Turning 5 Gears Into Four

I recently replaced the chain and sprockets on my GZ250. Having read many favorable comments in the various GZ250 Internet forums about increasing the size of the front sprocket from a 15 to a 16 tooth sprocket I decided to give this a try. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. If I had a 15 tooth sprocket to switch back to I would have changed back the first day. After considering it for a while I decided that I was being unfair about the whole thing and that it was possible that I just needed to get used to it. I've had the 16 tooth sprocket for 2000 miles including one 700 mile road trip and I still don't like it. I have ridden more than 20,000 miles on GZ250s. I own two of them. One with 15T sprocket and one with a 16T sprocket making comparisons quite easy.

Before the 16T sprocket I used 5th gear on a regular basis. Now its practically useless. The big surprise came on a recent road trip while riding on a highway with a 65 mph speed limit in hilly country I shifted into 5th gear going down hill at about 65 mph. With the throttle wide open going down hill my speed slowly decreased until I had to down shift into 4th. It wasn't a very steep hill and there may have been a slight amount of head wind. The pavement was a bit rough which increases rolling resistance. However, a 15T sprocket would have easily maintained 65 to 70 mph under these conditions. In order to use 5th gear on the highway at all I had to contend with constantly shifting up and down between 5th and 4th gear. I conditions where your are riding with the throttle wide open this is difficult at best.

At lower speeds around town 5th gear is only useful in certain near perfect conditions. Smooth pavement, flat or down hill, no wind, and little or no traffic. At 45-50 mph the in 5th gear the engine is so far out of the power band that any tiny change in speed lugs the engine. This can't be good for it. Our other GZ250 with its 15T sprocket will easily run around town in these conditions.

With the 16T sprocket 4th gear is OK but it can't maintain 70 mph on the highway. Its much like riding with a 15T on a windy day when you have to ride in 4th gear to maintain 65 mph but with less vibration. Annoying!

I can go 55 mph in 3rd gear. Now this is strange. It vibrates like crazy but on my recient road trip there where several up hill stretches where I could not maintain 55 unless I down shifted to third. This is not some thing I liked.

In 2nd gear the 16T sprocket is a bit annoying. I have one of those GZ250s that will miss first gear when down shifting if you are going to slow. If you for get to check the gear and the light changes your trying to start in second. With a 15T sprocket this was not much of a problem. A little more clutch and away you go. With the 16T sprocket starting the bike in second gear is much more difficult and you may find your self stopped in the street at a green light fiddling with your shifter. If you never do this then it should not bother you, However, I start in second gear on purpose under certain conditions and had to learn not to do this. Annoying!

1st gear with the 16T sprocket is much smoother and the response in much less twitchy making low speed maneuvering easier. This improvement is not anything that you can't have with a 15T sprocket using good riding techniques such as shifting to 2nd and using a little clutch or feathering your rear brake in 1st gear and using a bit more throttle. On the down side starting a loaded bike on a steep hill is a bit more challenging. I do not like this. One of the things I really liked about the 15T sprocket was the ability to stop on any hill without being concerned at all about getting it started.

In general the the 16T sprocket causes me to need to shift gears a lot more. With the 15T sprocket my commute was pretty much shift to 4th and ride to work not having to down shift unless I needed to stop or slow for traffic. With the 16T sprocket its 4th down hills, 3rd up hills and occasionally second gear if traffic is slow. Annoying!

IMHO all switching to a 16T sprocket does is turn five gear GZ250 into a four gear GZ250. Sometime in the near future I will have a slightly used 16T sprocket for sale.

My Two Cents Worth On Motorcycle Riding Gear

All The Gear All The Time! Is a rule I live by. Hot or cold it doesn't matter. I wear Wear different gear when its hot than when its cold. Heat stroke is a very real threat here Tallahassee FL. I commute is through slow traffic with lots of traffic lights and siting still for any length of time in 90 degree heat in the sun is not pleasant with any of my gear. However, getting you skin ripped off buy hot asphalt is much worse. I know this from personal experience.

