Tag Archives: Miscellaneous

RACER – HIGH SPEED GLOVE | ULTIMATE PROTECTION & PERFORMANCE

High Speed 1HIGH SPEED GLOVE | ULTIMATE PROTECTION & PERFORMANCE
The High Speed Glove is a professional level road race glove that takes elements from the evolution of our race glove designs to create a lightweight, vented chassis with superior fit, comfort and protection. Palm construction consists of kangaroo leather with a Pittards® leather grip patch mated to the latest generation Knox® SPS palm sliders. The chassis is constructed of cowhide and combines TPU hard protectors on fingers, knuckle and wrist. Knuckle protector is covered with SuperFabric®. Based on the popular High Racer glove chassis, the High Speed features outstanding fit with virtually no break in.

 

 

High Speed 2-1FEATURES:
– Kangaroo palm with Cowhide chassis
– Dual Density Knox® SPS palm sliders
– TPU hard protectors on fingers, knuckles and wrist
– Perforated gauntlet and fingers for airflow
– Double closures on wrist for secure fit
– Ring and little finger adjoined to prevent “finger roll”
– Available in Black or White/Black
– Sizes S-3XL

HIGH SPEED schw-small-3Retail Price – $279.99
Website – www.racerglovesusa.com
Glove Link – http://www.racerglovesusa.com/high-speed-glove/
FB  – www.facebook.com/RacerGlovesUSA
Contact – 408-852-0700

The best fitting gloves you can buy!

Visual Tour of the AMA Races at Mid-Ohio

Please sit back and enjoy the photos taken at the 2013 AMA Races at Mid-Ohio. Once again our hardworking and talented friend, Darin Smith of Mile High Photo Studio, has captured images that are sure to delight your ocular nerves. Please note that excessive drool can damage your keyboard.

Schuberth C3 Product Review

Words and Pictures by Kenn Stamp

Schuberth C3Full disclosure: I was fully prepared to dislike the Schuberth C3 before I ever received it. I mean come on: It costs $700, when you pick-up the helmet for review you’ll get an hour long briefing about what makes Schuberth different, and the helmet has an owners manual that, even discarding the pages filled with the languages you don’t speak, is still thicker than the owners manual that came with my new TV. This all smacked of pretentiousness and I was fully prepared to dismiss the Schuberth C3 as just a mediocre helmet banking on the “German precision” marketing hype.

I was wrong. Really, really, wrong.

Before we get into the details of the helmet itself I’m going to put the info learned in that briefing (I had mine via Skype since I don’t live in LA) to good use and give you a wee bit of background on Schuberth and how they do things today.

Schuberth, being a German company, started making crates for breweries in 1922 (I was shocked to learn that Germans drank beer <cough, cough>). Some time later they branched out and started making soft leather linings that later became linings for head protection products. Since no detail is given about why they decided that leather linings were a good thing to make or what head protection products used them, I’m going to guess they made linings for military helmets leading up to and used during WWII. But that’s just a guess.

Their next venture was making hard shell mining helmets in 1952 which led to them making motorcycle helmets in 1954. Schuberth started making helmets using thermoplastics soon after and then branched out (again) and made helmets for European armed forces. Today Schuberth continues to make all types of protective head gear for everyone from a motorcycle rider, to firefighters, to soldiers and more.

Schuberth introduced its first flip-up style helmet in 1980 in a partnership with BMW that lasts to this day.

Why is any of this important and why did you just waste seconds of your life reading the above paragraphs? Simple; Schuberth’s history, both ancient and recent, inform and shape their corporate thinking and, by extension, their products. This is most evident in how Schuberth views themselves, not as a helmet manufacturer but as a manufacturer of head protection gear. The importance of this distinction will become a bit more clear a little later in the article.

Schuberth helmets have been available for years in the USA through a typical “custody chain” that one finds with foreign goods (manufacturer – importer/distributor – retailer – customer). After they and their customers were burned by the importer/distributor, Schuberth decided to sell dealer direct – which they started doing in 2010. That decision allows Schuberth to train their retailers to not only know how much a helmet costs but to also know exactly how to properly fit, care for and adjust them. Obviously this level of knowledge will be a huge asset to potential customers at the point of sale.

This direct line of training and communication also allows Schuberth to offer a complimentary 3-year service plan – allowing a customer to register their newly bought Schuberth helmet and then, any time within the next 3 years, take the helmet and certificate to a Schuberth dealer who will inspect, adjust and clean the helmet to return it to factory specifications (this does not include replacement of any worn parts although the customer will be advised if there are any).

Another cool feature of the plan is the Mobility Program. If a rider has an accident and damages their registered Schuberth helmet (within the 3 year period), they can return the helmet with the program certificate, purchase receipt, proof of motorcycle endorsed license and a copy of the police report from the accident and Schuberth will authorize a replacement of the damaged helmet with a new one of the same model for 1/3 the retail price. Seems like a lot of work I know, but we are talking about replacing your damaged $700 helmet with a new one and you only spending $230(ish) to do so. Not so much work now, eh?

By now you are either asleep, got bored and wandered off or are sitting there thinking, “what does any of that have to do with how the helmet works and why, for the love of all things holy, does it cost $700!!!???). OK, OK, enough with the history lesson then and on to the actual review.

I decided to go with the Schuberth C3 in the World White color to be different as I usually pick black helmets….and because Schuberth didn’t have my first choice (World Black) available. Once I received the helmet I was glad I chose the white as, with the gray globe graphics, it is quite a looker. There is also enough clear coat that there are no discernible ridges where the graphics are applied.

As an interesting note: other than the paint/graphics being applied by robots, the only other automated part of the C3 build process is the water cutting of the eyeport, vent holes and chinbar; everything else is done by a real live person. That fact may not inspire confidence if the tag said “Made in China – by unwilling, low-paid, conscripts who barely eat enough and have no access to health care or anything resembling human rights”, but Schuberth is a German company with German employees (whose healthcare pays for them to take ski trips when they feel stressed – at least that’s what I’ve been told) so having their little fingers involved in most of the building process is a probably a good thing.

