A moniker put onto the Bridgestone Trail Wing TW31 by the Yamaha TW200 Community
Why the term “Death Wing?”
Prior to purchasing a Yamaha TW200, I had not heard the term “Death Wing” in reference to the Bridgestone Trail Wing front tire. And even then, I had not heard the term until after my participation in the TW200 forum when comments were made on my thread from people who saw us riding our Bridgestone equipped Yamaha TW200’s in the dirt. But rightfully so, the TDUB rolls on Bridgestone Trail Wing tires directly from the Yamaha factory. Yet, the “Death Wing” comments were made.
I honestly didn’t understand all the fuss at first, so I started riding with higher air pressures in the dirt to investigate these “Death Wing” claims, because upon purchasing the TW200 and hitting the dirt, the first thing we did was to lower the air pressure in our tires from the factory specified 18/18-psi to a lower pressure more suited for the dirt. Side bar – Factory Air Pressure Setting: 18/18-psi for loads up to 198-lbs with 22/25-psi specified for loads over 198-lbs.
I weight 185-lbs but with gear, I’m probably in the 198-lbs range, but regardless of factory specifications, we will typically run from 12psi to 14psi depending on expected trail conditions and expected pace. We normally run the lower air pressure on any of our dual sport bikes and adjusted to suit the dirt. Thus, we did not initially see-feel-experience the “Death Wing” phenomena right out of the gate.
We had to raise the air pressure to the specified factory specifications to actually see what all the fuss is about, the tendency for the TDUB front end wash out. BUT, I as well as my colleges feel this to be true on ANY dual-sport motorcycle on its factory issued tires at factory specified air pressures. However, the factory air pressures are best suited for on-pavement use and running lower air pressure as it’s side effects their as well. Yes, I carry an MTB bicycle hand pump in my backpack.
Yamaha specified the Bridgestone Trail Wing category of tires for the 1987 release of the TW200 model. Bridgestone states directly on their website, “Trail Wing TW301/302 are on-off dual-purpose tires with the emphasis on street application. Excellent high-speed stability, handling, and wet performance for all-round street use.” See it for yourselves: https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr046/
The Hand Made Alternative?
As Ricky saw both Jason and myself switch to the Shinko 241 front tire and opted for a little experiment and used a tire groover to cut his second-row shoulder knobs in half in an attempt to aid in traction. Ricky stated that this row of knobbies is the transition row from the moto standing upright to leaning over. After he put the labor into cutting the tire and gave it a test ride, it did help as it made the cornering break-away more predictable. I asked if he had to put a percentage number on it what would it be? Ricky stated the cut side knobs yielded a 20% better grip on the edge.
He also stated that the massive rear tire plays a roll in the turn-in as well. Due to it’s width, it wants to stand the bike up, so in order to get the bike to turn in, more lean has to be applied. But that also brings up another point about the TW200 as the large tires make the bike balance better at low speed giving us the “creep-ability” along with the ultra-low first gear. And in low seat height and you can see where this is going, the makings of a great beginner bike, or trail expedition bike for the “expertious” types looking for low-speed fun.
Yet here we are trying to ride these little Yamaha TW200’s like our larger dual-sport bikes, at speed and have our slow “cake” too. We ourselves are coming to grips with these mini dual-sport motos and it is super easy to exceed the bikes standard capabilities, but that is a whole other discussion.
A Closer Look at the Trail Wing
Back to the front tire. We could be exceeding traction for a tire that is specified for all-round street use. The term “Death Wing” seems to have earned its nickname in the dirt. Most tire companies will give a percentage figure for designating purposes for their dual-sport tires; such as 50/50 for 50% street use and 50% dirt use and 80/20 for 80% street use and 20% dirt use. However, the Bridgestone Trail Wing webpage does not give us a percentage, but it does state “on-off dual-purpose tires with the emphasis on street application” thus one could assume the street percentage is higher than the dirt percentage. Maybe it’s a 60/40 with emphasis on street? I don’t feel that it is a 80/20 tire.
Let’s talk more about that shoulder lug of the Trail Wing tire: Yes it’s true, the side lugs on the Bridgestone Trail Wing TW31 front tire are “larger” as in longer than most other dual-sport dirt oriented tires. In our opinion, this is where most of the “Death Wing” conversation stems from. The “larger” we are talking about is not the same as a large aggressive knobbies you would see on a dirt bike.
The Trail Wings shoulder lug or knob has a long profile that runs parallel to the wheel in what would be the space of two knobs on most other dirt oriented tires. This is great for the tarmac for stability and long wear factor. In the dirt, however, it does not work the same and you want more edge/s and flexibility of the knob itself. Hence why most people will quickly switch to another tire as many buy this bike to spend more time in the dirt than on the pavement or like myself, I will sacrifice road handling for better dirt capability.
Further discussing the cut tire with Ricky, he cut the second row first because he felt it was giving way before it ever even got close to the outer edge. Cutting the final outer edge knobs could be an interesting phase-2 experiment. But Ricky stated that he didn’t think the outside knob was even tall enough to provide any support once the lean angle went beyond the second row. But, that’s why we test right?
The Trail Wing Flock
Prior to writing this article, I had not gone onto the Bridgestone website. All my research to choose my front tire was done within the TW200 forum. Nothing wrong with that, but I may have short-sighted myself. How so? Follow along with me for a moment.
Let’s start with the front tire. I went onto the Bridgestone Motorcycle Tires web page and used their finder feature located towards the bottom of the page. I selected the factory Yamaha tire size: 130/80-18 and it prompted me to this page: https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/index.html
The Brdigestone page directed me to this page with five tire options for the 130 / 80 – 18 specification; three are street oriented tires and two dual sport tires. Most will recognize the TW31 as the factory TW200 front tire: https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr046/
BUT WAIT A SECOND!!!
WHAT IS THIS???!!!
A Bridgestone Trail Wing TW24 in a 4.00-18 64P W size!!!!
https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr105/ Funny how this Bridgestone Trail Wing TW24 tire looks VERY SIMILAR to that 241 tire from that other brand?!?!?! Or should I say how funny that 241 tire looks like this Bridgestone TW24?! Now my head is really spinning! Yes, it will cost more, but too, the rubber compound could be better! Hey, don’t knock it! It has BATTLAX technology! What is that? Read on my friend! https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/technology/
I will try it just so I can have the same brand of tires on both ends of my TDUB!
Here are direct links to each tire in the Bridgestone Trail Wing Group:
TRAIL WING TW301 https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr046/
BATTLAX BT-45V https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr014/
ACCOLADE AC･03/ AC･04 https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr025/
TRAIL WING TW203 https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr093/
TRAIL WING TW31 https://www.bridgestone.com/products/motorcycle_tires/products/detail/pr109/
Who Coined the phrase – Death Wing
Going back to the title of this article, I wanted to know just who coined the phrase “Death Wing” so I posted a thread “WHO COINED THE PHRASE FOR THE BRIDGESTONE TRAIL WING TW31 FRONT TIRE?” in our beloved TW200 forum – see reply #6 from Sthrnromr: https://www.tw200forum.com/forum/general-discussion/66290-death-wing-who-coined-phrase-bridgestone-trail-wing-tw31-front-tire.html
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