The 2011 motorcycle riding season is well and truly dead, so I’m back for another winter to keep your motorbike spirit alive with ideas, photos and videos to help plan your tours for next summer. The website will be continually improved and your feedback and ideas for it are welcome so don’t be shy…
It’s been a very busy few months with my Alps/Pyrenees trip in Sept/Oct, then on my return I moved home from Dublin on Ireland’s east coast to Kinsale in Cork on the south coast to be closer to both stunning scenery and great biking roads. Now that I have some spare time (mostly because it’s pissing rain and I don’t want to get my shiny new bike wet) I’ll be posting my latest trip report over the coming weeks along with a load of magic photos and for the 1st time I’ll be uploading some of the best Alpine roads in video to my YouTube channel. I have almost 100GB of video to edit so be patient, but I can tell you this, is going to be worth it.
But before all that I want to get stuck in with a couple of review of some gear I either blagged, borrowed or bought for this trip. First and foremost the Michelin Pilot Road 3 tyres kindly donated by Mark at Platinum Motorcycles BMW Specialists in Bray, Co Wicklow. A pair of Weise Highway Boots, Schuberth C3 Helmet, the Drift HD170 Action Cam and last but certainly not least and good helping of ACF50 Anti Corrosion Treatment kindly donated by Phil Gunn at DPMoto.ie
Michelin Pilot Road 3
The Michelin Pilot Road 3 tyres have been out a few months now and I have been hearing very positive things about them from other riders both in Ireland and Europe. As for myself I loaded up my R1150RT’s pannier’s to the limit them added another load onto the pillion seat and rode it a solid 7,500km, 1,000km on cold wet Irish roads, 1,500km on French motorway, 500km on Spanish motorway, 600km on Alpine roads, about the same again on Pyrenean roads and the rest on French and Spanish national B, C and D roads. Except for one day the temperatures were close to 30 degrees C in France inc. the high Alps and closer to 40C in southern Spain. I had one wet morning in the Alps and another on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. All in all, I’d say this was a good all round, real world test of these tyres on a sport-tourer doing what it was built to do.
This was probably not the type of scientific test a professional rider would do and I don’t claim to be anywhere close to being an expert, more an average real world test by a bloke who has been riding bikes non professionally for 17 years. So how did the Michelin Pilot Road 3 tyres do?
Bloody marvellous! Best set of rubber I’ve ever had on a heavy sport-tourer and it will be a cold day in hell before someone will convince me to take ‘em off again. Don’t think I’m saying this because I got them for free, far from it. Mark at Platinum wanted to know if they were worth stocking and figured my tour would be a good test of the PR3′s and wanted an honest opinion of how they held up. The 1st thing I told Mark when I got back was that I had no doubt that he would be selling a lot of these tyres.
After running them in around Blessington and the Wicklow/Sally Gap area and along the east coast I ran them along the R755 from Rathdrum to Laragh in Wicklow on a wet morning to get a feel for the wet grip. I chose this road as it’s currently in a fairly bad state with smooth patches where the surface has rubbed off, it’s got some very tight turns, savage smile inducing humps and it’s also for the most part covered by overhanging trees, it’s therefore as slippery as fu$k on a wet Autumn morning and that’s before you hit the wet leaves, mud, gravel patches, pot holes and the odd dozy deer.
After spending over an hour running up and down this road slowly increasing my speed each time as my confidence grew on the PR3’s I realised by the end I was now taking this road a fair bit faster than I would on my old Metzler Roadtec Z6 tyres. I had run along this road under near identical conditions on my old rubber two days beforehand and I could feel the difference, where the Metzelers tyres would skip or get close to slipping on a corner or the ABS kicking in on strong breaking the PR3’s would not.
Check out the road for yourself, here is a vid I made of it while testing a BMW F800R earlier this year:
Obviously on a public road I’m not going to act the bollox too much, and I’m only going to push a test so far on my own bike, but whilst performing an emergency brake to stop on a clear stretch of slippery (and empty) road I found the BMW’s ABS did not kick in, where 2 days earlier on the old rubber it had. The way I figured it I was stopping at least 2-3 meters shorter simply because the ABS was not kicking in. Again, this was not a proper controlled test, but I will stick to my statement of 2-3 meters shorter stopping distance compared to the Metzeler Roadtec Z6 I had on a few days earlier. And before you think it the Z6′s were not badly worn, they had an easy 5,000km of normal riding left in them which Mark can confirm.
After a full day riding on very wet roads, and with my confidence running higher than normal in the wet I found myself riding smoother and faster than I have done before, and with that in mind I set off 3 days later for a proper tour. 6500KM later, after riding almost every type of surface Europe has to offer the Michelin Pilot Road 3’s never skipped, slipped or missed a beat, even when belting down steep, baking hot, damp or sometimes wet Alpine roads and hammering on the breaks to take a sudden turn or miss hitting a pothole, goat, cow or even the odd hippy type hiker meandering carefree down the middle of the road with a ratty dog on a rope.
