Doran 360M TPMS Review
by Bill P. for webBikeWorld.com
See Also: TireGard Wireless TPMS Review
The Doran 360M Motorcycle Tire Pressure System is a reasonably priced, motorcycle-friendly, assemblage of hardware and software.
The system consists of wheel-mounted sensors and an LCD display.
The combination lets you know at a glance what the air pressure values are for each tire, and also alerts you, in real time, to pressure problems when they occur.
Since this is only webBikeWorld's second foray into the world of TPMS, and the first regarding a unit intended for on-bike display, a little background is in order.
"TPMS" is the abbreviation for Tire Pressure Monitoring System(s) (and so, like "PIN number," saying "TPMS system" is redundant).
TPMS have been available in certain cars for decades, and have been required in new cars in the U.S. since 2007.
This mandate was spurred on by a spate of SUV rollovers that were attributed, at least in some measure, to under-inflated tires.
The purpose of car-based TPMS is to alert the driver to an under-inflated tire, as a result of neglect, a puncture, etc.
If that's the case, a dashboard warning light will come on; this kind of light is typically an orange outline of a tire's cross-section, looking very much like a horseshoe, open at the top.
As motorcycle riders and with only two wheels, with just two small contact patches to "keep the shiny side up," proper inflation is even more important to us. OK, you already know that, and you also know that you should check your tire pressure often, perhaps before every ride.
But do you do that? I didn't think so. That takes more diligence and effort than most of us can muster.
Unlike most car systems, which don't provide actual pressure information, most motorcycle TPMS provide specific, i.e., numerical, readings. This is the lazy -- or smart -- person's substitute for getting down and taking off valve-stem caps, angling your tire gauge properly amidst brake disks and who knows what else, and getting a reading.
In addition to a pre-ride check, it's fair to say that we riders are in more peril than four-wheel drivers in the event that a tire picks up a nail, and starts to lose air, during the course of a ride. That's something you'd want to know about, and post haste, right?
If you're convinced that getting a TPMS is the way to go, you have several choices to make. One choice would be to just buy a bike that includes a TPMS as an option or as standard equipment.
Most BMWs these days give you the option of purchasing a built-in TPMS. Kawasaki's Concours 14 comes standard with a TPMS; this is becoming increasingly common as an option, undoubtedly available on others brands and models that I'm not familiar with. Late-model Gold Wings also come with TPMS, but that system is, surprise, more car-like. That is, it doesn't tell you actual pressures, just that the pressure is amiss. Not ideal for bikers, if you ask me.
Warning: motorcycle TPMS are not compatible with tube-type tires. The external sensors (see below) that you'd have to use would put too much stress on the rubber valve stems. Manufacturers specifically warn against using rubber valve stems in conjunction with external sensors (and even provide metal valve stems, in the case of the Doran 360M -- see below); if they omit such a proscription, many users have found that out for themselves, the hard way, that they should've used metal valve stems.
Not in the market for a new bike? Your first decision concerns where you want the sensor. As on car systems, the pressure sensors communicate with a central module via RF (radio frequency) signals. They can be mounted internally, i.e., inside the wheel rim, where the air goes.
Or, you can choose a system that uses external sensors, i.e., mounted on the valve stem, in place of the valve-stem cap. This latter method is not just for bikes; some of the aftermarket companies that make TPMS intend that external sensors also be used for RVs and trailers, for example.
There are pros and cons to both options. Internal sensors can't be stolen nearly as easily as external ones, they live in a more protected environment, and they don't have to be removed when adding air.
Also (and this may be a critical factor for some bikes) internal sensors don't present a clearance issue. That is, keep in mind that external sensors are a whole lot bigger than the valve-stem caps they replace; with either straight or angled valve stems there may not be room for the sensors to clear brake calipers, for instance. This is a rare situation, but keep it in mind, especially if you have one of those BMW models in which the valve stem is attached to a "spoke" support member instead of the rim proper.
On the other hand, internal sensors are sometimes more expensive than external sensors if they break, and even replacing their batteries requires removal of the tire. Also, some units may not be compatible with balance beads, if you use them in your tires.
