What makes a bike feel planted?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by RandyButternubs, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. RandyButternubs

    RandyButternubs n00b

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    So I've had my current 20 year-old bike, a DR350, for about 8 years and it's time for a change to something a bit fresher. My main motivation is to get something that feels more planted and refined. Every bike I've owned has felt a bit squirrely to some extent and I had thought this was just how motorbikes were. Cornering isn't too bad but they've felt a bit unstable when cruising in a straight line and feet-up u-turns etc. have been very difficult.

    Then I had the chance to ride a Versys 650 and was blown away by how stable and planted it felt. I suddenly realised that I wasn't that crap a rider and that actually the bikes I'd had were the problem. It felt like I had a magic, invisible hand holding the bike upright for me. I've since had similar feelings on a CB1300 and, of all things, an old RD500 that wasn't running on all cylinders.

    I've been trying to work out what causes this difference but I'm coming up short. I'm 6'2 and 260lbs. Rider weight\suspension is definitely part of it as getting heavier springs for my DR changed it from outright dangerous to merely slightly unsettling. Steering, wheel and suspension bearings were all suspects but those are things I tend to keep on top of, and one of the worst handling bikes I've owned was an almost-new CBF600. I've been on a other very new bikes that weren't great either.

    I'm having a hard time seeing any connections. I've also not heard of other people having similar issues, which confuses me. Any ideas?
    #1
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  2. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    If a bike/car is under dampened, the tires come off the ground easily and frequently, which makes the vehicle feel very skittish/skittery.

    If the tires are over inflated, they don’t bite into the surface, and also feel skittery. The ride will also be harsh.

    If the tires are under inflated, the bike/car will feel like it is washing out, particularly in turns.

    If s bikes steering head is loose, the bike will feel unstable. If it’s so loose there is play, the bike will feel “squirrelly”, for lack of a better word. Similar play in the wheel axles, swing arm, and loose spokes.
    #2
  3. WIDGIN

    WIDGIN When In Doubt, Gas It Now

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    A DR is more of a dual sport and not designed to have stability on the road. Conversely, the other bikes you mentioned are all street bikes with more "relaxed" frame geometry for road stability.
    #3
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  4. neanderthal

    neanderthal globeriding wannabe

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    All that rake and trail stuff comes into play too. Tire size. tire type. Center of gravity.

    There's been a lot of development since the DR first came out.
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  5. BywayMan

    BywayMan Been here awhile

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    I think this is an underreported issue, wear in the bearings that causes a slight wobble in the rear wheel or it not exactly following the front wheel when traveling straight. This requires riding corrections that become tiresome at speeds typically over 60mph. My V-strom does this, while my Versys does not and it is more fun in that regard at least.
    #5
  6. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts. Supporter

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    A 260# rider on a 286# DR 350 is bound to find the ride is a bit squirrelly. Just about anything other than a Honda Grom will feel more "planted".
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  7. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

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    +1 on the Versys 650 experience.
    36,000 miles on mine, 34,000 on a KLR before that.
    Other than the freaking seat, the V is a great rig. Something about length vs. weight vs. that 59 hp. or so Ninja motor-variant and six gears. And it's a cheap date, if you like TALL dates...

    Mine is the ugliest version, the first gen. :fpalm
    But very, VERY reliable.

    Did I mention it's UGLY?

    ugly to the bone.jpg

    They have gotten better looking perhaps in more recent years, while I certainly have not :lol3.
    #7
  8. JohnCW

    JohnCW Long timer

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    Might just be your talents as a photographer, but I reckon it looks really cool in that brilliant picture.
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  9. Johann

    Johann Commuterous Tankslapperous

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    Small dirtbikes can handle very well on the road, look at vids of supermotos. A bog standard DR350 with either full on knobblies or 50/50 tyres is at an immediate disadvantage. Add in a front mudguard that is an aerodynamic disaster, spindly front forks and the fact that at 260lbs you are at 90% of the bike´s weight then it isn´t a big surprise if it doesn´t handle that well. It is basically the same as riding a small bike two up, doable but there are obvious consequences in terms of handling , performance and braking.

    On a 500lb bike your weight represent 50% of the total of the bike, which will be designed to carry heavier loads to start with, you have a larger twin loop/spar frame, stronger swingarm, longer wheelbase, lower centre of gravity, beefier forks, higher spring rate on rear shock as standard ,better brakes and dedicated road wheels and tyres. The extra weight means the bike is less likely to move without deliberate inputs from the rider and will be less affected by wind.

    A bike with a longer wheelbase and/or a more raked front end and/or a larger front wheel will all things being equal be more stable in a straight line but less flickable in bends. A bike with a shorter wheelbase, steeper rake and less trail with smaller wheels will all things being equal tend to be less stable in a straight line but easier to flick through corners. Most roadbikes are somewhere in the middle, cruisers are at the stable and of the spectrum and sportsbikes at the flickable/quick steering end of the spectrum.

    The "almost new" CBF600 should be a good handling bike, is it possible the tyres were worn? Or it might have been sitting a while and had 20 psi in the tyres? Or if very low mileage the OEM fitment tyres might not have been the best for the bike?
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  10. r60man

    r60man Long timer

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    For bikes to be planted on the road it comes down to two things, tires and suspension.

