Categories
Motorbikes

Bridgestone BT 016 Tyre review

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Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. ISO 250 f11 @ 60 secs

Well, I’m not quite sure what to make of these tyres. They feel so very different to the Michelin Pilot Powers I had before. I like the look of them and I like that the tread doesn’t go right to the edges unlike the Pilot Powers. This just makes sense to have as much rubber on the road at extreme lean angles. There’s no need for getting rid of water as you wouldn’t be leaning to the edge of the tyres in the wet. Well, not unless you were completely mental that is!

The shape of the tyres seems very round with a symmetrical radius and this is noticeable on the road. When in a corner you can choose the angle of the bike whereas with the Pilot Powers the bike would lean over always to the same point. It’s a strange sensation indeed but not unpleasant, just different.

The biggest difference is when weaving through tight S bends. The bike needs quite a lot of input from the rider to get the bike from one side to the other. It’s a fluid motion but quite unlike the Pilot Powers which almost snapped from one side to the other. That suited my small stature as the bike did all of the work. Now I have to make some effort.

The grip from these tyres is extraordinary and they seem to warm up almost straight away unlike the Pilot Powers which took a few miles. After the tyres were scrubbed in I went along one of my favourite roads to give them a proper test. The bike can certainly lean further than the Pilot Powers and frankly the angle I could achieve was ridiculous and had me laughing at the exit of every corner. I tried leaning more and more until I had my boots scraping the road. No big deal you might think but this Monster has rear sets fitted which are much higher than the original pegs and I can’t see how it’s possible that the bike can lean so far as to get my feet touching the road. It’s almost like riding on a wall of death!

Having these levels of grip is very reassuring. It’s good to know that there’s plenty in reserve if ever I need it. It will be interesting to see how long they last! The front tyre has two compounds and the rear has three which is a brilliant and very logical solution. If you look at the picture below you can see the slightly different colour on the last 25mm or so of the tyre where the softest compound is.

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Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. ISO 250 f16 @ 60 secs

On the road the tyres are comfortable and reassuring but somehow my suspension feels too soft now, like it is under damped so this must mean that the tyres are more supple and are absorbing some of the shocks from the road. I put 2.5 bar (36 psi) in the front and 2.8 (40 psi) in the rear. This is what the guy in the tyre shop put in and it was what I used on the Pilot Powers too. The Bridgestone website is pathetic and I was unable to find the recommended settings but a few people said that they were 2.5 front and 2.9 rear so since I’m only small It’s probably about right.

Some mentioned they were running much lower pressures but this caused the tyres to go greasy after a while. I tried dropping the pressure on the Pilot Powers once but I didn’t like it so put them back. If you are going to get these tyres, I would start with higher pressures and see how you go. That said the bike has developed a twitchy front end on bad surfaces and under power and the bars slap about a bit. This never happened with the Pilot Powers. I tried lowering the forks a bit (11mm) and this has made a huge difference. Turn in seems unaffected but a bit more of my weight forward has really helped and the bike seems much more planted.

These are excellent tyres there’s no doubt about it. All that remains to be seen now is how long they last. If I wanted to be critical I would say that it takes a bit longer to get the power on coming out of bends. It feels like there is a lack of grip in the middle compound area, but it’s more probably the shape of the tyres that makes it feel like this. The Pilot Powers were excellent for getting the power on early coming out of bends and these BT016s just seem a bit slower. I would also say that they are slower to turn in and require more rider input to switch from one side to the other through the bends.

I’m nitpicking of course. The bottom line is that I am faster into the bends and faster out of them and I can lean more even though they don’t feel as reassuring as the Pilot Powers. Maybe it feels that way because I am going faster? In any case, if you do buy these tyres because you want to ride fast and have tons of grip then you won’t be disappointed.

They are not the cheapest tyres on the market but considering the technology that has gone into them I think they are a good investment. After all it’s the rubber that keeps you where you should be so not skimping on tyres is a good move.

I can’t comment about wet road riding since I am a fair weather biker but I have no doubt they would work just fine. These tyres don’t grip on the white lines and road markings in France. But then neither did the Pilot Powers. This is due to the crappy teflon coated paint they use, it’s no fault of the tyres.

Marks out of ten? I’d have to give them a 7 which is slightly less than I gave the Pilot Powers. The reason I have only given them a 7 is because of the slower turn in and somehow softer more wallowy ride they give. If nothing else, they have made me realise what excellent tyres the Pilot Powers were. Next time I would like to try the CT2 Michelins which are the dual compound versions of the Pilot Powers but sadly they don’t make them in a 170/60 size so we’ll have to see once the BT016s are worn out.