Regarding the external sensors, some of them have user-replaceable batteries, while some are factory sealed, requiring that you buy a new sensor when the battery dies in one.
Another decision you have to make concerns what type of display module you want. These range from fairly large displays to tiny displays intended for a keychain or pocket, such as the TireGard Wireless TPMS (review).
If you have the impression by now that some of these "motorcycle" TPMS are thinly disguised systems really intended for use inside a car or RV, you'd be right. This brings up another issue. Some of these display modules are not waterproof. You can live with that, or add silicone caulking beads in strategic locations, or resort to a kitchen baggy in the event of rain. Or buy one that is waterproof.
And you have to decide how you want the display module powered. This is not an issue for the battery-only keychain-sized displays, but for the larger, bike-mounted, displays, some use an internal battery and some can get their power from the bike.
Hang on, we're getting there. Just a few more factors...
Another consideration concerns temperature. You know that you check (and add) air with "cold" tires, i.e., before you start riding, not during or after, right? That's because the heat generated by friction and side-wall flex will raise the temperature -- and hence pressure -- of the air inside your tires.
I mention this because some TPMS are sophisticated enough that they have temperature-compensating displays, e.g., if a tire was at 40 PSI when you started out, and it's now at 50 PSI because you're rolling right along and the temperature inside the tire is, say, 140 degrees, the display will still show 40 PSI. And maybe another function will also show you the temperature.
The theory here is that if the unit has temperature compensation, you will need to lose less air before an alert is issued. That is, without such compensation, pressure will have to first fall through the heat-expanded range, and then dip down to the threshold warning pressure.
My own belief is that this isn't significant if your starting pressure was OK; a small leak will eventually cause an alert anyway, and a quick leak will, in most systems, trigger a separate loss-per-unit-time alert, regardless of the actual pressure numbers.
Next, some sensors have a rotation-based startup mechanism. That is, these sensors don't even think about transmitting data until the tire starts spinning. The upside of such systems is that sensor batteries will probably last longer.
The downside is that you can't see how your tires are doing while the bike's just sitting there in the garage, i.e., without actually starting out on your journey. Some of those auto-on systems may let you display pressures without going anywhere yet, but those values may be the ones that the system last encountered when operational, i.e., when you parked the bike last night. Thus, if you developed a leak overnight, the problem won't be revealed just yet).
Along these lines, some TPMS provide upper warnings for pressure and perhaps temperature. Whether you want that information or would know what to set those thresholds at is another matter.
OK, last criterion: how many sensors do you need? You'll need three sensors if you have a trike or sidecar. Or maybe you have a trailer, with a wheel or two, that you want to monitor. Or maybe you have an air shock you want to keep tabs on (and I'm not making that up; some folks really do that, and I was considering it myself). So, if you're looking at one of the true motorcycle-oriented systems, can it handle your sensor requirement?
I spent many hours over the course of the last couple of years researching TPMS in general, and comparing and contrasting different systems in terms of the factors I've just discussed. So while those factors are still fresh in your mind, let me tell you why I chose the Doran 360M TPMS.
After that, I'll describe its installation and operation in more detail. And after all of that, you can then do your own additional research, accord your own weights to the various criteria, and make up your own mind regarding which system to buy.
The good features of the Doran 360M:
External sensors. Actually, the Doran 360M uses the same sensors, whether you mount them internally or externally; they even include two sets of special metal valve stems (see below) that have threads on the inside, as well as the outside, portions of the stems.
But my point is that I did not want to use internal sensors. I don't want to have to take tires off (or wait for my next tire change) when a battery goes. If you do your own tire changing, maybe this isn't an issue.
Waterproof display. The 360M is one of the very few systems that really seem to be meant for bikes, and having a waterproof display goes along with that. I have a badly aging GPS that I'm sometimes forced to cover with a clear plastic bag, and that's really a dumb system.
Bike power. This is another biker-friendly aspect, i.e., the 360M has a built-in wire pair for getting bike power; it's 12V or nothing here.
