Yes it's another darkside
post but rather then just giving my personal opinion on the subject I thought I would try to write a more objective, dare I say more "scientific" (which I don't) account of my experience & observations so far riding my 1700 Nomad with a General car tire mounted on it the last 900 miles for anyone that is considering making the switch or are just "dark-curious"...
(side view pic below)
: If you don't plan on mounting the tire yourself finding somebody to do it can require a little more searching in some areas then others. In my case I can't even find a dealership that will mount a MOTORCYCLE tire I didn't buy from them so I had to seek out an independent shop the next town over that said they would do it (Keep in mind some bike shops will charge more for mounting a CT). Finding the right tire can be tricky but there are plenty of darkside forums and other online resources that can help you find the right size & kind for your bike. In my case I got a General Altimax HP 205/60/16 and had no fit problems installing on the bike.
: There are different opinions on the best way to do this but I kept the tire inflated to 40 PSI the first 100 miles or so. This also gave me the most stiffness & stability to get accustomed to how the tire handled. I've read that it takes around 500 miles for a CT to be completely broken in although I am sure there are many different schools of thought out there on that as well.
: It probably doesn't need to be said that riding darkside will definitely change the handling & acceleration characteristics of any bike you are on. When you are riding for the first time on a dramatically different tire I found it's best you approach it with the mentality that you are on a completely different bike and be extra cautious. Now with that being said once I went through the paces carefully and practiced a few turns to the point I got comfortable It didn't take me much time to start getting used to the change and begin tweaking the air pressure in small intervals to find the best balance for me. A few people have said that they can't even tell the difference between a motorcycle tire but personally I still can.
: The common question I get asked is "How does it turn?". Looking at the flat tread of the tire and the squared off edges its easy to imagine that leaning would be especially difficult and hard to control once engaged. This is a bit of an optical illusion though because what you can't really see from looking at the rear of the tire is that depending on the psi the area of contact actually expands and flexes with the lean to a certain degree. This doesn't mean that engaging a turn at first doesn't require more steering input at the bars then you would with a motorcycle tire. However once the turn is engaged there isn't the expected dramatic amount of force trying to push the tire upright again. While the tire is leaned into the turn there is little to no effort needed to keep the angle and the bike feels very grounded & neutral. As far as city driving goes though I do notice that I tend to scrap my boards more frequently on 90 degree intersection turns and there is a little more tendency for the tire to want to wright it's self at slower speeds. This could also be because my last MC tire was a 160/80. I've found the best way to engage sharper turns now is to rely more on steering & counter steering to guide it rather then physically leaning.
ACCELERATION & BRAKING
: One of the things I didn't really consider when going darkside is how the performance of the bike would be effected. The 1700 has more HP then I will ever reasonably need but the electronic throttle makes that power roll on very smooth and refined. Once the tire started to break in and I was becoming more comfortable with giving it some gas I noticed that the throttle had a substantial amount of kick added to it and felt more responsive overall. I can actually feel more G force on my body when accelerating in the lower gears now (this can be either more exciting or scary depending on your riding preference =). The increased contact patch also equals the same result for deceleration. When letting off the throttle there is a more pronounced bite as the bike starts to slows down (Feels more like my old 900 did). When in stop & go bumper to bumper traffic this can make for a more jolt-y ride. The rear brake on my Nomad doesn't have a lot of bite to begin with and I don't feel a huge boost in stopping power now although there is some. I attempted to lock the rear and was unable to unless I was going around 15 mph and below.
: A car tire can have different personalities when it comes to different types of roads. The flat tread makes for a more relaxed and plush ride on most roads in fair condition although there is a little bit more road noise and vibration. The added tread width makes for less steering needed to keep the bike upright at lower speeds and also soaks up small bumps a little smoother. Tilted and rutted roads however require more attention and corrective steering input from the rider to navigate, especially at lower speeds.
: To some in the darkside debate this can be a hot button topic. Personally the way I see it there are trade-offs to both motorcycle & car tires. I won't get into all that here but I believe if you respect the difference between the two you will be just as safe on either. I can say that I have never felt unsafe on the Altimax tire but one of those said differences between the two that should be noted is that a car tire has a little more sideways sway on the sidewall then a motorcycle tire. I have my psi now set to 36 and most of the time I don't sense it. However the tire has an incredible amount of grip to the road even in a heavy lean (for a cruiser). So much so that if I engage the throttle quickly enough while in mid turn there is a slight whip lash effect which causes the tire to flex for a split second kinda like a drag race tire. To the uninitiated this feedback can feel almost as if the tire is beginning to spin out from under them and cause the rider to possibly panic. This is why I would strongly suggest beginners to stick to motorcycle tires. But personally after realizing that the tire never looses traction it's something that I have gotten used to. Also like I mentioned before you have to be more alert when riding uneven or tilted surfaces. For example if you ride along a rut the bike will be more inclined to follow it then on a motorcycle tire. Steering out of it doesn't take much effort but if you aren't paying attention and your control on the bars is too relaxed the sudden change in lean can throw you off guard.
: The main reason for going darkside was to avoid having to replace my tire out every few months (Not an easy chore on a bagger). I don't know how long the Altimax will last but if I get around 20,000 miles out of it I will be satisfied. If I get 30k I will be ecstatic =).
: IMO going with a car tire isn't better or worst then a motorcycle tire. It's just different and it's up to each rider to decide if it's for them or not. I can't comment on how it handles in rain or 2 up yet but for me personally the added performance and labor/cost savings make it worth muscling the corners a little more but there are others out there that may not care for the jumpier throttle or prefer lighter steering. To each their own I say. No matter what you ride everyone travels the same road.