Saturday, August 30, 2008

Badges of Squiddom

(all names are approximations)

We’ll cover specific tires I like later. This is just a rant.

I notice in many forums the general question of which tire to use is rather a frequent one. I get the impression that many of those asking this particular question are newer riders or riders on a new (to them) bike. As the discussion begins, the usual names of what is popular at the time get thrown out. The list usually centers around the latest DOT race tires and those very closely related. The fact that someone recommends top-shelf or popular equipment somehow endows them with some form of automatic credibility. Those recommending such tires bear some badge of honor. Those who ask are really asking questions that most ad copy would answer, while those who answer respond with it. A lot of would-be experts on the matter buy tires that are able to perform way beyond their own riding capabilities and proclaim, ““Such-‘n’-such” from “So-‘n’-so” the best tires on the market, and anything else is just going to limit you or be dangerous. How could you even think of putting something else on a wheel?”

Isn’t internet anonymity grand?

"Expensive Sticky Race Tire Expert"

This one wouldn't be so bad if the forums were for new club racers and the like, or if the intent of the question was specifically track oriented. But the discussion involves harrowing and remarkable tales relating to how the race tire managed to save his life and rescue a cat from a tree at the same time. And so, the new STREET rider is left with the impression that only the stickiest of track tires is good enough to commute with or go to the grocery store on.

"Expensive Sticky Race Tire Rider on the Street"

Then there is a pecking order that soon to be debated in the way of mileage. Riders proclaim how quickly they swap their tires out in a contest of waste. Many also report needing more “contact patch area” to get through the turns safely and advise putting around half to three-quarters what the manufacturer recommends. A rider who gets 5-10k miles out of his tires is considered a wuss by comparison to one who has to swap his tires out every 1,500-2,000 miles. I'd be willing to bet they have chicken strips. That is, if they would put any air in the tires. Heck, I could do a long burnout and claim that I only got a quarter mile out of my last set of Super Tires! (I must be a motorcycling deity!) They claim to be spinning or sliding the tire, thus needing stickier rubber.

"Expensive Sticky Race Tire, at-the-Limit, Rider, Hero on the Street"

Trouble is, they’re spinning when it’s not even leaned over. But you won’t hear anyone recommending the DOT approved Micky Thompson drag tires. That wouldn’t be cool. They might lose the illusion that they are the next Gary McCoy. They don’t use any of the stick available on the sides of the tires and wind up swapping out tires that have a flat spot instead of being actually worn out. They want to have the appearance of being fast all around riders when they only know how to whack the throttle.

There are certainly many more badges in and beyond those of the tire sages. I myself wear badges of sorts, but I try not to wear it on my sleeve. I have experimented over the years with many tire brands and models. For the past two years or so, I have relied on and would recommend two to four tire models. Sure, I have tried others, but I keep going back to the same tires I finally found which complement my riding style. I ride year-round and in all weather since my bike is my primary transportation. I corner hard and gas it, but really don’t play much at the limit. I have fun when I ride.

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