Adventure, Motorcycles, Safety

tire trouble (part 1)


I knew when I bought a 1996 Yamaha Virago in September 2022 that I wouldn’t be riding her until the following year – I wasn’t quite ready to move up to a 535 from a 250 at the end of my first full riding season but I felt sure I would be by June 2023, about one-third of the way through my second season.

The Virago, which I later named Blue, had 56,000 kms on her odometer and needed new tires; the ones she came with had ‘expired’ a decade before. I also wanted her fitted with adjustable levers that would be better suited to my small hands and weak grip as well as a highway bar so I could lift her up when I inevitably dropped her.

She went into storage with my mechanic George (not his real name), who ordered new tires and inner tubes, a highway bar and the levers in early February 2023. I paid for all of it, including installation, in advance – about $1,300 total. The tires and tubes came in over the winter but weren’t installed until the second week in August when George safety-ed her and I got her insured and plated.

My friend, riding partner and motorcycling mentor, James A., rode her from George’s to my place. Once she was in the driveway, I noticed something unusual.

“That front tire looks awfully close to the fender,” I said to James.  When he shrugged it off, so did I.

She got parked in the garage for a few days and then James came back over and swapped the handlebars from TheTwin, whom I had been riding, over to Blue, whom I was now anxious to try out.

Again, I mentioned the proximity of the tire to the fender. It just didn’t look right.

James investigated and found the tire was rubbing against the inside of the fender to such an extent that its wall was noticeably worn on one side. He fiddled with the fender (with limited success) and then put the wheel back on. He really is an angel in disguise.

Blue and I took our first spin together on August 26, 2023; James and Kelly K. came with us. I found Blue hard to maneuver at slow speeds and we stalled at every intersection. When we got home, it was a struggle for me to push her into the garage – she was SO heavy compared to TheFox and TheTwin.

The weight was a real issue for me – I fought to get her in and out of the garage each time we rode, which was pretty much every day.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

I kept dropping her – on two separate occasions beside my driveway while trying to turn her around, once in North Hatley on an overnight trip, once in the parking lot of the Calabogie General Store on a blistering hot day and once at a stop sign just outside of Renfrew where I tumbled into a six-foot-deep ditch when she laid down. Luckily, she stayed where she was on the shoulder.

Because she didn’t have a highway bar – the one George had ordered and I had paid for in February had never arrived – to keep her at an angle at which I could lift her back up, I was SOL if I was alone when we went down.

After a month of drops, I was feeling frustrated and incompetent, so I rode Blue down to Ryan’s at Far Reach Outfitters near Franktown to get another opinion on the tire. Perhaps it was part of the problem?

Ryan examined the tire and fender in situ and confirmed they were still rubbing against each other. He removed the wheel and the fender.

Guess what?

“This tire is the wrong size for this bike,” Ryan said after doing a search on his phone. “It’s one size bigger than it should be.”

The manual calls for a 3.00-19 (MJ90 2.75/3.00120/90) and George had put on a MM903.25/350130/80, one size up.

No wonder I had such trouble moving the bike around. No wonder I kept dropping her – if and when I slowed to a certain level, the tire would catch on the fender, the wheel would stop and over we both would go. Thank goodness I hadn’t been injured in one of the incidents.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. George had ordered and installed both tires. They were brand new. Now, after only six weeks of riding, I had to get another new front tire and tube and have them put on.

I decided not to call George; we were already in a dispute over the highway bar and levers I still didn’t have (more about that later), so I asked Ryan to order the requisite rubber, which would be delivered the following week.

“Is there anything you can do to alleviate the problem in the meantime?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll bend out the fender to widen it slightly. Hopefully, that’ll stop it from rubbing.”

When I got on Blue to go home, I ducked-walked her across a gravelly spot in Ryan’s driveway with hardly any effort at all. It was as if she had suddenly dropped seventy-five pounds. As I turned onto the main road, it was like I was on a completely different bike. The change in rideability was astonishing.

A couple of kilometres up Derry sideroad, I started to cry. The tears were a mix of anger, frustration and relief.

As it turned out, the relief was misplaced and I wasn’t yet done with the anger and frustration…


© 2024 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.

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