Schuberth creates the shell of the C3 using fiberglass, Kevlar and Dyneema (a polymat material that resists penetration) and weaves them all together into sheets to create a fabric they call S.T.R.O.N.G.. These sheets are then cut into two 2-pieces and pre-formed before going into the helmet mold.

This process means that there are no issues with one part of the helmet shell being denser than another, which can happen with the hand-laid/blown fiberglass method of construction used by other helmet manufacturers. Since the fiber weave is the same density throughout the helmet it allows a consistent absorption of the resin that is poured into the mold; resulting in a uniform shell thickness. This uniformity is tested by placing a powerful light into the shell to ensure there are no brighter (indicates a thin spot) or darker (indicates a thick spot) areas in the shell. This technology is one of those areas that is a carry over from Schuberth’s other lines of business – when you make military and police helmets that are designed to stop a bullet, making sure there aren’t any thinner or thicker spots in the shell is of utmost importance.

It’s this ability to maintain a uniform thickness in the shell that allows Schuberth to keep the exterior shell size of the C3 to the bare minimum. This was made evident when I compared the C3 to my Bell Star; the C3 is a lot smaller in every external dimension – and I was comparing a Large C3 to a medium Star.

These smaller dimensions, coupled with that tightly controlled building process, means that the C3 isn’t very heavy either. Weighing in (on our trusty postal scale) at 1595 grams means that, compared to other full face helmets, the Schuberth C3 is a verifiable lightweight. Actually, unless you look at carbon fiber race helmets, the weight of the C3 compares beats a lot of full face helmets on the market too.

Another thing that contributes to the overall weight of the helmet is the interior. Schuberth has developed a way to create a multiple-density EPS liner in one piece rather than the separate pieces that most other manufacturers use to create their dual-density EPS liners.

The interior lining of a helmet, that part that touches your skin, is the area I use to really judge whether a helmet is truly a premium helmet – or just an overpriced wanna-be. I can say, without reservation, that the Schuberth C3’s interior is just about the nicest I’ve ever had the pleasure of sticking my head into. It’s one thing when the fabric used feels soft to your fingers but another level entirely when you can actually feel how soft it is on your forehead.

While Schuberth doesn’t put any sort of fabric or at least mesh between the padded panels to hide the EPS foam liner (Schuberth claims they don’t do that because it hampers airflow) they do cover the EPS itself with a fuzzy, velvety-type material (like those old flocked toys/Christmas decorations) which looks a LOT better than the raw EPS you’ll find in many helmets – premium or otherwise.

I was told by the Schuberth rep that one of the complaints they often hear about from new C3 owners is that the helmet is too tight. Apparently, and I’m just going by what they told me, due to the types and quality of the materials they use to build the interior, a Schuberth helmet takes longer to break-in than other brands.

When I ordered-up the C3, I did my usual and got a size larger than I really am because most helmets aren’t built to my exact head shape. I was glad I did because, for the first few rides I took that lasted longer than 30 minutes, I was getting a pressure spot at the middle of my forehead. This was due to Schuberth building the C3 with a mid-oval head shape while my head is a long-oval.

Usually this pressure would be a deal-breaker for me and I would pass along the helmet to someone else once the review was done – I’ve learned that those pressure spots don’t ever seem to go away. I liked the C3 so much though, and Schuberth said the helmet would break in, so I gave it some more time and now……no more pressure spot. This has to be due to their EPS foam manufacturing process because I’d never had a helmet that gave me pressure spots stop giving me pressure spots; no matter how long I wore it for.

Another bullet point in Schuberth’s presentation dealt with helmet quietness. Schuberth claims a decibel rating of only 84dB(A) at 65mph on an bike with no fairing. Having just tested the HJC RPHA 10 helmet and seen how HJC’s definition of “quiet” vastly differed from mine, I was hesitant to believe Schuberth’s definition would any closer. Turns out that the C3 is pretty quiet. I don’t have a decibel meter but I will say that the C3 is the first helmet I’ve ever worn that doesn’t make me feel I HAVE to wear earplugs or risk immediate hearing loss from wind noise.

That level of quiet comes not only from the design of the helmet and padded acoustical collar (the neck area is where most wind noise comes from) but also from small “turbolators” molded into the faceshield. These “turbolators” cause the air hitting the shield to spin in such a way that it goes smoothly over the top lip of the shield – thereby reducing both turbulence and noise. Schuberth is able to do all these little fine-tuning bits because they have the second quietest “aero-acoustic” (can test for both wind noise and aerodynamics) wind tunnel in the world.

Schuberth’s face shields are rated optical Class 1 which means nearly distortion free vision. They might be “nearly” distortion free when tested in a lab, but in the real world I’d say the were “completely” distortion free as I can’t find any distortion no matter how I move my eyes or tilt my head. Those same distortion free qualities also seem to carry over to the tinted integral drop-down sun-visor (which is cable driven for better reliability and smoother action).

The only thing I’m not wild about is the center “lock” on the shield – really just a little plastic “latch” on the helmet that snaps over a small tab on the shield. While there are no buttons or levers to manipulate, it can take quite a push to get the shield into the full down and “locked” position because you have to both push in and down to get the tab to go under the latch. Besides letting in cold air on cold days, leaving the visor resting on top of the little plastic latch also increases wind noise by quite a lot. I really find center “locking” visors to be, for the most part, just a pain in the ass and the one on the C3 is no exception.

Schuberth equips the C3 with their patented AROS (Anti Roll Of System) which, basically, consists of additional straps that are riveted to the base of the shell and connected to the chin straps. During a crash this system helps assure that the helmet will not cause an injury by rotating forward, nor will it come off the riders head.

