You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid. Metzeler Karoo 3 - about 50 miles of running-in and starting to work.Yesterday the new Karoo 3’s were fitted by a nice chap down at Vulcarapid in Pescara and by 3pm the wheels were snugly back in place. That just leaves a sneaky little test ride!

So the next morning with the thermometer nudging 27°c and not a cloud anywhere in sight, I loaded the camera and a couple of sandwiches in the cases and set off. So the question now has to be, what are the first impressions of the Karoo 3’s?

Before saying anything though, I want to ask a question ……. would you deliberately choose to ride your Capo (or any bike!) on black-ice …. or marbles? My guess is no.

Well, sadly that’s exactly what zero mileage Karoo 3’s handle like and it’s not a pleasant experience at all. As I turned right onto the black-top from our gravel road the steering felt vague and the bike felt as though it was going onto its side. Under gentle acceleration in a straight line the tyres squirmed left and right, exaggerating dips and undulations in the road surface. After about 3 miles I’d all but had enough, the bike just felt awful and I was ready to swing back home ….. but in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid just below Castel del MonteI continued on to Castel del Monte and mile after mile the tyres began to settle down, lean angles slowly increased while acceleration and braking stability began to sort their act out. The mileage slowly climbed as did my progress up the mountain, by the time I stopped for a bite to eat, the trip meter said 52 miles and my confidence levels were a magnitude improved.

Now I quite understand if you’re thinking along the lines of tyre pressures, or tyres fitted the wrong way around, or that maybe I’ve screwed up the wheel installation. Fact is, everything was checked and checked again. The instability could only be the new tyres.

And here is where I hop off this particular pony ……. I’m not getting drawn into a ‘fresh tyre grip argument’ or the myth of ‘mould release agents‘. Knock yourself out on the internet or slug it out with your mates down the pub. I just know what I experienced and can only compare it to 34 years of riding both professionally and socially and having ridden out of a fair number of dealerships, tyre bays and workshops on all shapes and sizes of new tires …….. and never before experiencing this dramatic a start with any of them.

But back to the last bit of the journey …..

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid and dark bends on the East side of the Gran SassoWell the remaining 50+ miles of the day took me back down the East side of the mountains where dense forest smothers the road down to 800m or so, where it begrudgingly gives way to agricultural land. The trees keep most of the road in dense shadow, dappled by undulating patches of bright light that pierced the canopy above. This camouflages the road surface so you can’t read it until it’s almost under your wheels. The problem is, the road is BAD ……. potholes, gravel, tree debris and water to name a few. I guess the constant dark and micro-climate helps nature do it’s worst to the road surface all year round.

Now though, the Karoo’s were starting to work for me, stable and unfazed by the constant variety of surface they needed to work with. Hair-pin bend after hair-pin bend had the Capo tracking like a mountain goat on steroids, each inspiring more confidence. Eventually I left the tree line behind and headed down to the SS80, familiar roads and onward home. The last few miles I road exactly as I would have done on the Anakee 2’s.

The days conclusions ….

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Metzeler Karoo 3 scrubbing in nicely nowDisastrous to start, but at least they continually improved throughout the day, a roller-coaster of a day in more ways than one! But I have to ask myself a couple of questions:

    • If I’d known how the Karoo 3’s would start off, would I have fitted the more expensive TKC80’s again? Yes probably.
  • At this moment in time, with only a measly 100 miles + on which to base an opinion, would I fit them again? The little voice, the one way back in your subconscious answered first …. errr no.

So not exactly a glowing start and one from which the Karoo’s may well struggle to recover, only time will tell. Winter is just around the corner and their performance on our gravel/dirt road over the coming months will no doubt make or break them.


Metzeler Karoo 3’s arrive

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Metzeler Karoo 3 110/80-19 59R M+S TL & 150/17-17 69R M+S TLAs the title says …… a rather grumpy little man arrived this morning tooting his horn like crazy and gesticulating madly about the state of the road. I tried to point out that’s why he was delivering my new tyres 😀 . Fell on deaf ears though.

