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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have a new-to-me, 2001 Vulcan 500 w/ 8k miles on the odometer as my first bike. I've tooled around in a parking lot and puttered around the neighborhood so far. I'm signed up for the MSF class, but couldn't get a slot before August. There's *no way* I could let the bike just sit in the garage till August!

I mentioned to my friend that I feel reasonably comfortable on it so far, but that the transition between slow to high speed (or reverse) handling feels a little weird to me (I fully understand counter-steering). After bringing it up, he mentioned that he noticed the same thing when he rode it home for me, noting it sort of feels like it wants to pull into slow speed turns, something his old Virago 535 and current V-Star didn't / don't do. Having no frame of reference myself, I just chalked it up to, "That's the way this bike is".

Is this indeed just the nature of the '500? Could the shocks/springs need adjusting? I'm 5' 11", 165 lbs.; as far as I can tell, it sits level when I'm in the saddle. The bike still has its original Bridgestone tires which still have plenty of tread, but will be replaced in the near future since they're showing signs of drying out.

Thanks,

Doug
 

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I have a new-to-me, 2001 Vulcan 500 w/ 8k miles on the odometer as my first bike. I've tooled around in a parking lot and puttered around the neighborhood so far. I'm signed up for the MSF class, but couldn't get a slot before August. There's *no way* I could let the bike just sit in the garage till August!

I mentioned to my friend that I feel reasonably comfortable on it so far, but that the transition between slow to high speed (or reverse) handling feels a little weird to me (I fully understand counter-steering). After bringing it up, he mentioned that he noticed the same thing when he rode it home for me, noting it sort of feels like it wants to pull into slow speed turns, something his old Virago 535 and current V-Star didn't / don't do. Having no frame of reference myself, I just chalked it up to, "That's the way this bike is".

Is this indeed just the nature of the '500? Could the shocks/springs need adjusting? I'm 5' 11", 165 lbs.; as far as I can tell, it sits level when I'm in the saddle. The bike still has its original Bridgestone tires which still have plenty of tread, but will be replaced in the near future since they're showing signs of drying out.

Thanks,

Doug
I'd replace the tires ASAP. That could be what's wrong with the handling. But even if it isn't, riding on 12 year old tires is not something I would do.
 

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I have a 2008 Vulcan 500. It, too, is my first bike. It definitely does not pull into the corners. I think it handles fantastic. I took a couple of Harleys for a trst drive when the demo truck was here. Outside of Harleys being heavier, I didn't notice any extreme handling difference with those compared to mine. I would say you definitely need new tires. Also check the bearings.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Hmm. Perhaps it's just my green-ness showing. I took a trip today to get a dinner; just a few miles each way on secondary streets, 35-40 mph max, hills, sweeping turns, light traffic (Cincinnati); good practice. At speed, the steering is light as a feather. Just a tiny bit of pressure and over it leans. Dealing with a busy parking lot was no problem either, even at clutch feathering speeds. When I say "pulls", I mean in certain slow, turning, leaning situations, it feels like I have to push against the steering trying to go to full lock by itself. It's not like I'm struggling for control so much as feel like I just need plenty more practice. Is this more or less other folk's experience? My prior motorized 2-wheel experience was a moped about 30 years ago.

Yes, new tires are a priority, btw.

Thanks
 

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What do you mean by "pull"? Do you mean it wants to fall over or doesn't want to straighten up and go straight after you make the turn?

I haven't noticed any handling issue at low speeds.
 

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Cupping sounds likely (uneven wear as a result of the tires breaking down over time. Even if they don't look bad- though I suspect they have lots of sidewall cracking- they are probably severely degraded). 12 year old tires is a no-no though. Potential for catastrophic failure (blowout) and poor handling is very high. If it were my bike, the only place I'd ride it is the tire shop.

You're doing good though, just take it slow; take it easy. Kudos on understanding and practicing countersteering. I firmly believe that riders who learn to ride understanding countersteering and who countersteer ALL the time (not just when swerving or in tight corners) make better riders.

Don't feel the need to push yourself. Keep up with those 45mph surface streets. No need to hurry! Just like you knew you were ready to get out of the parking lot, wait until you know you are ready to move on from there. Also, when you get your new tires, find a big open parking lot and practice some hard stops from varying speeds. You do NOT want your first experience with hard braking to be when some idiot pulls out in front of you! I practice hard stops several times a year; whenever I think about it. Sometimes I'll find myself on an old country road where I can see way behind and way in front of me, and I'll pretend something ran out in front of me and get it stopped as quick as I can! In a safe manner, of course; but still- practice is important!
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Ok, I've heard "tires" multiple times - I'll take the hint. Given their age, I'll have both replaced and have the shop give the bike a thorough once over as peace of mind. Besides, despite being rebuilt last year (I have the service records), the petcock seems really stiff and drips when set to reserve.


Regarding reading, countersteering, etc., I've read Proficient Motorcycling cover to cover probably a half dozen times over the years. I was on the edge of pulling the trigger on a motorcycle for *a long time*. I need much practice with all aspects of riding, but I (or anyone else) would simply be unable to to control the bike w/o counter-steering; I lack the physical mass to have much, if any affect on a bike at speed. It's the exact same physics at work as when riding a 18 speed road bicycle down a steep, twisty road at 40 mph (I was a very stupid teen). That being said, I like where my body parts are currently attached and am being careful not to push too hard too fast. My evening trip up to get dinner on your typical suburban "food strip" is about as much traffic as I'm comfortable with for now.

