Show cover of Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs

Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs

Discussions and interviews between Bret Tkacs and ADV riders, travelers, Patreon fans, and industry experts.


Suspension Talk
TALKING SUSPENSION: AN IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION OF MAKING YOUR MOTORCYCLE RIGHT FOR YOU Guest:  Hal Massey, an engineer and ADV rider. Episode Summary: Join us as we unravel the complexities of electronic suspension systems in modern adventure motorcycles with our guest, engineer and rider Hal, who brings his fresh experience with a Triumph Tiger 900 into the mix. We will explore how the evolution of suspension technology has led us from traditional manual setups to sophisticated computer-controlled systems that offer a variety of settings, even through intuitive pictorial interfaces. We examine how these advancements have impacted both novice and seasoned riders, and I share my own transition from manual to electronic suspension, including insights into aftermarket versus factory-installed options. Full Transcript: 0:00:15 - Bret Tkacs Welcome back to Around the Wheel podcast. My name is Bret Tkacs. Today is one of my passion subjects. We're going to be talking about suspension, and not just suspension. We're going to be talking about electronic suspension and how that interacts, whether it's better or worse, and I'm going to let the details of that be left to Hal, who is our guest today talking about that. With that said, if you've never listened to one of these podcasts, this podcast is about riders who have questions. That's it. I don't try to bring on a bunch of experts. I'm not trying to bring anybody on that is really over the top. I just want regular riders, and occasionally I get emails that I just find fascinating and I'm very interested in responding. But rather than responding to that email and only having that person get the answer or go through the discussion to find a solution or an understanding, instead we record it right here on Around the Wheel. With that said, this is a non-funded podcast. The only thing that Christina and I do is we use funding from Patreon, those that support us on Patreon, to host this podcast. We do no advertising. We do nothing else on it, so that you can just take in the content that we're offering here today and, with that said, I want to introduce Hal. Hal sent me an email asking about some suspension questions, and that's what we're going to be talking about. So, Hal, why don't you pose that question to our listeners and let's have a talk! 0:01:44 - Hal Massey Yeah, so thanks, Bret. I have been watching as much adventure videos that I could possibly get my hands on and I gravitated towards Bret's material because he tends to have a scientific bent to the things he does. He's likely to pull out charts and graphs and justify things. That appeals to me. I have an engineering background. My particular questions started when I bought a new Triumph Tiger 900. And it has - I'm not even sure exactly what to call it, but it has - to me, my mind - it's got computer controlled rear suspension and that was my first run in with anything like that. I am suddenly presented with pictures. I'm setting up my suspension by selecting pictures on a screen. I started riding when I was 12 years old. I was blessed to grow up in the Southern California dirt bike scene in the decade of the seventies, which was awesome, and of course you know we were introduced to things like preload and compression and spring rates and you know it really threw me and to this day, right up to this current minute, I am still trying to figure out how the settings on my screens, you know, relate to something that's quantifiable and measurable on the suspension on my bike. That's how I got here and I figured you were a great resource, because I'm never going to own five different adventure bikes. I'm retired now. Yeah, I could use some help figuring this out. 0:03:20 - Bret Tkacs I think this is becoming more and more a topic for riders. Electronic suspension used to be just for high-end brands, expensive brands. I think BMW may have been the first for adventure bikes with their ESA they called it,...