I went riding yesterday and the highest temperature I saw on my motorcycle mounted thermometer was 63 degrees. When I got home the back of my shirt was wet with sweat. In normal street clothes I'm sweating down to about 68 degrees and if I'm working I will sweat at 60 degrees. If I can ride fully geared up at temperatures well over 100 degrees, I'm convinced that anyone can.

At the 250cc meet in Franklin GA last summer I was the only rider wearing full riding gear.
In this photo you can see all the gear I was wearing except the helmet. (http://tinyurl.com/2cqr8q) Underneath the gear I was wearing long pants and a shirt.

Another rule I try to live buy is if it goes on easy it will come off easy. In other words if you can grab your boots and slip them off without having to undo something they are more likely to come off in a crash. The you get to grind your pinky toe off on the pavement.

Like anything else there are trade offs when choosing what to wear when riding your bike. When its hot riding in shorts and a tee shirt is not an acceptable trade. You might as well be ride nude. If you go sliding down the pavement at 35 mph your going to remove lots of your skin and possibly wind up in a burn ward where a nice nurse will scrub the dirt out of you wounds with a brush. If it is to hot to wear the gear it's to hot to ride. What follows are the trade offs I have decided to make. I'm not 100% pleased with some of these trade offs and if money were no object I would surely have made different choices. As I gain more experience and study this subject I modify my trade offs. The discussion on gloves that follows demonstrates this. Your choices will be different but one thing you should not do is ride with out riding gear.

I wear a Fieldsheer 3/4 touring jacket with a matching set of pants for cooler weather. They also work very well for rain. I think they are better than my frogg toggs rain gear and have taken to carrying my Fieldsheer gear with me on trips instead of rain gear if I'm expecting rain. Unfortunately Fieldsheer zippers suck. I've broken three of them so far and the waist band adjusting straps. So far they have repaired them for free but I had to pay the shipping one way. This jacket has more pockets than I can use. Although it is not comfortable this jacket is wearable in town up to about 80 degrees and up into the 90s at continuous highway speeds.Several of the pockets are near waterproof. The jacket is very similar to the one at the link below.

For my hot weather jacket I have a Power Trip combination mesh and leather jacket that I love. If I had know they were going to stop making them I would have bought at least two of them I wear this jacket 80% of the time even when its not hot going to work. Its a short ride at speeds of 45mph or less. I'd rather be a bit cold in the morning than be very hot in the afternoon. It can easily be 35 degrees in the morning and 85 degrees in the afternoon. It doesn't have a liner and rain goes right through it. The only downsides I can find for this jacket is its lack of a liner, it only has two gearpockets and there is no zipper to connect them to your riding pants. On the cosmetic side, one of the things I really like about the Power Trip Jacket is its lack of advertising. Wearing a company billboard on my back is a major turnoff for me. I have hit the pavement wearing this jacket and as far as I could tell it didn't even mark it. I wear the jacket from the low 50s up to as hot as it gets. It looks very similar to this one.

For my hot weather riding pants I wear First HT over pants.(http://tinyurl.com/2ctvn4) I really like them a lot. Air goes right through them when you are moving and they come with a water resistant liner that is warm as well. I have worn these pants from the mid twenties to 100+ degrees. I like them so much that I bought a second pair.

I have an assortment of gloves I wear depending on weather conditions. My favorite gloves are or was made by Held. They are as close to a perfect fit as I could hope for. No chance of these coming of in a fall. They have kangaroo hide palms and rivets that keep the leather from grabbing the pavement. They are not cheap but I got mine for about half price. They are very similar to the gloves at the link below.

I have some FirstGear Commander cold weather gloves for when it gets to cold for the Held gloves. These work pretty good for the wind but I haven't had them in the rain yet so I have no idea how good they keep the rain out. I have ridden on a trip in 45-50 degrees ant 55-60 mph with them. I started with the Held gloves but switched after my fingers started turning blue.

