If you asked me a few months ago what modifications I had in mind for my motorcycles, I probably wouldn’t have thought of a tire pressure monitoring system. While tires are important, for experienced riders it usually is either a habit or something you immediately notice once you saddle up. One turn of the handlebar might tell you that your front or rear tire needs air. I relied on this sense for a while and then I got the call from FOBO in the Philippines for a rather interesting challenge.
While I was expecting them to ask me for a review on the product, I didn’t expect that they would bring in another competing tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) for my other bike. While I will be focusing on the FOBO Bike 2 system primarily, I’ll slide in some input based on my experience with the other product along with a brief description of it. What’s interesting to me about FOBO is that its system is totally seamless, rather easy to pair (if you follow the right steps), and nifty since it pairs up with your phone.
The other system
First things first, let’s talk about the other TPMS unit. It’s a three-piece that involves two tire pressure sensors and one gauge pod with a mounting system for the handlebars. While I won’t go into detail about the unit’s brand and make, it represents what most systems out there are currently offering. I installed it on my Honda, while the FOBO I reserved for my KTM. The main reason why I opted to put this system on the CB650R is because I had room. I couldn't say the same for my 790 Duke.
The pros of this system are visibility. At a glance, you will be able to see your tire pressure changing in real-time. It’s also a standalone system that runs off two triple-A batteries. Other systems may have internal batteries, but with this, you can at least supply your own disposable or rechargeable pair. The sensors also have button cell batteries each which means that you have to worry about four cells to keep your TPMS alive.
As for cons, depending on the batteries that you install, it could be a hassle to replace batteries every two months or so depending on your usage. The display is activated by motion so it powers down to conserve energy. With the stock batteries, I was able to get about two months' worth of use. I now have a “better” and more quality set of batteries in the unit and it’s been going strong. Other than that, you do need a set of handlebars so you can attach the gauge pod which could be a hassle if you either have no bar space to begin with or have a scooter.
It did the trick and you could say that this setup is preferable for those who like information at a glance or an on-bike alarm, though there are no more tricks beyond that as far as I've experienced.
FOBO Bike 2
Now on to the meat and potatoes. After the quick appetizer on my Honda CB650R and the respectable performance that the more standard TPMS product gave me, I had high hopes for the FOBO system on my KTM 790 Duke. I didn’t have to bust out an Allen key and rearrange things on my handlebar. I just needed my phone and the tools provided in the box.
The sensors themselves are solid-feeling, about as chunky as other auxiliary tire pressure sensors, but far from generic looking given the other set I worked with. They run on low-power Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, so it has little penalty on its and your phone’s battery life. FOBO claims that you can get up to a year’s worth of riding with a pair of CR1632 button cells only which is already more convenient than the other system given that you don’t have to feed it triple-As. There are two colors available for the system which includes silver and the one that I got which is black.
Installation and pairing
The pairing process is rather seamless, though I did opt to omit a few things from the kit to make my life easier. You first need to download the FOBO Bike 2 application which is available on the App Store or Google Play Store. Once there, you need to sign up for an account to take ownership of the sensors. Each sensor is keyed to your account but it can later be transferred or reassigned to another user or another motorcycle if you so choose. You can set up a profile that is specific to a motorcycle. Note that you need an internet connection for this. Let’s say you have a track bike or a dirt bike, you probably won’t run the same setup so that makes sense. The app lets you set your tire pressure floors and ceilings and it will alert you as soon as you reach certain thresholds as well as your ideal static (cold) tire pressure. If you didn’t already know, tire pressure changes depending on ambient temperature and usage. When it comes to setting up your profile for your bike, make sure that you put on upper and lower pressure limits that are in line with the recommendations of your tire’s make and model.
Following the smartphone setup, you have the (recommended) option to install a lock nut. The kit comes with a wrench and keychain that you should keep with you to lock and unlock the nut in case you need to air up. In my case, I opted to leave the lock nuts in the box and just screw the sensors straight on. The nuts are added security, but they get in the way of a gas station tire pump in addition to getting in the way of TPMS thieves.
Go to your rear tire, put your app into pairing mode then screw in the sensor to the valve. Once there, put your phone as close as possible to the sensor so it can detect it, and then wait a bit. You will receive a prompt when the sensor is registered. After that, follow the same steps for the front tire and you’re good to go. The pairing process requires a bit of patience rather than elbow grease if you don’t opt for the lock nuts. Still, I found that it is way more seamless compared to the other system and it’s perfect if you’ve already sorted your cockpit layout.
In practice I don’t get to see my tire pressures at a glance, but I get a notification if I am running low on air. The system will either push a notification to my phone or my smartwatch depending on what I have on at the time. Either that or I can check my devices to see the pressures I am running before I head out. The system will log the last recorded tire pressure and temperature so even if I am away from the bike I can gauge whether I need to look for a tire pump or whether I’m still good to go.
The big pro of this system is that it will remind you to fill up with air without needing a separate gauge pod on the bike. The con is that checking your exact tire pressures will require a few taps here and there to get to, but the fact that you leave your cockpit clear of any unsightly gauges will be a plus if you happen to be riding a classic bike, a scooter, or a bike that simply cannot accommodate an additional accessory.
As far as accuracy is concerned, the system is quite on point. Whatever the sensors pick up is about the same as what I see on the tire pumps, give or take about +/-0.5 psi accounting for the loss of static pressure between fill-ups.
Practically speaking, now I can tell if I am really having a bad day or if it’s just my tires. If the bike feels heavy, I can just check the app and confirm if it has something to do with the tires. I can also detect a puncture and monitor my pressure and temperature over a certain period thanks to the graphs in the FOBO app. Going off that information, the app will detect if there is a slow or fast leak happening and will alert the user via a notification.
Verdict: Who is this for?
If you have a motorcycle that has an integrated TPMS, then the FOBO Bike 2 system isn’t for you. If, however, you need to install or have a monitoring system activated from the dealership, then this can be a viable alternative to that. For other bikes that are perhaps older or that don’t come with the option of adding a TPMS from the factory, for about $100 USD, this should be a good bet. However, it is on the more premium side of the pricing spectrum with other systems going for close to $40 USD less, give or take. Just like the other systems, it can be stolen as well but at least you won’t have to worry about a gauge pod getting nicked and it's not totally obvious that you have a TPMS installed on your bike.
This may seem like a nice-to-have product, and most experienced riders will be able to tell if they’re running low on air through feel. However, FOBO Bike 2 takes the guesswork out in a neat and rather convenient package that doesn’t clutter your bike’s handlebar. The system will save you time, and in the worst case, it can save your life. Tires are important and the system will tell you if you need to reach for a tire pump, or if you have a leak that needs to be plugged. As far as tire pressure monitoring systems go, it’s a step above the standard fare in the market mainly because it relies on fewer batteries (just two CR1632 cells) and provide more information on top of the push notifications.
In conclusion, spending a hundred dollars for a tire pressure monitoring system might be an ask for most motorcyclists, but if you ask me, spending a hundred dollars to have a device monitor your tire pressure for you and provide relevant historical data and notifications if something is wrong is great considering that it's one less thing to worry about. You don’t have to spend that hundred-dollar bill, but if you do it won't be a waste.