    Good tires that give you the right feel are essential. Adjusting the suspension for your weight and riding style is also incredibly important for how the bike "feels" Get the settings right and it is truly magical. It isn't always easy but educating yourself about your bikes suspension is a good first step. As you can see with these to components you can make your DR feel planted, but are you willing to spend the $$ it would take? Is the bike worth it?
    #10
  11. ManxTT

    ManxTT Been here awhile

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    Yes good tires and playing with your suspension works, for me if the front end is feeling planted and good feedback I can rail thru corners.
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  12. Drop_Center

    Drop_Center Long timer

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    Question for you Versys fans, is it super planted on a paved canyon road like it is off road? With street tires that is.
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  13. JohnCW

    JohnCW Long timer

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    This ^^^^^

    By simply altering the slow speed compression damping at either end of my UJM, I can transform the bike from 'loose' to 'planted' like it is on rails.

    Obviously without fully adjustable suspension you just have to accept whatever.
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  14. schmik

    schmik Been here awhile

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    Do the easy cheap stuff first. Balance the tires. Refresh the wheel and swing arm bearings. Get the excessive slack out of the sprockets and chain. Maybe a fork brace. Make sure the bars are not rolled too far forward. Get the sag and suspension dialed in.

    But ultimately a dirt bike is never going to be that planted at speed. Well... not a cheap dirt bike.
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  15. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    The heavier the bike the more "planted it will feel". The more planted you feel the less maneuverable it will be. It's always a trade off along the spectrum, light and nimble ranging to heavy and plow like a battle cruiser. The more you go towards one direction the more you give up in the other dircetion. There are a few exceptions, but that's in in a nut shell.
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  16. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer Supporter

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    My Versys is one of the best handling bikes, maybe the best, that I have owned. That is as long as the pavement is reasonably smooth. The suspension itself is not the greatest. The best bike I have owned for handling bumpy pavement was my old R1100GS with the stock front shock replaced with an Ohlins.

    As for what makes a bike feel planted, suspension is not that important on smooth pavement but becomes important on rough pavement or uneven pavement. For me a bike feels planted if it does what I want and expect it to do. It can have light and quick steering and still feel planted. Neutral steering is a big part of that.

    If you have a bike that does not feel planted it could be the bike.....or it could be you. My bikes tend to feel planted when I'm riding well. If they feel squirrely it's usually because I'm not riding well. On occasion it has been due to tire pressures.
    #16
  17. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

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    A motorcycle would have to be a real POS not to feel "planted" when properly set up. Well maintained,neutral (as you can get out of it) steering,compliant suspension w/proper springing/valving for use,good tires-appropriate presures and ergos comfortable to the rider all combine to breed confidence. Confidence in the response of the bike to operator input is what planted really means.

    Bike size and weight have little to do with feel. My '94 TZ250 weighed around 250 pounds and after a year or so of learning could be tossed around with absolute confidence. Same goes for my 450 pound '04 Tuono. And the '03 CRF450R. Set up and familiarity with the bike's character is paramount to comfort. And comfort isn't a cushy ride in this sense. It's the knowledge the vehicle will do exactly as asked in a given situation.

    [​IMG]
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  18. JohnCW

    JohnCW Long timer

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    I agree 100%. Max McCallister from Traxxion Ddynamics in his 'Suspension for Mortals' video series discusses this very issue. Can't remember which number in the series video it is. A well set up bike should feel like its moving around somewhat under the rider, because the suspension needs to be free to move. Crank the damping up tighter and it'll progressively feel more 'planted', but it won't handle as well because the very thing that is making it feel more 'planted' i.e. the suspension having more resistance to movement, will make it less maneuverable.

    If weight was THE major factor a Moto3 bike at 148 Kg (bike and rider) would be all over the track at 250kph. No shortage of 360Kg bikes wallowing hopelessly around corners at even modest speeds.
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  19. Lee R

    Lee R Man in a Box

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    The Versys 650 is kinda special in the handling department. It’s the best bike I’ve ever owned beating the previous Tiger 1050, Stelvio and Vstrom in that department and way ahead of the KLR650. It’s got nearly the same rake/trail and wheelbase as a supersport which definitely is part of the magic. A bunch of professional reviewers have spent they’re own money on them having ridden everything and mention that its “special” in reviews, the latest being Ari Henning.

    It handles like a sport bike but is’ also comfortable and cheap to own/operate.

    I find the versys to be pretty bad on gravel, it’s skittish and really not meant for it, the things a street bike. As for a canyon road? It’s one of the best motorcycles for that out of everything. Honestly just as fast as a Multistrada on real world canyon rides. It lacks the brakes and suspension of that bike (you can’t really utilize the power in that setting). But the brakes and suspension are really pretty decent for the price, it costs less than half of a Multi and performs 95% as well (you can’t use 150hp on the street). I’m just as fast on the Versys as I was on the Tiger 1050 which had double the power. I’ve ridden the Multistrada and the Hypermotard. Amazing bikes but well beyond what you can realistically do on the street for capability. On a Track the Multi would leave the Versys behind.

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  20. Lee R

    Lee R Man in a Box

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    The S1000XR (like a super Versys.) compared to RR on track, not a lot of time difference, 10x the comfort. Basically you loose aerodynamics at high speeds which is totally irrelevant on the street since nobody’s going well over 100 mph frequently. This style of bike really does handle well (planted). The Versys is just a realistically powered cheaper version of the Multistrada/S1000XR/Tiger Sport. I’d argue this style is actually faster than a supersport in canyons because the suspension is better for road use than a track bike and the gearing and power delivery is made for street speeds. Plus insurance is cheap since posers don’t ride them.

    I’ve ridden the S1000RR, mindbendingly fast and extremely overpowered for the road. 127mph in top of second gear, (94? I think top of first). You basically have to idle it around everywhere or go to jail.

    #20