Tires and Jerry Cans

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Over the last many posts that I have shared, I have noticed a consistent comment around 2 important aspects on my motorcycle.

1: Tires:

2: The positioning of the additional 2 x 1 gallon jerry cans on either side of the crash guard.

1: Tires.

Yes, possibly, the most vital component after the motorcycle itself and of course, not to discount the rider. The Dominar Polar Odyssey was a 51000 kms adventure across the American Continents, covering almost every kind of roads that an overlander would aspire.  

In line with the route that I had conceptualized, the whole adventure was split into 4 parts.

  1. The first 7000 kms would be 80% gravel
  2. The next 20000 kms would be 90% road
  3. The following 13000 kms would be 50% road and the other 50% would be a mix of broken roads, unmaintained roads and a fair amount of offbeat trails.
  4. The remaining leg to the finish line would be 75-80% roads.

Here’s my Trail of Tires!

There are few touring tire choices for a 17 inch wheel for the back and particularly for the front. While the rear wears out twice as fast as the front, it’s still a gamble to drag the front wheel for a second innings along with a new rear tire. On an adventure that spans thousands of kilometers in territories that seldom have the tires you need, planning takes a very important role.. But obvious, unforeseen circumstances need to be dealt with without cribbing… Hoping that we don’t get into any of such, I had plans to support the Odyssey’s with the tires as here below.

Leg 1- Pirelli Rally STR – 110/70-17 & 150/60-17

When I chose this for the Dominar Polar Odyssey – Arctic to Antarctic, these were newly introduced to the market. Surprisingly, I noticed these to be extremely soft compound and they lasted just about the required kms but ruthlessly devoured the Dalton and the Dempster Highway, albeit with a little amount of issue with multiple punctures that came up beside each other. Nonetheless, apart from 1 front wheel that created a breakdown needing a flatbed support, this tire held it’s ground as wanted.

This tire flew back home from Vancouver via Canada Post.

Leg 2 – Pirelli Scorpion Trail II – 150/70-17

My wife joined me from Vancouver and hand carried the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II. Undoubtedly, one of the best sport touring tire I have ever used.  A good 19k kms later, they still had life for another couple of thousand kms!! This stretch from Vancouver, then heading towards the Banff & Jasper National Park before entering Montana and hooking up the I90 towards Michigan before heading into Canada and exiting into the State of New York, mostly remaining on the Interstates as we headed West towards Tennessee, Texas, and all the way towards California before she flying back home.  

With a pillion and the 2 panniers along with a top case, the weight would be a good guesstimate at 100 kgs more and the tire performed effortlessly! A bout of riding on snow due to an unprecedented hurricane around the Northern Ridge of the Grand Canyon has been a super strong testimony for me to endorse tis tire!

This tire was hand-carried by a good friend, Venky Medicharla from the US to India.

Leg 3 – The Shinko E 705 Snow & Sand 120/70-17 & 140/70-17

Keeping in mind the terrain from US would take the Odyssey across the Baja California and plenty of detours; I chose this from very little choices to keep the flow.  Surprisingly, they did perform well but the wear on the rear was dramatically fast on the Pan American Highway forcing an early change in Santiago at a mere 11k kms. Though not disappointed, for the cost it came and the performance it gave, the satisfaction was just about it.

This tire flew back home from Santiago, Chile via normal post.

Leg 4 – The Michelin Anakee III Trail – 150/70-17

After over 7k kms, the tire looked as good as new!! But again a soft compound tire, I got a nasty cut while border crossing Argentina into Chile leaving me stranded on the road. I had to flatbed my bike for close to 40 kms before a patch was sealed in that helped me reach Buenos Aires, with no further issues. From the Anakees that I know of, I was a tad disappointed at this tire’s performance but nonetheless, it could have been a misfortune that I sliced the tire and struggled with it.

This tire remained on the bike as it flew to India from Buenos Aires and then was dismantled and included in the memoirs.Right now, my machine runs on Timsun #712 with 120/70-17 and 150/70-17

2: The positioning of the additional 2 x 1 gallon jerry cans on either side of the crash guard.

Now, this has been a serious concern raised by most of the overlanders who understood the challenges of this (mis) positioning and advised against it.

Point noted.

Considering the whole bike setup, I was hard-pressed for space.  But what I would wish to highlight here is that this set up took me across the 2 American Continents. I have put in 51000 kms over 100 days of travel and managed to keep the rubber side down. There are reinforced crash bars behind the can, which would have taken a fair amount of crash, but I absolutely agree on the positioning, which could have been avoided.  For a adventure that led me to many detours, I remember using this spare about less than 10 times across the entire journey.  While I did manage to keep the rubber side down, my team member wasn’t very lucky.  He did crash on the Dalton that left a gaping hole as the can scrubbed the gravel.  Fortunately, there was no fuel, but from the concerns raised, it COULD have been a disaster, but not sure. 

On a 400 cc machine with a ~ 35 bhp power and loaded with panniers and a top case, and on a gravel road…what speeds can you do?  ~25-40/50 km per hr?

On such a speed, even if you crash, you will be dragged about a few meters before the gas leaks out…. I am not sure, if there can be friction…plus added to this was the inclement weather, and wet roads.

While I do not want to stress that this is the right place to hold the additional cans, given the overall set up, Yes, it was indeed a risk, but definitely an informed one.   This set up was done by a good friend who has been to rallies in his hay days and ensured the set up was built in such a way to minimize any eventualities should at all we got exposed.

Personally, if you ask me, I wish not to encourage people to build such a set up, unless you know why you need the additional cans for….While we rode in the US, these cans were empty on the interstates and filling them was only on routes where I foresaw fuel availability at longer stops. 

It’s basically planning and a great amount of informed decisions.

Both the above points are my outlook and with whatever little knowledge that I have had over the years of travel and interacting with fellow overlanders and guided by people who have been at it, I followed.  While I am no pro at what has been done, it’s some decisions that I have taken at crucial junctures is what has helped as well.

Feel free to leave a comment or reach me for additional clarity.