August 1, 2015

Viking Cycle Hi-Viz Jacket Review

The the good folks at recently asked me for a sponsored review of this Viking Cycle jacket. They provided the jacket and I could say whatever I wanted, good or bad. After a couple of weeks wearing this jacket, here's what I have to say...

My first impression was good. The jacket looked nice, seemed solid and was heavier than I expected. I normally wear and XL sized jacket and this XL fit just fine in the arms, shoulders, and chest. The waist has velcro adjusters on each side to give the right fit for you.

One of the firs things I did was unzipped and removed the quilted liner. It's the middle of summer and while the liner looked effective for cold weather, I was not going test it.

I like a lot of things about this Viking Cycle jacket. The hi-viz shoulder and side panels contrast with the black for increased visibility on the street, The reflective strips over the shoulders will be good in low light conditions. More protection comes from the CE rated armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back pad. There are also reinforced cordura panels on the elbows and shoulders.

There are zippered pockets on the upper chest, lower sides and two inside pockets for a phone or music player. The zippers work fine and pockets are big enough to hold what I want to carry. I also like that.

The sleeves feature zippers and velco adjustment tabs at each wrist. The forearms have snaps for a tighter fit that secures the elbow armor. Near each shoulder is a zippered vent opening, and that leads to my biggest complaint with this jacket. This thing is too HOT to wear.

Too small front vent near the shoulder.

Too small rear vents on back.
The two small shoulder vents connect with two larger zipped vents on the back. It's the standard venting setup but, it does not work here. My first ride wearing this was on a sunny morning, with the temperature in the mid 70s (F). The vents were open and at highway speed I sweated through the t-shirt I wore underneath in less than 10 minutes.

This lining is hot, sticky, and uncomfortable.
This jacket is even more comfortable because its interior lining material does not breath at all and sticks to your sweaty skin. Some type of mesh lining would have lessened this unpleasantness. I can't imagine wearing this all day in hot weather.

Overall, I like this jacket's look and fit but, the poor venting and lining material make it too hot and uncomfortable for most weather. That's a shame, since those shortcomings mean an otherwise good jacket is going into the closet until cool weather arrives in several months. If you are looking for a hot weather, hi-viz jacket - keep looking, I can't recommend this one.  

July 29, 2015

Coffee Fix When Moto-Camping in the Wild

I need my coffee in the morning and I want real coffee - not that freeze dried stuff. That is seldom possible when moto-camping, but these little VIA ready brew coffee packs from Starbucks are a good substitute. 

These single serving packets weigh nothing and take up no space in your luggage. But, on a chilly morning they will quickly and easily provide your morning coffee fix. Just heat up some water using a Jet-Boil or similar device and mix the coffee in your cup. The first time, I was a bit skeptical to say the least. I was expecting that freeze-dried taste, but after a sip I was a whole new man and happy that my camping coffee woes were no more.

April 20, 2015

KLR Desert Camping

Here are a few highlights from our weekend KLR camping trip. The bikes were awesome, the weather was fantastic. The first day was crazy windy, but sunny and warm on the ride out of town.

The Wolfman duffle and saddlebags held everything we needed and mounted solidly to our Precision Motorcycle racks. If you are looking for quality, waterproof, soft luggage, check out these bags.

The fully loaded KLRs were great for off road exploring. This trail was a tricky mix of loose gravel with patches of loose sugary sand. We had to be ready for anything and it was a fun ride.

I had never seen sand dunes like these and really liked this area. I half expected to see Indiana Jones leading a line of camels somewhere in the distance.

World traveler Wendi had spent some time in a desert before, but she agreed this was pretty impressive.

The wind shipped the sand up and it drifted around like snow we remember from a very cold place.

The strong, gusty wind added some challenge to setting up the tent, but it was tough enough to stand the wind. The warm, sunny day ended with a clear, cold night.

It is amazing how much the temperature changes out there. But, wearing an extra shirt was small trouble to see an amazing sunset and to watch the last of the day fade to darkness behind a distant ridge. 

March 11, 2015

Plowing Through the Slop on a Muddy Mountain Ride

This past Saturday was sunny and warm, a perfect day for off road riding in Idaho's wild and beautiful backcountry.

It felt like spring, but the distant mountains still had a dusting of snow.

With most of the snow gone the lower mountains were barren, but we loved the views.

Farther up, the snow was melting and the gravel road became a half melted, but partly frozen mix of mud, sand, slush, mush, snow, and ice. 

Careful throttle control kept the fish tailing under control and the bikes plowed through the slop with no problem, 

The slippery ride was a fun challenge. 

At the end of the day, it was tough to turn around and head for home.

But, we had no complaints after an awesome day trip with great scenery and riding.  We will be back again soon.

February 5, 2015

Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route Revealed

The greatly anticipated 5th Backcountry Discovery Route was unveiled before a sold out auditorium in Boise last evening. The movie ran for about 90 minutes and was a big hit, based on the reaction of the 350 in attendance. People laughed in some places, cheered in others, and groaned when a couple of the riders went down. Along with DVDs of the new movie, the new Idaho BDR maps were for sale in the lobby. Those who waited to get them after the show were disappointed as both quickly sold out.

In a nutshell, the trail begins in Nevada just across the Idaho line and runs up through the Gem State before turning east into Montana on the Magruder corridor. The route then swings back into Idaho and north to finish at the Canadian border. The route runs over mountains, across rivers and through some of Idaho's most remote and beautiful back country. Anyone riding this route will not be disappointed by the scenery or the challenge of completing the ride.