So, as for the Michelin Pilot Road 3’s powers of grip that are being advertised I’d definitely say it’s true, I’d easily and happily recommend them as an excellent tire for both winter and summer. These tyres helped make me a more confident rider, and without that nagging worry of my tyres slipping out sitting in the back corner of my brain I came to trust the PR3’s more than any tire I’ve had on the RT.
But what about touring stamina on an overloaded and already heavy bike like a BMW R1150RT? Well here is the part that really but a smile on my face and surprised me more than a bit. After tearing the bollix out of these tyres over 7,500km the dam things looked almost brand new with only the bare slightest hint of squaring off showing on the rear. On my previous trip last year through the Alps I did a about 1,000km less and the Z6′s I wore from new showed far more ware.
Near Murcia in southern Spain I pulled in to see a mate who works as a bike mechanic and asked him what mileage he would guess the tyres had done, around 2,500 km of normal riding he say’s. I asked another mate, an ex-motorbike paramedic who has been riding bikes professionally and for fun for over 40 years, he reckoned between 2-3000km. As for myself I have been riding from Ireland to Alicante and back every summer for years via the Route des Grande Alpes and never has a set of rubber lasted so well. Michelin say the Pilot Road 3 are designed specifically for sport-tourers, for excellent wet weather grip, and for long distance touring, and that is exactly what they deliver. I love these tyres, they have ticked all the boxes for me and I’m seriously considering putting a set on my F800R as the set of Pirelli Diablo Corsa III tyres it’s currently wearing suck horse balls compared to the PR3 on wet roads for the normal rider.
Honestly can’t recommend them enough, if your riding a sport-tourer I really can’t see how you would regret investing in the PR3′s, enough said!
Weise Highway Boots
As for the Weise Highway Boots I got for the trip I was again very happy, solid construction, very good protection, waterproof, not too sweaty in the heat and extremely comfortable. For sport-touring comfort is essential as your going to want to get off your bike and walk around villages etc, or in my case walk half way up a mountain to get a good photograph and walking in these for a couple of miles is no problem. Wipe them down and wear your jeans over them and you wont look like a muppet wearing them to a pub or restaurant either.
Schuberth C3 Helmet
The Schuberth C3 Helmet was worth every penny of the 500 Euro I dished out for it and a perfect sport-touring lid. It is without doubt the quietest flip top helmet I’ve ever worn, while I still needed ear plugs for the longer runs of around 700km at motorway speeds of 130kmph +, off the motorway, or just short motorway runs I could easily do without the ear plugs. For the best sound proofing however the air vents and the visor have to be fully closed. The ventilation system on the C3 is also excellent, with the vents fully open the wind runs clear over the back of your head and at 30-40 degrees it’s a real joy and it’s light too, especially for a flip-top. I saw a good few other riders in France wearing them also including Harley riders. I even bumped into a group of 8 French riders in Rosslare on a mix of tourers, every one wearing the C3, so I don’t think I’m the only one liking this lid!
Drift HD170 Action Cam
As for the Drift HD170 Action Cam, I like this Cam so much I have 2! If you’re looking to get an action cam to strap on to your lid or motorcycle this is the one to get simply for it’s ease of use. The battery and SD memory card are all internal so there is none of this wiring it up to your battery or external hard drive crap. Unlike it’s biggest competition the Go-Pro, it’s discrete and doesn’t look like you have a big, black, bell ended dildo stuck to the top of your helmet. With the Drift you just slap a bit of extra strength Velcro to the cam and side of yer lid or bike and off you go without looking like a complete knob-end. If you decide to get the Drift shop around as they have just released an even smaller, lighter cam so you can pick up a bargain on the old 170, the HD170 and even the HD170 Stealth for well under 200 Euro. Beware however that the remote control it come’s with is not that easy (or safe) to use while riding a motorcycle.
