Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bridgestone Battlax T30

Bridgestone Battlax T30s (non-GT Spec; F Code; 180/55-17 Front, 120/70-17 Rear) were OE on my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT. I'm now replacing both front and rear with a new set of T30s after racking up 11,700 miles since just the beginning of April. 

Here's a look at the tires as I rolled in from my most recent road trip up to North Carolina.

Obviously, replacement of the rear is necessary, if not past due; the front has several hundred more miles on it, but I'm replacing it along with the rear as tires have a tenancy to go more quickly at the end of their life.

These Battlax T30 tires saw thousands of highway miles in many three-digit temp summer days. They also saw two extended trips into the curvy Smoky Mountain roadways for days on end. Lastly they carried me and the bike through one of the wettest summers in Florida history. They always held their lines on wet, dry, hot and cold surfaces. Where'd I test on cold surfaces? Check out my Pikes Peak post. All in all, the Battlax T30 are the type of tire that you quickly build confidence in. 

I'll be moving up to the GT-Spec version of the T-30 (B Code). The GT-Spec are designed to provide improved handling for heavier sport touring bikes (defined as >551 pounds laden). They're only a few dollars more than the base T30s and it will be interesting to see if I can get a longer life out o f them.

The  rear tire came in at $157 and the  front came in at $112; tax and all the rest is a nice round $300, pre install. I must say that the price point on these tires that rolled almost 12,000 miles can only be described as outstanding.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Dragon Pictures

Tail of the Dragon photos from Wednesday (8-12-15) ...

The Tail of the Dragon starts in North Carolina at the junction of US129 and NC28 (south end), aka Deals Gap. The Tennessee border is crossed shortly after commencing a northward run on the Dragon.

10,000 Miles

I rolled in home this afternoon after a week of riding in East Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee with 11,680 miles on the ODO. Just a couple miles into the trip, I officially passed the 10,000 mile mark and have a photo for my files as the 10K mark is always an accomplishment.

In the case of the Versys, I may have hit the 10K mark faster than any other bike. Having purchased the Versys on March 31, that's only 4 1/2 months. The only other potentially close model was my 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere. I put over 25,000 miles on that bike in a year, but I'm not sure exactly when I hit the 10K mark. Whatever ... both are accomplishments to add as addendums to the old bucket list.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Another Road Trip

I'd planned another trip up to the Carolina Smoky Mountains later this year but the weather has been so terrible here in West Central Florida that I'm moving it up. We get a lot of rain in the summer, but this year seems to be the worst in a long time with lots of flooding.

The fast route up to the Carolinas runs through Atlanta, Georgia, but I honestly hate that route. This time, I'll be shooting a little to the east and making my first day over to Savannah, Georgia. From there I'll run up to Walhalla, South Carolina and take Moonshiner 28 up to the Deals Gap Resort. 

Moonshiner 28 runs right into the Tail of the Dragon and is fairly close to the Cherohalla.

Hopefully, I'll be staying in the Oak Park Inn in Waynesville if they have a room; haven't checked yet. I like Waynesville because it's so central to all the great roads in the Smokys. 

One area that I didn't get to on my last trip was Little Switzerland, home to the famous Diamond Back Loop. Little Switzerland is east of Waynesville and north-east to Asheville, North Carolina. I plan on shooting over to the Diamond Back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. That'll make for a long day of riding.

Again, not wanting to mess with I-75 Southbound, after the Carolinas I'm planning to make a run over to Leeds, Alabama (near Birmingham) and visit the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum. There's actually a great vintage motorcycle event there coming up in October that I'll probably be heading back for. The museum will take half a day and then I'll work my way back down to Marianna/Tallahassee and on home. Should be a great trip! Hope the weather clears up before I get back!

Including side trips and loops, this trip should run just over 2,000 miles.

Sealskinz Gloves

The truly waterproof + breathable glove has long eluded me after decades of motorcycle touring, but I continue the hunt and probably will for the rest of my riding days.

I had previously seen a brand of sportsman glove online called Sealskinz that ran around $50; kind of pricey for a lightweight glove. This week I finally got to see them firsthand and try them on at a new Bass Pro Shop that recently opened in the Tampa Area. They seem like a fairly decent knit-type (not real seal skin) glove that is worth giving a try and cost $39.99. What the heck, I picked up a pair. I was thinking, if they didn't work for motorcycling I probably have hunting/fishing/camping uses for them.

In terms of sizing, I normally wear size large gloves, and my medium-duty Fly Racing Thinsulate Gloves (I have three pair) are actually extra-large. However, the Sealskinz medium seemed to be the proper fit, and not too tight either. Also, Sealskinz provides a thermal rating scale from 1 to 5 for their products and these particular Sealskinz had a 1 rating; perfect I thought for most year-round Florida conditions and good for my summer/spring/fall travels out of state.

