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Old 11-25-2013, 12:01 PM   #1
feathered OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2009
Location: Denver
Oddometer: 188
understanding and adjusting handling differences

This is a very novice question, but it's better to ask and learn, right? I'm trying to understand the handling difference between bikes. In particular, between my tiger 955 (specs) and my wife's versys (specs). Disclaimer: I'm very comfortable/used to the Tiger, which I ride every day. I ride the V ~biweekly, and not for long periods. You can click the specs to see for yourself, but compared to the Tiger the V has a shorter wheelbase and less rake but more trail. Both are tall bikes, but the Tiger feels more top heavy. The V has a 17 inch front vs 19 for the Tiger. The V feels very stiffly sprung, although there is proper suspension sag.

The difference
The Tiger almost steers itself. Very little pressure on the bars is needed, and it will obediently sit at moderate lean angles until light accel/light bar input pulls it back up. This is more or less how I felt the other big trail bikes I've ridden have handled.

The Versys wants very badly to stay upright. It takes much more force to lean into a turn, and I have to 'hold the bike down' the entire time. It snaps back upright when pressure is released or reduced even slightly, which can make it difficult to hold a line.

The dilemma
The V feels 'more nimble' than the Tiger, but more difficult to ride. It's very tiring to push the bike down, and I often wobble/weave during turns. After a long day in the saddle, wife has sore hands/palms from pushing on the bars. This is after installing grip puppies!

There are some things to like about the V's handling characteristics and certainly more everyday practice would make things more comfortable. Still, I'd like to learn how I can push handling either way - making the Tiger more 'snappy', or the V more 'relaxed'. Wikipedia is very thorough, but I'm having trouble putting it all together. There are quite a few differences between the bikes. So wise adv riders, I ask you:
  • Which characteristics are causing these handling differences? How do they interact?
  • How could I make the V handle more like the Tiger (less steering input needed, more forgiving)?
  • How could I make the Tiger handle more like the V (harsh steering input needed, but rapid change in lean angle)?
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Old 11-25-2013, 03:49 PM   #2
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Location: Concord, CA
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Never ridden a Versys but when my bikes have done this, it means that the rear is too low compared to the front. Dropping the front or raising the rear has fixed this issue by putting a little more weight on the front end. Try raising the rear by adjusting the preload and see if that helps. It doesn't take much. If I add my camping gear and travel stuff (total about 30lbs) to the back of the BMW, I need to add about 5 turns on preload to restore the nice handling. Otherwise it wants to stand up in the corners.

Still, never had sore hands, even after wrestling the Harley in the mountains all day. Are you pushing down or forward? Have had sore chest/back/arms from having a little too much fun though.
2007 BMW GS Adventure / 2000 Ducati 900ss / 2010 Harley Ultra Limited / 1975 BMW R90/6 / 2006 DRZ400S
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Old 11-25-2013, 04:35 PM   #3
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: Martinsburg, WV
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Tires make a world of difference too... Pressure and profile. Assuming the pressures are correct, drop the front (raise forks) 1/2" or so and it will be more willing to turn in.

Other than that, sounds like some rider training is in order. Push right go right - leave left arm loose and "floppy"... Practice this consciously and its shocking just how nimble the bike becomes.

In no way should palms hurt from proper counter steering. Sounds like she's fighting the bar.
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Old 11-25-2013, 06:47 PM   #4
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Location: Eastern Washington, USA
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Easy things to do:

Narrow tires, and those with a triangular profile, will quicken things. Wide, flat-profile tires will slow things down.

Check your sag. Lowering the front (forks raised above the triple clamps) and raising the rear (preload) will quicken handling. Reverse to slow things down.

Check to be sure your steering head bearings are in good shape, lubed, and adjusted properly.

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Old 11-26-2013, 05:24 AM   #5
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Location: Nashville, TN
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I have ridden both the 955 and Versys, My cousin bought a 955 and I thought I would get one as well. However when I was in the market to buy I came across a Versys that was brand new, with warranty, for what I was willing to pay for a used 955 (actually it was less). Having no one that I knew had ever owned or ridden the Versys, I took a gamble and must say that after 25K miles, I am very happy I did.

I find the 955 exactly as you describe it feeling more top heavy and big. I remember my first ride on the 955 after I had bought the V, I thought this 955 feels more like a Goldwing!

As for the Versys I have only at one time felt that it took a lot of effort to lean into the corners. That was caused by a screw getting into my rear tire and the air pressure slowly leaving the tire on a ride. When this was going on the bike would have to be forced to lean and only wanted to stand up.

