Motorcycle Advertisements, Tire Blowouts, And More - Technical Questions And Answers - Tech Matters Ad On

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I've always been fascinated by printed motorcycle advertisements, the sizzle in most cases being as interesting to me as the steak. While I enjoy reading through black-and-white magazine ads from the '50s and '60s, the ones that really grab me are the old, poster-sized broadsheets manufacturers supplied to their dealers to brighten up dingy showroom walls. I value those mostly for nostalgia's sake, and because they appeal to my taste in art-which normally favors things like pictures of poker-playing dogs.

One of my favorites is from the early '30s. It depicts a stylishly dressed young woman pounding an Ariel single down an English lane. Since she's wearing white silk stockings, I have to assume that her Ariel did a better job of containing its oil than those I rode in later years, but no matter, it's still a pretty picture. The ad, which has no text other than a banner reading "The Modern Motorcycle of 1930," manages to convey a sense of fun and freedom, with the implication that the bike is reliable and easy to operate.

I'm also fond of a Matchless advertisement from 1939 done in the Bauhaus style. In shades of gray and red, it portrays a lone rider moving quickly across a blurred background. There is no text, but there doesn't need to be. The art suggests speed and grace with a subtle undertone of, I don't know, danger or foreboding? Whether the artist was influenced by the gathering war clouds or I'm just reading more into it than I should is debatable, but there's certainly a story being told.

Granted, the older ads tended toward a certain amount of puffery. For instance, Royal Enfield's claim that its 750cc Interceptor was the "World's Most Beautiful" motorcycle and Triumph's assertion that it made "The Best Motorcycle in the World" had to be taken with a grain of salt-though no more so than any current ad suggesting ownership of a given brand will magically transform your otherwise humdrum life into something exhilarating.

The hype wasn't always about glamour; many older ads played up the practical side of motorcycling. Harley-Davidson ran an ad in the late '50s touting one of their 125cc two-stroke econobikes that featured a smiling assembly line worker commuting to the factory, lunch box strapped to the luggage rack, "for just pennies a day." Given its penchant for repeating history, it's surprising that Milwaukee no longer builds a 125 or uses economy as a selling point.

Image-conscious manufacturers went to great lengths to portray motorcycling in a positive light, so the riders of the day were always depicted as well-groomed and nattily dressed. In England, everyone apparently wore ties or ascots, while Europeans favored fluttering silk scarves. In the U.S.-where riding always had an air of hooliganism around it-men and women often appeared wearing club uniforms composed of riding breeches, collared shirts, neckties and, of course, a cap. By the '60s, the uniform of the day had changed to chinos and madras shirts for the men and Capri pants and not-too-tight sweaters for the women, but everyone was still clean cut and wholesome. This culminated with Honda's "You meet the nicest people" campaign-an advertising coup that literally kick-started the motorcycle revolution in the U.S. during the '60s.

Apparently, all that's changed. Today's male riders are manly man-type rugged individuals, all wearing black designer T-shirts, a three-day beard and a scowl, and the women are either the opening act at the Badda Bing lounge or own a leather fetish store.

Renowned British motor-cycle engineer Bert Hopwood once commented, tongue in cheek, that "as our product deteriorated, the advertising took on a new sophistication." At the time, Bert was referring to a series of ads featuring some rather comely young women in various states of undress perched provocatively on BSA motorbikes. Whether or not the money spent on advertising would have been better utilized by Hopwood's R&D; team to improve those old crocks is debatable, but the ads were certainly eye-openers and no doubt sold a few more bikes than BSA deserved.

Lately, I've encountered a few ads that make me wonder if the people responsible for creating them might not be better suited to another type of work.

Case in point: a current ad hawking a line of high-end customs. This one features a well-known custom builder tooling through a turn on one of his creations in a rather squid-like manner. He's wearing a baseball cap (backward, of course), T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, topped off with knee-high socks. Now, if that's your normal riding attire, more power to you and good luck. But frankly, I find it hard to take anyone like that very seriously, especially when they're selling a limited-production motorcycle that retails for upward of 30 large.

I suppose my real problem with that one is that in the end, all ads are grist for our fantasy mills, and I prefer my fantasies-at least the ones concerning motorcycles-to be about something other than looking like a dork and paying big money to do it.

Tube Trouble
QI ride a VTX 1300S, which has spoke wheels, and therefore tube tires. I've never had a blow-out, but I know people who have, and the prospect of trying to deal with a flat in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from the nearest bike shop, has always worried me. My friends who ride on tubeless tires can at least carry tire plugs for emergency repairs, but would that do me any good? Is there anything I can do to make an emergency repair short of actually taking off the wheel and hauling out the tube for a patch job? With today's high-tech cruisers and touring bikes, that's always struck me as a hopeless undertaking for anyone but a seasoned mechanic.AP SchroederVia e-mail

A Good question, Schroeder-I wish I had a better answer for you. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I'd suggest that the best defense against flats is the, uh, prophylactic approach.

