Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dualsport tire comparison for WR250R - Part 3

Got about 250 km of mixed riding in this weekend, gave two tire combos a good flogging.

Combo 1: Scorpion Pro FIM (90/90-21) front, Trakmaster II (100/100-18) rear. 

My route took a mix of paved, dirt, and rough bush roads full of ice, snow, knee-deep puddles, and tons of mud. After about an hour of ripping around I got a pretty good feel for how this combo rides.

Trakmaster II: Tractor-like grip in the slop. No problem ploughing through oozing, semi-frozen mud that was almost a foot deep in places. This is a definite strong point for the tire. 

However, this tire is just too small for the back end. On harder surfaces it felt like I had a swivel caster on the back end. Turn-in was twitchy, the ride was harsh given the small diameter, and my top-end was limited to about 88 km/hr with my current 13/47 gearing. I also found that the superb straight-line grip would almost cause my back end to outrun the front in the deeper and stickier sections of mud, and I had to ease off the throttle to avoid swapping. I really wanted to like this tire and it would be great for a pure woods bike. Just not the right rubber for the Roaming Rally, where I need to keep up with two team mates who totally shred the MX. Maybe the 110/100-18 would be a better fit for the WR. [In fact, it is!]

Scorpion Pro FIM: Wow. What a treat having front-end control in the mud! Not buzzy at all on the pavement. The real test came on the next two rides.

Combo 2: Scorpion Pro FIM (90/90-21) front, MT43 (4.00-18) rear

This combo is the bomb.

First test was about a 120 km ride into Ottawa on 1/3 dirt, 2/3 paved roads, with loaded bags. Cold, windy day at the limit of my comfort for the distance. I took this ride a lot easier than the mudfest on the day before, not wanting to grind down the rubber too hard.

The MT43 gave me back my top end, allowing me to reach 100 km/hr no problem despite the 50 km/hr gusts. But I was shocked to see how much it wore down: easily 1-2 mm on the centre knobs. I was running about 22 psi and had loaded bags on which probably explains some of the wear.

The Scorpion was great. Still no buzzing in the bars, OK braking on pavement, predictable cornering. No significant signs of wear compared to the MT43.

Second test was about 90 km of mixed pavement, dirt roads, and full-on dirt riding--again in deep water holes, over rocky terrain, and through snow and ice. No bags this time. I aired down the front and rear to 18 psi and had no problem on the technical terrain. Mud and water crossings were point-and shoot: this is where the Scorpion really shone, allowing me to pick a line and stick to it, with the MT43 tracking straight as an arrow through the slop even if it did lose a bit of forward traction. My riding buddy Rob is a pro and he pushed me harder than I would've done on my own. I was at my skill limit but I never felt like my bike or tire were at their limits. What a blast!

Wear on the MT43 was significant. Looks like I've taken off about 1/8"-3/16" just this weekend! At least the trail riding evened out the wear across the knobs. But it looks like I'll need to replace the tire in the next month if I keep riding like this. I'll be lucky to get 1000 km out of it. On the other hand, the Scorpion now just looks nicely broken in.

For a loaded rear the MT43 has my vote. It's a supple, sticky tire that handles square edges and loose rocks beautifully, and on my light bike is surprisingly competent in the mud. At lower pressures it would just flow over these obstacles like an amoeba. The tradeoff is poor wear.

The Scorpion Pro also has my vote. Great tracking, great breaking, predictable cornering. Wear remains to be seen. In any case there's a Scorpion Rally on backorder which I'm curious to try.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dualsport tire comparison for WR250R - Part 2

I was planning to use a Pirelli Scorpion Rally for my front tire, to match the Trakmaster II in the rear (See Part 1 for more details.)

Unfortunately, the Rally is on indefinite backorder so I picked up a Scorpion Pro F.I.M. instead. Here it is next to the Trakmaster:

As far as I can tell from online specs the Pro is pretty much identical to the Rally. Both are DOT-rated and both appear to use the same compound, although softer compounds are available in the Scorpion line. The main difference is probably that the knobbies on the Pro are shorter than on the Rally, to comply with the F.I.M. standard which restricts knob height to 30mm to try to reduce trail erosion.

Nevertheless, it's still an aggressive tread that should work well in the mud.

The Pro in a 90/90-21 weighs 8.4 lbs, exactly the same as the Heidenau K60 Scout I'm replacing.