45:05 5/12/24
GS Trophy Qualifier
Mastering the Adventure: Lana's Journey from Racing Cars to Motorcycle Excellence Guest:  Lana Tsurikova, autocross racer and GS Trophy Qualifier participant (Lana on Wheels)Episode Summary:From the roar of race car engines to the heart-pumping thrills of off-road motorcycling, Lana's story isn't one you stumble upon every day. Today, she sits down with me and shares the her tale of transitioning from a car racing champion to a motorcycle adventure rider. Lana discusses her systematic approach to conquer the off-road terrain starting on a KTM 390 Adventure. She demystifies the journey of learning to ride and the art of picking yourself and your bike up after a fall. Lana's narrative is not just about personal triumph; it's a beacon for setting achievable milestones and the relentless pursuit that follows.If you've ever wondered how to elevate your riding skills to competition level, this episode is your manual, packed with insights into the dedication needed to excel in the demanding world of adventure motorcycling.Full Transcript:0:00:15 - Bret TkacsWelcome back to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs and today my guest, her name is Lana. She's a rider who's actually trained with me, a fantastic, highly driven rider who went from zero experience off-road to participating in a GS Trophy Qualifier in only three years. So she's going to share with us the process it took to get from zero to "go in such a short period of time. Hey Lana, thanks for joining me and sharing your experience about getting into adventure riding, because it's something so many riders really kind of struggle with and I think now it's even - in some ways more difficult because there's so many different ideas. There's social media, there's YouTube and videos and schools. What I like about your story is that you had a very specific goal from where you came from, and your very driven personality and you had a goal to where you wanted to be. Why don't you share a little bit about that story with us?0:01:26 - LanaSure, thank you, Bret, and thank you for having me. So yeah, I came to motorcycles from cars before COVID started. I used to race cars for 20 years and I thought I knew what I was doing. I was so excited finishing 2019 season, I got my second national championship in Autocross and I was so looking looking forward to next year, but it was cancelled.0:01:54 - Bret TkacsBecause of COVID?0:01:55 - LanaBecause of COVID. Yes, we couldn't instruct. You can't sit in a car with another person, you can't be instructor, you can't invite students to see what you're doing. Literally everything was canceled.0:02:08 - Bret TkacsSo what led you to the bikes and what was your goal? How did you end up? Because I know your goal was you wanted to do ,.. like a GS challenge or a GS Trophy, and that was your objective. How did you end up, with that being your objective? What led you to motorcycles? Besides, you couldn't drive around in cars anymore.0:02:26 - LanaRight. So I was sitting at home and probably my husband is right that I'm adrenaline junkie. He just observed me bouncing from the walls - season 2020 - and he actually found this GS Trophy video online on YouTube. He turns the monitor to me and says did you know about this GS Trophy? And I looked at it like, oh, that looks good, I wanted. So that was it. Literally, he just showed me one video. I saw competition on wheels. It involved really good motor, so I wanted to do it. To say I didn't even know how to ride? That would not be fair. I rode maybe four or five times per summer on street, but that was it. I never took my wheels off the pavement. So in 2020, I went and bought 390 Adventure KTM. You know, I didn't know any better. I thought that's perfect bike to start.0:03:29 - Bret TkacsLana, how tall are you?0:03:31 - LanaI'm five seven.0:03:33 - Bret TkacsOkay.0:03:34 - LanaSo even reaching to the ground from that bike was a challenge. I knew right there I'm in trouble what I decided to do.
40:17 2/26/24
Choosing Boots
CHOOSING THE PROPER ADV BOOT Guest:  Brian Price, owner of Atomic Moto ( Summary:Join me as I chat with the owner of, Brian Price, to discuss everything you need to know about proper footwear for adventure riding. Brian shares his extensive knowledge about motorcycle boots, from their complex construction to size variations. We cover why a good boot is essential and how it can enhance control, reduce fatigue and even prevent accidents when riding off-road. You'll also hear Bret's personal experience with boots, including his initial purchase of an inexpensive boot, and why he eventually traded it in for a more suitable one.As we continue our chat, Brian tackles the challenge of choosing the right adventure boot, suggesting research into construction, different brands, and stretching your comfort level to get comfortable with the right boot for your riding.  Whether you're a novice rider or a seasoned adventurer, tune in for an in-depth look at why investing in the right boots is an absolute must. Full Transcript:0:00:15 - Bret TkacsWelcome to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs, and today I have a very special guest and I'm going to let you introduce yourself.0:00:23 - Brian PriceMy name is Brian Price and I am the founder and owner of - Bret TkacsAnd today we're going to talk about a topic I don't think we can cover too often, and that is proper footwear, and really just dig through what's a good adventure boot when are we overdressed, when are we underdressed? How are these things built? I mean, you're kind of the boot guy, aren't you?0:00:51 - Brian PriceI try to be. I like to think of myself as that. I put more time and effort into studying them and understanding them and making good recommendations to people, so that's my goal.0:01:02 - Bret TkacsFor me, I know, when I'm teaching, one of my greatest concerns… when I'm talking about gear recommendations, people are always asking me well, how should I set up my bike, what tire should I have, what helmet should I wear, what gear should I wear? And the only thing I really get insistent on is footwear. I'm like if you come out to train with me, I want you to have the best protective footwear you can, because when we're learning, we're far more likely to put our feet on the ground, to get caught under the bike and to end up with those feet injuries. And to me, it's one of those places where you really do get what you pay for. You can buy a cheap Snell helmet and you can buy some pretty good entry-level riding suits, but when it comes to boots, at least in my opinion, you seem to get what you pay for.0:01:48 - Brian PriceThat is true for a lot of reasons. One of them is that a motorcycle boot is a relatively complex piece of gear compared to a helmet. A helmet is typically about 50 pieces total and the key pieces of a helmet - the shell and EPS liner are manufactured by machine, and a motorcycle boot is a minimum of 150 pieces and in the case of a some like the [Sidi] Crossfires, a pretty technical boot, that's probably well over 200. And there's a lot more machine… actually there's less machine labor, there's just a lot more human labor in them and more steps. It's a more complex process, there's more going into it, and I think that that's one reason why an inexpensive helmet works fairly well. But that sort of comparison doesn't work quite as well with boots.0:02:40 - Bret TkacsNow I know that as we go through life, often the lessons that we share to others, our greatest experiences, are the mistakes that we've made, and I am 100% guilty of this. When I first got into adventure riding - actually motorcycle, off-road motorcycle riding, I was actually my mid-30s. I started off like many riders: I went out, I bought an inexpensive off-road boot, realized that wasn't a really good decision, and then my wife had gone out and bought me a set of Alpinestars Tech 10s and of course that's t...
