Sunday, February 14, 2016

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer review

I had the pleasure of being able to ride a near new 2015 Yamaha MT-09 Tracer around New Zealand for 9 days so it seems fitting I put a few words to paper metaphorically.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Zealand North Island Motorcycle Tour

It was so nice to revisit one of the best places to ride a motorcycle, New Zealand.

Last year I had been thinking I should try return to New Zealand and ride the lower north and upper south islands. I then forgot all about it while yet again thinking what to do about my plan to ride in Europe with the Versys 650 I have in Ireland. The Aussie dollar remains so weak and everything is already so expensive there that I decided rather than let it sit in a shed another couple of years best I sell it. Sometimes things are not meant to happen. Already cancelled two planned trips then when I eventually got there was not able to ride far on the third attempt so even I who is not the most perceptive picked up that this was a message.

So finally having moved on I remembered I wanted to go back to New Zealand and what good timing as the exchange rate is not going to be woeful there and I already had a trip to visit family in Australia coming up which placed me just a few hours away. So rather last minute I phoned New Zealand Motorcycle Rentals and asked what they had available for about 9 days late January. This was peak season but my window of time matched exactly when they had a new Yamaha MT-09 available which was my first choice from their list so perfect and I booked that on the spot.

I decided after some consideration to ride only the north island. I saw so little of it last ride and that way I need not rush things at all and would also ride north of Auckland along the Twin Coast Discovery route. Getting to the rental shop was easy, a taxi ride across the harbour about 20 minutes from the city centre. It took awhile to get the bike but I was on the road by 10am and only had a short route the first day. Traffic heading north to the beaches on a Saturday was grid lock once off the multi lane highway. Like travelling to the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia in the old days with cars banked up 10km. Fortunately on a bike you can get around all this one way or the other and having ridden in Philippines and Thailand I guess my methods of dealing with traffic have picked up some bad habits that even the NZ riders were not game to follow. Needless to say my wheels never stopped turning Smile.

The coastal road riding north is very scenic indeed. Fine day 29 degrees while it was 4 in Tokyo. Beautiful green rolling hills. New bike and relaxed schedule. My spirit indeed did start to soar. 

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sport touring tyre comparison

A brief and unscientific comparison of four popular sport touring tires fitted to a Yamaha FJR1300.

I have tried four different sport touring type tyres on my Yamaha FJR1300. Metzeler Z8 which (somewhat oddly) came on the bike when new. Bridgestone BT023, the non GT variation of what is usually fitted to this bike new. Pirelli Angel GT which was suggested by others and Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT. This is an account of my experiences not a controlled test just some real world feedback for people to consider since what I read on the net regarding these tyres is always just peoples initial feeling when fitting them, usually after that days ride, and some wildly optimistic estimate of mileage they expect to achieve not close to the real results.

I am not hyper sensitive about tyre road feel. I was initially when first on road motorcycles but after riding moto-x/off-road for a couple of years I got used to a bike moving about at times. Returning to pure road bikes any road tyre seemed to have enormous grip but I have come to experience better and worse road tyres over the years and all four of these tyres are good so the difference is between each of them not to other tyres. I will just give simple general notes about things like wet grip and lifespan and of course cornering.

First an important update – since this was posted I have fitted another set of BT-023 Bridgestones since I decided I need more mileage than slightly more grip as I don’t ride that demanding and the odd thing is this time around they are significantly better then than the first set fitted so the scores below may need to be raised. The set I have now is the ‘GT’ spec which has harder sidewalls as far as I know but otherwise same compound. I have not read of Bridgestone changing the BT023 compound but that is not to say they are not improving tyre models and that maybe the case with the BT023 or otherwise last time around I may have been sold very old stock. I did get them at 1/2 price from Naps Bayside Yokohama, a shop that since has done some dodgy work on my bike when asked to do a service so it is possible the tyres fitted by them previously were not a good representation of what the BT023 offers. Grip wise these GT spec are as good as the Angel GT in wet or dry and I will come back to update on their lifespan and refresh this post soon as I get a chance.

 

Dry weather cornering.

grip

 

The BT023 was for the most part perfectly acceptable to me. However if comparing to the other three tyres their feel is less sticky than the others in cornering and they let the bike move about a bit on turn in which I was fine with but some people might not like. They do not inspire high levels of confidence that the Angel and Pilot Four do but they have other positives aspects to offset that.

The Metzeler Z8 was a little better feeling on corner entry and felt more confident mid corner on the FJR than the BT023. Still a tyre that like the BT023 lets the heavy FJR push the front around a bit on entry but on their sides feels little more planted than the 23’s. 

The Angel GT offers a high level of grip feel on the FJR. It rarely lets the bike move about. Corner entry with these tyres is very nice sure footed feel with no movement and inspires confidence. Similar mid corner grip is notably better feeling than the previous two.

The Pilot Road 4 is the stand out in corner grip feel of this group. Corner entry feel is rock solid no movement which continues mid corner. Confidence cornering is always at 100% with these tyres. The grip remains high on cold roads or having to suddenly change line or even needing to brake mid corner. Always offering a very planted feel is how I would describe them.