As a tire wears, it becomes more susceptible to puncture (obviously a bald tire is the worst in that regard), so I'd urge you to inspect your tires on a regular basis and replace them when they begin to show significant wear. I'd also recommend installing the best tubes money can buy when-ever you mount a new tire. Heavy-duty tubes are available from several sources, Michelin, Metzeler and Continental being just three that come to mind, and while they're more expensive than garden-variety liners, it's money well spent.

You may also want to consider using a sealer, like SLIME (, as a preventative measure. Obviously a sealer won't prevent a flat, but in the unfortunate event that you puncture a tire, it'll at least help the tube hold air until you can get it properly repaired. As a side issue, because sealers prevent a punctured tire from going flat, a tire that's been so treated should also be inspected more regularly, just to ensure nothing sharp is poking through.

Finally, if you do get a flat, try using an aerosol repair like Flat Fix to affect a temporary repair. Unless the tube is really shredded, a can or two should seal the puncture long enough to get the bike off the road and into a repair shop.

Q I currently ride a Harley- Davidson Sportster, but I am considering getting a new bike. I was looking at the BMW R 1150 R (which is no longer being produced, so I would buy used). However, the BMW dealer said that I would have to bring in the bike at every service to have error codes read. Is this really necessary, or is it something you can do yourself? I like to do all my own maintenance to save money.Andrew Carlson Via e-mail

A Carlson, please send me the name of your local BMW dealer, so I know where not to go. The 1150R is like anything else with EFI. As long as it's running properly, it won't throw any codes, so on the face of it, the dealer's statement is just silly. That said, the ABS/Integral brake systems can be a little tricky to work on, especially when it comes to changing the fluid and bleeding the system, (special tools are required), so you'll want that end of it done by a dealer. And, of course, the EFI requires special tools and knowledge. Those issues aside, in most regards BMWs are no more difficult to work on than anything else. Provided you've got a few hand tools, a service manual and some common sense, you should be able to perform the routine maintenance and day-to-day adjustment-type stuff on your own.

Dyna Dilemma
Q The rear suspension on my 2005 Dyna Super Glide bottoms out too much on rough roads and corners. I would like to raise and stiffen it a bit for more ground clearance and lean angle, and I plan on installing a set of Progressive HD adjustable shocks. I have already set the preload at maximum. I am hoping to mimic the handling of the Sport model. Will that do it for me, or would you recommend any other changes?Harry SimensonVia e-mail

A The Progressives are a great start, but if you really want that thing to turn and handle, I'd recommend installing a set of matching fork springs and, as a final touch, a set of RaceTech Gold Valve Emulators and the proper weight fork oil. Installing the Emulators will require pulling the front fork apart, and dialing them in might take some experimentation, but the end result will be well worth the effort. I modified a buddy's Heritage a few years back with the setup we're discussing, and the change in handling was phenomenal. One last thought: Since the rear preload is maxed out, you might want to consider installing stiffer rear springs, or maybe a 1-inch-longer shock. (Check out Cherney's long-term VTX installment for more info.)

Level Up
Q I'm just in my second year riding, so I'm still at the stage where lots of stuff is new. I'm trying to find out about checking fluid levels-specifically, should levels be checked when the bike is on its sidestand or sitting upright? My 1997 Honda Shadow Ace has only a sidestand-no centerstand. The owner's manual is not clear. The Haynes manual is silent. I haven't asked a mechanic yet. Is there a general rule?Mark SpenceMilton, OntarioVia e-mail

A Mark, as a general rule, fluids should always be checked with the bike upright and on a level surface.

How-To Pipe Dreams
I've never been wild about aftermarket pipes. In my opinion, most of them produce too much noise and not nearly enough power. Apparently I'm in the minority. The pipe business appears to be booming (no pun intended), and at least half the letters I receive are related to exhaust systems.

Consequently, when HackerPipes asked us to test a version of their "Track-Tuned Header System," I was ambivalent. After all, there was the noise issue, and the last thing I felt the Victory KingPin needed was more power. On the other hand, I realized that a pipe article-particularly one that featured hard numbers-might be of great service to our readers.

What transpired next sealed the deal. During one of our conversations, Hacker's PR guy mentioned that dyno testing wasn't part of their program. In fact, HackerPipes didn't even own a dyno, but based on seat-of-the-pants testing and customer feedback, they felt their pipes made more power than a stock setup.

