~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ceramic Snake Oil?

Gold Wings are known to be sensitive to wobble in the front end, depending on tires, head bearing issues, and other factors, so when my '02 Wing began shaking the handle bars slightly at 45mph I assumed it was developing the dreaded wobble which would then be fixed by better head bearings, better tires, and possibly proper alignment of the moon and stars.

After some weeks of enduring the wobble and dreading the cost of the fix the rear tire on the bike the real problem surfaced in the form of a delamination of the tire carcass. It was pretty evident that super glue or duct tape was not going to fix the problem:

By the time I got the bike home at a very slow speed not only was the back tire hosed but the front tire had some odd wear, no doubt started by the slight wobble that had appeared a few weeks earlier. Time for two new tires. Grrr. The Metzlers still had a few thousand miles of tread on them and pulling them off was a terrible waste but obviously there was nothing else to be done.

I headed down to my local bike service center where I've gotten to know the owner. Tom ordered up a set of new Bridgestone tires for the Wing and the bike sat parked for several days before the tires came in.

I'm going to say right here that I could have bought the tires a little cheaper on-line or even at a shop up in Phoenix but I do truly believe in supporting the independant local dealer even if it costs a little more. I put my money where my mouth is. Without such dealers it's only a matter of time until you'll have to get your bike parts at Wal-Mart and have it serviced at Pep Boys and that will be the beginning of the end for civilization as we know it.

After the tire was removed I bandsawed a section out. This is what I found.

When the new tires came in I asked Tom if they static or spun balanced the tires. "Neither" he said "We put DynaBeads in everything." Oh crap...DynaBeads. They are a small, ceramic beads (smaller than a BB) and you dump about 2 oz of them inside the tire and some how they magically balance the tire as you go down the road. They are sold by a company called Innovative Balancing. I'd read about them on one of the the Gold Wing forums and DynaBeads are a subject of much controversy amongst Gold Wing owners, usually being lumped in with fuel line magnets to improve fuel economy and little silver bells on the foot boards to keep the boogie man away when you ride.

Regular 40on2 readers will know that I'm a bit of a retro-grouch and putting little magic ceramic balancing beads in my bike's tires was going to happen about the same time I started wearing "Power Ranger" riding gear. In this case Tom was going to put the beads in and in fact didn't even have a tire balancer in the shop. Deep sigh. OK fine, I'll be back and demand the tires be balanced properly when the magic beads don't work.

Down the road I go with the new Bridgestones under me. I keep looking for the Gold Wing wobble at 45 mph. Nothing. I speed up, slow down, take my hands off the bars, ride with one hand, grab the bars and accelerate to 100 mph (on a closed course under supervised conditions, naturally...). Dead smooth at all speeds. No shake, no wobble, no tire vibration. Nothing. Obviously the wobble I'd been feeling was the Metzler starting to slowly come apart. I remained unconvinced about the DynaBeads though, certain that somehow the tires would soon show their true out-of-roundness and begin to wear funny and shake. Nope. Smooth. I double checked the rims to make sure Tom had not snuck some weights on there. Nope. Hmm... How can a production motorcycle tire be so round and need no weights whatsoever to be balanced? Not likely. The magic beads seemed to be working.

All that was a month or so back. The Gold Wing rides as smooth as it can be. I'd like to say the fuel economy was better to and my bald head was growing hair but that might be expecting too much from the beads. I pondered the physics of tire balancing, read some stuff on it, talked to a couple of engineers at work, and came up empty. I know that using round objects in tires as a balancing method has been messed with since maybe the 1930's or so and never gained any real acceptance, and especially not from vehicle or tire manufacturers.

Now, my neighbor Jim bought a very nice 2000 Yamaha Venture a few weeks ago. Wonderful retro styling and color (the bike, not Jim), and I'm pleased to say I was the one who found it for him and badgered him until he caved in and bought it. It was for his own good, trust me. Friends don't let friends ride a KLR650 forever.

