Regular readers may remember my feature on club racer Dave Mackay and his exploits on his KTM RC8 back in July (“Hey, I’m With The Team”, issue 182). Since then, Dave has gone back to school in the form of starting a photography course at the University of South Wales. This means he has to commute. In winter.
Some bikers go to the trouble of procuring another bike for the purpose; usually a “winter hack” – a term that I despise: getting a bike just to serve it up as a sacrificial offering to the gods of salt is like some sort of luxurious extravagance, like quilted bog roll.
Dave on the other hand, has taken his RC8 racer, returned it to road-legal status and put off-road tyres on it!!! In the words of Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, “Why the fuck would he do that?!”
I manufactured an excuse for a mid-December rideout and met Dave at The Raven in Shropshire, to ask him:
Dave: “There’s a bloke in Finland who’s done it, and he’s turned his into practically a full-on Dakar bike(!), so I knew it had been done, and there was another bloke who had taken an RC8R, took the fairing off, and put a set of these on it but with studs in them for riding on frozen lakes; so I e-mailed him and asked what kind of tyres he’d used and he thought I was nuts, but I just ordered them and fitted them myself.”
“The profile of these tyres, even with the knobblies is still a 120 and a 180 so they’re the same size as the normal tyres. I thought at first I was going to have to fit a rear tyre to the front (!!!) because off-roaders normally use a 19” or 21” front, but it turned out I didn’t need to. I didn’t have to cut the fairing or anything to get them to fit.”
“On the road, grip-wise, they’re really not much different than riding on race wets. When you slow down you can feel the tread blocks, but I reckon I could run with these in the fast group at a track day and be skinning blokes up the inside in corners. Can you imagine that? I tell you, Nick Sanders should have done this when he rode round the world on his R1.”
What Dave’s done here is what test pilots used to do in the 1950s – just go and do it and see what happens. Going by the amount of double-takes and smartphone photographic action he was getting at The Raven, this experiment is nothing less than a test of your biker value system: it’s either a masterpiece of lateral thinking, or the kind of heresy that they used to burn people at the stake for.
I’ll leave you to decide…