Update: 2000 miles on…

Categories
Motorbikes

Ducati Monster M900

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Leica M9, Elmarit 21mm Asph, f5.6 @ 30 sec 160 ISO. (Lightroom preset ‘Nostalgialicious’)

The thing I noticed most when I first saw Ducati’s new Monster M900 was that incredibly wide back tyre. Of course I also noticed the massive twin discs and upside down forks. It even had trick little carbon side panels. Even when it was stationary it looked like it was going fast. It looked pretty bloody good back in 1995. It still looks pretty good today too.

My first impressions on riding it was that it was totally planted. It went around corners as if on rails soaking up bumps and completely ignoring irregularities in the road. Even when I opened the taps a bit I soon realised that this bike had very high limits and I wasn’t anywhere near them. I doubted I could even get close to them. This kind of realisation makes riding a Ducati special.

The power was fabulous, even though there wasn’t really that much of it. 85 hp is not very much by today’s standards and the engine doesn’t rev very high. There isn’t even a rev counter. But it’s got grunt, an immediate rush of power no matter what gear you’re in. It’s quite possible to ride a Monster very fast without even having to change gear very often.

Then there are those brakes. Awesome is the only word for it. Just the pressure from one digit will pull you up fast and true from any speed. The brakes hiss when applied. I have never heard that before.

Being a short bloke who only weighs about 60 kilos has a large bearing on the kind of motorbike I can ride. One of the good things about the Monster is the low seat height but it’s also very light at only 180 kilos so that low hp figure is somewhat misleading. My old 400/4 Honda weighed as much and had only half the hp. A mate has a Bandit 650 which has the same hp but that weighs 50 kilos more than the 900cc Ducati!

OK, so it’s not really a bike to ride long distance, with no fairing it’s just too tiring, but if you want to ride far buy a Honda Goldwing or a BMW. The Monster is about enjoying yourself. It has no redeeming practical features at all. The pillion position is terrible and neither comfy for the rider or pillion. The grunty nature of the motor and the amazing brakes means you’re constantly being nutted by your passenger. There isn’t room for a spare change of pants even.

It has a lousy turning circle, thanks to the shape of the frame and this can be annoying in town but here’s a clever way of turning the bike around. Out on the open road it’s never an issue and this is where this bike was designed to be, not in a car park. It’s quite economical and the quoted 17 kms per litre is about right. This means about 100  – 120 miles on a tank. Not a huge range but like I said if you want that kind of stuff you need a different kind of bike.

The funny thing is, I was always a Japanese bike man. I liked high revving, small multi cylinder bikes. I had ridden plenty of other bikes of course but all the big twins that I rode vibrated and made my vision blur and I didn’t like the way the engine snatched at low speeds. I didn’t even particularly like the sound they made. They were also pretty heavy and that’s no good for a little bloke so I was always happy with a 400 or 500 cc bike. Anything bigger would be too much for me in every sense.

A year with the Monster has changed this attitude completely. I never knew that a big twin could be so light and agile. I have to remind my self that I am riding a 900cc bike. That’s a big capacity engine. Bike insurance might be expensive but I’m now of an age that makes a real difference. A clean licence and plenty of no claims bonus helps too.

I really do feel at home on the Monster. It might be a 900cc bike and capable of going like one but it feels much smaller when you’re riding it. You don’t have to ride it like a nutter to get satisfaction from it unlike the Monster 696 I tried. Far better to have a quick bike that you can ride slower and still enjoy. If you want to ride fast you can, the Monster is a very capable bike in the right hands.

It’s always a treat to be able to keep up with the serious boys on their new road rockets. They always seem surprised that such an old bike can do so well against their modern high tech ones. They are even more surprised when they get overtaken coming out of a bend. That instant power delivery from the Monster’s twin means that while their motor is just winding up towards the power band, you’re already in it and it can make a big difference.

On paper the Monster M900 doesn’t appear to be any kind of threat to any of the latest bikes of a similar capacity but in the real world it does very well thank you. There are some who say that Ducatis are too expensive or unreliable. The bike I am riding is 15 years old and it has been reliable for the year I have had it. Everything still works. There is no play anywhere and the chassis and running gear still feels very tight.

The Monster is an iconic bike. It has influenced the look of many of the bikes on the road today. It has it’s faults but when it comes to smiles per miles you can’t do better. If you want a bike purely for the pleasure of riding and don’t need any practical aspects why not try an original Monster? Low mileage old ones can be bought for a fraction of what they cost new. These were very expensive bikes when they were first sold.