I'll put these gloves to the test on my next trip up to the Smoky Mountains next week. Stay tuned...

As mentioned, I have other medium duty cold/wet weather gloves. Below is a photo of the Fly Racing Thinsulate gloves, which I have three pair of. I used these gloves on a trip to Alaska where I encountered extreme cold and freezing rain many times. The Fly Racing gloves, while claiming to be waterproof and wind resistant, were good for about three cold and rain. Plus the bike I was on had handle/brush guards! Anyway, after getting acquainted with one pair of these gloves I bought two more pair to trade out on the long days up to Alaska. Seems to be my experience with motorcycle gloves.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Powerbronze Belly Pan

As mentioned in a previous thread, I purchased an aftermarket Belly Pan for my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT from Powerbronze USA. The belly pan comes in a number of colors; I purchased the matte black/silver mesh model. It was $179.95, shipping was $10.00 and I got hit with a $3.79 foreign transaction fee on my credit card since Powerbronze USA is actually in England. I have now installed the belly pan and have had a good run around the area with it installed. Overall, I'm giving the Powerbronze Belly Pan a thumbs up and will pass along my reasoning, some thoughts and installation points below. Stock photos:

The motorcycle in the stock photos above and below has Powerbronze Sliders installed (part that says Versys on it). They are not part of the Powerbronze Belly Pan.

To be clear, this particular accessory serves nothing more than aesthetics imo. As best I can tell, it does not add any protection beyond that which the factory lower fairings offered. In fact, it exposes the engine bottom more so than did the factory fairings. Essentially, the Powerbronze belly pan consists of two side panels and a metal front grill ... and no actual "belly pan." That is, there's nothing along the bottom. While an open bottom is not dissimilar from the factory fairings, the factory left fairing did largely protected the oil filter; the Powerbronze belly pan leaves it totally exposed ... of course, not unlike many, many other models of motorcycle (e.g. any V-Strom, and those are dirt bikes!)

One claim explicitly made by Powerbronze on the product page in their website is that the "[mesh vents] have the advantage of allowing heat to escape from the lower area whilst still offering the protection required from any belly pan." I don't know how to prove out the mesh vents claim, but the point about offering the protection required of any belly pan makes me ask myself what actually is the protection required of a belly pan. I always thought belly pans were a racing bike feature that prevented oil and parts from falling off racing bike and onto the track. On street bikes they're not much beyond show.

Overall, if you're looking for more protection, imo you need to look elsewhere. On the other hand, the aesthetic value of the Powerbronze is in the eye of the beholder. I personally thought that the design of the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT was great when I bought it. Having now added the Powerbronze Belly Pan, I think I've taken its appearance up a notch and more! Below are two photos of the factory lower fairings and a couple with the new belly pan. The belly pan effectively covered up all that exposed engine and header area making the motorcycle look much more sporty. The Versys 1000 is a "Sport" Touring model after all and, if at all possible, why shouldn't it look more sporty while touring?

Stock photos:

Belly Pan photos:

So, before install details here are a few points that I have:

Ground Clearance: The lowest point of the belly pan is the very tip of its nose. At that point the belly pan is 6.5 inches above the ground with the bike standing straight up and unladen (5.75 inches laden with me at 185 pounds). The motorcycle's spec ground clearance is 5.91 inches. This point should not be interpreted to mean that the belly pan improves ground clearance, it doesn't. However, it's good that the belly pan does not reduce ground clearance.
Routine Maintenance: The belly pan does not require removal to drain/fill oil or remove/replace oil filter. The left factory lower fairing required removal to change the oil filter.
Puig Pro Frame Sliders: I had previously purchased and installed a set of Puig Pro Frame Sliders (Part Number 7071N). I did not need to remove or reposition the Puig sliders in any way to fit the Powerbronze belly pan on this bike.
Performance: I ran the bike up to 85 mph and encountered no noticeable drag from the pan. I wore a 3/4 helmet without ear plugs to listen for whistling and other annoying noises being thrown off; there were none. A careful inspection of the belly pan found no heat damage from engine/header/pipe. Note that while the belly pan itself is plastic, the grill in front of the headers is metal.

What comes in the box:

The belly pan itself comes in two pieces that are ultimately connected by the grill. The belly pan components are assembled prior to installation.
 The grill and hardware are as follows:

The side panels have a clear protective film on them that must be removed prior to installation.

Install rubber grommets and metal eyelets. These will connect to the brackets.

Then connect the two side panels with the grill using four nylon bolts/nuts (10mm).

Identify the four installation brackets. There are two lower/rear brackets (first photo) and two upper/forward brackets (second photo). They are different and the provided photo-copy instructions do not adequately discern which is which. To avoid the trial-n-error I went through, note the differences and the references in the photo and install accordingly.