ACF-50 Anti Corrosion Spray
ACF50 – Before I set off on my little trip I thought to treat the RT with a little anti corrosion treatment as a few points arround the bike were starting to need a little TLC. After doing a little web searching as to what was the best on the market I came across ACF50 as being highly recommended and seems to becoming very popular in the UK with bikers using it to protect their bikes from the salted winter roads. Here is the sales pitch for the product: “…ACF-50 (Anti-Corrosion Formula) was originally designed to protect aircraft from existing and new corrosion and is now available to motorcyclists. Aviation products have to meet rigorously high standards and ACF-50 not only meets these but has been awarded Aviation approvals – MIL-SPEC 81309 types II and III which means it is ‘approved for ferrous and non-ferrous metals, electrical systems and electronic components’. The US Navy carried out tests using ACF-50 on the jets on their Aircraft Carriers. They found that ACF-50 so significantly reduced the corrosion they had previously experienced they now use ACF-50 all the time! It works in that type of harsh environment so imagine how well it’s going to protect your bike! When applied ACF-50 forms an ‘Active’ ultra-thin clear film that will kill any existing corrosion cells and will protect your bike against new corrosion forming. On areas such as switches or under the tank and seat, one application will last up to 12 months. Other more exposed areas will need topping up more regularly. ACF-50 has the ability to ‘chemically neutralise road salt’ and water will bead on contact and literally bounce off. Ideal for the bike that is used all year round in all weathers, a superb service spray as ACF-50 is also a lubricant and penetrant (without loosening structural attachments) and if you put your bike away for the winter, applying ACF-50 will ensure that moisture will not be allowed to cause any damage! Untreated moisture will creep into cracks and will not freely evaporate – ACF-50 actively ejects moisture from these areas.
- Kills existing corrosion and prevents new
- ‘ACTIVE’ for up to 12 months
- Excellent lubricant and penetrant
- Approved for use on electrics and engines
- Easily applied non-drying, ultra thin, clear film
- Very economical
- Contains no wax, silicon, Teflon or water
How to Use
ACF-50 is 95% product, hence virtually no propellant. Keep the tin in a warm environment, shake very well before use and remember a little ACF-50 goes a long way, so keep a rag handy to soak up any excess – then use the rag to help spread the product. ACF-50 has strong capillary action so will creep into all the areas that moisture can, ‘actively’ pushing out moisture and replacing it with protection. Go cautiously when applying to callipers to ENSURE YOU KEEP IT OFF THE BRAKES. Use ACF-50 anywhere, except the brakes, on your bike including the engine and exhaust (will smoke on first start and burn off down pipes but still slows down corrosion process). Safe on paintwork, most rubbers and brings up black plastic trim a treat. ACF-50 contains no water and is approved for electrics so spray directly into electrical joints and components where it will prevent corrosion induced failures and high resistance joints. Works well at stopping dirt, mud and salt from sticking. You can come back from a winter ride with the bike ‘white with salt’ – a quick wash off and it’s gone with the bike still protected. Areas not in direct contact with the elements ie tank/seat areas, electrics require treating approx once a year. Other exposed areas re-apply as necessary. You can tell the product is still ‘Active; as water will bead on contact…having no water content and not being water-soluble ACF-50 only dissipates by being ‘sacrificial’ whilst stopping existing or new corrosion so just re-treat as required…”
At the time I went looking to buy it in Ireland it was not so easy to find at a fair price. Ebay.co.uk had it for around 16£ with anything up to another 15£ delivery to the ROI. After some web digging I found a lad named Phil Gunn from DBMoto near Cork city was stocking it. So I dropped him an email and tolled him what I was up to, as he was passing through Dublin the next day Phil actually went well out of his way to drop by my house to leave it in, now how cool was that? Phil was an absolute gent, and as it turned out he is a devout biker with an insane collection of old and classic motorcycles of his own and has without doubt forgotten more about bikes than I will ever know. His website is worth a look if you’re in the market for heavy-duty motorbike maintainance equipment, trailor tie-downs, motorbike work benches etc and also some handy stuff like turntables for bikes with center stands – DB-Moto.ie
If you’re in the Dublin area you can pick up some ACF50 at Platinum Motorcycles, BMW Specialist, Bray, Co Wicklow.
As for myself I spent the best part of a day treating the RT and my F800R with this stuff. Obviously its too early to tell if it really does protect my bikes from rust over the winter, I’ll update this in the spring. However I did notice one thing, I’d treated the RT’s alloy wheels and after the 6,500km tour the wheels were well-baked with dirt, grim and break dust. Normally I’d have to spend a good 20mins scrubbing the shite off each wheel, but when I went to spray the bike with water as a pre-wash a good 90% of the dirt rolled right off the wheels without me even touching ‘em!!! So, at the very least the ACF50 is worth having even if it’s just to keep your wheels clean WARNING – just remember if you do put ACF50 on your wheels make bloody sure to keep it off your breaks and tires.
Top Tip: Have your ride as clean as possible before going at it with the ACF50. Dont spray ACF50 directly onto your bike, let the tin sit in a bucket of hot water for a few minutes and let it warm up as there is very little propellent in the can then spray a bit onto a cloth and rub it onto as much of the bike as possible. For the hard to get at places I found spraying a bit into the cap and using a small (clean) paint brush does the trick, even at getting it into the exposed electrical connections.
Next post up will be the trip report, stunning pics, and some of my best videos to date of the highest roads I could find in the western Alps and Pyrenees.