Tuesday, November 8, 2011


The joys and disappointments of tubeless motorcycle tires

DON’T GET ME WRONG. I love how the Michelin Road Pilot II tires have fixed the handling on my Breva 1100. The little “Bee” came with Metzeler Roadtec Z-6s that had gone about half the distance between new and worn out. And the Zs were always my go-to choice on the BMWs I’d owned. Yet, on the Guzzi, these chattered unnervingly as I entered curves, prompting me to wonder about the geometry of the Breva.

New rubber and ready to roll!
At the recommendation of folks on the Wild Goose Chase Forum, I switched to the Road Pilots, and what a difference. The wonderful winding roads in our area invite frequent visits and those visits are made all the more enjoyable when one can concentrate on the environment just as much as the pavement. With my new Pilots I found that the Breva dives into the curves and pulls out confidently. I’m not afraid to goose the Goose a bit as the tractable qualities of the rear ask me to push my own limits. [Note: I’ll never have the fortitude to actually push the limits of the bike.]

Heading toward snowline!
Since putting the Michelins on the Guzzi, I find myself looking for excuses to ride the Breva, often leaving the BMW GSA (which sports Metzeler Tourances) simpering in the garage. I’ve enjoyed and re-enjoyed narrow strips of pavement through the Sacramento River Delta, the American and Yuba River complexes and, before the snow flew, up to the heights of the nearby Sierra – always returning home wishing there’d been a bit more daylight, a bit more time to not only relish the autumn colors and great roads, but the joyous physics of simply riding a great machine with really good rubber.

On Drum P'house Road
THEN… I’d run about four hundred miles on the Michelin’s when, coming out of the Bear River west of Drum Powerhouse, rounding a corner at a very conservative speed, a large piece of cardboard lay in the roadway. The conditions were damp, so rather than to try to avoid it, I simply drove across. A week later, I pulled the bike off the centerstand to find the rear tire squishing across the smooth concrete of my garage floor. Flat. I’d picked up a box staple somewhere, and I suspect it from that cardboard on the Drum Powerhouse Road. Damn!

EVERYTHING I’VE READ about tubeless tires says that once they’re punctured, a roadside fix is only temporary. I suppose this is because the those physics that are so enjoyable when things are going well, are so treacherous when things are not: the heat generated by the constant friction with the road; the twist and flex necessary to maintain control; the variable torques of acceleration and deceleration. A plug can get you to the shop, but an ignored plug can get you to the “news of record” in the local paper under the listing “traffic fatalities.”

So, the Breva sits in the garage now waiting for an appointment to put a new skin on the back hoop. A couple of hundred bucks later, I’ll be on her on the road exploring the river levees and canyons and oak woodlands of Northern California’s late autumn.

IN THE MEANTIME, I’ll enjoy some high-quality rides on the GSA, cranking her heated grips and soothing her neglected feelings...

Quick! Get the crime scene tape!

...and wondering where the heavy-duty box stapler came from that I found on the garage floor sitting next to the Beemer’s front wheel and pointed directly at the Breva.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. I have plugged 3 new (less than 750 miles)rear tires and run them through their thread life. All 3 times were in the Blue Ridge area of N.C. Ran the twisties for 500-700 miles. This was followed by a 650 mile slab ride running with the flow of traffic. No problems. Do as you feel is best for you.

  2. A number of folks have responded at both Wild Goose Chase and at Pashnit - two very fine motorcycle forums. There seems to be a sixty-forty split leaning toward repairing, however, both dealers I've contacted suggest that replacement is the way to go. Oddly, these dealers sell both repair kits and new tires. Hmmmm.

    The verdict is: Replace the old new tire with a new new tire; retain and repair the old new tire and hang on to it for a spare. With my luck, I'll be mounting it in four to six weeks.

  3. if i had the money i would have nothing but new tread when any problem came around.
    and even have only brand new panties each day..never use them twice.
    but seeing as how i am broke, i tried to get more miles out of a flat..but the plugs did not hold so a new tire on the way. (shop ordered the wrong one last week) or it would have been done yesterday and a couple hundred mile ride today.