The only mod you’ll ever need

As time goes on, I feel I am more and more inline with the likes of Andrew St. Pierre White (of 4xoverland \ 4×4 acclaim). Every rant this man goes on, resonates with me more than an oversized kick drum. It’s not that they’re rants, but they’re a talk on a subject, with perspectives from both sides of the argument, with a seemingly reason response. One of his more recent talks really hit me. Watch below (though yes, we don’t run lockers on our bikes…I’ll dig into that more later)

Now if an auto\4×4 driver is telling you to work on your skill, and cars are 20% driver\80% vehicle, and we’re on bikes where its 80% rider\20% bike, maybe its time we stop leaning on excess tools and focus on our own SKILL. Working on rider skill is the ONLY modification that will ever translate from one bike to another. Nothing else will, and NOTHING. Whether you’re on a 2T\4T, road bike, dirtbike, enduro, whatever. Improving your skill is only going to better your experience on whatever you ride in the future.

I understand that on motorcycles we don’t have lockers, though maybe the Christini 2WD bike has something, but well disregard that for now. However we do have a slew of gadgets n gizmo’s that seem to creep into every moto discussion. There’s the #1 bad boy the Rekluse (autoclutch), which I’ve touched on Here, a bit Here, and well, just about any time I talk to one of my old riding buddies (rekluse diehard). Now there’s also ABS, Traction Control, Suspension bits, bobs, and mods, Left Hand Rear Brakes (LHRB), or even relying on brand new tires, or absolutely pristine this or that. So let’s dive into some of these things and see if we can see some of the pro’s and con’s of each.

There are a pile of pro’s to a Rekluse Autoclutch. Number one is the fact that you can give just about any bike an anti-stall capability. This is a game changer if you’re a racer, or a joe shmoe alike. If you’re tired in a race, mess up grabbing the clutch into a turn, then no worries. The Rekluse will allow the bike to not chug chug to 0rpm and stall out. Second is that if you’re learning to ride in technical terrain, or dealing with sketchy hills, you can click up a gear and focus solely on your body positioning and throttle input. This last pro is also one of its greatest Cons. If you never focus on learning to use your clutch (in conjunction with throttle or gear choice), then you are never going to know how to use your bike in complete harmony. Flip and spin this any way you want, but there is no denying that if you disregard the clutch use skill, you will lose it. Not only that, but if you are one who relies heavily on the clutch, you will surely find that the connection you have with the rear wheel is not the same when running a Rekluse. There is a disconnect. No two ways about it. If you want to run a Rekluse as a backup, or anti-stall, or you’ve got a physical limitation with your clutch hand, by all means….rock n roll. Just don’t be surprised your riding changes (likely for the worse) if you ignore PROPERLY using your clutch.

2T/4T Engine Configuration:
This isn’t so much a mod, but personal choice or whatever and really given what bikes are available has more to do with off-road riding than it does on road. This is mostly due to the fact that you just can’t go buy yourself a new street legal motorcycle. I love an RZ350 as much as the next guy, but you’re gonna have to buy some old jalopie if you want to be rocking one. My point here is to not be 100% convinced that one engine configuration is the ONLY way you can ride a certain terrain. Many off-road riders get hung up on 2T being THE only fast bike off-road, especially in the rougher stuff. Maybe, maybe not. Both bikes have their own lists of pro’s and cons. 2T bikes used to be the cheaper bikes to run. Their engines were cheaper to rebuild, they lasted longer, yadda yadda. Nowadays, modern 4T engines are not only lighter, but they last longer, require less maintenance, are less complex (ref KTM TPI 2T), have a wider power spread, similar weight, and far more fuel efficient. As noted, both have a pro\con, but the point here is that if you get hell bent on one being the ONLY option for a given terrain, you’re just limiting your riding skills from growing. This is to not negate that we may feel more at home or more comfortable on a given setup, but it is to show that being narrow-minded in engine approach will be detrimental to your long term riding. This coming from someone who swore that 2T bikes were the end all be all of bike configurations, only to see the folly in my ways.

Traction Control:
I have a major love\hate with traction control. If it is seamless, and you never notice it, it can be a thing of beauty. Older 2T riders will regale days of past when a YZ490 with its light switch powerband would launch you to the moon if you looked at it wrong. Nowadays, even a 350cc enduro bike has traction control in it to help harness the power. Folks will claim that every bike with 11ty billion HP needs every bit of help to keep the rear tire from spinning. I won’t argue that this rider aid isn’t good or beneficial, but dummying down the throttle is a slippery slope (pun intended). The BMW F800GS I had Traction Control based on wheel speed sensors front and rear. There is no denying that if you committed to a turn in the dirt, and rode correctly, you could just hold the throttle WFO, and the bike would hold a constant drift through and out of that turn. Same thing with my new KTM 350exc. The KTM seemingly when you setup correctly, you can just twist WFO and you’ll hold a perfect slip angle. The caveat in both of these is that you have to be SETUP CORRECTLY. If all you think you have to do is just go WFO through a turn, and traction control will save you, you’re not going to be riding for long. You need to learn what the throttle does, how it affects bike and suspension loading. This isn’t even taking into account IF you have some form of electrical failure, or a sensor reads wrong. What then?

