Saturday, June 14, 2014

Unused Tread Width -- aka Chicken Strips!

Before we get to the topic at hand, remember that today is Flag Day, a commemoration of that symbol of the greatness of these United States.

Those of us who live here have the distinct honor and privilege of doing so.  Nowhere else on God's green earth is there as much freedom and opportunity as here.

Salute the Stars and Stripes today -- and every day -- while you are out on the scooter. 


Last Saturday, I rode up US-178, NC-215, and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, riding all the way to its south end at Cherokee, then returned by the same route.

I am fortunate that I am so near such good roads to ride, the Parkway being just a little over fifty miles from where I live -- and the roads to get there and back are mostly challenging, too.

It was a great day to ride, with the clouds high, white and billowy.   I stopped on the way to Cherokee at Waterrock Knob, which is not the highest elevation on the Parkway, but provides a good view of the surrounding countryside, the road in and out, and of the town of Cherokee. 

Amongst the roads I traveled were US-178 and NC-215.  178 includes a series of curves near where the photographer Patrick Welch has stationed himself on occasion to snap the passing traffic.

I took those curves at a substantial speed, it felt like.  (Though I don't pay too much attention to the speedo when I am watching the road in a curve, especially a tight one.)  I also took one curve on the Parkway a little hotter than I felt comfortable with, but I held the throttle constant and there was no drama, except a little higher heart rate.

When you get into a situation where you are outside your comfort zone, the innate response is to chop the throttle and get on the binders.  Bad, bad, bad.  Somebody once said that motorcycle cycle riding is not intuitively understood -- you are not born knowing how to ride.  You have to learn it.  I believe that.

...and this advice helps a lot, too:
That's another thing you have to learn that isn't intuitive. 

Anyway, when I got home, I backed the bike into the garage and happened to notice the scuffed-up tread on my tires. 

I had not seen that before, at least not on my tires.  Only on other people's. 


I decided to look over the remaining unused tread width on my tires -- my chicken strips -- and wondered whether they are any narrower than the last time I measured.
Burger King
No, no, not that kind. 

If you don't know, motorcycle chicken strips are here defined by  on

Definition: The unworn edges of a motorcycle tire, usually used in a derogatory tone referring to the rider's unwillingness to lean a bike over.
Pronunciation: chik-uhn strips
Examples: Billy was ostracized by his riding buddies because his bike's chicken strips were so wide.
Now that we have that understood, I go to get my scale out of my shop drawer and get to measuring.  We have to be accurate in such things, you know. 

I find the following: 
Front -- Michelin Pilot Road 3, 0.45" width
on both sides of the tire. 
Rear -- Michelin Pilot Road 2, 0.5" width
on both sides of the tire
OK.  Now what do I compare them with?  

If it is other people's sportbike tires, there is no contest.  Some of these riders are aggressive enough that they have no chicken strips at all.  Their tires are worn all the way to the edge of the tread.

Now, I have heard that some squids take a sander to their tires to make it look like their chicken strips are narrow.  See below:

by Craigman on the PA Sportbikes forum.

Tools required...Belt sander, propane torch, and Nike gloves! 
Ashamed of your chicken strips? I can help!! DIY!  

First step..Sand chicken strips off!

Second step..Heat your tires so they appear to have been heat cycled..A faint blue strip will appear. DO NOT IGNITE THE TIRE!! this adds a touch of authenticity!

Put on your Nike gloves and [go to] the local hangout and impress your Squid friends with your new found..SKILLZ!

But that's cheating, don't you think?  

Back to real chicken strips.... 

The poor little Michelin Man (circled below) that is perfectly formed in the sides of my tire is scrubbed completely off of some of the tires of very aggressive riders.  

My Michelin Man is still intact, though his upraised hand is a little bit in jeopardy. 
Bibendum, commonly referred to as the Michelin Man, is the symbol of the
Michelin tire company. Introduced at the Lyon Exhibition of 1894 where the
Michelin brothers had a stand, Bibendum is one of the world's oldest trademarks. 

Here's what that rear tire looked like when it was nice and shiny.  Hadn't touched the road yet. 
That was 6100 miles ago.

I looked back on some previous measurements I took in February of 2009.  The chicken strips on my then-new Michelin Pilot Road 2s were:

Front -- Michelin Pilot Road 2, 1/2" width.  That is a tenth of an inch wider than now. 
Rear -- Michelin Pilot Road 2,  7/8" width.  That is a whopping 3/8" wider than now. 
Those strips were measured just after a 260-mile ride into Georgia, through Clayton and over Blood Mountain.  Back then, I had only ridden about 9500 miles on the Ninja 650R, my first real motorcycle. 

Well, I can see that I have been a little more aggressive lately.

Funny thing:  I don't feel myself tightening up on the bars as much as I once did.  Sometimes, but much less often.  ...and my chicken strips are narrower now.  That seems like progress to me. 

It amazes me how sticky a set of road tires can be on a road that is clean of sand and other debris.  I don't consciously try to erase my chicken strips, but I do try to control my turns.  I now see that those turns must be a little more aggressive than before.

Hmmmm.  Maybe a track school is in order -- the beginner class, of course.

How about you?  Are your chicken strips getting narrower?

1 comment:

rc5695 said...

No chicken strips here, but I'd sure like to do a trackday some day...