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OPINION

Six of the best: things to check if you’re riding through winter

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As painful a prospect as it is for some people, riding through winter is a sure-fire way to sharpen up your riding – as well as spare you six months of sitting in traffic, in the car.

Build up that confidence in the cold and wet and just imagine how much faster you’ll be when the roads dry out again. Plus, there’s the simple fact you won’t be anywhere near as rusty when the season starts again in spring.
The truth is – with the exception of a few extreme days – our winters here in the UK aren’t anywhere near as bad as we think they are, and are getting warmer, but there are a few things you need to keep on top of to make sure you don’t come unstuck. Here’s six things to keep a close eye on:

Tyres

Priority number one should be your tyres, as they’ll need to be in good condition and have plenty of tread depth, to deal with the increased levels of water etc. on the road. Upgrade to some proper winter tyres if you can afford to, and make sure you check them over thoroughly before every ride.

Make sure your battery is up to the task
As the temperature drops, a battery’s capacity will too, because the chemical reaction inside slows. Make sure you test yours regularly and buy an optimiser/charger to keep it tip top – be especially vigilant if you’re running heated grips/gloves etc.

Use proper oil

The colder it is, the slower your oil will flow, so you’ll need a lower viscosity to compensate. Check your handbook, or with your dealer, for recommended grades etc.

Check your coolant

When was the last time you checked your antifreeze strength? Do you even know how to? Get a manual, look on YouTube or ask your dealer, but just make sure it’s ready for those icy evenings.

Maintain and inspect

There is nothing more frustrating than breaking down in the middle of nowhere, unless it’s also cold and raining. Get those regular services done on the nail and inspect your bike for potential problems regularly.

Corrosion

Salt and water damage can wipe hundreds off the value of your bike in just one season, as well as damaging key components. Wash, dry and cover your bike – both in corrosion protectant and with a cover, if parked outside – after every ride.

 

A lot of riding safely – in any weather – is all about common sense and taking care of both the bike and yourself. Here’s to some brilliant riding days this year – in any weather!

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Phil's probably the shortest motorcycle journalist on the planet, standing just 5ft 4in, but has almost certainly got the longest beard in the industry (we've not measured it yet). Cruiser test then?

OPINION

One LOVE

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All motorcycles have a singular beauty. However, if it is YOUR motorcycle, there is a deeper connection.

Your relationship is one of trust and respect that transcends time.

From the first time you meet, a connection is established. Your one love is hard to find. I have been out at the dealership and seen some hot Italian bikes but in the end, they are high maintenance, expensive to keep up, and they will not stand the test of time.

Looks are important, but a relationship is more than skin deep.

How does that bike make you feel? Every time you gaze upon your bike, you should smile; you have found the right bike. The worst thing you can do is settle for a bike you don’t truly feel a connection with.

I am a one-motorcycle guy – truly monogamous. Having two bikes is hard to juggle. I think a small, fast motorcycle that is good-looking, handles well, and has a classic appeal is what I always
wanted, and I think I have found it.

Stay with a motorcycle that has stood the test of time. A bike that’s made you smile, given you a thrill, and stuck with you through thick and thin. A solid, well-built motorcycle is a thing of beauty.

Be smart, and cover that motorcycle so no one steals it at night. Buy your motorcycle expensive accessories, and take it on trips to exotic lands. Up or down, thin or flush, treat your motorcycle well.

Respect it, and it will return to you amazing experiences, expand your world and open your eyes.

Understand that this is a partnership. From the first ride to every terrible bump in the road, stay with that reliable bike and remember she is your one LOVE.

Happy Valentines Day, Mrs. Sterling.

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OPINION

History is littered with esoteric three-wheelers, but is now their time to shine?

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Motorcycles enjoy an elegant relationship with the laws of physics.

To stay upright they depend on the gyroscopic effects of wheels in motion and constant corrective steering inputs which when put together result in an elegant balancing of forces. But once the wheels stop turning, they will fall.

There is however, another solution.

One of the most unusual threads to emerge over the past decade of motorcycle design has been the return of the three-wheeler. A strange and unnatural looking vehicle at first glance, the three-wheeled motorized cycle has been with us almost from the beginning. The first car, Karl Benz’ Patent Motorwagen, was a three-wheeler. Bicycles in 1880’s Paris were fitted with two rear wheels to make them practical delivery vehicles for postal and grocery delivery. Motorcycles evolved from bicycles, starting about the same time, so people experimented with tricycle layouts right away.