37:37 7/11/23
Old Guy ADV Riding Tips
OLD GUY ADV RIDING TIPS Guest: Murrae Haynes, a lifetime motorcyclist who is currently 74 years old. Episode Summary:Get ready to unlock the secrets of continuing your adventure riding journey as you age, with invaluable insights from our 74-year-old guest, Murrae. We promise to transform how you see and handle the unique challenges of maturing as a rider. Together, we examine the shifts in mindset, the importance of self-assessment and risk management, and why riding slower might be a wise decision. Discover how choosing the right bike, planning your route strategically, and conserving energy can enhance your riding experience. Murrae shares his personal experiences, offering practical advice on navigating your adventure riding in your golden years. Going beyond the basics, we dive deeper into the significance of energy conservation and continuous training for older riders.  Expect to learn, grow and be inspired, whether you’re an experienced rider or just starting out. So come along, as we explore the thrilling world of adventure riding, no matter your age. Full Transcript:0:00:15 - Bret TkacsWelcome to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs. Today, my guest speaker is Murrae. Murrae is a 74-year-old rider, and so our chat today is old guy ADV riding tips. I'm 51, which by some definitions people would call an old guy, but in the adventure world I am top dead center of the bell curve, but Murrae is on the other side of it. So whether you are already in that same age bracket or approaching the same age bracket as Murrae, all of us are headed that direction. So this is a great talk, no matter what your age or who you are as a rider. So, Murrae, let's go ahead and jump into this and just talk about some of the concerns or some of the changes that are prominent in your thought and your mindset as a rider of your age.0:01:02 - Murrae HaynesSure, well I think the easiest thing is when I hit my early 60s - because I'm a rider coach and I do training a lot, I started just kind of by habit, going into some self-assessment. I think when you and I spoke the other day it started on the racetrack in terms of what are my skill sets, how are my reaction times, what do I need to do to be safe? And then that kind of bubbled over into the street and into ADV riding and everywhere else. So I would say the main concern maybe is self-assessment and risk management. How can I look at my risk offset and how, if any way, do I need to change it or tweak it to accommodate my age, to stay active in the sport?0:02:02 - Bret TkacsWe could spend all day, I think, talking about this one. So, Murrae, what Murrae is referring to is yesterday we had had a get together for all the Patreon supporters and we were discussing what sort of topics or what sort of videos they like to see on the podcast or the videos for 2023. And this one came up as a video and I thought it was a much better idea for podcasts because we can dive into the details, because once we've started talking about that on the meeting, I started scribbling down a bunch of notes and then I had one of the other riders that was on that meeting is also just approaching – he’s 72, I think now, and he came up with some ideas as well. And a couple of things that you brought up that we should bring forward in this conversation is we're talking about rider speed, how that made a difference. Thom brought up the greatest concerns that he seemed to notice amongst his riding buddies of similar age. There was way more concern about falling, especially falling with the motorcycle, and they're very concerned about being able to self-recover, to be able to pick up and recover that motorcycle. Are those kind of peak concerns for you, or do you have a different direction that you're coming from?0:03:12 - Murrae HaynesNo, I think the baseline for my concerns would be that exactly just wanting to avoid falling - an injury and being able to, as you say, recover the motorcycle,
28:52 3/10/23
Trail Braking with Yamaha Champ School
TRAIL BRAKING WITH YAMAHA CHAMPIONS RIDING SCHOOL Guest: Chip Spalding, business development manager and instructor at the nation's premier motorcycle riding school: Yamaha Champions Riding School.Episode Summary:Get ready to master the art of trail braking as I am joined by the business development manager for Yamaha Champions Riding School, Chip Spalding. Listen in as we debunk the misperception that riders should never touch the brakes in the corner and learn how trail braking is an essential part of riding technique. Chip elaborates on the critical role of trail braking in their curriculum and how 70-80% of their students are street riders.Moving forward, we turn our attention to how skills learned on the track can be transferred to the street. Engage with us as we dissect the variables of apexes, the slowest point of the corner, and the decision point. We further compare the benefits of Yamaha Champ School's two-day program and the one-day program for street riders.As we conclude, we encourage all listeners to invest in formal education to become safer, more confident riders. 