Jim's been really pleased with the bike but it wasn't as smooth as he thought it should be, not even close to as smooth as the Gold Wing he'd rented a couple of months ago when we did a weekend jaunt to Globe, AZ. No surprise there as nothing except sailboat is as smooth as a Gold Wing. He insisted something didn't feel quite right so we looked the tires over carefully, checked pressures, theorized about engine mounting bolt torque, and all the usual mechanical possibilities and causes. No doubt memories of the recently separated tread on my Gold Wing's rear Metzler danced in his head. Having just parted with several thousand bucks for a bike with near new tires he wasn't keen on now buying a new set of tires.

Finally I swallowed my pride and said "Maybe you should order some DynaBeads and try them in the tires. For $20 or so, it couldn't hurt to try." There. I said it. I was out of the closet on DynaBeads. Not just a convert but actually recommending them to a friend. My membership in Retro-Grouch International might be revoked for that one.

So the DynaBeads were ordered, they arrived in due course and Jim put them into the Yamaha's tires yesterday afternoon. After dinner we hopped on our bikes and headed off for a smooth piece of fresh pavement I knew about. Of course I knew they wouldn't work and I'd look like an idiot for recommending them and then I'd feel guilty and reimburse Jim for his wasted $20. Before we got to the smooth road we stopped for fuel and Jim said "I can feel the difference already. It's much better."

On the smooth pavement he ran it up to 80 mph or so, accelerated, decelerated hard, easy, hands off, the whole "make it wobble and vibrate" routine. Nothing. Smooth. Not as smooth as the Gold Wing but then the Yamaha V-four isn't as smooth as the Wing's flat-6. Out to the freeway for a little extended blast at 80+. Still smooth.
Back at the house we conferred. "How much better would you say it was than before?" I asked. Jim replied "I'd say it's about an 80% improvement and even the front of the bike, which I though was smooth already, feels better." Whew.

I hate to admit it but somehow the DynaBeads not only do what Innovative Balancing says they do but I went ahead and ordered some for my Ford F250 pick up.


Ronman said...

SO when do we see the pictures of your new Power Ranger riding gear?


Unknown said...

It seems impossible those little beads work, but thousands of folks swear by them. NICE POST.

Doug Klassen said...

Ronman, No money for new Power Ranger riding gear. I spent all my extra cash on a gold angel bell and some fuel line magnets for the bike.


FLHX_Dave said...

Hmmmm...My VTX had wobble up front at high speeds. I am shocked that the Metzler tire would separate. Tire separation is one of my biggest fears. Glad you made it safe.

Thanks for the tip on the DynaBeads. I am going to have to check these out. Never heard of them.

Crusty said...

Every now and then it's nice to find a product that actually works. Of the hundreds of motorcycle products out there i come across, one or two do what the claim. I am old, but open minded enough to give them a try. I'll have to check them out.

Big Red Dawg said...

I have been using the beads through two sets of tires and around 24k miles on my BMW Rockster. Did a review of them for the BMW Owners news.
They work. They work they work.
Say goodbye to your wheel weights and hello to a smooth ride.

Camron said...

Hell, I'd never heard of them before... Now I'm considering them for my Escape. Now if only someone could tell me whether or not the little electro-magnet thingies under a motorcycle really help you get through red lights...
Thanks for the info, Catch you on the road...

Stephen said...

I read this post a while back, but was reminded of it yesterday while talking to one of my neighbors about my new bike. He practically insisted that I should put "Marvels Mystery Oil?" in it to ensure it's longevity, fuel mileage, long tire wear?, well you get the picture.

I think I'll pass, just the name was enough to scare me away. That conversation yesterday reminded me of this post, thought I'd drop in and tell you about it. E.T.

Doug Klassen said...

flhx_dave, Never had a problem with Metzler tires before. As near as I can tell from browsing the web the tread separation thing seems to be mainly rear tires on Gold Wings. My Caponord has Metzler Tourances on it and I'm not really worried about those but then the Capo does not way 800lbs empty.

Crusty, no one was more surprised that the beads worked than me!

Cliff, thanks for the positive feedback from another bead user.