I have a pair of FirstGear Mesh-Tex gloves for very hot riding. I will wear my Held gloves for until temperatures start getting near 100 degrees and then switch to these. At high temperatures every bit of cooling helps. However, I don't switch to these unless feel I need them. They go to work with me a lot in the summer and get worn home in the afternoon heat.

My Fieldsheer gloves really fit to loose. However, they are useful when worn with liners for mildly cold weather. I have also used them when an injury made wearing the Held gloves to painful or I could not get them on without risking reopening a wound. These gloves are very soft and comfortable. They don't have a strap for adjusting the fit around your wrist. Instead they rely on elastic. I think they would come off if you hit just right in a fall. I don't wear them unless I need the loose fit. I have worn these gloves with liners at temperaturs as low as 25 degrees.

My last gloves are some very cheap made in China. I think they cost me less than $10. They fit well and I don't have any real problem with them other than they will turn my hands black when they get wet. I bought them when I had to get some gloves really quick and cheap. Their main use is being carried on the bike as spares in case I loose a glove.

I have two helmets. The one I wear most is the Zeus 508W modular helmet that is very easy to get on and off with glasses. This is quite handy when running errands on the bike. If I'm going on a road trip I do not like to wear this one because the vents on the top are very noisy in the wind. This helmet doesn't fog easily making it good for cold weather rinding. You can get it with a heated fog free shield. Snowmobile shops sell them. I have applied reflective flame decals which makes it light up when illuminated at night. I don't know that I will ever get another one like this. I'm some what concerned that no modular helmet has ever been submitted for testing to the SNELL.

My second helmet is an older model Icon Its much harder to get on and off than the Zeus. You can get it on with your glasses on so I have to take My glasses off every time I put my helmet on. I could easily break a pair of glasses putting them on with the helmet on. However, I like this helmet for road trips. At highway speeds is is much quieter and the air flows around it better. I also like the wide availability of replacement parts. I have to order parts for the Zeus but I can get parts for the Icon at most motorcycle shops. The wind noise has become such an issue for me that the next helmet I buy noise will be the primary issue. The quieter helmet will win. This is a SNELL certified helmet.

My boots are simple over the ankle leather work boots I bought at WalMart with steel toes. Many so called motorcycle boots do not offer the protection these boots do and cost much more. I would very much like to have a pair real motorcycle boots with shin and ankle armour. However, I have one of those GZ250s that shifts a bit hard and when I do lots of shifting it hurts my foot. These are not water proof. In the summer its no big deal. Until I find a suitable pair of motorcycle boots that have hard toes or get rid of the GZ250 I'm sticking with these. They are lace ups and this suits me fine. I have ridden many thousands of miles on a bicycle with laces and I know how to tuck my laces so they don't come untied or get caught in anything.

Rain gear is something I don't use much. Lots our rain is in the summer when its hot. If you put on the rain gear your going to be soaked with sweat and very uncomfortable. I don't ride to work when its raining. If it rains on the way home I wait it out or get wet I have dry clothes at home. For rain gear I have frogg toggs. I don't like them. They work great for walking around but the two piece rain suit is not shaped properly for riding a bike or wearing over riding gear so its difficult to get and keep the suit adjusted so the rain doesn't get through them. The advantages are that they are light and pack small.

I get all my riding gear at New Enough (www.newenough.com). I don't look anywhere else unless they don't have what I need or there isn't time.

I'm a big fan of FirstGear and will purchase more of it in the future.

My riding gear wish list:

A really quiet helmet so I don't need ear plugs. There may not be any such animal but one can hope.

FirstGear Kilimanjaro jacket. (http://tinyurl.com/ytpoz4) My wife has one of these.

FirstGear Kilimanjaro Air jacket. (http://tinyurl.com/nu6ws) This is the same jacket but it has mesh so you can wear it in hot weather.

Rain gear that actually works and is easy to get on while hopping around on one foot on the side of the road in the rain.

I read somewhere that you should budget at least $1000 for your riding gear. I haven't spent that much yet but I can see I'm going to so It seems like a good rule of thumb. If I had paid full MSRP for my gear I would easily have passed $1000. If you only ride in warm weather then you can get buy with less.