Also, at this point you may want to consider treating the metal parts as they seem to be the type of metal that will corrode and rust fairly easily. However, keep in mind that I'm in Florida and that issue applies to all metals in my part of the world.

Install the brackets loosely so that they can be aligned with the holes in the belly pan. Note the placement of the brackets in the two photos below.

Also, at this point, you'll need to make a run to the hardware store for an M6 bolt with a thread length no longer than 15mm or find one in your loose bolts stock. I believe that it was the manufacturer's intention that the brackets be installed using existing engine bolts. However, as it relates to the right/upper forward bracket (first photo below), you will not be able to use the factory bolt from the right fairing. It's a different kind of bolt (see third photo below) that is recessed in the plastic lower factory fairing and does not have sufficient thread length. The photo in the instructions (also third photo below) shows the installation of the bracket with one of the four M6x20 bolts provided in the hardware, but (i) that bolt's thread length is too long and (ii) you need that bolt for the other end of the bracket where the belly pan panel will bolt in. So rather, as mentioned you'll need to get an M6 bolt with a thread length no longer than 15mm.

The rest of the installation involves fitting the belly pan to the brackets and alignment of the loose brackets. This is better accomplished with a little help, one person on each side. There will be a lot of play in the assembled pan and it will move forward/backward by about two inches. You will want to get the belly pan properly aligned front-to-back and side-to-side.

Actual placement of the belly pan is not provided in the instructions, but intuitively you want to keep the grill a reasonable distance forward of the headers to avoid heat damage. I have it situated with a gap of 3/4 inches (20mm) that appears to be consistent with the stock photo (see first photo in this post). However, as we all know headers get REAL hot so time will tell. I don't know what kind of metal that is or whether the paint on the grill is high-heat resistant.

Once you have the belly pan situated where you want it, you'll be able to snug the engine bolts. Do so and then remove the belly pan. Now, since we're dealing with engine bolts holding the brackets in place you need to properly torque the bolts. Torques are available starting on page 2-5 of the Service Manual for this motorcycle. This will be kind of tough because while you're torquing the bolts you don't want to disturb the alignment of the brackets; otherwise you're going to be starting the alignment work over again. Sounds like a pain in the arse; it's really not.

Here are a few looks post installation:

As previously mentioned in this post, you will be able to drain oil and remove the oil filter without removing the belly pan. This photo clearly shows the location of the filter and drain bolt relative to the belly pan.

Overall, I think the Powerbronze Belly Pan improved the appearance of my already great looking bike! Next stop will be my second trip this summer to the North Carolina Smokys. I'll be looking extra kewl in my Kill Boy photos on the Dragon and the Cherry Cola Highway!

UPDATE (8/15/2015):

A couple observations on my trip up to North Carolina...

First, the photo below shows a loose and dangling wire bundle consisting of the Oxygen Sensor Lead and the Crankshaft Sensor Lead. This wiring bundle is routed under, and then up the back of, the right-side clutch cover. Prior to installation of the belly pan, this bundle was covered and protected by the factory lower fairing. The Powerbronze Belly Pan provides no protection and allows the wire bundle to hang out and away from the back of the clutch cover right into the area where the toe of your boot is, just above the brake pedal. The wiring bundle needs to be secured to avoid damage. While on the road, I temporarily secured the bundle with two zip ties and will now reconsider a more permanent correction. Anyone installing the Powerbronze Belly Pan should secure the wire bundle during the initial installation.

Second, two of the vinyl nut/bolts that connect the side panels and grill came loose. If this went unchecked and all four of the vinyl bolts failed, you could lose the grill. I plan to replace the vinyl bolts/nuts with metal bolts and self locking nuts.

Notwithstanding these two issues, I continue to be very happy with the Powerbronze Belly Pan. As it relates to the vinyl bolts/nuts, I was virtually certain they'd come loose the moment I first saw them and even commented to my son that very point when we did the install. No lock washer, not self locking nut. So shame on me; shoulda known better. As it relates to the wiring bundle, I can only say I'm really, really glad I caught it when I did. I may be the first to encounter that and, accordingly, am going to comment to Powerbronze who is a sponsor of our bike specific forum.

Lastly, stay tuned for some photos of the Versys on the Tail of the Dragon with the new Belly Pan. You have to order the photos and they take a couple days.


Woohoo! The photos from Tail of the Dragon are in.


Powerbronze reviewed my comments on the hardware requirements related to the right front bracket and have both changed the instructions and added the necessary additional bolt. No need to go to the hardware store now.


Well in November I had to take the belly pan off to do some maintenance and, sure enough, I lost another vinyl nut. I still have all the vinyl bolts but that was the third nut that's gone missing. No matter what anyone ever says, vinyl nuts and bolts do come loose. So, since I had it all apart I took my own advice and replaced all the vinyl with real metal nuts, bolts and washers.