That got my attention. In August 2003, we ran an article titled "Pipe Dreams," wherein we dyno-tested some of the more popular aftermarket exhausts. The results were interesting to say the least; the majority of pipes delivered less than stellar results. I'd long wanted to do a follow-up.

So I made the guys at Hacker a proposal: If they'd supply the pipe and one of their Anger Management Fuel Modules, I'd install it and do all the tuning-mimicking what an over-the-counter purchaser would do. The catch was that the pipe and fuel module would be the only changes. There'd be no airbox or ignition modifications, and win, lose or draw, we'd report the unvarnished results. To their credit, Hacker agreed.

Step One
To establish baseline numbers, the bone-stock KingPin was delivered to John Tavolacci at Dyno Solutions in Danbury, Connecticut. I chose Dyno Solutions because its only business is dyno testing. John doesn't sell parts, he doesn't build engines and he doesn't offer any sort of tuning services beyond some custom mapping; he simply runs a dyno, and as such, could be counted on to be completely unbiased.

After three pulls we had our numbers and there were no surprises. As you can see from the readout, the KingPin's best run produced 72.95 horsepower and 93.45 lbs.-ft. of torque. While not outstanding, the numbers are healthy and right in the ballpark for a big-inch cruiser. We also sent a copy of the chart to Polaris; they confirmed our King was hale and hearty and our numbers right on the mark.

The torque curve (represented by the upper line) is fairly smooth, with just a few hiccups in the delivery. Just above idle we're making over 80 lbs.-ft. of torque, which rises quickly to the maximum of 93.45 lbs.-ft. and, despite some peaks and valleys, stays fairly constant up to 4200 rpm. After that, cylinder filling becomes less efficient and torque starts to drop off. As an aside, the horsepower continues to rise slightly because horsepower is torque multiplied by rpm, and the extra rpm more than compensates for the reduced torque. Similarly, the bottom line representing horsepower shows a nice steady climb toward its maximum of 4500 rpm before leveling off.

With the baseline established, the OEM system was replaced with the HackerPipes Track-Tuned Header and open megaphone, along with the Anger Management Fuel Module. The module was dialed in per the instructions and the bike test-ridden on a 10-mile loop. During the ride, two things became apparent: First, the noise level-while loud by my standards-wasn't totally obnoxious as long as some right-hand restraint was used, and second, the bike was running way too rich at the bottom, but that was something we'd sort out on the dyno.

Dyno run 2
Track-Tuned Header Open Muffler Anger Management Fuel Module (base settings) For the sake of illustration, we made our first dyno pull using my seat-of-the-pants fuel module settings. Surprisingly, things don't look too bad. We picked up 2.58 extra lbs.-ft. of peak torque, and the curve is almost identical to that of the stock pipes. Toward the end of the run there's a drop in horsepower as the bike starts to run rich.

Dyno Run 3
Open Header Corrected Fuel SettingsIn essence, this was a breakeven situation, and with no other modifications the Hacker wasn't going to set the world on fire. But at least it hadn't cost us any real performance; it in fact offered measurable gains in horsepower and torque.

What we have here is a bolt-on pipe that changes the look and sound of the bike and provides a modest performance increase at some points of the powerband. Since it's lighter than the industrial-strength OEM unit, you can also argue that some performance is gained through weight reduction.

Dyno run 4
Quiet option
Knowing that I prefer a quiet exhaust-quiet in this case being relative-Hacker included a traditional reverse cone megaphone that purportedly made less noise and only slightly less power than the open pipe. Replacing the open pipe with the "muffler" took all of three minutes, and they were right-it was noticeably quieter. The bad news was that on the dyno, it folded up like a deerskin wallet.

Compared to the stock pipe (black and red lines), the Hacker (blue and green lines) is behind on both torque and horsepower throughout the entire curve (the only exception being around 2900 where parity is achieved for a few rpm). But from there, it's downhill all the way. Making matters worse is a torque crater at 3500 rpm where the Hacker makes 11 pounds less torque than the stock pipe.

Obviously, any torque loss is cause for concern, but a 12 percent drop is serious business as it negatively affects every aspect of performance. Torque holes like this also make the bike difficult to ride because the power drops off as you accelerate past 3000 rpm, and then it comes back on with a bang at 4000 rpm-which can light up the rear tire if the road is slick. It's entertaining the first time it happens, but after that it's just nerve-wracking.

Initially, we thought fuel mapping might be the problem, but as you can see from the air/fuel chart, the ratios-while not perfect-aren't far off the optimum of 13 to 1. As installed, this combo was unacceptable.

