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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Cleaning Out The Cobwebs With The MSF BRC2 Course

MSF BRC2 May is Motorcycle Safety month. With the cold and snow beginning to give way to sun and warmer weather I’m seeing many more bikes on the road. This is a great time to think about motorcycle safety as we clear off the cobwebs from our bike’s winter naps. It’s also a good time to clear out the cobwebs in our heads and brush up on our atrophied riding skills. I’ve ridden for almost 15 years now but those first few long spring rides are always an opportunity to get back into form for the riding season. This year instead of taking this task on myself I enlisted the help of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and enrolled in the BRC2 (formerly ERC) course.

For those not familiar with the ERC (Experiences Rider Course), now the BRC2 course, it is essentially the same as the BRC (Basic Rider Course) that many take to qualify for a motorcycle endorsement, but with a few differences. The first difference is less classroom time. Most of the non-riding activities are less formal than the BRC and happen during the one day, six-hour BRC2 course while the riding activities are being setup by one of the two instructors or during a break. The second difference is that you get to ride your own bike in the course. No more trying to work out how the figure eight in “The Box” exercise while on a TU250 could be executed on your 600lb + daily ride. You get to try it out on your bike and find out. The MSF bill the BRC2 as “an excellent refresher course for practicing and renewing basic riding skills.”

With a forecast calling for a 70% chance of rain (with possible hail!) my friend Byron and I started out from Warrenton under cloudy skies for our ride to Charlottesville where the course was being held. Since MSF courses are held rain or shine I wore my waterproof gear and hoped for the best. We still had a 30% chance for a good day, right? As it turned out the rains never materialized and we had a warm sunny afternoon riding around in the parking lot at Albemarle High School.

Throughout the six-hour course our instructors guided, directed, corrected and encouraged the five of us riders in the class through all the exercises I remembered from the BRC course. It took me a bit but to gain the confidence that I could execute these maneuvers on my Concours. Once I got comfortable though, it was a joy becoming more familiar with my bike and sharpening my skills. As I said before, it’s one thing to take this course on a 250cc bike that has been “well used”, it’s a totally different experience on the bike I ride all the time. The reason I enrolled in the course was so I could practice confidence building lower speed maneuvers with the direction and guidance of a trained instructor. I was not disappointed. It was refreshing to know that I was more than competent in several of the activities. I also picked up new skills and corrected some bad habits along the way. As our instructor said, “practice makes permanent, perfect practice makes perfect.”

This summer I have a bit of homework to work on from class. There are a few techniques that I need to reinforce through practice. Unlike when I was in school though, I’m really looking forward to this homework.

For more information on the always changing and expanding course list offered by the MSF you can go to their website at MSF-USA.org.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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BILT Apollo Modular Motorcycle Helmet – First Look

Riding_Modified“Apollo Modular Helmet, didn’t you write that you picked up the BILT Explorer Adventure helmet?” Yes, I did get the Explorer helmet as part of the package deal with the BILT Explorer Adventure Waterproof jacket but when I went to my local Cycle Gear store to exchange my too large BILT Explorer Adventure pants I also traded in the Explorer helmet for the Apollo. The Explorer was just too off-road for me and I felt that the Apollo fit me and my riding better. I’m happy to say that I made the right choice.

The features of the Apollo read like most modular helmets these days. Single pushbutton chin bar release, internal sun shield, optically clear face shield, double d-ring chin strap with snap stay, chin and top vents, rear exhaust vent, removable lining, polycarbonate shell and a nice bag to store it in. I chose the HI-VIZ color with black accents.

From my first ride this helmet fit me, my head and my riding style. The chin bar mechanism is smooth but takes a firm hand to open and latch closed. This is doubly true for the face shield, it’s a bit stiff and takes some effort to raise and lower. There are plenty of detentes in the face shield, the first opens the shield just enough to keep fogging down to a minimum. The chin vents also move enough air, once in motion, that I can feel it on my chin and it clears out any fogging. Two top vents also flow decent air that I can feel while in motion, which is more than I can say for most helmets I’ve owned. I’ve ridden this year in tempts ranging from 30 to 85 degrees and it’s been as comfortable as most helmets and more so then some I’ve worn.

I am also impressed with how smooth the airflow over the helmet is. The Apollo is not a quiet helmet. There’s a good deal of wind noise but with the face shield down and the chin curtain it’s less than you’d expect. I’ve noticed a high-pitched whistle at times that seems like it’s coming from the shield where it meets to helmet. I only hear it when turning a hard corner so it’s not constant. I barely notice it with my ear plugs in. Overall wind noise is not loud enough that it will be a drain on a long ride.

Weight seems reasonable. It’s not carbon fiber but it is lighter than my Nolan n103. I choose the XL over the large, which is my normal size in Nolan and HJC, as it fit better. Even with the XL however I don’t have room for my helmet liner, but that’s not a great loss. I have a beard and so am particularly susceptible to my chin and neck hair getting pulled by the chin strap if it’s not padded well. No such issues with the Apollo. Both sides of the chin strap are well padded. When pulled together through the D-ring the padding comes together and stops the strap from chafing my neck.

I was able to attach my Sena SMH10 to the Apollo. The internal sun visor and shape of the helmet made this a little tricky but it works well. The Sena mounts a littler farther forward on the helmet then I would like, though.  The mic tucks into a little pocket in chin bar and stays out of the way when riding which s a plus. I don’t use the internal speakers as I opted for the base plate that lets me use ear buds. I can’t comment on speaker installation in the Apollo though it looks like it would not be hard. The liner is removable (and washable).

I’ve been on several rides now with the Apollo helmet and am very satisfied with it. It feels and looks solid and well built. For the price I believe this is one of the better helmet choices out there, especially for a new rider looking for extra protection without the extra price. It’s certainly a lot nicer than the $100 Fullmer full face that was my first helmet.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in BILT Gear Review, Gear Reviews

 

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