Recently I hired a Ducati 696 for a weekend and although it was a very competent bike, I felt it was trying to be everything to everybody and had lost some vital element. Given a choice between a brand new 696 or my 15 year old M900. There’s no contest. I would take the original without question. It’s a great bike and a true design classic.

Categories
Motorbikes

How to turn a motorcycle around easily

 

 

Here’s a helpful trick that all Ducati Monster owners need to know. The Ducati’s have a very poor lock so turning them around so they are facing the right direction can be a right pain, especially if you only have little legs! Here’s a simple way that requires very little effort and is very quick.

Categories
Motorbikes

Ducati Monster Quat D Ex-Box exhaust

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Leica M9, Summarit f2.5 50mm f2.5 @ 20th sec, 2500 ISO, Ducati with ExBox exhaust. See how clean it looks with no visible pipes. This is one clean back end.

When my cousin lent me his M900 Monster it came with the noisiest pipes you ever heard. He had the pipes made up for the bike when it was new and instead of having one pipe on each side, it had them both on the right hand side, quite forward thinking at the time. It looked excellent and the sound was awesome if you like that kind of thing which I did but I didn’t think our neighbours would.

To give you an idea of how loud it was when it fired up, windows would open and people would be wondering what the hell had happened. I tried to ride it quietly but even at very low revs it was very loud. The funny thing is, I rode it like this for a few months until I could finally afford to do something about it yet no one said a word, if anything people would say they liked the sound. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, the South of France is biker heaven!

One day I arrived at a roundabout where there were 4 bike cops all standing watching me arrive, arms folded. I would get tugged for sure… I tried to keep it quiet but wasn’t fooling anyone as I burbled, popped and rumbled towards them, I just rode confidently, turned my head to look behind me as I slowed and then powered on through the round about.

Eight eyes followed me around. Obviously they were not after bikes, so just as a treat for them I gave the bike some gas, not too much obviously but just enough to really enjoy that big twin sound. They didn’t come after me and I got the distinct impression that they quite enjoyed seeing the bike. I would have been pulled over in the UK for sure. Then consider that the bike has no indicators and a tiny number plate, easily enough excuse for a British cop to bust your ass! Like I said, it’s biker heaven in the South of France.

Even though no one seemed to mind about the noise I was feeling rather conspicuous all the same so I decided to look into some quieter pipes. My original idea was to simply change the cans and leave the beautiful custom made stainless downpipes in place but I just couldn’t find anything that would fit properly and nothing looked as good as the Supertrapps originally fitted. I decided to try another approach.

Then I saw some pics of a monster with the entire exhaust under the engine. It was the Quat D Ex-Box. I liked it and it seemed that it was road legal but could be easily adapted to be louder by unblocking the top of the two outlet pipes in the box.

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Leica M9 Elmarit 21 Asph, f8 @ 500 160 ISO. M900 with Ex-Box Oct 2009

It cost a whopping 1000€ and was interesting to fit. The downpipes are made in pieces which slot into one another and are held in place by strong springs. It’s a crazy system but it looks quite funky and does work. The box itself is very nicely made and quite heavy. In theory the weight so low down and central would help with the handling a little.

The first issue soon came to light. The tyre was touching the exhaust pipe because the chain was too short. One new chain with two extra links later, we were in business. For the first test I left the exhaust road legal as supplied and started the bike.

‘Wow’ I thought, that dry clutch really is loud. This is perfectly normal of course but I hadn’t heard it before over the noise of the old pipes. The Ex-Box in legal mode is very quiet indeed. I quite liked it though for it may have been quiet but it was still deep. A test ride was in order.

As soon as I pulled away I noticed the lack of power, I reckon it lost 20% right away. Normally the front wheel will lift in first if you accelerate hard, now no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the wheel off the ground. The bike felt very civilized but gutless. Maybe not gutless but it had lost the immediacy of the original delivery and the power curve felt very flat.

So I turned straight around and got the allen keys out and removed the capped top hole and installed the uncapped piece that comes with the exhaust. This meant that both holes in the exhaust were now open. I started the bike. The sound was deeper and louder. Nice.

A ride soon confirmed that the power was back. I was surprised that the original pipes were so effective. Loud they might have been but they were obviously well set up. So I had achieved my goal, a Ducati that sounds like a Ducati but won’t upset the neighbours too much.

The best thing about the Ex-Box is that it makes the back end of the bike so clean and mean looking. The bike is very narrow and the Ex-box emphasizes and enhances this feature.

Everyone notices this exhaust and most people’s comments are positive. I like it because it makes a nice sound, cleans up the back end and is a little different. You don’t often see bikes with them fitted.

Conclusion: Expensive but well made, nice sounding with clean looks but you might need a slightly longer chain.

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