After the movie, BDR riders Paul Guilliem from Touratech and Justin Bradshaw from Butler maps were on hand for a Q&A session. Someone asked why the Idaho route is repeatedly mentioned as the "least technical" of all the BDRs. Paul Guilliem explained the less technical aspect will allow more riders to participate in the BDR experience. I asked what suspension or other modifications were done to the bikes. The short answer was "none" these were stock BWMs and KTMs on the route. Honestly, I had not expected that answer since the bikes were fully loaded with panniers and soft luggage on some rough and rocky roads.

The final event for the evening was a drawing for a bunch of cool door prizes. As the table full of t-shirts, caps, and other freebies dwindled, I was stunned to hear my number called. I was stunned because I have never, ever, won a drawing of any sort. That changed tonight and I brought home an autographed copy of Into the Horizon by Lance Gines, who was on hand to present the book. Cool. Looks like I will be doing a book review sometime soon.

The IDBDR movie exceeded all of my expectations for the BDR series by once again showing great off road riding on a fantastic route. This BDR also highlights some Idaho history as well as many of the people and places worth visiting along the way. While no KLRs made the trip, our bike can handle the mountains, gravel switchbacks, and other challenges as well as the bigger, heavier, adventure bikes that appear in the movie.

January 27, 2015

Rider Saved By ATGATT

Nobody gets on their bike thinking, "Today I am going to have an accident, I better wear my gear." Because accidents are never expected, many riders use All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) as a personal rule for safe riding. You only ride when wearing a full set of safety gear. 

My friend Vic is an experienced rider on the street, trail, and track. He is also an ATGATT rider who high-sided on the pavement and walked away with minor injuries thanks to his safety gear. Here is his story...

"I just had a mini high side and tested out my spanking new jacket at about 35 mph or so.  Around Las Colinas City Hall, there is a area right around a curve where the inside lane has sunk down about 6 inches from the lane running beside it.  I did not notice this as I was changing from the inside to the outside lane.  I guess my tires hit the edge perfectly wrong with both tires and the bike suddenly pitched me over the bars sliding on my face and right side. One second I was riding along, the next second I was crashing into the pavement."

He compared this accident to hitting a curb sideways. As the bike fell away to the left, he flew over the handlebars and landed on his right thigh, then right elbow, and right front of his Shoei RF-1100 helmet. 

"My face slide jacked up my visor a bit but my helmet will be OK except for some minor scratching.  Right arm of the new jacket is chewed up a bit but not all the way through. Not a scratch on my legs thanks to Bull-It  jeans. My chest area is as if nothing happened thanks my Forcefield Body Armor." 

"If I was not wearing my gear, it could have been so much worse; cracked ribs, shoulder, smashed up face/jaw. Road rash on legs, shoulder, thigh, face, and arms would have been a reality."

This is a great testimony to the effectiveness of wearing quality gear. It will save you a lot of pain and injury when the unexpected happens to you! The detailed damage to his gear  included:

- Triumph branded jacket: (heavy leather with armored elbows and shoulders) scuffed, but no tears or asphalt burn through. 

- Gerbings T5 heated gloves: scuffing and tears on right hand fingers; repairable.

- Alpinestars MX5 boots: a few scrapes on the upper sliders, but otherwise fine.

- Bull-It Jeans: tear through of the jean material, but the Covec did not allow the asphalt to get to his legs. 

As for personal injuries:

"A 1/2 dollar sized asphalt burn on my right elbow area. quarter sized bruise on my right thumb and swelling of my right thigh. Some minor bumps and bruises. All should be fine."  

"I am in decent shape these days so I was able to easily get up, right the bike, and get back to work."

His trusty KLR returned him to work, but it also had some injuries.

"The KLR suffered some twisted forks (can fix, I think) and road rash on the ice-cream scoop protectors. Gotta love the old girl, she really came through like a champ. My S3 or Ninja would have been coming on a truck."

It's easy to see that without his gear, Vic would have been a bloody mess laying along the road, while the bike was still good enough to ride. Only by wearing ATGATT, was he able to get up again with relatively minor injuries and ride away from this accident. That is something to remember the next time you get on your bike.

Vic contributed his story and I wrote this post, hoping to spare other riders from injury or death because they do not see the importance of All The Gear All The Time. If one rider changes their mind and wears their gear after reading this, then our job here is done.

Thanks Vic and ride safe!

January 8, 2015

Wolfman E-12 Enduro Saddlebags Review

I bought the Wolfman E-12 Saddlebags to use on day trips with my Green DRZ. These are smaller saddlebags for enduro bikes, and they fit the KLX perfectly. They are quality bags, made of heavy duty material and zippers, and liked them right away. Just what I needed for overnighters on the KLX 400.

Yet, they have migrated over to the KLR and stayed there for several months. I don't plan on removing them anytime soon. These are great bags and I am amazed at how much they can hold. They will carry several plastic shopping bags of stuff, but are small and low profile enough to stay out of the way when not needed. Between errands and weekend rides, they have found a home on the KLR.

The above picture comes from Wolfman's installation sheet and shows why the E-12 bags don't require mounting racks. They lay across the seat with two adjustable 2 inch straps and the lower mounting straps fasten wherever needed. The "Tension-O-Matic Rear Mounting" strap was a pain and I removed it from the bags. Even without this rear harness the bags stay secure and ride just fine.

The bags are not waterproof, so I simply sprayed waterproofing on them. After several short trips through "normal" rain showers, nothing in them has ever been wet. Try riding long distance through heavy downpours or crossing a deep river, and your results may vary. A dry bag would be very useful in this situation. I did not buy them for that sort of riding so that's never been a problem for me. While I bought them for the smaller bike, they work great and look good on the KLR and I would buy them again. These bags are a quality solution for extra carrying capacity.