Cameron, I've wondered about the magnet under the bike thing myself. Read somewhere recently that they don't work because it would take a very large magnetic field to trip the sensor coil. I just try to ride right up the loop mark in the pavement but even with the GW that doesn't seem to do the trick. If the Wing won't do it I have to believe a little magnet won't help much either.

Earl, Marvel Mystery Oil goes waaaay back in automotive history, 1920's or '30s I believe. I've known model airplane guys that used it as "after run" oil in nitro burning engines for it's perceived anti-corrosion properties but that's it.


Brother K said...


It's been awhile since I checked in on your blog--we did a little dance between our blogs a year or so ago --but I just checked in and got two big laughs out of "Cermaic Snake Oil?" It reminded me of how much I like your blog, and I'm going to be checking back in more frequently.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I Will keep them in mind if I ever have a vibration issue.

Ride on,

Anonymous said...

Well I'm definitely gonna try out the beads on my next tire change because of this article.

As far as the strong neodymium magnets that trip the traffic light sensors that are embedded in the pavement go... those are NOT snake oil. They work! They work real good. In fact they work so good they are illegal in some states ha! I have one mounted to the bottom fairing of my 929.

BackStory: There was this annoying light for the left turning lane that would always stay red no matter how many bikes we pulled up over the sensor in the ground. After waiting 3 or 4 cycles of the traffic lights, it became apparent that we'd always have to check the traffic and turn left on red. This wasn't the only light like this, but definitely the worst.

So I went online searching for a solution. Found the Green Light Trigger. Ordered it up. I just got the regular magnet, not the high powered one. Zip-tied it to the bottom of the bike. Never sat through that red light or any other one again!

- Patrick

Anonymous said...

...very strange. Two weeks ago, I noticed bizzare handling in my metzeler me880 front tire on my vtx1800, just as I was returning home, I was 2 blocks away.

I knew it had to be the front tire, it wasn't worn all the way, it looked like it had about 1000 miles or so left on it. But I knew the feeling.

I jump on the web, order a tire. And this time I want to change out the tire myself. So I know I don't have a balancing machine, but I heard about them beads. I google for motorcycle balancing beads, and this blog/site is the first one I come across!!! So I read the whole thing, and I'm ready to give it a try, I order the beads, they arrive. I get my old tire off, and that's when I clearly see it. A thin slightly jaggedy tear all the way around both sides of the tire, i.e. they run parallel to the tires rolling surface, almost like if I stuck a big knife in there I could peel the outer skin away of the tire. That's when I google "metzeler tire separation". Guess which site I hit again. This same exact one. Bizzaro. But it's priceless info. Thanks for the blog.

Doug Klassen said...

Pleased to be of assistance. Glad you caught that tire on your VTX before things got ugly.

Anonymous said...

Hi to all from across the pond!

I ride a harley fxr and streetbob, both had high speed wobbles on long sweeping bends,on the fxr I uprated the suspension and tyres but no effect, when I got the streetbob (new)and found the same problem I was very disappointed. I read about the beads in a mag and got some and put them in both bikes, speed wobbles are gone and both bikes run smooth.(well as smooth as harleys can run) Tyres wear unevenly so it stands to reason they don't stay perfectly balanced for long from new but with the beads no matter how uneven the wear they stay balanced.
I don't know the pysics behide them I just know they work and you can reuse them.Best wishes to all, Vince 1340. England.

Al said...

I have been using ceramic beads for several years now. Not only do you get a better ride, I have doubled mileage on the font of my VTX. I run them in my truck and car also with the same results. Great product!

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog! I was on the net last night looking for tires for my 98 1500se. I found many posts stating that Metzelers are now made in Brazil and these are subject to early failure as you describe.

Also found the web site and posts for the Dyna Beads and am going to get some today to try out. Just wondering, do you remove all old balancing weights when you add the beads?

Thanks for an entertaining and informative sight.

Doug Klassen said...


I believe according to Innovative Balancing you are supposed to removed the old weights from the wheel but I'm not certain. My Wing got new tires so there the weights were removed from the wheels. When Jim did his bike the weights stayed on.

I suggest you check with the mfg for a more definitive answer.

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