I still can't get over how toy-like that Trakmaster looks on the rear. As the 100/100-18, it's one of the smallest and lightest in the line-up. Hopefully that translates to some reliable riding with a loaded bike. Otherwise it's back to the MT43 and hoping that lower pressure and larger diameter make up the traction lost by the smaller knobs.

One other consideration with the smaller rear tire is the weight shift on the suspension towards the rear. When I had the MT43 on, I set my shock for 20mm of static sag and 85mm of rider sag (about 32% of total travel). I'd never gotten around to adjusting this before and immediately found that bike handling improved. Be interested to see how the lower back-end alters handling.

Now, if I can get home some night before dark and when it isn't snowing or freezing rain, I'll be takin'er for a rip there bud!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dualsport tire comparison for WR250R - Part 1

So far I've ridden the following tires on my WR:
An upcoming off-road rally and muddy spring conditions prompted me to order the following hard-core knobby combo for better grip:
These last two tires are highly rated for my bike on various forums. Besides offering excellent grip in the slop, they seem to have better than average durability on the road. And at only around C$70 each, replacing them after an expected shorter life won't break the bank.

Here's a quick overview of the tires and my riding impressions so far. Once I've had a chance to try the knobbies I'll report on them as well.

From left to right: MT43, K60, Trakmaster. As a trials tire, the MT43 is tall and high volume to resist pinch flats.

There's a big difference in tire volume:

The Trakmaster looks anorexic despite its knobs. I ordered the 100/100-18 based on what other riders chose for my bike, but it just seems so spindly compared to the MT43 currently mounted:

How slim is that Trakmaster really? Here are some measurements:

  • Trakmaster: 113 mm W x 79 mm H (unmounted, brand new); 10.6 lbs
  • K60: 114 mm W x 88 mm H (unmounted, worn); 13.9 lbs
  • MT43: 109 mm W x 94 mm H (mounted, new); 13.0 lbs
Appearances are deceptive. The Trakmaster is essentially the same or wider than the other tires, but considerably shorter and lighter. This will definitely improve trail torque at the expense of highway speed. Here it is next to the K60:

And here it is next to a Surly Nate on my fatbike. Trakmaster, $74; Nate, $120. Don't even get me started on the $275 (each!) Dillingers that I also have for my fatbike. There's a whole article to be written on the exorbitant prices for mountain bike parts compared to motorcycle parts. 

Here are the end profiles of each tire. As you can see, the Trakmaster knobs take up most of the volume that would otherwise be available for air chamber:

K60 Scout:


MT43 ride notes:
  • Grips like velcro on pavement, gravel, and hardpack, even at higher pressures (~21 psi). This tire really inspires confidence.
  • Surprisingly OK in mud, as long as you keep up your speed and it's not the kind of clay that clogs the tire
  • Wear is noticeable after only ~150km of riding, mostly on pavement around town. The centre knobs are showing a few mm of cupping on one side as a result of my spirited acceleration.
  • Grippy on wet pavement, ice, thin snow. I took a fast fireroad ride with a K60 on the front and there was a noticeable different in grip on surfaces where knob depth shouldn't make as much of a difference (like ice).
  • High volume offers a comfy. stable ride over washboard, potholes, rocks on trail
  • Great cornering at low and high speed
K60 ride notes:
  • Has held up surprisingly well after ~5,000 km of 50/50 riding.
  • Surprisingly good on gravel; obviously crap in mud and clay (lots of side-slip)
  • Grippy on wet pavement
  • Showing only slight cupping front/rear from spirited braking/acceleration
  • Not so bad to mount if you warm it up and use a little ArmorAll as lube.
  • Will definitely buy again as my go-to 50/50 tire
Trakmaster/Scorpion notes:
  • Will report back once I have tested them
  • Initial thoughts are that the Trakmaster may not have enough volume to protect my rim at lower pressures when bike is loaded with rally gear. It looks like a front tire for a kid's bike compared to what I'm used to riding on now! Here it is next to the K60 front:

Trailwing notes:
  • Seriously? These tires are truly awful. Despite looking like a knobby they're awful in the dirt and roll poorly on pavement.
  • If you still think the Deathwings are adequate for your needs, replace them with the Heidenau K60 Scout once they wear out--you will not be disappointed. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mongolia ADV ride

This trip is on my bucket list. Great photography and scenery in the video


Thursday, April 2, 2015

New riding gear on its way

I've just ordered the Olympia Motoquest guide jacket and pants from Canada's Motorcycle to replace the leather pants and fabric jacket I've been enduring for far too long. In fact, I just discovered that my jacket is torn and falling apart in a few critical places. So there's a genuine safety reason to upgrade besides my desire for lighter weight and better integration of pockets and bladder drinking system.