Anyway, here they are, a nice shiny new set of Metzeler Karoo 3 110/80-19 59R TL and 150/70-17 69R TL tyres manufactures in the 18th week of 2013. Ordered on Wednesday evening (Ebay) and arriving on Friday morning, so that’s excellent service (and price €178 – approx. £149.70) from Felappi Srlfelaps10 on

There are 6 TWI (tyre wear indicators) on each tyre at the minimum 1mm tread depth. Measuring the available tread down to the TWI gave the following:

Front        7.6mm at the centre, 7.0mm at the edge

Rear         9.6mm at the centre, 10.6mm at the edge

Snowflake symbol on true 'winter' tyresYou can also see the ‘M+S’ text on the sidewall of the tyres. As far as I’m aware this means diddly-squate ….. nothing except that grooves at the edge extend into the centre of the tread and that 25% of the tread is open. There are no tests or criteria with regards to real-word operation of the tyres in mud or snowy conditions. Tyres that are tested as truly ‘winter’ tyres will have the snowflake symbol on them …. and I don’t know of any m/cycle tyres that have it. If you do, drop me a line.

This is all very well of course, but I’ve yet to fit them and put some mileage on them! Hopefully next week I’ll get them mounted and run them in playing on the Gran Sasso, it’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it. 😉

Agip Tec 4 is dead …… long live eni i-Ride

Agip Tec 4 15w-50 Semi-synthetic oilI know, I know ….. engine oil can be the most controversial of all motorbike subjects. So you’ll at least be pleased to know this post isn’t about what oil to use, rather info on changes within Italy (Agip/eni) regarding the originally specified stuff in the handbook.

eni i-Ride PG 15w/50 Semi-synthetic oilIt seems that the original Agip Tec 4 15w-50 as specified by Aprilia is rapidly disappearing off the shelves as it has apparently been withdrawn from production. Along the way it also seems there has been a re-shuffle/re-brand with regards to Agip and eni themselves.

The bottom line appears to be a new line of ‘i-Ride’ oils offered under the eni brand. The one listed as most compatible for the Caponord is the i-Ride PG 15w-50, PG standing for ‘Piaggio Group’ …… apparently the oils were developed and approved in combination with Piaggio. Click on each pic to open the tech sheet … and you’ll see that both oils are in fact virtually identical. So that’s it, just a bit of info just in case you’re every in Italy and need a drop of oil for your bike ……..

Time for new tyres ….. TKC80 or Karoo 3?

Metzeler Karoo 3With the michelin Anakee 2’s now nearing the end of their lives, it’s time to think about the winter boots the Capo will need to wear. True, the trusted Continental TKC80’s are reliable and on hand, but I fancy trying something different for a change. That’s when I saw the new Metzeler Karoo 3.

Like the TKC’s they are most definitely off-road biased but (so say Metzeler) with superb on-road ability, long life and low noise/vibration. So with extensive experience of the TKC’s on which to make a comparison, they will need to do the following at least:-

  • 5k miles rear / 7.5k miles front
  • Excellent wet & dry grip on road
  • Low noise & vibration for over 80% of their life, especially the front
  • Good self clearing in soft mud

If they can achieve that and more then I’ll be one happy bunny, especially as they’re retailing at approximately 20% (rear) and 14% (front) cheaper than the TKC80, which lets face it, has never been a cheap tyre anyway.

I think I’ll run the Anakee 2’s a while longer as they still have sufficient life, although the front is now noticeably more ‘twitchy’, especially at low speed. No doubt due to the cupping on the blocks. Meanwhile I’ll search for the best deal on the Karoo 3 and post a pic or two when they arrive.

Happy Birthday to you ………

What is it they say about best laid plans? I wrote this piece on the 3rd September ready to post it on the 5th. Unfortunately, a complete loss of phone and internet in our area for three days screwed this plan up nicely. Anyway better late than never I guess …. here it is.

Click to open 'Certificate of Origin'The ‘Certificate of Origin’ for my Rally-Raid says that it was manufactured in 2002. This is quite odd as every removable plastic part with a date on it has a moulded stamp dated sometime in early 2003. So when are our bikes actually ‘manufactured’? Is it the date the frame was made and given a chassis number or when a completed bike roles off the production line? My guess is the former.