The chin straps themselves are connected not with the good ol’ D-ring system but with a micro-lock ratchet system. I’m not crazy about the micro-lock ratchet system only because it’s bulky and hits you right in the Adam’s Apple; and I don’t have a large Adam’s Apple. You really only have limited adjustments that can be made because the chin straps are tethered to the back of the helmet by the AROS – so you can’t just slide the chin straps forward and further away from your throat. Unless you’ve got a large Adam’s Apple, or a low-tolerance for something touching your throat, you’ll eventually get used to it though. I can’t help but feel however, that the micro-lock ratchet system seems to be one of those areas where the typical German “we can build it better” attitude has created a problem where a good old D-ring set-up wouldn’t.

OK, OK, I know…longest……helmet…..review…..article…….EVER!!!! One more thing and then it’ll be onto the summary and class will be dismissed.

Last thing to talk about is airflow; both around and through the C3.

Because Schuberth didn’t create the C3 to be used on the track its outer shell is devoid of fins, strakes, spoilers, wings or any other “go fast” part that you’ll find on most full face helmets (this smoothness also contributes to how quiet the C3 is). Even without all those air-modifiers stuck to it and at speeds that would have caused any traffic cop to immediately drop their doughnut and spill their coffee on themselves, I never felt any buffeting. No buffeting, no wobble, no wiggle and no feeling of drag – even when I turned my head from side to side. This stability can be directly attributed to the hours of wind-tunnel testing that Schuberth does.

Another benefit to having your own wind-tunnel is being able to properly tune your helmet for ventilation. When I saw that the C3 didn’t have exhaust vents on the top rear of the helmet, only one intake vent on top and one chin vent, I thought “Oh this one’s gonna be a hot helmet”…….and then those pesky German engineers and their wind-tunnel proved me wrong.

The top intake vent lets in a good amount of air all by itself and the grooves cut into the EPS foam channel that air over your head and out the hidden exhaust vents at the bottom rear of the helmet. But the real magic comes from that chin vent. It’s a mystery how a small vent that only only opens from the top a little bit (next to the shield) can let in so much air. Most chin vents allow a gentle breeze to gently waft across your hot, sweat laden nose. The chin vent of the C3 is more like opening all the windows of your home during a hurricane – completely eliminating any sweat. I’ve honestly never felt a chin vent move as much air as the one on the C3 does.

This amount of airflow wasn’t solely designed to cool you down though, it was also designed to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the helmet (from you exhaling); the reduction of which helps reduce fatigue and keep you feeling refreshed on long rides. This carbon dioxide reduction goal is why, even with the vent in the closed position, a small amount of fresh air is allowed through – good for CO2 reduction, bad for keeping your nose warm on really chilly days. If it bothers you buy a 2-hole balaclava and your nose will stay toasty warm.

While the Schuberth C3’s $700 price tag might be pricey, the build quality and attention to detail quickly makes it seem a reasonable price to pay. The C3 is impressive not only due to the overall size and weight but also by those small details that lend a certain air of class to any product. Simply by holding a C3 in your hands or by putting one on your head you immediately can tell you are dealing with a quality product; much the same way you could tell you were sitting in a BMW or Mercedes rather than a Chevy or Ford, even blinfolded, simply by the feel of the materials you can touch.

Is the Schuberth C3 a perfect helmet? No; but then nothing can be perfect for all people. The Schuberth C3 is, quite simply, a helmet built to a higher standard.

P.S. (you thought I was done didn’t you) – The Schuberth C3 available in the USA is both DOT and ECE certified. Our helmets have an extra layer of Dyneema due to the DOT having a penetration standard which the ECE doesn’t have – hence the Stateside version of the C3 weighs a smidge more that the European version.

P.S.S. – By the way…did you know that in order for a helmet to obtain and keep ECE certification 150 out of every 3000 helmets built must be randomly chosen off the line and tested to destruction? Yeah I found that to be quite amazing as well.

OK I’m really done now. Seriously I am.

Remember, you can help support 2WF.com by purchasing your new Schuberth C3 from Motorcycle Superstore after clicking this link:

http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/14/67/905/1/0/0/DEPARTMENT/Street-Motorcycle-Helmets-Mens-Riding-Gear.aspx#&&Back=0-0-25%2c975-0-834-0-0-0-24-1-1-1?SiteID=IA_2wf&WT.mc_ID=54011

Pro’s

  • The materials used feel high-end
  • The small physical dimensions
  • The lack of weight
  • The airflow

Con’s

  • The cost – no matter how justified it is it’s still a lot of money
  • The chin-strap buckling system
  • The center lock on the shield

 

The Harley in the Barn and How to Rebuild & Restore Harley Davidson Big Twins

Every so often we are sent books to review that are centered around motorcycles. Recently two such books arrived in the mail and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first book, and certainly the one that will have the broadest appeal, is called “The Harley in the Barn”. No the book is not some motorcycle themed rip-off of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” but rather a collection of short stories about finding classic motorcycles stuffed away in old barns.

Everyone, be they lovers of cars, bikes, or even planes, has that dream of finding a classic, lust-worthy machine partially hidden under a dust covered tarp in some old barn somewhere.  The Harley in the Barn is 38 (by my count although the publisher says “more than 40”) short stories of people finding bikes in just such places. Unlike the name suggests though it isn’t just about Harley’s so lovers of old Triumphs or other classic bikes will enjoy reading the book as well.

The book is written/compiled by Tom Cotter who has written about many things automotive related, including finding them in barns, and now rounds out his writing resume by tackling neglected motorcycles.

Published by Motorbooks you can find your own copy of The Harley in the Barn at Amazon.com or by clicking this link: http://qbookshop.com/products/194723/9780760342343/The-Harley-in-the-Barn.html

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The second book is a bit more focused and has an annoyingly long title: How to Rebuild & Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins; 1936-1964

I have a confession to make; I didn’t really read this book. First because there really isn’t anything to “read” and second because I’m not currently in the process of rebuilding an old Knucklehead or Panhead. And I get bored easily.

