tool in my bike to tighten them when necessary. In less than 5 minutes I can check both tires and if nothing is required I am on my way. Another note, if you are riding and something just doesnít feel right about the way the bike is handling, you should stop and check the suspension and tires. After an afternoon ride, I thought the ride was sloppy and when we got back to our hotel, I found a 4 inch bolt in my rear tire. Recently one of our own had an accident when the rear tire blew at highway speeds. The tire had only 3000 miles on it. Last year we attended a seminar with Dunlop, because a number of people had splits in their tires, at a very low mileage. So things do happen, take the time to at least inspect your tires before the ride.

††††††††††† Tire inflation, some suggest the maximum that way if doesnít matter how much load you put on the bike, others will change pressure based on the load. If your tires are stock Dunlop 177ís, the front are 33 and the rear tire pressure ranges from 36 to 41 lbs. The front is always 33, no matter the load, and the rear starts at 36 with a solo rider weighing about 200 lbs.You would put 41 lbs in the tire when you have two persons riding and some luggage. You can adjust for the in between weights with the in between pressures. If you have changed to the Elite IIís 491, then the front tire is intended to be at 36 lbs all the time. And the rear tire is 40 lbs for a solo rider and 41 for full load. Its possible that you have altered these pressures based on your experiences, but these are the suggested, by the tire manufacturer and Honda.

††††††††††† The next thing to check is important to the handling of the motorcycle while riding. That would be the air pressure in your suspension. This number is really up for grabs depending on you comfort and riding style. Honda suggest a range, and the reading of the pressure is done in a specific manner. Hondaís numbers are valid when the bike is on the center stand, and when the shocks are on the cooler side. If you have just finished a ride, the air in the shocks is going to be hotter and there fore, will read a little higher than when you first start out. Once you have and idea for the right pressure under the load and riding conditions, you will probably learn how to read the pressure, even when the bike is not on the center stand. I usually straddle my bike, with no weight on the seat, to set my pressure. I have learned where I want it, when I am riding alone, with a passenger, with a full load, and when pulling a trailer. I have also learned that when I want to ride aggressively, I have another setting. And this is where the trade offs occur. If you want a smooth comfortable ride on a long highway trip, your setting will be lower than when you are riding thru the curves of Deals Gap. So how do we determine whats right for you? Iím sure you have read many methods in the magazines for setting suspensions, but I have a simple approach that might work until you have figured out what works for you. Whether you are solo or riding with a passenger, under our normal riding conditions, which are basically in a flat environment, you should set your pressure so that when you go over railroad tracks, or from the street up onto a driveway apron, the bike does not bottom out. That the suspension does not collapse all the way, usually making a noise and creating quite a jolt to the passengers. If you adjust to this setting, you will usually have a more comfortable riding condition. To fine tune this one step further, when going over small rises in the road or making turns and curves, if the bike wallows,you need to increase the pressure. So what is this wallow. The front and rear tires move in opposite directions through the turn or over hill tops. This direction is not front to back, but from side to side. It feels like the front and rear are opposing one another. This condition happens because the suspension is to lite. You need to increase the pressure in the shocks. For the kind of riding we do with our Wings, these two issues should help you learn what the right pressure is for you. I will give you my settings, and you can go from there. With the bike supported on the tires, and with me astride the bike, but not on the seat, for a more comfortable ride, I use 45 lbs. When I add a passenger I go to 47 lbs. When I add the trailer I go to 50 lbs. When I am going to be riding aggressively I might even go to 52 lbs. Keep in mind, my weight is 185ish. For comparison sake, if I were to look at the readings with the bike on the center stand, they would be less than when I have them on the tires. I have chosen to set mine on the tires, cause I usually forget to do it before I get on the bike, hence I can make the adjustments while I am on the bike. I have many times made minor adjustments at the stop lights until I think I have it where I want it. If I had to put it on the center stand every time to adjust, I probably wouldnít bother.

††††††††††† On some of the later model Wings, the front suspension has an adjustment also. But it has a much smaller range. 0 Ė 6 lbs. On top of each front fork is a plastic cap that you can unscrew and there is a valve for putting in air. Here again, 0 lbs will net you a softer ride and the 6 lbs will get you a stiffer for controlled ride. I ride with 0 lbs for highway riding and will put 3 lbs in when I know I will be a little more aggressive in my riding. 6 lbs, gets to be a bit stiff. If you have worn springs, usually in an older bike or one with a lot of miles on it, you might want to compensate with a little more pressure. It would be a cheap solution to replacing the springs, but not a great fix.

††††††††††† Take the time to check the tires, and put in the right amount of pressure for the load. Adjust the suspension for the ride and the load. The result will be a safer and better ride.