I suppose I’ll never really know the answer, so I decided to give it a birthday like the Queen, you know, the ceremonial one rather than the official one. As the date of first registration is known and on the V5 (Registration Document), I thought this was the most appropriate date to use.

So that makes today, the 5th of September 2013 the 10th Birthday of my Rally-Raid!

Exactly how do you give a 250Kg motorbike the bumps! At least it’s a fine excuse for jelly, ice cream and lashings and lashings of beer! And afterwards ……. presents!!!!!! 😀

That time of year again

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Fresh MOT at Dave Clarke Motorcycles - OxfordFresh back from another whirlwind trip the Capo and I are quietly recovering at home and taking stock of the events over the last two weeks.

  • 2,931 miles in total
  • Average fuel – 48.6mpg ( 5.98l/100km) with a best of 53.5 mpg (5.19l/100km) and a worst of 43mpg (6.22l/100km)

Throughout the Rally-Raid behaved impeccably, doing exactly what it was designed to do. Not once did the over inflated media fragility give me any concern, no pyrotechnics under the fuel tank or gushing fountains of fuel anywhere, hell even the wheel bearing didn’t disintegrate into pixie dust. It seems as though the only victims of this trip have been the Anakee 2 tyres ……… now squared off at the rear and cupped at the front, although still legal (UK) with 2.2mm/2.3mm tread still remaining – and now with a total of 14,762 miles under their belt! Will these things ever die?

The trip itself had highs and lows ….. after 13 years I’ve decided to walk away from motorcycle training, at least for the moment. That bulky laminated card issued by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) has lived in my various jackets an awful long time and I somehow feel naked now that it has gone. And of course I feel a little sad at giving up something that has given me immense enjoyment over the years. But it had to happen.

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Andy (Beasthonda) and his Capo ..... with rather large front disks!On a brighter note though, I got to meet up once again with Andy (Beasthonda on the AF1 forum), this time at the Oxford Hein Gerricke store. We had a great chat about all things Caponord (especially electronics and dashboards! 😉 ) and a fine cup of tea while ogling a wide variety of bikes as they came and went. Sadly for both of us, time was short so we couldn’t put any miles under the wheels together, but next time……………

Many years ago I used to love reading the American ‘Flying’ magazine, especially a column entitled, ‘I learned about flying from that’ – tales of near disaster and mortal mistakes etc. So here’s my bike rider version.


Never pass a viable fuel station with a reserve light on, even if you know by experience that you’ll reach the next (and better in your eyes) station with ease – just because you’ve done it before a hundred times. Big mistake, because today you’re going to get bitten.

So I’m heading North past Colmar in France with 20-30km to go before the Aire du Haut Koenigbourg services …… except at 5Km the traffic suddenly slows and bunches up. Our two lanes are being merged into one. Now I’m almost at the services with a solid concrete wall either side funnelling us onward and no sign of the exit for the services. Then I see it, walled off, bright red and white barriers cheerfully letting me know that the North bound traffic can just jog on by, no exit for fuel for you lot. Oh bloody wonderful!

And so I ride on in this concrete funnel trying to juggle my options. What bloody options! Best I can hope for is not to conk out in this one-lane hell hole. After another 10km (eternity!) we spew out again into two lanes, except now I’ve got to ride in  Über-economy mode to stretch out whatever vapour I’m running on. This whole landscape is fields either side for pretty much as far as you can see, but finally the GPS pipes up and offers me a way out, at lest I’ll be off the fast duel lane and on quieter country roads.

Fuel at last ....... and a fine patch of diesel to park on!After another 15 minutes of lefts/rights, bends and roundabouts I spot the fuel station ahead …….. and it’s one of those 24hr unmanned jobs. The Capo rolls to the pump with 263.7 miles on the trip. 1st card goes in (UK) …. we don’t accept it. 2nd card (UK)…. nope, we don’t like that one either. 3rd one (Italian) …. Wahay thank God!!!!! I swear the French still have a grudge with us Brits you know. The pump clicked off after 22.27 litres and I think that’s about as close as I ever want to get to pushing a Caponord home! Lesson learned ….. until next time!  😉