A couple of things to consider however is the Pilot Road 4 is a very slow turning tyre on the FJR, ie it makes the steering feel slower than the other tyres. Not talking about as they wear which I will compare in the next section but just fitted brand new they are quite noticeable a slower steering tyre to all the others.

Another item to note is the FJR exhibits a cornering trait where it understeers then suddenly changes at half lean angle to oversteer. This has been noted by AMCN in their tests and is not my imagination. The Z8 and BT023 demonstrated this effect to me but with the Angel GT fitted the bike ceased to behave in this way and steering became much more neutral. Pirelli claim the Angel has a slightly different curvature for better wear (that is left to right not how round the tyre is) and this may be at play here or more likely it might be simply the way the tyre steers on the FJR. The PR4 was also more neutral feeling but the slower turn in and change of direction I feel was what I felt rather then a different attitude all together.

Now just to clarify most of the time I simply dawdle along rather slow and any of these tyres is enough for me. However occasionally I might want to feel the bike leaning over a bit if I come across some nice bends so I am just giving my impression on how these tyres performed when asked to occasionally act out the sport part of their sport-touring classification.

 

Wet weather grip.

wet

Now to wet weather grip. Something I used to not bother much about when only doing day rides in Australia. If it was raining I stayed home. If caught in a storm I would wait it out in a café. Now that I tour for extended time riding in rain and on wet roads all day is always not if but when on a tour and the way tyres feel on wet roads makes a big difference to my touring enjoyment.

The Z8 is a tyre I never liked in the wet. Always feeling like it was moving about and squirming. I used to tippy toe along when encountering wet conditions with these fitted. The BT023 is not much more enjoyable in the wet but certainly less moments when you think oh crap with the bike slipping about.

A huge leap forward is the Angel GT tyres which feel very good in the wet. You can ride and not have the bike constantly moving about and feeling loose as with the other two tyres and only on the coldest wet roads might I notice the grip not always being there.

The Pilot Road 4 in the wet are a revelation. I forgot I was riding on wet roads after a while - the grip is that good. I would never had imagined this level of grip could be obtained on road tyres. Not saying you can lean over like in the dry but you can ride a modest pace and not feel the bike move about at all such is the grip level provided.

Mileage.

miles

Ok don’t read this chart as a score out of 10 like the previous – this time the numbers are distance in ten’s of thousands of km.

I ride just for fun not commuting. Besides the odd bit of highway I ride only country roads with curves. So middle of my tyres is not where I experience the most wear.

The Angle GT’s were worn out by 6,000km. Front tyre sides were completely gone and tyre had that pronounced egg shape making steering very slow and really high effort. Rear tyre was wearing consistently but at the wear tabs already. Terrific tyre in the way they feel but they wear out far too quick. I was surprised because on the net I read people saying they were getting 15,000km but this surely must be just commuting mileage on a light bike or just BS as is so much of what is written on the net.

I changed the Z8’s out at 7,000km at which point the front tyre was very badly scalloped on the sides making the steering wobble under braking and the pronounced egg shape made turn in effort high. The middles still had some rubber remaining and if I was commuting the lifespan might be totally different but for sporty riding they did not last long enough and the hash wear on the front sides to me meant the tyre was not suitable for the heavy FJR.

With the Pilot Road four I had problems with uneven wearing on the front tyre. By just 1500km I had a mild shake in the front when the throttle was closed and this extended itself to a shake or vibration with throttle open or closed shortly after. Holding the bars I could negate the effect. The wheel was balanced and had not lost it’s weights. I had it examined and the issue was identified as uneven wear on the tyre. Now these tyres cost me a lot of money, they are twice the price of the Bridestones in Japan so I elected to continue with them. But at 5000km I put the bike into the shop for a service decided to just throw away the PR4’s due to this problem. The front tread depth was by then well worn and would be good for another 2000km so I at least got a good portion of the miles available before swapping them out and I have shown the estimated total mileage in the chart. Is this an isolated incident or something else. I was warned to stop using Michelin by my regular tyre shop back in Australia as far back as about 2004/5 when the shop owner told me lots of guys were having premature uneven wear issues with the Pilot Road first series. But this is a very popular tyre and one I rode on in New Zealand with no problems for many thousands of km so I can only assume I was unlucky to experience this. In the overall wear comparison then 7000km is like the Angel’s very low mileage. 

The Bridgestone's are the clear winner in mileage. The BT023 was the only tyre to wear consistently across the tyre. No scalloping and less of that egg shape which meant turn in effort remained less difficult as the tyres wore and only at the end of their life did they develop that higher steering effort issue as the egg shape became more noticeable on the front. While they lose out in grip they are the only tyres with anything resembling reasonable mileage on the FJR.

So that is my real world results which are very different to some of the talk on the net but the FJR is indeed very hard on tyres. I read claims of people getting huge mileage out of the PR4 and Angel GT tyres and even allowing for lighter bikes I would have to say now I think that talk is not all true. Perhaps up to 50% more could be achieved on lighter bikes which would make the Z8 and PR4 about 10,000km tyres, the BT023 about 15,000km tyres and the Angel GT’s about 9000km.

I now have the BT023 R GT variation fitted and will add how they perform to this post in the future.