So what's going on?
Neither pipe performed as expected, and in fact the quiet version was downright pitiful. Though we felt we'd honored the test parameters, we also felt that in fairness to HackerPipes we owed them a chance to set things right. So we did the logical thing and removed the airbox lid. The change was dramatic.

Dyno run 5
Quiet Pipe, No AirBox Lid
The green and blue lines represent our first pass with the quiet pipe. Torque and horsepower are down compared to the stock bike, and there's that huge hole at 3500 rpm. The black and red lines show what happens when the airbox cover is removed. With no other changes, power instantly increases, and that gaping hole in the torque curve disappears. Better yet, we pick up torque and horsepower compared to the stock setup and in fact end up making 4.7 more pounds of peak torque-a five percent gain.

With the airbox mod, the HackerPipe isn't bad-there's an overall increase in power and a decent increase in torque. No doubt that if we pursued this tuning avenue we'd see even more of an increase.

So did we learn anything? In truth, no. As we found in our original "Pipe Dreams" test, merely installing an aftermarket pipe isn't going to get you much of a power increase. Understand that modern intake and exhaust systems are extremely well thought out and extensively tested. The OEMs know exactly what they're doing, and any shortcomings are generally the result of EPA meddling. Yes, some extra power may be found by bolting on a new pipe, particularly if you're not overly concerned with current noise and pollution regulations, but don't expect miracles.

Remember the Golden Rule: Changes in either the exhaust or intake affect airflow through the engine, so in most cases a change in one demands a change in the other. Before laying down hard-earned cash, figure out exactly what you hope to gain. If it's simply to make noise or change the way the bike looks, then by all means bolt on a new pipe and cross your fingers; maybe you'll pick up a few ponies, maybe not. However, if your goal is to boost power, chances are you'll need a pipe, fuel module and airbox/air filter modifications before you realize any genuine increases. And even then, you'll be lucky to see a 10 to 15 percent gain.

My last piece of advice: If you really want to know where the bear went in the buckwheat, book some dyno time and quantify your handiwork-anything less is just guessing.

Hacker Pipes
The Good and Not So Good
I don't want to damn with faint praise, but overall the HackerPipes performed as I'd expected. With airbox modifications, we did increase torque and horsepower, and I've no doubt that with a bit more fine-tuning, and perhaps some ignition work, the numbers can go higher. Although I didn't retest the open pipe due to time constraints, I'm willing to bet that with the airbox cover removed it, too, would have shown an improvement over our original test.

On the whole, I'd give the Hackers a "B." Though they don't churn out as much power as I'd like-and in that respect aren't much different from many other aftermarket pipes-they are well-made and easy to install, and, yeah, I'll grudgingly admit that the noise levels are acceptable when some restraint is shown. Furthermore, with a few simple mods, they will produce a measurable increase in torque and horsepower, and that's always a good thing.

Rust Never Sleeps
Every so often some poor schnook needs to know how to remove rust from his fuel tank. The first rule is to never let your fuel tank get rusty in the first place, but with some of the fuel formulations we're pouring into our tanks these days, rust is almost an inevitable side effect of riding. So how do you clean a tank quickly and easily? Simple: First drain and remove the tank from the bike (or vice versa if you're the perverse type). Next remove the petcock, fuel pump, fuel gauge, sending unit or anything else that makes its home in the tank and plug up the holes. Pour a quart of WD-40 into the tank, along with a handful of 31/48 nuts. Close off the filler neck with the cap or a plug and start shaking that tank like you ain't got no brains, as Bruce Springsteen might say. In fact you might want to put on some earphones and turn your favorite tune up to 10 to enhance the experience. After about 15 minutes or longer, if the rust warrants it, drain the tank, remove the hardware and flush it with a little fresh gas or brake wash. You can finish the job by coating the tank with a plastic sealant like Kreme, or if it was just surface rust, simply put it back in service. Whatever you do, I'd recommend replacing the fuel filter or adding one if none is present to catch errant rust particles before putting the bike back on the road.-MZ

Honda VTX1300S
Dyno Run 2Black line HackerPipe, blue line stock. The bottom graph illustrates the fuel/air ratio.
With the air/fuel ratios resolved, the power curve begins to look better. Although there's a small loss at the bottom of the scale and the curve is a little shaky compared to the OEM pipes (black and red lines), it's not too bad. We lost a little bit of torque at the bottom of the curve, but we picked up horsepower at the far end, and the peak numbers are slightly better than stock.
Dyno Run 4
Dyno Run 5With the airbox lid removed, the HackerPipe (red and black lines) perked right up. There's a vast improvement over the first pull (blue and green lines) and a decent improvement over the OEM set.