However, flipping through the pages like a 2 year with a book full of pretty pictures, I will say that if I were working on a classic big twin motor from Harley, this book would be a valuable reference. The pages are chock full of pictures and text both showing and telling you exactly how things are going to go horribly wrong if you don’t put piece “A” into slot “B” before putting widget “D” through hole “F”; valuable information if you don’t want hours of hard work to go up in a cloud of smoke accompanied by loud clanking and wifely shouting.

How to Rebuild & Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins; 1936-1964 is also published by Motorbooks and can be found on Amazon.com as well as by clicking this link: http://qbookshop.com/products/194921/9780760343401/How-to-Rebuild-and-Restore-Classic-Harley-Davidson-Big-Twins-1936-1964.html

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia – 2WF Book Review

When Mark Gardiner emailed me about his new book, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia, I thought; “I like motorcycles and I like reading in the bathroom (what guy doesn’t?) – I’ll have a copy sent to review.

Once you get passed the cover art (if one can ever truly get past an image so visually disturbing), you’ll find 365 days of interesting trivia just waiting to be read. Some topics include:

Best places for motorcyclists to live”….Mark apparently bases his criteria for “best” on places that have racetracks, “hip” bike nights, and a even a bike rally or two. In other words I agree with none of his choices; but maybe you will.

Most beautiful” ….The MV Agusta F4 and 1937 Triumph Speed Twin are on the list….other than those two Mark apparently chose the other 8 “most beautiful” bikes after forging a Rx for medical marijuana. Of course beauty is subjective so what do I know.

Lessons, Track Schools and why you need them” …. An interesting chapter where Mark lists reasons why you need help along with a number of places who are willing to offer that help for the right price.

No matter what kind of bike you are into Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia has something interesting to impart. Such as:

Did you know that Harley Davidson copied BMW during WWII and developed shaft-driven machines with flat-twin motors?

Or that Arthur Davidson (of Harley Davidson fame) used to wear his wife’s clothes to parties, sit on men’s laps and kiss them on the cheek? (Harley built the motors and Davidson built the trannies?)

How about the fact that John Surtees is the only man to ever win the top class in motorcycle racing (he won several Grand Prix championships in the late 50’s) AND Formula One (he won driving a Ferrari in 1964).

Besides trivia Mark also talks about things like the greatest rivalries in racing; for example: the 1989 Le Mans race featuring Lawson, Schwantz and Rainey. Or Edwards vs. Bayliss at Imola in 2002.

With such a broad range of topics neatly broken down into easy to digest bites, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia is certainly a book that I heartily recommend for any motorcycle enthusiast. Even better, I recommend the motorcycle enthusiast’s spouse buy them the book for Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia now available. 244 pages, $12.95 (more info at: www.bikewriter.com)

The book is available at www.bikewriter.com (Signed copies, free postage to U.S. and Canada.) Also available at Amazon.com. Or, get it delivered to your Kindle or compatible device in minutes, for just $5.99.

 

The Wheel Jockey

.Every motorcycle rider at one time or another has lubed their chain, filled their tires up with air or has cleaned their rims from brake dust and road grim. If you haven’t done any of these tasks then shame on you! Your bike deserves better. If you have then you’ve most likely come across the dreaded “push and pull” re-position method. You know what I’m referring to don’t you? Having to push your trusty stead a few feet to find the valve stem or having to constantly move your bike back and forth when trying to lube the chain are not tasks that should take a lot of time. So what’s the answer you ask?

Well you can certainly spend upwards of $250 for front and rear stands which would not only accomplish the aforementioned tasks but would also be a good investment if you’re ever going to change tires, sprockets or remove your front forks. However, those of us who want a simple, portable and effective solution will be buying the Wheel Jockey.

The Wheel Jockey (WJ) is a tool that you roll your rear motorcycle tire over and then rotate it to do any cleaning or chain maintenance. As owner Bill Kniegge says, “I was always looking for a better solution to daily chain maintenance while leading motorcycle tours around the mountains of North Carolina.” Bill later explained that “I guess ‘necessity really is the mother of invention.’ Wheel Jockey came about as a result of needing a very portable way to accomplish wheel and chain work, and checking air pressures without a helper.”

.Constructed of sturdy steel and aluminum, the WJ measures approximately 4” x 4.5” x 1.5”, can accommodate road bikes up to 750 lbs and weighs in at 1lb. 12oz.. On the bottom of it there’s a non-slip rubber sole which helps maintain its location when placed on the ground. It has a very solid feel which you’d expect from this type of construction.

The process for using the WJ couldn’t be simpler. Just 3 easy steps to follow to have spotless rims or a well lubed chain. While your bike is on its side stand place the WJ (stationary rod end pointing toward the wheel) 2” in front of the rear wheel. Next slowly bring the bike upright and roll it onto the WJ making sure that the wheel is centered within the two rollers. Finally put the bike back down in its side stand and perform any of the needed maintenance. After you’re finished; stand the bike back up, roll it off the WJ and place it back on its side stand.

I tried the WJ on a sport bike, naked and a cruiser and had zero issues. I will say though that the first time I rolled my R1 on it I was a little nervous. After a dozen times or more since then though that cautiousness subsided and now it’s yet another valuable tool in my garage. Unfortunately for me one of the big pluses of the WJ (its portability) I can’t exactly use since I have zero room for storage thanks to “The One’s” small rear compartment and an added power commander.