Always on. Well, you can use switched power from the bike (and I'll discuss this more fully in a bit), but if you don't you will have a "current" reading (more on that in a minute, too). The point here is that I didn't want a system that requires the tires to be rotating to activate; I want to see the pressures before I go for a ride.
Real-time alerts. This is not just a system for a pre-ride check of your tire pressures; this system is designed to let you know when a problem has just occurred.
Alert light. In addition to its control module, the 360M includes a red LED. This is designed to get your attention if there's a problem with your tires, and, if you desire, also enables you to essentially dispense with the control module (for theft prevention, for instance). Again, Doran has motorcyclists in mind.
And here are some aspects of the 360M that I don't particularly care for:
The batteries in the sensors are not user-replaceable. When one goes, you have to buy a new sensor. (Doran sees this as plus -- see text below -- and they may be right.)
The control module has no provision for surface (or flush) mounting, beyond using sticky tape. I'm not sure I'd have room for the display somewhere in my dash area, but it would have been nice to have that as an option, perhaps with a hollow bolt in the rear of the display for the wires to pass through. The unit would have been more secure that way, too.
The handlebar clamp is plastic (with rubber inserts), and is held in place by a tiny Phillips-head bolt. It is not particularly theft-resistant. I would have preferred a metal clamp, itself and the control module held in place with Torx security bolts, for instance.
That very important warning light is not bright enough in my opinion during bright sunlight. I replaced it with another red LED (see text).
The Doran 360M TPMS kit comes in an 8" x 9" x 2Ĺ" box that includes two sensors. The stated weight for a sensor is 0.68 oz., but according to my scale the actual weight is even less, 14 grams (0.49 oz.). Similarly, the specified size (1.15" high by 1.06" in diameter) is larger than the actual size of 0.944" high by 1.085" in diameter.
Perhaps the documentation refers to an older model. Keep in mind that a sensor won't actually extend that 0.944" beyond the end of your valve stem, because some of that length will be taken up as the sensor is threaded onto it.As noted above, the 360M sensors do not have user-replaceable batteries.
When the battery goes (typically after 30-36 months, according to Doran) current owners can buy a new sensor from Doran for $25, which is half the per-sensor cost when buying the complete system.
Before you vent your indignation in an email to webBikeWorld, regarding spending $50 every three years, note that I spoke with a Doran representative about this. Their position is that they considered having user-replaceable batteries, but were concerned that such things as an improperly inserted battery, mashed O-ring, or a cross-threaded cap would compromise the integrity of a sensor... and so decided against it.
The 360M kit also includes the following:
The Doran 360M control module snaps into its plastic handlebar clamp, you use the appropriate rubber insert, and then tighten the small bolt on the clamp.
The control module has a covered pair of wires for power, and a spot for the snap-in connector of the optional-use alert LED; if you're not using that light, that connector area is covered with a rubber snap-in plug.
You're told that you have two options for power: either get 12V from an always-on source (e.g., directly from the battery), or connect to a switched-with-the-ignition power source. In either case, "the monitor is fused internally so you will not need to install a fuse in-line" we're told in the manual, so I didn't.
The problem with a switched power source is that you may have to wait up to six minutes after firing up the bike to get pressure readings. That's not acceptable to me. Remember, I want to walk over to the bike, see that the pressures are OK, and ride off.
On the other hand, if you power the unit all the time, your battery is subject to a constant current flow. This is less than 30mA, according to Doran, almost as low as a clock. I can live with that, especially since my in-the-garage dismount procedure includes hooking up a smart charger.
However, I opted for a third method, not mentioned: I wired the unit to a constant power source, but put a SPST switch in-line with the hot wire (the unit itself has no master on-off switch). This way, if I'm ever concerned about conserving battery power -- perhaps on a weeklong trip -- I can simply turn off the unit overnight.
Also, when I took my bike in to get a new rear tire recently, I removed the sensors beforehand and turned the system off; that way, the installer wasn't confronted with flashing lights during the process. Note that I specifically chose an unlit switch, in order not to add to that 30mA parasitic drain.
You can use a sticky dot to affix the provided LED somewhere on your bike, or use a cable tie (to a mirror stalk, for instance), or ignore it. The light serves two functions.