For what it is worth, I also have a Ducati Monster, I find the V's handling much more enjoyable than the Monster. Not that the Monster is bad but the Versys handles that well.
2011 Ducati Monster, 2009 Kawasaki Versys, 2004 KTM 250 EXC, 1997 Kawasaki KDX 200, 1994 Suzuki Dr 350 SE, 2002 Yamaha TTR 225, 1985 Honda XR 200
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Old 11-26-2013, 10:18 AM   #6
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As was mentioned, lowering the front helps, and that's what I did. If you still have the OEM Dunlops on, that's also part of the problem. The bike felt kind of wooden handling-wise, but when I changed to Michelin Pilot Road 3s, that went away, and now it's a lot more responsive and flickable. They are also excellent in the wet.
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Old 11-27-2013, 09:08 AM   #7
feathered OP
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The tires are severely flattened in the middle (pirellie trail scorpions). That can't be helping things, but the bike felt this way before the tires were this bad. I think we'll get the new tires, and then try lowering the front a little if necessary. Unfortunately even with a baldwin saddle the V's seat is a little sloped forward already

I get too sore to ride from that seat long before I feel any pain in my hands; I'm not sure I ever would. I'm not fighting the bar. I can't say about the wife for sure, but they're good tips to keep in mind for both of us.

Thank you everyone!
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Old 11-28-2013, 08:44 AM   #8
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Seems there's too much pushing and shoving. It is a full body effort to get good steering results. Motorcycles are more interactive than just shoving bars around. Sounds like you're trying to "ride by advice" than "listen to the bike" to see how it need be ridden. If you are pretty much bolt upright without movement in your body while cornering you're doing it wrong for performance riding. There is a lot of body involvement when you start becoming an integral part of the bike handling.

I was riding Ohio Rt 164 (one of those listed as one of great technical rides in the country) following some guy on a sport bike riding behind his wife/girlfriend and she's essentially putting through the corners going through all kinds of stuff sliding to the inside and hanging off - with not even the remotest need to do so - on a BMW 650... and he's letting her, possibly even coaching her to do so! Talk about something to wear you out that you don't even need. Anyone who needs to hang off on SR164 is definitely running too hard for safety, taking their lives in their hands, and anyone who's coaching a new rider to do so is a fool.

Quit fighting and feel it. Read some Keith Code stuff too. If possible, go ride some dirt on an off roader and learn how to work a bike with your body as well as your arms. I personally started out with a trials bike after beating around on rental enduros for a summer at a bike shop/trail rentals place. Then some short track and finally off roading with a 125 MX with some harescrambling. Lots of body movement as well as the bars. Hell, I still find myself leaning left while twisting my upper body to the right when I watch flat track!

When I actually think about it when road riding I realize I am doing far more than just pushing or pulling on my handlebars when cornering. I find I have subtle upper body shifting (not scooting on the seat, but just a simple lean), a bit on the pegs and legs, and for some fine tuning I tend to hang a knee out if I feel like it. It is such a combination that it is hard to detect the push/pull or whatever on the bars. Totally interactive.

i've not ridden a Versys, wish I could just to see how it is, but I've ridden a number of bikes over the years having been in sales. It's always about getting used to whatever and then riding in a flowing fashion, adapting to whatever idiosyncracies that might exists. And yes I've had to adapt before having ridden a GL1100 standard with my brother and friends on their sport bikes. I didn't scorch anyone, but they didn't have to pull over or really slow up and wait for me. I adapted to the near 600 lb and slower handling (although I did drop lower profile and width on the tires to quicken handling).

I rode my Zephyr for a short time with the stock 110/80 on the front and the rear eccentric adjusters in the direction that lowers the rear of the bike. It handled so slow compared to my KLX650 dual sport that I went to a 110/70 front tire, which is about 1" lower and rotated the adjusters the opposite way raising the rear of the bike by about 2". This makes the Zephyr turn in really quick compared to the stock set up, even after putting in PS springs which raised the front a tad.

You want the Versys to turn in and possibly hold a line better go to a lower profile front tire if possible and crank up the rear end a shade. More weight to the front and tighter rake/trail will make it turn in. But be warned, test the waters slowly - ease into riding the bike faster and cornering harder so you find how it works.

Just my thoughts on it.
Ever get lost? You know, that good kind of lost - come to a dirt road intersection and you have no idea where you are or which way to turn? I like when that happens!

Mark - klx678
95 KLX650C w/Vulcan piston bigbore, Now an 09 KLX250S, selling my 90 Zephyr 550

markk53 screwed with this post 11-28-2013 at 08:50 AM
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