Tale from the "Darkside"

By: Mac Musick
November 1st, 2008


In  June of 2006 I had the time and money to take a month long ride. I  have written about the trip west and the trip north previously. (See  "No Gas" parts 1 & 2 on the Front Page Story Index) With any luck, I might even get around to part 3 one of these days.  This is a brief story about joining the "darkside." In other words, putting a car tire on my VTX 1800R, why I  did it, how I did it and what I think after joining the "darkside."

My plan was to camp as much as possible. I have a senior pass that  gets me into any National Park for free. So I started knowing I'd be  going to Yosemite and Yellowstone on this trip. I mapped it out with lots of flexibility to turn whichever way the mood struck me.

Beginning around the first of May I started converting my stripped  down VTX to a Tourer. I had a windshield and was still riding on the stock seat so I knew my first purchase would be the Ultimate X seat, a Mustang back rest and sissybar with luggage rack and the Leatherlyke saddle bags. I found  these items used, for sale on  various websites including this one. By the end of May I was almost ready to go.

There was a Range Rider's group ride that year dubbed The Spring Fling that brought a whole bunch of the VTX Riders to Farmington NM. I live in Durango, CO, so I met up with the group at the La Quinta hotel. There I saw my first "Darkside" VTX and it immediately got me to thinking.  Dennis (Fleet-Mech) offered to let me take his bike for a ride to see how the big  car tire felt. Honestly I thought it was a little bit weird. (No  offense Dennis, you and I have talked about tire pressure since.)

I was planning to ride 5,000 or more miles so the idea of a car tire  began to sink in. It made sense to me. I had read numerous accounts of Valkyrie riders going to the "darkside". Dennis assured me that he had no trouble whatsoever. Why not? Well it is interesting how many people will tell you why not but then those are people who have never done it or tried riding a bike with a car tire.

A couple of days after  the Spring Fling I made up my mind to give it  a go only to find that none of the internet tire dealers like Discount tire would sell me a single tire to put on my motorcycle. My mistake was telling them that that was my intention. So I went to my local Wal Mart and purchased a Goodyear American Eagle all season tire. The  local Honda shop would not remove my old tire and replace it with the car tire. They claimed their tire machines were not capable. So I went to Sears and purchased a $65 jack and removed the rear wheel and tire.

I took  the rear wheel and the car tire to a small BMW repair shop.  Harry the owner was happy to mount the new tire on the VTX rim. When I saw the Goodyear mounted on the rim I thought holy crap that is never gonna fit. But with a little bit of luck and some yankee ingenuity the tire did slip into place and every thing bolted up just  fine. If you do this yourself or even if you just remove your rear wheel for any reason remember to get the special moly grease for re-assembly.

This is not a difficult process. It was only slightly different than  just changing a Metzler or any other tire in that the car tire is so  wide it just squeaks by. I didn't have to file anything or remove  anything. The photos pretty much tell the story.

The inexpensive Sears jack came in handy in the mounting process -- as  I got the tire lined up and just beginning to squeeze past the frame I  lowered the bike a little at a time and kept pushing and lowering and  wiggling until it was home free.

I rode more than 6,000 miles on that long June ride. Over the rest of  the year I probably put another 6,000 miles on the tire. The last  picture (below left) you can see that there is no detectable tread  wear.

I sold the bike early this year. The guy who purchased it was  offered a brand new Metzler 880 but he said no thanks I really like  this tire. You know I think you might too if you gave the darkside a  try.

As for the VTX 1800 as a touring bike I can only compare it to a few  of other bikes  I have owned including a BMW K1200LT a Valkyrie and a  Honda Goldwing trike -- the VTX is a fantastic touring bike. I now  ride the Goldwing because I can only afford one bike in this economic  morass but I would ride a VTX 1800 to the tip of Argentina if I had the    time and money. It is a fantastic touring bike.