First, it is another way to get your attention if something is amiss with your tires, i.e., in addition to the red flashing of the control module. Second, the LED allows you to dispense with the control module, at least in terms of having it in view.
For instance, you might decide to keep the control module under a locking seat, check your pressure values before you start out, and then rely solely on the LED to alert you to a problem during your ride. If such a setup suits you, it's not a bad idea, given that the control module is vulnerable to theft (after cutting some wires). I considered this, along with looking at some adjustable locking cradles.
In the end, I decided that we live with all sorts of possibilities of thievery and mayhem all the time. If somebody merely "keys" your tank, it will cost you more to fix that than an entire TPMS, not to mention the possibility of having your entire bike lifted into a waiting van. So I got over it, and mounted the control module on the handlebar.
According to a representative at Doran with whom I discussed this, the company has not had a report of a stolen control module; if it does happen, they will sell you just the module for $99, which is less than I might have spent on a locking cradle, anyway.
I did, however, replace the light, deeming it insufficiently bright for a really sunny day. I bought a "Flush Mount LED Bolt - Red, 11 mm, Black, No Lens" from Oznium.com for $5.99 (and, sigh, about the same amount for shipping). "No Lens" does not mean that the LED is not covered; it simply means that it has a wide, not a focused, dispersal pattern, which is what you want in an alert light.
The Oznium LED is much brighter than the one provided by Doran, and is meant to be flush mounted, which is what I wanted. I snipped the wire pair from the Doran light (near the LED end) because those wires terminated in the connector that plugs into the back of the control module. I then enclosed the two pairs of wires coming from the module in one heat-shrink tube, and connected the stock LED wires to the short wires that come with the Oznium LED.
As I mentioned earlier, external sensors shouldn't be used with rubber valve stems. Doran specifically mentions this in both the user manual and in a separate sheet. From the 360M manual: "THE DORAN 360M WIRELESS TIRE PRESSURE SENSORS SHOULD BE INSTALLED ONLY ON TIRES WITH METAL VALVE STEMS".
And: "Installing the sensor on a rubber valve stem and/or tires with tubes can result in damage to the tire that can create a leak or blowout which could cause a sudden loss of control and result in an accident with serious injuries or loss of life".
The wiring taken care of, all that's left is to screw on the sensors (hand-tight only, no tools) in place of your existing valve-stem caps. I already had metal valve stems on my Victory Cross Country Tour (review) so I didn't use any of the four that Doran included in the 360M kit. I also didn't use the provided locking collars (which lock in the sense that a tiny Allen key is required to remove them).
After my early usage, it looks as if adding air will be a pretty rare event, now that I can remotely monitor the pressures. If this continues to be the case, I may change my mind about using the locks.
The wheels on my Cross Country Tour are fairly massive to begin with, and I use balance beads inside my tires, so I declared tire balance a non-issue. Whether you consider that the addition of less than half an ounce requires that you re-balance your tires is up to you.
You have to do some one-time setup in the control module. This comprises telling the module how many sensors it has to look for and monitor, which sensor is where (e.g., which is the front and which the rear), the pressure units (PSI, Bar, or kPa), and your desired optimum pressure for each tire.
Since there are only two buttons on the control module, the programming involves a lot of clicking. It's tedious, but the instructions are straight-forward and worked fine; it's like taking a reading-comprehension test, is all.
The Doran 360M provides standard pressure information, as well as several classes of alerts.
The "current" information is the plain old, no problem, air pressure in each tire. I say "current" because this information is updated every six minutes, assuming the system's on and no alert condition exists. Since we're not talking about a problem here, I'd say that that's often enough.
Normally, the powered-on 360M -- in what I'd call "standby" mode -- just shows an unlit "ON" in its LCD display window. Whenever you feel like it, however, pressing the "P" (for pressure) button will light the display, which will then cycle between (or among) the two (or more) sensors you have programmed into the system.
A little bar to the left indicates the sensor in question, and its numerical pressure is shown (along with the unit you have programmed in, e.g., PSI). This display will show each sensor's reading for about 3.1 seconds, and stop after about 33 seconds.
