Tire Testing on the Dragon at Deals Gap – Michelin Power Pure

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The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort - NC starting point for riding The Dragon

Opinions on what makes a good tire range across the scale. Some favor durability, others performance, while many put price at the top of the list. Where you fall on the spectrum depends on your riding style. Most riders put little thought into it except when purchasing, and for the typical rider a set of tires last the full riding season or longer. Once they’re on, they are mostly forgotten until the tread disappears and things get squirrely.

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Even on a rainy day, bikes line up at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

Cruisers and show bikers need not read any further. The Michelin Power Pure tire is suited for Sports-Touring and the occasional track day on a sports bike. I suppose I can legitimately claim I am a professional rider, it is a key component of how I earn my living. 90%+ of the time I am on a bike I am working, and with the season on, I’ll be going through the rubber. I’ve burned through sets in a month of typical riding.

Photo-Fontana-Lake-view-from-NC-28

Rain clouds swirl over Fontana Lake in this view from an overlook on NC 28 approaching the Dragon.

I fitted this rear tire a little over a week ago, and with about 500 miles on it I can give a reasonable impression of its performance. I’ve still got some life in the Michelin Pilot Power  2C on the front, but I’m looking forward to replacing it to have a matched set. The Pure employs Michelins LLT technology eliminating any rubber that is not essential to performance, lightening and stiffening the sidewalls with additional aramid fiber. This reduces tire weight by a kilo making them lighter than the Pirelli Diablo Rosso or Bridgestone BT-106. As tires make up about 75% of a wheels inertial weight (tire/wheel/brakes) and a significant portion of unsprung mass, and thusly affect it’s gyroscopic impact on handling, Michelin claim its akin to fitting 3 kg lighter wheels.

Michelin-Power-Pure-tire-photos

Views of the new Michelin Power Pure tire following the days ride.

Holy math test, Batman, that sounds like some awful technical track talk, what’s it mean on the road? I was already impressed with the the tires handling on dry roads though had been holding back during the scrubbing-in process. Satisfied I’d worn them in enough, I set out to test their wet road handling and what better place than the Dragon at Deals Gap.

The Dragon at Deals Gap with it’s 311 turns in 13 miles is currently not the ideal place to push any limits. The north end of the road remains closed due to a rock slide. A gate has been placed at the south entrance and a Tennessee State Trooper sits on the state line as a reminder to behave. Another patrolled the far end of the road this morning picking off offenders as fast as he could write citations. Any runners would be snagged at the gate by the sentry stationed there. They literally have a captive audience and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel – you will get popped. I knew it was no place to get jiggy.

Photo-Trooper-at-the-dragon

Due to the rock slide, the Dragon is open from 8AM- 8 PM. A fence at the south end is manned by a Tennessee State trooper acting as sentry.

Still, for wet weather testing it would work fine. Counting on herd theory, I knew the enforcement would be focusing on the worst offenders. So long as I kept it reasonable, I’d slip by. With wet roads I wouldn’t be breaking any personal records nor tempted to loft the front wheel out of corners. Mildly exceeding the limit on occasion and ignoring the fact the bike is fitted with brakes would get the data I sought.

The rain was light but steady and I hit a few decent showers on the ride out, but not the deluges I was looking for. NC 28 glistened with a fine sheen as I approached, but on reaching the Dragon I found the road nearly dry. An hour later I concluded my meeting at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and mounted up to do the ride.

Photo-the-north-end-of-the-Dragon-closedAnother sentry from the DOT waits at the north end of the Dragon. You can’t see the rock slide from here.

It wasn’t going as I planned. With the obvious enforcement, I resigned to simply cruising through the road to satisfy my curiosity of what was going on at the far end. The no brakes technique makes stretching the posted limit just a bit more than entertaining and I carved my way to the end and back. It felt as if the tires were fused with the pavement. Lean angle was endless. I never felt any drift, not the first slippage, let alone anything breaking loose. Powering through the corners was precise, and while I never really got on it with the throttle, it felt so casual and relaxing I had my share of fun. But then, I already knew these tires worked on the dry road.

Photo-the-rock-slide-end-of-the-Dragon

With a large turn around area at the rock slide end, riders congregate here to regroup and show the tickets they got.

Leaving Deals Gap I got what I was looking for. NC 28 was still wet and a little rain kept the conditions nearly perfect. All warmed up from the Dragon, I hit the wet road to see how things compared. It didn’t seem to matter. Barely having shifted my weight for the hairpin corner with a posted speed of 10 mph, I was actually relaxed enough to take my eyes off the road and glance at the spedo – 40 mph and I really wasn’t trying. When the next turn was posted at 35, I did the math and quickly decided I wasn’t willing to go fast enough to find the edge. These tires work in wet conditions – in spades.

Testing over, I started back on the four lane Smoky Mountains Expressway to go home. Within minutes I was bored, and when NC 28 south appeared, I could not control the urge to keep riding. Brad Tolbert, proprietor of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort,  had let slip info about some back roads near Franklin and I just couldn’t resist investigating. Let’s face it, when the guy who runs the biggest outfit at Deals Gap suggests a good road, you listen.