Throughout most of the 20th century, three-wheeled motorcycles remained a curio

Over the past century, the motorized tricycle has seen some modest success, largely as a low-speed, light commercial transport. Notable in the genus’ family history is the 1966 Ariel 3, a scooter fitted with two rear wheels that hinged with the rest of the chassis, allowing the scooter to lean in corners like a regular bike while the rear wheels remained horizontal. The Ariel 3 was a failure but Honda bought a licence for the patented layout, beginning a leaning three wheel dynasty that continues to this day with the Honda Gyro, Japan’s takeout delivery vehicle of choice.

Throughout most of the 20th century, three-wheeled motorcycles remained a curio, typically nothing more than home-brewed or limited-production aftermarket conversion kits for conventional motorcycles by small companies, often using car parts on the rear end. In the late 1970’s, the All Terrain Cycle (ATC) hit the dirt with the promise of making the exploding motocross market safe for kids and grandpa, only to end with nearly 1,000 deaths , and the voluntary ban on ATC production by the major manufacturers.

The scandal of the ATC hinged on one inconvenient fact: three-wheeled vehicles are inherently unstable in parabolic (turning) motion. While the unassisted single-track motorcycle flops on its ear at a standstill, the laws of physics turn decidedly in their favour once they roll along, transforming the motorcycle into a paragon of predictable handling at virtually any speed. By contrast, vehicles with three points of contact are balanced at rest and low-speed, but become prone to tipping when loads change suddenly, such as high-speed cornering, especially downhill.

A three-wheeler in parabolic motion produces an undesirable combination of high torque forces on both the roll and yaw axis that are only too happy to overcome gravity and toss you into a ditch. Sidecar riders know this, which is why they have to adopt counterbalancing body postures when cornering to prevent a roll over, particularly on inclines. Even still, it takes little force for the inside wheel to “unstick”, or lose contact with the ground, which causes the center of the vehicles’ roll axis to move further to the outside of the turn, overloading the remaining two wheels.

Presented in 2007, Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) launched the Can-Am Spyder reverse tricycle. It looked a lot like the snowmobiles that the company was famous for it did not lean when cornering. The rider sits astride the Spyder and operates handlebars as on a motorcycle, but all of the wheels are always perpendicular to the ground.

A three-wheeler in parabolic motion produces an undesirable combination of high torque forces on both the roll and yaw axis that are only too happy to overcome gravity and toss you into a ditch.

Reverse trikes such as the Can-Am Spyder and Polaris Slingshot have some significant handling advantages over their ATC predecessors. Because they have two wheels up front, they generate substantially more grip when it is needed most, such as during changes in direction and under braking.

However, the sole rear wheel travels along the centre of the roll axis, and so can act as a pivot point during high energy turns, levering the inside wheel off the ground and flipping the vehicle . This is all mathematically predictable, so has been engineered out by using sophisticated electronic counter-measures, without which high-powered three-wheeler are incapable of executing predictable, safe, high-speed turns without flipping. It is a reality of the laws of physics.

The three wheel space is getting lots of attention of late. In 2015 Honda presented the Neowing concept, a leaning three wheeler powered by a hybrid system including an inline four cylinder gasoline engine and a battery powered electric motor. Yamaha upped the game with the Niken, another leaning three wheeler billed as a “corning master”, powered by the triple from the best-selling MT-09.

With these products it seems highly likely that the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers will pursue this esoteric corner of the market. It makes sense, and suggests that the holy grail of motorcycling sensation and added safety have been discovered.

According to BRP, the company has sold over 100,000 Spyders. When asked if new entrants from Honda and Yamaha might inspire BRP to try to lean in, Can-Am’s Brian Manning responded “We are pleased with the platform as it is. Those are different products.”

Motorcyclists looking for thrills without spills may find the leaning three-wheelers attractive. Perhaps smaller and less expensive variants may even bring in newcomers to the sport who have stayed away because of fear. With constant talk of autonomy and the ever-present threat that governments may legislate mandatory occupant safety requirements on motorcycles, the leaning three-wheeler may provide an outlet.

Evidence suggests that, for now at least, leaning is not what the marketplace is asking for.

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