0:00:15 - Bret TkacsWelcome back to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs, and we have a special guest today: Chip, from a school down in California. I'll let him introduce himself, but this is a topic that's extremely near and dear to myself. I've talked about it before, I'll talk about it again because I think it's that important, and that’s talking about trail braking, and I'm not going to talk in dirt, I'm talking about the street, I’m not racing, because that's where we spend so much time as adventure riders, as street riders, and I just think it's an extremely misunderstood and… it's just one of those skills that we need to know, should know, and is just so noticeably absent in rider education. Hey, Chip, why don't you introduce yourself? 0:00:56 - Chip SpaldingHi Bret, my name is Chip Spalding and I am the business development manager for Yamaha Champions Riding School, and I'm also one of the partners. We're based on the West Coast in Indy Motorsports Ranch in Arizona and on the East Coast at NC Bike in North Carolina, but we operate at schools all over the country and online with our online curriculum Champ U. 0:01:19 - Bret TkacsThat's fantastic. I'm going to start off with the… so, people may have heard of Nick Ienatsch; he did a bunch of riding and he's one of the primary members of that school, or founding member. He wrote a book way back in 2003 called Sport Riding Techniques. I still think it's a really solid reference for riders who are on the street or track riders. There's a quote in this book where he talks about trail braking. It's called ‘Setting the Speed Precisely’, and I'm just going to read this because I really want to give people an idea for all you that are listening and I did what we're going with this and it goes: “Trail braking’s bottom line is safety.” Hey guys, this is really the truth and this is why I think it should be an all rider training. “The ability to trail brake allows you to set your cornering speed closer to the apex, which is the slowest point of the corner. Those who use their brakes in a straight line and then let go of them to steer their bike are deciding very early in the corner what speed they need. If you always ride the same road, this technique works okay as long as there are no mid-corner surprises”. And this is just part of what he's talking about in this book, and that's one of the things I stress so highly when I talk about trail braking to street riders is that - look, the idea that somehow you're going to dive into a corner and then brake hard to make up for errors is completely a misnomer. To me, what I think, trail braking is the key to never overrunning a corner, ever, ever, ever again. And as riders we've all done that. And I know when you're down at your school, you guys do a lot of track - the skills and obviously you help racers,
27:33 1/31/23
Why teach four fingered braking?
WHY TEACH FOUR FINGERED BRAKING? Guest: David Weed, currently an MSF-certified RiderCoach and RiderCoach trainer and formerly the lead technical specialist for the Washington State Motorcycle Program. Episode Summary:Join us for a fascinating chat with David Weed, a certified RiderCoach and instructor trainer with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). We tackle the contentious issue of four-finger braking in motorcycling. Listen as David demystifies the myth of four-finger braking, highlighting its practicality, effectiveness, and role in the MSF curriculum. From his insights, you'll understand that while the MSF doesn't prescribe a specific number of fingers for braking, it is essential for riders to have the freedom to experiment and find the method that works best for them. David also brings to light the importance of effective communication in motorcycle training. We engage in an enlightening discussion about the necessity for instructors to be clear in their teachings. David underlines the significance of questioning our own beliefs and keeping abreast with the latest guidance as instructors, which makes for an intriguing listen. Finally, we venture into the realm of motorcycle safety and strategic thinking. Bret and David emphasizes the need for riders to make decisions based on their own experience and understanding of the motorcycle's response, rather than strictly adhering to instructions. In addition, we discuss the mental aspects of riding, providing insights that can help improve your riding experience. So tune in and be part of this enlightening conversation. And remember, our podcast doesn't have any advertisements or sponsors - we're all about sharing knowledge and engaging in discussion. Related Video: Does MSF Teach Four Finger Braking? 