.I did however bring the WJ with me in my tank bag when I met a few friends for a local riding event and it wasn’t as cumbersome as you may think. It actually came in handy as one of the guys in the group complained about his “rear end feeling dead” (I’ll leave the jokes for you to add). Sure enough his rear tire was low on air and the WJ came out for an off-site demo. The longest part of the process was trying to find a gas station that had an air pump (not to mention – do gas stations really have to charge for air?) but once we did the whole thing literally took a minute. Saddle bags or hard cases would be ideal and if I had them I’d definitely keep this tool with me on every ride I went on.

The WJ also comes with a tire gauge (displaying up to 50 psi [5 psi increments] or 3.5 kg [.5 kg increments]) which is great since the gas station that charged for air didn’t even have a working dial gauge to measure air pressure. This extra tool will most definitely be stored in my tank bag.

Thankfully for us Bill decided to create a product that we all can use and save time and money in the process. Not only that but if you just so happen to find yourself in the North Carolina area and have a few days to kill, ask Bill about some of the tours he provides via Blue Strada Tours as the views from traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) are just spectacular.

Suggested retail price for the WJ is: $54.00 plus S&H. Visit Wheel Jockey (www.wheeljockey.com) to learn more about it or Blue Strada Tours (www.bluestradatours.com) for additional information about tour reservations.

TCB Brake Systems

Improving Your Braking System

Photo’s By Bill Brink | Additional Rider: Roger White

.No doubt that technology has made motorcycling safer, easier and more fun.  If you can remember total loss oil systems, manual spark advance and kick starters then you have an idea what I’m talking about and why I am so appreciative of how far the sport has come.  Today we have dual compound tires, anti lock brakes and traction control and it just keeps getting better.  

What if you have an older bike you like (that’s totally paid for) and you just want it to be a better and safer ride?  That was my dilemma as I have a stock 2005 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe.  I have enjoyed it immensely over the years of ownership, however it seems to be lacking in the braking department.  After 32,000+ miles I figured it was time to improve upon this I began a search of options for upgrading the stock brakes.  There are many solid choices, but some can break the bank. Then I came across a product by TCB Brake Systems.  The company’s web site claims it “Automatically increases riders ability to brake in a shorter distance in both regular and panic stops by as much as 20% at speeds from 35 mph to 55 mph.”  It also claims to “help modulate your brake system, helps avoid premature brake lock up and improves brake control conditions in most cases.”  Add to that a cost of only $79 per brake caliper and I was sold enough to give it a try. 

I contacted Mark Lipski of TCB and he agreed to supply the parts necessary to conduct a comparison test.  In fact, he was so sure of his product he suggested a test of 2 motorcycles.  One bike really seemed to need help: the Softail Deluxe. The other has adequate brakes: a 2007 Harley Sportster XL883R.  The Sportester is already equipped with triple disk brakes, and weighs in at relatively light 585 pounds when compared to the Deluxe at 726 pounds with only 2 disk brakes.

Testing Design

The first obstacle I faced was how to conduct a fair comparison?  After conferring with my son Dean, an MSF rider coach, we drew up some guidelines.  We decided on two riders, with similar riding experience, getting three runs per bike at 2 pre-selected speeds.  We’d then average the results to try and get a broad measure of the product’s effectiveness.

Well, then, there was the next problem. Who do I trust to ride my bikes at speed and lock up the brakes?  Only one name came to mind, my friend Roger White.   He is the same age as me, rode motocross in his youth and is the current Director of the Daytona Harley Drill Team so I know he rides well.  In addition we are both MSF Rider Coaches along with being Riders Edge instructors, so I was confident that we’d be able to push the braking system consistently close to the edge of traction.

Test Preparation: Baseline Data.

Prior to conducting several base runs with the stock brakes we had to prep the bikes.  First, we set the tire pressure as per the owner’s manual, and then we inspected the tires and brake pads verifying they were better than factory specifications.  After all, we were going to conduct several panic stops at speeds of 35 and 45 MPH.  

If you have ever taken a Basic Rider Course you would have recognized the parking lot layout as it looked similar to exercise 9: stopping quickly.  However, the lane and stopping areas were longer as the speeds would be two to three time greater than in the basic class.  Furthermore, if test the rider showed any anticipation during the stop the run would not count and was to be done over. 

In 5 of the 6 high speed stops of 45 mph the rear wheel locked up on the Deluxe, number we saw repeated with the Sportster.  Similarly, on the 35 mph stops the rear locked in 4 out of 6 trials on both machines.


.Installation

With our baseline set, it was time to install TCB’s product.  All that is required is to replace your caliper’s banjo bolt with TCB’s patented bolt.  Although I felt my mechanical ability was adequate enough to conduct the installation, I wanted to ensure that installation did not affect the results.  I contacted a locally run and well respected shop, Custom Iron, located in Deleon Springs, Florida (386)-985-4850.  The shop is managed by the husband and wife team of Andy and Sandy Anderson and has been serving Central Florida riders for over 18 years. 

Sandy scheduled me in first thing on a Tuesday morning.  I braved the cold temperature, rode to the shop and arrived as Bo, the head chief mechanic, was opening up the shop.  He went right to work replacing the stock banjo bolts with TCB’s.  The switch was pretty straight forward, just remove the stock pieces, replace with TCB’s product and bleed the brakes. 

I watched Bo bleed the brakes on the Sportster several times, but he advised me the front brake still felt soft.  As per the instructions Bo test rode the bike and bleed the brakes again.  They worked perfectly, but the brake lever felt softer than I was used to.  However, on the ride home the braking remained smooth and predictable, albeit with a different feel.  To familiarize myself, I conducted several quick stops from 45 mph and the stopping was quick and I was unable to lockup the wheels.  Interesting enough, but I couldn’t tell stopping distance and would need to wait for the follow up test and measurements.

I returned later on the Softail and Bo repeated the process.  After the install the front brake lever on the Deluxe felt normal unlike the Sportster’s.   The installation process only took him approximately 15 to 20 minutes per wheel with the dual disked Sportster taking slightly longer. 