The button is a little finicky (perhaps because it's waterproof); it must be clicked straight in, which presents some difficulty with gloves on. It would be nice to have a larger button, but overall this works well. As the 360M does not have temperature compensation, you get to see how pressure changes during a ride.
For instance, I have my Avon Cobra Venom tires set to the manufacturer's recommendations, 38 PSI front and 42 PSI rear. In the midst of doing some spirited riding (with an ambient temperature in the low 70s F), during the course of several day-trips I got to see those pressures climb to 44 PSI and 51 PSI, respectively.
Before I first installed the sensors, I measured my tire pressures. I have several digital pressure gauges from different manufacturers, including the Roadgear "Hi-Tec" Digital Tire Pressure Gauge (review) and they are all within one PSI of each other (I've found wider discrepancies among the several dial-type gauges I own, and stopped using them a few years ago).
I don't have any gauges that are independently certified, but I can tell you that both of the 360M sensors give either an identical reading to my digital gauges or one PSI below. That is, the 360M seems accurate to me.
I've also noticed a proper fluctuation with temperature. I installed this system during the winter riding hiatus, in my marginally heated garage. Pressing "P" on the control module, with the bike garaged and unridden, showed pressure readouts changing one or two PSI from the day before, up or down, reflecting the change in the ambient temperatures in the garage.
First of all, the TPMS sensors must be in communication with the control module. There's a single display for a "lost" sensor, i.e., one whose battery has died or has, for reasons of RF interference or distance, ceased talking to the control module. That display is a steady red light from the control module (and alert LED, if installed).
If the "P" button is pushed, the display will light up and the pressure for the sensor(s) in question will be shown as three dashes.
In the FAQ part of the 360M manual is this entry:
Q: When riding my motorcycle I occasionally see the 3 dashes (---) appear. Do I have a problem with my system?
A: No. The signal that is transmitted is a RF signal and is much like a cell-phone signal. The FCC requires us to allow all other RF signals to interfere with our signals and this can cause the monitor to occasionally miss a transmission from the sensors. If this persists then you could have a damaged sensor or the batteries could be weak.
I've encountered this situation twice now... but only with the rear tire's sensor, and only in the garage. While what Doran states certainly sounds reasonable, especially regarding worn-out batteries, what I think is happening is that the signal from the rear sensor has to go through a lot of metal on the bike.
And if the bike is just sitting there, and that sensor is positioned just so -- and perhaps the moon is causing a high tide, and some of the planets are in alignment -- then the signal is blocked, or at least very weak. So, when the six-minute interval comes around, a signal from the rear sensor is not found.
The first time this happened I went out to the garage to use my car and noticed the constant red glow on the bike. When I returned from my car trip a few hours later, the light was out. I used the display to check the pressures, and all was well. That is, perhaps the planets moved out of alignment, and the rear signal was successfully received at some point. Actually, this brings up the possibly that this happens more often, but I am simply not aware of it.
The second time I noticed this going out to the garage, I waited for at least six minutes, to see whether a subsequent check from the control module would be OK. It wasn't, so I rolled the bike a couple of feet backward. The next check from the module was successful, and the red lights went out. Hence, my theory of just bad positioning of a static sensor.
As I say, the good news is that in almost a thousand post-installation miles, I've never encountered this problem on the road. I have a corollary to my first theory: on a moving wheel, the sensor is not hanging around long enough in any possible weak or dead zone to result in a transmission failure.
I can also force a lost-communication alert simply by interrupting power to the control module, and then turning it back on. The lights and dashes will go on for up to six minutes, by which time communication between the sensors and control module will have been re-established. If I wired the control module such that it was powered only when the bike was on, I think I'd find this start-up behavior annoying, or at least distracting, for the first few minutes of a ride.
What I think Doran should do is change the unit's programming, such that no lost-communication warning occurs for up to the first six minutes after power-up. After that, if communication still hasn't been established, or if a sensor becomes "lost," fine, go through this blinking process.
