Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

Motorcycle news and opinion

Archive for June, 2014

Keeping Up The Pressure

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I originally wrote this for the July 2006 issue of the Humber Rider newsletter

Summer riding often means long trips on new tires. Assuming you have chosen the correct tire for your bike and the type of riding you do, your most important task becomes maintaining the correct air pressure.

It is normal for new tires to expand slightly during the initial break-in period, leading to a reduction in pressure. Checking pressure often is very important when tires are new. Once you have a few hundred kilometres on your new tires and pressures have stabilized, the question becomes what is the correct pressure?


Most motorcycles have a tag similar to the one shown to the right somewhere on the frame. The tag lists recommended pressures for the stock tires. Some will also list a higher pressure for riding with a passenger. Unfortunately, this particular tag gives recommended pressures using kilograms per square centimetre — not the units you are likely to find on the average tire gauge or service station air pump.

North America still uses Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) as the standard for air pressure. The most common measure of air pressure in the rest of the world is KiloPascals (KPa).

Conversion is as follows:
1 PSI = 6.894757 KPa = 0.07030696 kg/cm2


To further complicate matters, markings on the tire sidewall may seem to suggest a different pressure. In reality, the pressure on the sidewall is a maximum pressure for that particular tire at the maximum load listed.

So let’s suppose that you have non-standard size tires, are carrying a big load and a passenger and are travelling in really hot conditions at high speed. Oh, and by the way, all pressures suggested are for cold tires. What is the correct pressure?

Here is a relatively simple method for maintaining correct tire pressure that should work under almost any conditions. Using a good quality tire gauge, note the pressure in the tire when it is cold. Now go for a ride and get the tire thoroughly warmed up in conditions similar to those in which you plan ride (speed, temperature, load, etc.) and check the pressure again. If your initial cold pressure was correct, the pressure when hot should be approximately 10% higher using whatever units you prefer. For example, if you started at 30 PSI when cold, the hot pressure should be 33 PSI. If the hot pressure is more than 10% higher than the cold pressure, initial pressure was too low and the tire is flexing too much and overheating, causing a higher than normal operating temperature and pressure. If the hot pressure is less than 10% higher than the cold pressure, initial cold pressure was too high. The tire will have a smaller than normal contact patch and will be too rigid to allow the flexing that gets the tire up to operating temperature and provides maximum traction for acceleration, cornering and braking.

This method takes a little fiddling at first, but once you have your particular tires dialed in you will maximize tire life and traction while protecting your tires from overheating and possible failure.

More About Tires

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June 20th, 2014 at 7:36 am

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An electric Harley?

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Harley-Davidson has stood atop the heavyweight motorcycle world for years. Japanese makers have lost ground and domestic challenger Polaris has mostly fizzled with its Victory and now Indian-reborn-yet-again initiatives. Niche players like Excelsior-Henderson have fallen by the wayside trying to emulate Harley’s brand magic.

After toying with sport-bikes with its Buell experiment and bailing on its puzzling MV Agusta debacle, Harley now appears to be going mainstream and attempting to completely corner the North American motorcycle market. For 2015 it will sell liquid-cooled 500 and 750 v-twins and has announced a real shocker: a full-size electric motorcycle.

The electric bikes are all prototypes undergoing testing right now. Harley president Matt Levatich is quoted as saying: “We think that the trends in both EV (Electric Vehicle) technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders.”

Read more…

The H-D website describes the electric bike as “Project LiveWire”. Images of the bikes show what appears to be an alloy frame with mono-shock rear suspension, upside-down forks and belt drive. It looks more sport-bike than cruiser and is described by a company spokesperson as “a rocket-ship”. Claims are for a 0-60 mph time of 4 seconds.

Range, as with all current electric vehicles, is going to be an issue but it certainly looks like the ride to work could get a lot more interesting.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to test-ride one…

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June 19th, 2014 at 9:12 am

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See and be seen

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I originally wrote this for the January 2006 issue of the Humber Rider newsletter

Whenever a car driver hits a motorcyclist you can guess what the car driver will say: “I didn’t see him!” The car driver just might be telling the truth.

When you follow larger vehicles (which means just about any other vehicle on the road!) that you cannot see over or past, oncoming vehicles can’t see you either. Also, if you cannot see traffic situations developing well ahead of you, you will have less time to react appropriately.

Don’t be like the asleep-at-the-wheel car driver that seems mesmerized by the car ahead of them. Take control of the situation and ensure that you can see oncoming vehicles and that they can see you. Change lanes and/or pass the larger vehicle. If neither option is available immediately, drop back and position yourself closer to the left edge of your lane so that you can at least see past the vehicle ahead. This will also make your headlight visible to oncoming vehicles and in the side mirror of the vehicle ahead. Get ahead of the larger vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so.

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June 18th, 2014 at 9:01 am

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What was that?

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ear plugs 001

The title of this post could just as well have been:

“Say what?”


“Could you repeat that please?”


“I didn’t get that…”

…or you could just cue a blank stare.

I think you know what I’m talking about: hearing loss.

Yes, I went to my share of rock concerts in my misspent youth. Yes, I worked in noisy factories and with noisy power tools back when it was considered effeminate to wear protection. I have also spent many, many hours on a motorcycle with a 100 km/h wind-blast whistling in my ears. In all cases I ended up with a nasty ringing noise in my ears that hasn’t ever completely gone away.

I’ve had my hearing checked and been assured that I can hear well enough that I cannot pretend to not hear my wife (strategically of course), although I do admit to playing the age card occasionally when I really didn’t want to hear something.

The bottom line is to use the items pictured — religiously. Wind noise can be strong enough to cause permanent hearing loss, no matter what kind of helmet you wear. An added bonus is what I like to think of as an instant tune-up. Your bike will seem to be running smoother with the ear plugs in.

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June 17th, 2014 at 3:54 pm

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Safe and Warm

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I wrote this eight years ago when I was editor of the Humber Rider newsletter. It still applies today

A few years ago, a friend of mine set out on a sunny September Sunday morning with two of his riding buddies to see the Syracuse mile dirt-track race. My friend was wearing his leather jacket and packing a sweater and rain gear. His riding buddies were wearing t-shirts and denim jackets. The rain started near Buffalo and settled into a steady downpour. When they stopped so my friend could don his rain gear at the side of the road, he was amazed to learn that his riding buddies hadn’t brought any. Less than half an hour later they all stopped again and it became obvious that the trip was over. The two riding buddies were soaked and shivering. There was nothing to do but turn around and try to dry out and warm up at the first rest stop and wait out the rain.

Wet clothes and a 100 km/h wind chill add up to a rapid case of hypothermia. A drop in core body temperature is not something you can just shrug off. The early symptoms are grogginess and impaired judgement, followed by uncontrolled shaking and numbness in the extremities as the body shuts down. Unconsciousness is not far behind. There is nothing stylish, brave or macho about it. It’s just plain stupid — and completely unnecessary.

Get a good quality motorcycle rainsuit. Use a full coverage helmet or carry a faceshield if you wear an open face helmet. Have a bandanna to help seal up the collar area. Don’t forget Totes-style rubber overshoes or waterproof boots, and waterproof gloves or glove covers. You will need a saddlebag, tankbag or backpack to carry it all, but you will stay warm, dry — and safe.

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June 16th, 2014 at 6:30 pm

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