 

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Ok, I've heard "tires" multiple times - I'll take the hint. Given their age, I'll have both replaced and have the shop give the bike a thorough once over as peace of mind. Besides, despite being rebuilt last year (I have the service records), the petcock seems really stiff and drips when set to reserve.


Regarding reading, countersteering, etc., I've read Proficient Motorcycling cover to cover probably a half dozen times over the years. I was on the edge of pulling the trigger on a motorcycle for *a long time*. I need much practice with all aspects of riding, but I (or anyone else) would simply be unable to to control the bike w/o counter-steering; I lack the physical mass to have much, if any affect on a bike at speed. It's the exact same physics at work as when riding a 18 speed road bicycle down a steep, twisty road at 40 mph (I was a very stupid teen). That being said, I like where my body parts are currently attached and am being careful not to push too hard too fast. My evening trip up to get dinner on your typical suburban "food strip" is about as much traffic as I'm comfortable with for now.

You're on the right track. When folks give you advice; they are just trying to help you learn!

Lots of folks DO misunderstand countersteering. They think it's only for certain situations or for certain bikes. However it sounds like you've got the right idea; especially if you've read 'Proficient Motorcycling' a couple times!

NOBODY can control ANY bike without countersteering. Not around a decent curve anyway. What they are doing is shifting their weight and their feet, but at the same time pressing against the handlebar to steady themselves. Wasting energy, basically, because they THINK it's their weight or the pressure from their feet on the peg steering the bike, when really it's just that tiny bit of force they are applying with their hand that's doing all the work!

One of the biggest mistakes people make (And proficient motorcycling talks about this; including some statistics) is trying to 'teach themselves' to ride a motorcycle. Chances are you'll figure out how to make it go, but when the situations get rough you might not have the tools! It's a wise thing to go after the books, videos, and veteran riders (though not ALL veteran riders, as some of them have no idea what they are doing!) Good luck to ya!
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks for all the advice. Hope I didn't sound ungrateful, this is not my intention. I'm a geek/engineer and have a propensity for explaining myself. Any and all nuggets of wisdom are *greatly* appreciated! For now, I'm carefully biding my time until the MSF class.

This begs the question, "What are good, affordable tires that work well on the Vulcan 500?" In my neck of the woods, it'll be plenty of mixed driving. I have no plans on driving in the rain for example, but the best laid plans...

Thanks
 

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Welcome! Everyone has a favorite tire. Do a search on this site and ignore the non-original sizing and darkside posts. Also, Google some motorcycle checklist/inspection lists that are basic checks and are easy to do and understand. The MSF has a good one but they aren't the only ones. Check them against each other to get different explainations of the same task. Again, welcome, also enjoy and learn a lot!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
After more research and looking at other bikes, it's pretty clear the rear tire is squared off. Paycheck comes in about a week, and then it's to the shop for new tires and tubes (not gonna mess with old rubber to save $30-$40) as well as a general once going over.

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Things to check in particular are the head, triple trees, fork and hub. Any play on any of those will effect handling. Also tire pressures and condition ( already mentioned). In the back, you got the swing ARM pivot, the shocks and shock mounts and the axle. Again, any play is bad, plus tire pressures and condition.

On my first bike, as a new rider, I felt my bike handled a little... Odd... I was new and I thought, well, I guess that is how standards handle. Fast fwd a few months, yes I rode a bad bike for months, I heard of setting the bike on the center stand, leaning the bike back so that the front wheel is off the ground, then turning the bars full left and right. The point was to have a smooth action all the way around and NOT feel a notch in the middle. I had it. Come to find out, yamaha used a brand x bearing for it's head and the balls had worn a very slight notch in the race where the bike spends most of it's time, in the middle. The fix: buy timpkin roller bearing to replace the brand x ball bearings. After that job, my home handled so much more predictably, and it was so much more enjoyable to ride, it was like I just bought my first bike all over again.

Moral of the story: try to figure out what the problem is and waste no time fixing it. You'll be safe, and you'll enjoy riding so much more.

Do some Google searches for pre-ride inspections, or safety checks or whatever the kids call it these days... and those tasks are all things anyone can handle and should handle before every ride. Does everyone do them before every ride? To an extent yes, just not as formally, but I think most of us check out our bikes at least once a week or every now and then. In this case though, I think it'll help you out.

G'luck!
 

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I'm joining a bit late, but if you're going to get new tires, I've enjoyed the Dunlop 404s the manual recommends. As far as the turning goes, the tires may not be entirely responsible for the weird handling you're experiencing. I had similar issues just due to the fact that the pull back style handle bars were different than the handle bars on other bikes I've ridden. So if it still feels odd to you, you may want to think about getting some risers and a set of drag bars or mini apes if think that those will be more comfortable for you. Just a thought though.

Sent from Motorcycle.com Free App
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I'm far too new of a rider to make a decent assessment of what is or isn't normal handling, let alone thinking about swapping parts (other for repair). I suspect most of it is just me getting used to the weight and balance of this motorcycle. I went on a leisurely ride with my friend this past Sat. that had a nice variety of turns, curves, intersections, speeds, etc. and had absolutely no trouble at all. The "pulling" I felt earlier was at an extreme of slow speed and sharp turning during parking lot practicing. I'm beginning to suspect it was less the bike and more me trying to fight it...the steering naturally wants to turn as the bike leans (at slow speed). I'll re-evalute this with new tires.

I fully intend to wrench my own bike, but I think it's a good idea to have the shop check it out while the tires are being changed to ensure I have a sound baseline.
 
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