The 360M will issue an alert if one of several conditions occurs. Unlike the six-minute updating that occurs regarding normal-range changes in tire pressure, these alerts are issued in real time. My testing reflected no perceptible delays; according to Doran, alerts almost always are presented within a few seconds but, worst case, may take up to 12 seconds to be issued.
The first real alert occurs when pressure falls below 87.5% of the set desired value. If this happens, the control module's lower red LED light and the alert light (if you have it installed) flash about once per second, "beep"s are emitted at the same interval, and the tire's pressure is shown in the control module's main display, along with an "L" indicator (I think the beeps are a wasted effort, because I can't imagine your hearing them while riding, especially if you wear ear plugs).
I got to see this for myself over the winter. With the rear tire inflated to 38 PSI, I set the desired pressure for it at 42 PSI. This would make the low-pressure threshold 36.75 PSI. A couple of days later, a lowered ambient temperature in the garage dropped the pressure low enough to trigger the alarm.
The second level of alert occurs when pressure falls below 75% of the proper value. For instance, if my properly inflated 42 PSI rear tire were to drop below 31.5 PSI, this alarm would be triggered. If this happens, you get the same alert information as above, except that the flashing and beeping occur about twice per second.
I tested this by removing the front wheel's sensor (with the system merely powered on, in "standby" mode, as if you were riding). The control module switched itself to an active mode (i.e., its display became lighted and the pressure was shown) and the flashing and beeping started up.
The pressure was shown as 0 PSI in this case, because the sensor was still communicating just fine, but it wasn't, of course, feeling any pressure. The alert ceased when I screwed the sensor back on.
The 360M's most serious alert is given when what Doran calls a "fast leak" occurs. This is specified as a drop of 2.8 PSI or more within a 12-second period. The notification is the same as that of the 25% drop alert, except that the "L" is not shown in the display.
Also, in the event of problems with both tires, this alert takes precedence. I haven't simulated this particular alert. Maybe the next time I'm getting a new tire put on, I'll ask the installer if he or she minds if I first drill a big hole in the one about to be replaced.
Astute readers may have noticed that I didn't list cost as one of the factors in choosing a TPMS. First of all, they're all in the same ballpark, around $150-$250 in initial cost (The Doran 360M list price is $199.99). Thus, there's not a lot of differentiation of systems in terms of price.
If you want a TPMS, many of the other criteria are likely to be more important to you than the money you'd save buying one system instead of another.
Second, none of these systems should break the bank. And in the case of the Doran 360M, yes, that would include buying new sensors every few years; just consider it another maintenance item, like oil. To my mind, if you can afford bike tires, you should be able to afford a TPMS.
Another way of looking at it is: how much have you spent on bike goodies that have little or no functional value? Maybe that bit of chrome for your cruiser, or that piece of carbon fiber for your supersport...how about something actually useful this time?
webBikeWorld Overall Opinionator: Doran 360M TPMS
The Doran 360M is one of the few motorcycle-specific, full-featured, TPMS, and it works very well. It allows you to get an accurate reading of your tire pressures before you start your ride, and during your ride, too, if you like.
If that were all it did, it would be worth it to me; I'm getting too old to be getting down on the floor, lying on my back, just trying to find the rear valve stem, never mind check the pressure.
But wait -- there's more. That the 360M gives you real-time alerts to developing pressure-loss problems is a definite safety enhancement.
I used to think that ABS was a nice feature but, hey, I'm a trained professional, I can take it or leave it. Having experienced ABS up close and personal on my current and prior bike, now I won't consider buying another bike without it. I mention that experience because I'm starting to feel the same way about motorcycle TPMS. Check it out for yourself!
|wBW Review: Doran 360M TPMS|
|Manufacturer: Doran Manufacturing, LLC.||List Price (2014): $199.99 for two sensor system.|
|Sizes: 2-, 3-, or 4-sensor motorcycle systems.||Made In: China|
|Review Date: May 2014|
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From "J.H." (June 2014): "I wanted to drop you a note thanking you for Bill Pís article on the Doran TPMS. Very informative and superbly detailed.
It also doesnít hurt that he was using this unit on exactly the same bike Iím riding. Rare to find articles written by anyone on a Victory. Keep up the good work!"