The soft front brake lever on the Sportster concerned me.  As such, prior to testing I took the bike for a ride to warm up the brakes one more time and upon returning home I bled the brakes using a vacuum bleeder to ensure that the line was free of air.  The soft lever was still there so I phoned Mark Lipski at TCB looking for advice. 

After a short question and answer session with Mark he said what I felt was “controlled compress-ability.”  This was different than air bubbles in the brake line, or old rubber brake lines going soft that would be categorized as uncontrolled compress-ability but causes the same feeling.  Despite the soft feel at the lever the brakes of the Sportster continued to work well so we decided to carry on with the test.  

.Testing TCB: Results

The morning we were to conduct the test with the TCB braking system installed the photographer, Bill Brink, was the first to show up at my house.  He was followed closely by Roger, and they both commented on the soft front brake.  Roger questioned me and shared his doubts, but wanted to ride the Sportster to the test site for better familiarization with the bike.  Upon arrival Bill commented on how Roger was playing with the brakes during the ride, but with this little experience on the road Roger was felling better about the test. 

He wanted to go first, and we did the testing exactly as we did with the stock brakes.  We were still able to lock up the back wheel on both bikes, however it took more press and was less pronounced than with the stock system.  

The results for the Sportster showed an improvement, but was less than stellar.  On average it stopped 2 feet shorter at 45 mph and 7 feet shorter at 35 mph.  It was better than the stock setup but not by much. 

The Deluxe, however, showed a tremendous improvement over stock.  It averaged 16 feet less stopping distance at 45 mph, and 14 feet better at 35 mph.  That is the bike I wanted improved braking for initially and the big bike’s improvement reached TCB’s advertised claims of 20% and better. 

While we were reviewing the test numbers and discussing the performance we realized the Sportster was transferring its weight to the front wheel more so than the Deluxe.  Could the front brakes have worked so well we were at the beginning stages of a stoppie?  More realistically, with the rear wheel lifting were we getting less stopping traction from the rear wheel?  Per the MSF to achieve maximum breaking “apply both brakes simultaneously.”
Consulting with TCB led me to try one more thing on the Sportster.  I replaced TCB’s product in the front dual calipers with the stock banjo bolts, but reinstalled a single TCB system in the bike’s front master cylinder. 

This caused the front brake lever returned to a normal solid feel that was similar to stock, and a retest showed reduced braking an additional 2 feet at both speeds (a 4 foot overall improvement at from 45mph, and 9 feet total from 35mph from the stock baseline).
A summary of results showed TCB’s braking system had the following effect:

2005 HD Deluxe

at 35 MPH braking distance reduced 14 feet, over a 20% reduction
at 45 MPH braking distance reduced 16 feet, over a 20% reduction
            
2007 HD Sportster with TB in both calipers

at 35 MPH braking distance reduced 7 feet, a 9% reduction
at 45 MPH braking distance reduced 2 feet, a 4% reduction

2007 HD Sportster with stock banjo bolts and TCB in the master cylinder

at 35 MPH braking distance reduced 9 feet, a 12% reduction
at 45 MPH braking distance reduced 4 feet, an 8% reduction

The TCB system is not just available for American motorcycles as they have systems for Asian and European bikes also.  If your looking for a way to improve the braking of your bike without taking out a second mortgage TCB might just be the answer.  They can be contacted via their web site at www.tcbbrakesystems.com.

Darin Smith 2010 AMA races at Mid-Ohio

Wilbers WESA BMW Suspension




Photos by Kenn Stamp and Herman Eshuis

1 BMW puts a lot of thought and effort into building bikes with a lot of active technology packed into them; ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), ASC (Automatic Stability Control),  ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), RDC (tire pressure monitoring), to name a few.  While all these things can enhance your riding experience (and possibly save your life), they aren’t perfect.

The ESA system in particular is a point where improvements can be made. Like any factory suspension effort, quality must be balanced against overall cost. While the ESA system itself is high quality, the suspension bits it controls are typical middle-of-the-road OEM parts. Not horrible, mind you, not on a BMW, but they certainly leave room for improvement (as do all OEM suspension parts).

Unfortunately there has been a minor problem; the ESA system only works with the stock suspension parts……or does it?

2 Rick at webBikeWorld.com contacted me a few months ago about doing a review on a new system from Wilbers called WESA (get it? Wilbers Electronic Suspension Adjustment). I said sure and in the typical rapid fashion (rapid as compared to the age of the earth) emails started flying like mad between myself and Herman of Hermanusa.com (Wheels and Wings, LLC.); the local Wilbers dealer and one of only two (at the time this goes to press) people in the USA authorized to not only sell the WESA system but also install it. More on Herman later though; for now let’s talk about the parts themselves.

Within the BMW motorcycle riding community, Wilbers has made a name for itself by building some very high quality suspension components. Ask any BMW rider which suspension bits he or she wants on their bike and Wilbers will probably be the brand you hear most often.  It only makes sense then that Wilbers would be the manufacturer to overcome the ESA issue and build a suspension set-up for ESA equipped BMW’s that not only performs better than stock but is fully compatible with the ESA electronics.

Before we get into how the Wilbers system (called WESA) works let’s look at what ESA is in general. Using a button mounted on the left handlebar the rider can change the suspension and damping characteristics of the front and rear shocks (struts is a more accurate term I guess).   There are three steps to this process (on the R 1200 GS); one step adjusts the dampening to suit the rider’s particular riding style; Sport, Normal, and Comfort. The second step adjusts the actual suspension itself at the spring mount and base for pre-load for solo riding, two-up riding, solo with luggage, two-up with luggage. On the GS step three takes it one step further and adjusts ride-height based on the terrain you are traveling. Add all those adjustments together and those of us that get excited pressing little buttons (it’s a disease, I know) can spend more time adjusting than riding.

