Updated Dec 15, 2021 ...
"Wagon Wheels ... Just Throw Wagon Wheels On It."
Back in May of 2012, when my good friend Domino extended an invitation to join him for a four day riding excursion all over Wisconsin, I belched out an immediate acceptance speech. I don't remember exactly what I said. I think it was in the realm of "it would be my great honor and pleasure to take part in this experience as a new rider garble mumble ... uh" while smacking my forehead.
“It's my first long distance trip. The wisers are on well maintained motorcycles. I'm on an over-packed, 400cc Yamaha with old, worn out Shin Cheng tires.”
I'd never met the other guys. He described them briefly, saying I'd learn a lot. I cracked open a text file on my computer and created a list of everything I'd be buying in military-grade newbie fashion.
One thing that I didn't add to my list, which at this point was lined with waaay more crap than a thirty year old, 400cc bike should carry, was tires. I mean, rubber comes from a plant. It's not like we do anything to that rubber before it becomes a tire, right?
YES! DEFINITELY! THAT'S TOTALLY CORRECT!
You see, all tires are made the same way. Little martians fly down from the moon every night into our forests before cutting into rubber plants with their magic pocket knives. They then sit around an open campfire, roasting marshmallows while melting the rubber into giant donuts.
As thanks for the s’mores, they then mark these donuts with "brand names" ... I'm just going to stop right here and explain that this is pretty much the equivalent of what I knew at the time about which tires were worth buying.
My elected mentor from days prior had made a boisterous statement before I'd met my present cohorts, saying that "any tire is good assuming you select it for the right purpose", or something to that effect. My buddy's response to this? "Sure. Wagon wheels. Just throw a couple of wagon wheels on there and you're good to go!"
This social crossfire would continue to arc through me for a month. The two opinions still haven't met in person. I rue the day.
It's my first long distance trip. The wiser gentlemen who I'm slow-cooking new friendships with are all on gorgeous, perfectly maintained, larger displacement motorcycles. I'm on an overpacked, entry-level Yamaha Seca with year-old, minimal-tred Cheng Shins.
Not Pictured: Cheng Shins
Today, when I think of Cheng Shin tires, I consider that they might be made from Chili. Their compounds (plural?) don't mix well and deteriorate faster than others. It's as if they're derived from recycled pencil erasers.
This being a "that guy" tale, OF COURSE I learned the hard way. There we were, taking a break, about forty-five minutes from The Orange Moose resort. We were geographically closer to Canada than we were to home.
Mid-conversation and fifty feet from our bikes, Domino says to me: "There's something on your tire."
The inverse was true. While racing around behind the ride leaders, all of whom were sporting Avon Roadriders or the Michelin Pilot series, my garbage gumballs had melted down to an exposed patch of steel belt! In hindsight, I probably saw it earlier but was ignorant of the problem's gravity.
Domino hails the outspoken Joe Nardy. Joe hails everyone else. Simultaneously (and I mean at the EXACT SAME TIME), smartphones hit the ears.
"Yeah. Hi, I'm in blabiddy blabiddy blah and need to find a ... WHAT SIZE IS IT? ... yeah, a 110/90-18 rear tire. Do you have that in stock?"
My tire's dimensions are a bit obscure. Most modern sportbikes have 17" rims whereas mine are 18". Everyone is calling around. It's all out of my hands. I volunteer to have them continue on without me, figuring I could nab a moving van somewhere and head on home.
Domino got a bite. A local motor sport shop near our end destination had a used front version that was billed as rear-optional (thanks, Dunlop!). A plan was in motion to slow-cruise to said shop, pick up the tire and get it installed before nightfall.
Forty-five minutes of timid highway riding and I was exuberantly happy (image above) to have new rubber on my (obviously) appropriate-for-the-trip motorbike. Ten more minutes down the road and we could figure out which perfect stranger would have the right tools to get the tire swapped out. My name is Robin Dean and during a long-distance Wisconsin motorcycle tour, I successfully earned the title of "That Guy".
My heartfelt thanks to Joe Nardy, Bob Thieda, Greg White, Mark Wells and Domino Rosi for gettin' me outta that mess! The visual documentation of my always developing humility continues.
Have You Ever Been "That Guy?"
Come on, admit it. You've left your (only) key under the seat before clamping it back onto the bike. What was the scenario? How did others respond? Your input is invited. Post An Article!