It took a lot of research to narrow down my options. The Klim Badlands Pro was at the top of my list for technical features. But at well over a grand for the jacket and almost a grand for the pants, I couldn't justify the premium given what I feel are marginal technical advantages over the Olympia. The BMW Rallye 3 pants were also in the running, as well as the Rev'It Sand 2 gear. The BMW was eliminated for cost and the Rev'It for choice of materials and the rather dumb concept of using an interior waterproof liner. (Too much gear seems to be designed by people who never actually ride, or only ride in perfect dry conditions.)

Other manufacturers I looked into included Hind and Rukka. Hind offers some nice looking gear. However, it's pricy and is more aimed at roadies and fashion than true DS rider needs. Rukka offers some great gear for DS riders. Unfortunately, no one carries it in my area and it's awfully expensive to gamble on without at least seeing it first.

Amazingly, Olympia seems to be the only company that offers a sensible compromise of quality materials and construction, thoughtfully designed features for DS riders, and price. One weakness may be the armor. I plan to upgrade at least the back protector to something CE-2 rated like D3O. Otherwise I'll remove the armor and continue to use my Fox pressure suit for more trail-oriented rides.

The other major weakness for which I can't find a solution in any jacket is neck-brace compatibility. I have a brand new brace sitting on a shelf because it doesn't fit with my Fox armor or with any jacket.

The goodies should arrive over the next two weeks. I'll post a review as soon as I can get some riding in.

Trail tool kit for WR250R

After working on my bike this winter I think I've nailed down all the tools I need to be able to access most parts of my bike for minor trailside repairs. I've left the OEM toolkit on the bike for now because (a) then I'll never forget to bring tools, and (b) it contains a spark plug puller. My kit overlaps with the basic kit I bring on remote rides, but improves on the tool selection.


  • Nitrile gloves
  • Spare front and rear tubes
  • CO2 inflator and refills
  • Bicycle patch kit. I refilled my Park Tools box with a superior kit from the Dollar Store for $1.25. It's also better than any motorcycle kit I could find online (lots of big, thick patches and a good sized tube of vulcanizing cement). 
  • Bicycle pump with screw-on valve connector on a hose. These are important features to be able to access and inflate valve stems that have flats on the sides. Most bike pumps won't seal around the flats.
  • Air pressure gauge
  • 6" adjustable crescent wrench
  • 14mm/12mm wrench. There are several places where a crescent wrench doesn't fit.
  • 2-part Magic Bond steel epoxy. Hardens in an hour.
  • JB-Weld. Hardens overnight. Sometimes better for radiator repairs or hard-to-reach spots.
  • Duct tape
  • 1/4" socket driver and extension
  • 8mm, 10mm, 14mm sockets. The 8 and 10 do almost everything; the long 14mm removes valve nuts and rim lock nuts easier than a wrench.
  • 6mm, 5mm, 4mm hex wrenches marked with yellow tape so I can find them when they fall on the ground
  • Gerber multitool (pliers, knife)
  • Long Phillips screwdriver. Although I've replaced most Phillips hardware with hex heads, there are a few things (like bar controls) that just need a screwdriver. 
  • Motion Pro tire levers with 22mm and 27mm box-end axle wrenches. These are the bomb, but they are only rated to about 90 Nm. Make sure you install your axle nuts using these wrenches so you know you can remove them later on the trail.
  • Zip ties in assorted lengths
  • Digital multimeter for diagnosing electrical problems (surprisingly handy!). This one cost $30 from Canadian Tire. Smaller/cheaper versions are available online. 
  • Electrical wire, electrical tape, quick connectors, spare fuses.
Now I just need a small bag in which to stow everything.

Edit: In a "duh" moment, I realized I could replace the screwdriver and three hex wrenches with the blue Park Tools set (AWS-9) I carry when mountain biking. The Phillips screwdriver on this tool is just long enough to reach all the screws on the bar controls without having to move the hand guards. I forgot I had this tool because I usually use my Y-wrench in the shop.