3 While the system works very well to adjust/compensate for prevailing conditions, the suspension bits themselves are where it comes-up short. On the stock system there really isn’t that much difference between the Sport and Comfort settings meaning that the Normal setting might as well take a long vacation. Also, like all OEM suspension parts, the spring rates are set for the median size rider and passenger and not for the actual rider and passenger. All the electronic adjustments in the world won’t make up for softer or harder than needed spring rates and under/over-damped shocks.

This is where Wilbers comes in.

Wilbers builds their shock bodies from seamless formed piping that is heat treated and anodized. The top and bottom mounts are made from high-grade 7075 aircraft aluminum which is also anodized. This offers the best combination of light weight, strength, and durability. I can attest to the light weight part as I personally weighed (on a scale with TONS of cool little buttons to push!) a stock rear shock vs. a Wilbers shock and a stock rear spring versus a Wilbers spring. The Wilbers shock itself weighed 2 pounds less but the Wilbers spring weighed 1 pound more; netting a loss of 1 pound over stock. The aluminum makes the difference in the weight loss of the Wilbers shock while the higher grade and beefier build of the Wilbers springs accounts for their weight gain.

Wilbers custom builds their shocks to suit each individual rider based on information concerning the rider’s weight, load typically carried, passenger’s weight, etc… Being the owner of a motorcycle with upgraded aftermarket suspension, I can tell you that having your suspension matched to you makes a huge difference.

One last bit of magic that Wilbers can offer are shocks that are shorter to lower your motorcycle while still retaining the functionality of the ESA system. For the BMW   R 1200 GS, this comes in two flavors; 35mm lower and 65mm lower. Wilbers achieves this by cutting the stroke of the shock while maintaining the ride quality by using stiffer springs and modified dampers.

I met with Herman Eshuis on a cold Florida morning (40 degrees is cold for these parts) to sample the Wilbers WESA set-up for myself.   Herman has a 2009 R 1200 GS set-up with the 65mm lowering kit as a demo for interested customers to ride.

4 One of the first things you’ll notice about Herman, should you meet him, is that he is passionate about anything with a motor in it; car and motorcycle posters adorn the office walls while out in the hanger (he is based at an airport) you’ll find a few of his other business items sitting around; Superformance   cars. On this day he had 2 MK III’s (fully licensed reproductions {not kits} of the Shelby Cobras of the mid 60’s) sitting there; one for service and one awaiting completion for shipment to its new owner overseas. Herman is a man after my own heart when it comes to all things powerful and fast.

Knowing these things about Herman is important if for no other reason than that it shows his desire and commitment to motorsports. Herman was involved in the motorsports business for 15 years in the Netherlands before moving to Florida. As mentioned before, he is only one of two (at the time this is being written) Wilbers distributors that are authorized to sell AND install WESA components. I always try to deal with enthusiasts whenever possible and Herman is certainly an enthusiast.

While I don’t have a huge amount of seat time on BMW’s R 1200 GS line I have had enough to learn two important things about the bike;

1) I don’t like the stock R 1200 GS seat. If I wanted to sit on concrete I’d just plop down on the sidewalk.

2) The stock BMW suspension has a tendency to feel like someone put dirtbike shocks on a 500 pound motorcycle; floating and wallowing over bumps isn’t my cup of tea.

After riding the WESA equipped demo bike from Hermanusa.com (Wheels and Wings, LLC) I’ve come to the following conclusion;
1) The Wilbers suspension does absolutely nothing in regards to the comfort of the seat.

2) The Wilbers suspension does make the bike feel more like a motorcycle and less like a parade float.


5 Being a moto-journalist isn’t all glamour, champagne, and starlets. In reality being a moto-journalist sometimes involves riding on cold days in search of some of the roughest roads possible. Once those roads are found you have to ride them back and forth, judging, evaluating, and constantly thinking about “how does this setting feel?”; “or this one?”; “is there a quantifiable difference between the two?”; “what do I feel like for lunch?”; “is it getting colder?”; “will the muon to electron conversion experiment (MECO) actually come to pass and will it find lepton flavor violations?”. What? You don’t think about things like that while riding?

After multiple passes up and down the same stretch of rough road and a satisfying lunch I was ready to put my thoughts about the WESA system in some sort of order.   Quite simply it works and it works well. The ride is controlled over every type of surface irregularity I could find. Whether it was a hard-edged bump or a dip, the Wilbers suspension was well damped and never exhibited the sometimes abrupt rebound tendencies of the stock BMW suspension.

Riding with the suspension set-up for “single rider, comfort” seems to slow down the suspension action to give the rider the softest ride possible. The best way to explain it would be to think about the suspension operating in slow-motion thereby offering a controlled yet smooth ride. Pushing the bike hard into corners on this setting gives the big Beemer a softer than ideal feeling during mid-corner bumps due to the slower response time of the damping and bound/rebound; definitely the setting of choice though for those long distance highway rides. Luckily, suspension settings more in tune with sport riding are but a button push away.

Switching over to “single rider, normal” allows a little more feel to be transmitted through the bars and seat without feeling harsh. This setting also allows you to tackle twisty roads at a decent pace without feeling like you are tying the suspension up in knots. I actually found myself using this mode more than any other simply because the damping worked well enough in corners (at a sane pace) without sacrificing very much in the way of rough surface damping.  

6 Final damping setting in the “single rider” category is the “sport” mode. Once again the Wilbers shocks serve up a well-damped ride albeit one that transmits a noticeable amount of road surface information to the rider. In “sport” mode there is less squat under acceleration and less dive under braking (not that there is much to begin with). While the bumps and dips on the road are still well-damped, you can feel the suspension reacting to them and compensating for them in this mode. Feedback on road surface conditions, braking, and traction limits increases while overall ride smoothness decreases. This certainly is a “sport” setting and the ride quality is much closer to “sport bike” than it is to “adventure bike”.