Suspension\Tires\Perfect Setup:
The never-ending chase for the Perfect Setup on a bike is one that has always rubbed me the wrong way. I believe this stems from growing up on clapped out dirtbikes and having to ride around bike problems. Let it be said, that I believe you should start with decent suspension. That is to say, it is sprung for your weight, it is in GOOD condition (ie doesn’t have 200H on it), and intended for your use. The last part is a squirrely aspect. What I’m driving at here is if you’re on an R1, do NOT expect the suspension to be dialed in for an MX track. Likewise, if you have a box stock ADV bike (Yamaha T7, BMW F850GS, R1250GS, KTM 790, etc etc), do not be surprised if the suspension is not THE BEST when pushed hard off-road. If the OEM’s setup these bikes to be blasting whoops at 55mph, people would be crying about how crappy they are on the street. I digress…..I believe your suspension should be in good working order, but don’t think that it is always going to handle every situation with total grace and elegance. Your bike may buck like a bronco if you push hard in a rock garden, and then with same setting, may be a dream in another area. Point is, you can’t go chasing a catchall dream setup that will be perfect in all areas. No matter what some suspension tooner will try to sell you, there is NO suspension that is perfect in every scenario. Chasing tiny clicker tweaks here and there is just mental wank. If you learn to feel what the bike is doing in these situations instead of thinking its a clicker this, or suspension that, you’ll be better able to cope with a wider range of terrain.

This same principle applies to tires. The amount of times I hear “you gotta run 3psi” or “I check every morning, 26psi cold, nothing else”. Well sure. There are always ideals. It’s good to know what your bike is setup like. However, if you’re having to tweak your tire pressures multiple times on a road for “the perfect grip”, you need to get a perfect grip on your head. This kinda nuttery is lunacy. I’m not saying that experimenting with these settings is bad, but if all you do is chase one ideal in one scenario, how will your body learn to cope and react? This has been a blessing in disguise for me running Mousse tire inserts. I no longer think “well if I had xyz pressure……”, no. You run what yah brung and roll with it. If I can’t find a way to ride around something, that is a failure on my part for not developing my skills enough to make something happen. Because I’d bet dollars to donuts, a rider like Jarvis or Torres could do whatever I’m trying to do….but with their eyes closed and on a street bike with slicks. Which, speaking of tires. I love freshies as much as the next rider. There is literally NO downside to having fresh tires, UNLESS you are so reliant on fresh tires that you can’t ride around a tire that’s losing its edge. Again, if you can’t cope with variance, that’s a sure fire sign that your riding needs more development.

LHRB\Gizmos\Misc Crap:
There is no denying that Left Hand rear Brakes (LHRB) have their place. Go watch MotoGP riders. Many of the top ones now run a setup where they can control the rear brake in alternate means (left hand, right thumb, whatever). This makes sense, as they get so leaned over on their right side they physically can not control the right brake with their foot without hitting the pavement. Same goes for some folks who don’t have the greatest use or mobility of their feet on the footpegs of a dirtbike. It’s amazing that we have these options and that folks are seeing the benefit of using the rear brake (funny…..always joke about HD riders not knowing how to use front brake, but woods folks can’t figure out how to use the rear brake?), yet it seems like anyone hopping on a new dirtbike thinks it needs this extra bit of kit to make it rideable. The added complexity, when a stock foot lever works just fine. It just doesn’t add up. Then there’s things like Clake levers, or this or that. Sure, dial in a bike to what feels comfortable. However, requiring all these nick nacks and padiwacks just has me going…at what point is enough enough?

What I’m driving at here is to work on your bike in stock form. Is it in a generally adequate setup? If yes, then all you need to do is hop on and roost. Maybe you don’t care about being able to ride more proficiently, but I think this is total BS. Every mod someone puts on a bike, they’ll back it up with a “it lets me do XYZ better”. Really? If that’s the case, drop the crap and put in time with riding the bike as is, or without the crap. If you don’t know how to slip a clutch while working the throttle, start there. I despised riding in the mud until a race forced me to either give up, or learn to ride around it. Who knew that I actually enjoy riding in the slop now. I learned a new technique, and that new learned skill translates to ANY bike that I am on, and it cost me nothing more than the hassle of….Riding my darned bike.

So do what you want. Be reliant on whatever number of things you need to be to go ride. Just don’t be surprised when things go pear shaped, and you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you can’t get through something, or can’t figure out a way to work around the situation you’re present in.

Happy Roosting – Andrew

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