Test back on, true conditions this time. Unknown roads, wet conditions, time pressure to get home, this was the real deal. I blasted through the back roads for more than an hour not sure which way to go, mostly by instinct, and linked together a fine ride. Mixed and broken pavement, gravel in turns, a few rocks dislodged by the rain, some mud wash, now this is what I do and that tire stayed fused to the road like it was integrated. Only once did I note a tiny slip, and when it broke loose on gravel it regained traction so quickly it was barely noted, and I can’t remember drifting the bike through a single curve.

Obviously this tire passes the performance test, it may be the best tire I’ve ever run in that respect. The next big question is durability and what happens when I’m forced to drone along on the endless highway to reach far away places. There’s no better way to waste good rubber than wearing out and squaring off the center of a good tire before you’ve used the edges. The soft compound comprises 40% of the edges of this tire, hence it’s performance (previously 11%). I’ll report back on mileage when it comes time to swap it out to determine how durable the harder compound in the center proves. If I can get more than 5000 miles out of it, I may have found my new tire of choice. Now if I could just get sponsored…

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The "lean stripes" on the tire. Not only did every line show wear, but it was evident all the way to the edge of the tread. 100% use.

Addendum – I heard about a trend which started with some German sports bike riders. They would mark the edges of their tires with chalk to show who had the biggest bragging rights at the end of the day for having achieved the greatest lean angles. Where you typically find the direction arrow at the very edge of the tread which tells the mounter which way the tire is built to rotate, the Michelin Pure incorporates three raised bars parroting the practice. Usually, I wear my tires about to the limit of where the rotation arrow is. That last 3/8 inch or so never gets touched. In typical use, I would expect to maybe graze the first of the raised lines on this new tire. When I took photos this morning, I noted not only had every one of the three bars received wear, but it extended to the very edge of the tire. Without seriously trying or getting on a track, I had utilized 100% of the available tread. Achtung, Baby!

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

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Can You Pass This Motorcycle Traffic Test?

Photo - riding the crowds at the Leesburg, FL rally

Urban Warfare - Riding the Crowds at the Leesburg Rally in Florida

I grabbed this out of a post on the Motorcycle Enthusiasts Group on LinkedIn as it caught my eye. It’s an excerpt from the book “Sport Riding Techniques” by Nick Ienatsch which you can find on Amazon here . I own a coy of this book, it’s one of my favorite resources and one that will benefit any rider.

Traffic is rarely a problem on the great motorcycle roads in the Smoky Mountains, at least  the roads I favor. It’s hardly urban warfare, in fact it’s rare to see more than a handful of other vehicles. Still, the test is a pretty good judge of whether you will survive very long on a motorcycle.

How do you score on the test?

Title: Sport Riding Techniques
Author: Nick Ienatsch
Chapter 9: Urban Survival
Page: 105

Section: Should everyone ride a bike? No!

== START QUOTE ==

Frankly, some car drivers should never ride a motorcycle in traffic. I’m frequently asked by concerned parents/spouses if their loved one would be safe riding a bike in traffic, and judging a driver’s habits in a car helps to gauge his or her risk on a bike. Apply this test to any driver who wants to become a rider:

1. Are you always being encroached upon by other drivers? If so, you’re driving in too many blind spots and are unaware of how to drive in someone’s mirrors.

2. Do you honk your horn daily just to survive? Your horn should be your last line of evense. If you constantly rely on it to get through traffic safely, you aren’t reading traffic patterns well, and you’re in the wrong place – – probably in someone else’s blind spot.

3. Is every other driver on the road out to get you? It’s okay to think they’re out to get you, but drivers who really believe it drive in a timid manner. They don’t maintain their place in the flow of traffic, and are constantly taken advantage of by more aggressive drivers.

4. Does stopped traffic frequently surprise you, forcing you to brake hard every time you drive? If so, your eyes are too low and you aren’t looking far enough ahead of your car.

5. Do you have trouble accelerating onto a freeway to merge smoothly with traffic? You won’t survive on a motorcycle without a good deal of aggression and an ability to fit into traffic smoothly.

6. Are you honked at often? Drivers who get honked at usually aren’t paying attention, are daydreaming at traffic lights, or are changing lanes without looking or signaling. If you can’t stay totally focused on your driving, don’t try riding.

7. Are you constantly the recipient of road rage? Drivers get angry when their safety is threatened, and recipients of road rage are often doing something that distorts the normal flow of traffic badly enough to endanger lives.

8. Do you drive below the posted speed limit for safety? Those who do have no idea of how traffic really flows and are confusing speed with safety, a mistake that will have tough consequences on a motorcycle.

9. Do you neglect your turn signal switch? Communicating with other drivers reduces surprises, and your turn signal is a primary source of communication. If you don’t use it in your car, you aren’t truly working with traffic around you.

10. Do you believe everyone on the road is crazy and that it’s only a matter of time before one of these crazy drivers hits you? If you feel accidents are inevitable and your turn is coming, stay in that Volvo station wagon.

If you answered yes to one or two questions, you might be trainable. If you answered yes to more than a few, you may not enjoy or survive a motorcycle in traffic. It’s okay to be paranoid and believe that everyone on the road is poorly trained, but if that outlook distracts you from what you’re doing at the handlebar, then you must realign your priorities to quit worrying about aspects you can’t control and totally master those you can.

== END QUOTE ==

Posted by Chris Hultberg
Re -Posted by Tony (C. Anthony) Ladt

Thanks for posting this guys. I’m going to pull out the book this weekend and enjoy it again.

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