0:00:15 - Bret TkacsWelcome to Around the Wheel with Bret Tkacs and today my guest is David Weed, a fantastic rider and trainer. We're going to be discussing four fingered braking: When you should use it, if you should use it… if this is something that is just a myth in riding or if this is the standard. We're going to talk about strategies, how to improve as a rider or a trainer and just dive into some of the history and background of this particular topic. So, let's get started. Well, David, why don't you let our listeners know a little bit about yourself. Who are you?0:00:51 - David WeedMy name is David Weed. I am currently a RiderCoach and RiderCoach Trainer certified with MSF. I've been riding since about 2010, and I ride a fair amount of miles. I still feel kind of like I'm a beginner, to be honest, but I probably ride 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year; teach a lot of classes and then I was the Lead Technical Specialist for the state's motorcycle safety program in Washington for the Department of Licensing and led that program for about five or six years and currently, as I said, I am a RiderCoach Trainer with MSF.0:01:37 - Bret TkacsAnd for those of you who are listening, just to let you know that David isn’t just a RiderCoach Trainer. We've had a relationship - professional relationship, in the past and worked together in Washington State and in other avenues. Keep in mind, David is just talking from his point of view, from his perspective. He is not representing the MSF, or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and to best that, I've also spent a lot of time talking to those in other organizations, including Dr. Ray Ochs, who wrote the curricula that David teaches other instructors to teach, and the curricula that he teaches. So I'm actually kind of a step ahead.But, with that said, it's always fun to throw somebody under the bus as we get started. So here we go, David. I read all the time - comments and I hear instructors say, and I see things written. In fact, I have been on websites: Arizona has one of the schools there that put this on their website and they quote MSF and they say “we teach four fingered braking because that's what MSF teaches”.
36:08 9/27/22
What Boots Should I Wear?
MX BOOTS VS ADV BOOTS Guest: Alex and Bret discuss some of the advantages and challenges of switching to a heavier boot for ADV riding. Discussion Points: 1.  There is huge difference between motocross boots and boots that are marketed as an Adventure boot. Key Takeaways: - There is the challenge of getting away from boots that you can walk around in.  Move into boots that actually protect your ankles if you fall down. Boots mentioned in this podcast are the Sidi Crossfire 3's - purchased on Amazon here. Disclosure: I only recommend products I actually use, and all opinions expressed in this podcast are my own. This post contains affiliate links that - at no additional cost to you - I may earn a small commission.
26:49 8/22/22
Tire Talk
ADV Tire Talk Guest: Jarrett King is an ADV rider and mechanical designer at Mitas Tires.Discussion Points:1.  Air pressure – should I air down before riding off-road?2.  Why is the manufacturer's baseline pressure different from what's written on the sidewall?3.  Can a rider increase or decrease the size of the tire on the bike?Key Takeaways:- It’s interesting to observe what people think they can feel and what they can actually feel when it comes to tires.
37:50 6/17/22
Large & Tall Bike Setup
LARGE & TALL BIKE SETUP Guest: Kip Kyler stands 6’4” with a 38” inseam who is riding a Husqvarna 701.  He has made a few adjustments to accommodate his height and weight, but still feels cramped in the cockpit while riding.  He has reached out to Bret to find out what other adjustments he can make and what kind of suspension he may need to install. Discussion Points: 1.  How to choose the right spring for your riding style and weight. 2.  How to find the right local suspension tuner for you. 3.  How to determine the correct suspension setup needed for you. Key Takeaways: - When a bike is suspended properly, it will greatly increase your confidence.  People don’t understand how important setting up the bike properly is. - Many people adjust their bars to be comfortable when standing straight up.  This is not correct – if something catches you off-guard, it can throw you off-balance and you end up with a whiskey throttle. - Preload does not actually make the springs stiffer; they just feel stiffer.
33:43 3/28/22
Invest in Experience, Not Farkles
INVESTING IN EXPERIENCE When taking riders overseas on motorcycle expeditions, Bret has been surprised to note that participants don't have the problems he would expect them to have.  In fact, less-experienced riders quickly develop their skill sets and become confident off-road riders very quickly - much faster than in any traditional training environment.  Bret dives into this phenomenon with his friend and instructor Paul.Note:  If you are bothered by foul language, please start this podcast at 00:56.Guest: Paul Solomonson teaches alongside Bret and enjoys riding a BMW 1200GS off-road.Upcoming Tours:  South Africa - Learn MoreDiscussion Points:1.  The highest risk issues in traveling overseas or in remote areas.2.  How to change training to quickly and effectively develop skill sets.Key Takeaways:- Make sure you practice the things that are uncomfortable to you.- Focus on the skill sets you don't think you'll ever need.Videos Mentioned:Mistakes riders make in tight places.The Bar-Stop Skill - Ride Like a ProThe Rolling Dismount - Ride Like a Pro
35:03 3/3/22