No matter which master setting I put the bike in, “single-rider”, “dual-rider”, “w/luggage”, etc… the three damping settings worked exactly the same. The only difference was a little harsher ride as the pre-load was adjusted to compensate for weight that wasn’t there.

Changing the mode into the “off-road” settings showed pretty much the same results. Even with the bike raised up into its “mountain” mode, the ride differences between the three damping settings was consistent; “comfort” = soft but controlled ride, “normal” = controlled ride with better feedback, and “sport” = least amount of squat and dive and most amount of feedback. While I didn’t have the opportunity to do any real off-road work with the bike I was able to put it into “mountain” mode and then and run up and down a dirt road that had swales and ridges in it from rain and traffic.

7 On this dirt road, when in “comfort” mode and being ridden at about 30mph, the Wilbers suspension reacted as I expected; after a few good bumps and dips the suspension seemed to start lagging behind. Rebound was just a little too slow to keep up with the constant up and down motion. When ridden at 20mph or slower, the “comfort” setting was spot on. Placing the suspension into “normal” mode gave a well controlled ride at 20mph and below and quickened the rebound settings enough to handle the road at 30mph.

Putting the suspension into “sport” mode made the ride above 30mph smoother but only if you rode the bike “over” the dips and bumps and not “through” them. Below 30mph the “sport” setting in “mountain” mode, while still being controlled, was a bit too rough for my tastes.

One nice side-effect of the 65mm lowered WESA kit from Wilbers is in the slow speed handling department. Because of the lower center of gravity the usually top-heavy BMW felt much lighter and was more nimble during slow speed turns. One thing to keep in mind about the lowered suspension is that even though in the normal modes you may be able to touch the ground comfortably, putting the bike into the off-road modes raises it up an appreciable amount; I’d guess somewhere in the 30mm range. I actually showed a vertically challenged friend of mine the system and while he could touch down with the balls of both feet comfortably in the normal modes, he was on the very tips of his toes when in the tallest off-road mode. You should have seen his eyes as he asked me if the bike would be getting any taller. Priceless.

A good suspension makes all the difference in the world on a motorcycle but if replacing the stock suspension removes some functionality of the bike, what is the point? With the Wilbers’ WESA you get to keep all the button pushing fun associated with BMW’s ESA system combined with the class leading technology and ride/handling improvements Wilbers is known for; all for a reasonable price of $1349 plus shipping (more if you want Herman to install them on your bike). You’ll even get to keep your original shocks in case you want to reinstall them to sell the bike.

You can learn more about the WESA system at HermanUSA.com . You can also call them at 386-690-4239.

8 As a last bit of information, Werner Koch and Benny Wilbers wrote a book titled “Motorcycle Suspension Technology in Detail” which you can also get directly from HermanUSA.com . I was given a copy of the book which explains everything from how suspension works to why it sometimes doesn’t, how to optimize your forks, frames and swing arms, how the chain drive impacts suspension, and tire technology.

It also covers ways to safely lower your motorcycle and tips and tricks to setting-up your suspension for track duty. It is an incredibly detailed book that covers not only Wilbers suspension but suspension in general. I highly recommend this for anyone who works on their own bike or who just wants a more in-depth knowledge of how motorcycle suspension works.  

The book retails for $25 and can be found at  HermanUSA.com 

http://www2.2wf.com/images/2011/Misc/Chicken_Hawk_Racing/Race_Reports/Nelson_ledges/Intro.jpg

Riding America’s Backroads, 20 Top Motorcycle Tours

1
Travel magazines and books are a dime a dozen. You can find them by the hundreds for any place your little wanderlust inflicted heart wishes to go. 

Add in the desire to see those places while on two wheels and have a book targetted specifically towards you and the options dwindle significantly. Add in entertaining writing and the list dwindles even further. Finally mix in the desire to not only read about someone else’s travels but get information that you can actually use should you decide to follow their path and, yes you guessed it, the stack gets even smaller.  

All that being said has led me to be the kind of person that reads a travel book only as a reference before I actually travel to that particular destination; kind of like cramming for a test. Books about other peoples’ travels are not what I consider light reading so when RoadRUNNER Magazine sent us a copy of their new book, “Riding America’s Backroads, 20 Top Motorcycle Tours”, I was less than motivated to read it.

Expecting to find dry, travelogue type writing I took a deep breath and turned to the table of contents section (we book reviewers must approach such undertakings slowly and methodically). The individual articles are grouped by the region of the country in which they take place which makes navigating the book itself a simple undertaking.

Turning to the first section labeled “The West” I found tours in Alaska, Kalispell, Montana, Northeast Oregon, and the Mendocino Coast in California, all written by people riding various types of motorcycles. There were also the obligatory beautiful, if oversaturated, pictures of gorgeous scenery, motorcycles, and people who look like they are having more fun than should be legally allowed. All of this I expected. What I didn’t expect was the quality of writing; it’s actually pretty good. Sure some of the writers suffer from an overuse of colorful adjectives but overall I found that I was enjoying my “travels” with them.

2The same went for all the other sections of the USA; SW, SE, Midwest, and NE. One of the nicest parts is that at the end of each tour article is a facts and information page detailing about the tour; total route mileage, best travel season, what type of roads to expect, additional books and maps, where to find more information, what attractions to look for and visit, and a high-level map of the entire route. Handy stuff that.

As an additional bonus RoadRUNNER Magazine has also placed handy help articles throughout the book giving you tips on everything from “Tour Planning Nuts & Bolts” to “Group Riding”.

Whether you are getting ready to ride the legendary Route 66 and want a little extra motorcycle specific information, are looking for a new ride in your neck of the woods, or are just snowed-in and need a motorcycle “fix”, RoadRUNNER Magazines’ “Riding America’s Backroads, 20 Top Motorcycle Tours” should be sitting on your coffee table (or packed in your saddlebag as a roadside companion). 

You can order your copy of the book directly from RoadRUNNER Magazines website.