RSS

Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Ice Cream Run: Miles 128 -153

After a day of yard work I was able to sneak out for a short ride this evening.  Mostly I needed to get gas for a longer ride I’m going on tomorrow morning, but I also took a little detour.  More on that later, first for the fuel up. I made it 136 miles before needing to fill up the bike for the first time putting me at 33 mpg so far.  I’m hoping that number goes up as I get used to the bike and how to ride it better.  I plan on keeping a running tally of my fuel ups at the site fuelly.com.  You can review the stats at http://www.fuelly.com/driver/redkamel/ninja-1000.     

Now for the fun part.  I wanted to pick up a treat for my wife and me on the way home and thought ice cream would fit the bill nicely after a long day of hot yard work.  Before I left the house I put a small cooler inside my tail bag with a cool pack.  When I got to Cold Stone Creamery and picked up my order I simply put it in the cooler, zipped up the tail bag and rode home.  As I said before, I think the tail bag will do the trick, and tonight it did very well indeed.

 

Tags: , , ,

Gearing Up: Miles 128

A sunny and not too hot Saturday.  What else could I possibly do but go for a long ride … oh, that’s right, yard work.  All the rain in Virginia that has prevented me from riding this week also prevented me from getting my yard work done so that I could ride all weekend.  Still I had to fiddle with the bike a little, it is all shiny and new.  I attached my Tour Master tail bag and Moto Fizz tank bag.  I think these will do well to provide some storage.  I’ll see if I can sneak in a little ride tomorrow, even if it’s just to the store.  You know, to test out the bags.     

 

Tags: , , ,

Gearing Up

In preparation for the X-Country trip I’ve started putting together my gear. I’ve started with the camping gear first. It was pretty apparent on my first motorcycle camping trip that I needed to upgrade the equipment that I have, which is for car camping. So I’ve started looking for smaller, lighter gear along with a few things that I realized I need but don’t have.

HydraLight Zipper Duffel by Seattle Sports:

I started with a bag. I need a way to get all the gear on the bike and to the camp site. After looking at a lot of bags I went with the HydraLight Zipper Duffel by Seattle Sports. Here’s the product description from Aerostitch.com

“This light, waterproof duffel constructed of coated ripstop nylon will keep your stuff dry on the road or down the trail. Additional webbing and D-rings on each side allow you to easily strap it to your bike. Welded seams, waterproof zipper, with extra support on the bottom and sides. Shoulder strap included. 3887 cubic inches of space, yet super packable. Medium is 13″×23″×13″, 24 oz. and Large is 14″×28″×15″, 43 oz. Grey.”
Here’s a picture of the duffel tied up and ready to go on my bike for one of my camping trips.

Review: I’ve been on two camping trips with this duffel since I purchased it. On the first trip I ran into some light rain and the bag held up well. On the second trip I encountered hours of riding in hard to moderate rain and the bag did not remain waterproof. I believe that the issue is with the zippers. They have a flap that covered the zipper that in light to moderate, intermittent rain seems to keep water out just fine but after hours of being rained on they just could not keep the water out. The second failure also has to do with the zippers but was exacerbated by how I have the bag strapped to the bike. When the bag is strapped down sufficiently to keep it from moving, and to allow me to use it as a back rest, the two rubber flaps that server to keep water out of the zipper track get separated along their seam. This compromises their effectiveness and permits water to get into the bag. I think that in the future I’ll be looking at Dry bags that have a fold-over or roll top closure to prevent the issues that I’ve had with this bag. The good news is that I packed everything in the bag in waterproof stuff sacks with roll top closures (or 1 quart freezer bags) that performed perfectly. So no real harm done with the water getting into the main bag.

Waterproof Stuff Bags:

As mentioned above I picked up several Waterproof Stuff Bags to pack and organize my gear with. These proved to be invaluable for storing and keeping my gear organized. I purchased one of each size to cover all needs. I use the extra small one for toiletries, 2 small ones for my camp stove and to organize other items (flashlights, matches, fat wood, etc.), the medium one for my sleeping bag and a large for my clothes. I have an additional large bag that I use for dirty or wet items that I just pack empty.

Review: As an organization tool these bags can’t be beat. They segregate
out my gear and because they are all different colors I can easily grab the bag that I need when I need it. They have a roll top closure that works well to seal out the wet (or keep it in if needed). You do have to work on getting the air out in order to not take up unwanted room when packing but after a few times using the bags this was pretty easy. These bags really saved me a lot of grief by keeping my gear dry when my duffel leaked.

Now that I had a place to put my stuff, I needed the stuff. So, back to shopping.

Colman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove/Cranky Pump:

I picked up the Colman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove which is a small packable camp stove that will run on white gas (unleaded gas) or kerosene. I can pump gas right from my motorcycle tank into the stove using the Cranky Pump. This is a hand held crank pump that will pull gas from the tank as you crank the pump but stops when you stop cranking. No siphon hoses that you have to suck on and then crimp to stop the gas flow. Really nice little gadget.

Review: The Colman stove worked perfectly on my recent 4 day
camping trip. I highly recommend this stove for travel. It’s not as compact as other travel stoves but the fact that it takes unleaded gas right from my tank means that I don’t have to carry camp stove fuel so the size isn’t that much of an issue compared to the convenience. Reading the instructions provided with the stove is critical. This is not a stove that you can, in my opinion, just jump into with out knowing the specifics of how it works. Once used a few times though the operation becomes second nature. If I had to say anything negative about the stove it would be that after filling it with fuel, it is then full of fuel. Repacking the stove means either burning off the remaining fuel (which I do when returning home for long term storage), trying to pump the fuel back into the bike (not easy and there is still residual fuel in the stove), or packing it away with the fuel in it. I bought a watertight, roll top dry bag just to store the stove knowing that I didn’t want to waste the fuel in it by burning it off and being unsuccessful in getting all the fuel out and back into the bike. Because of the sharp “fins” next to the burner and because the fuel is gasoline (read degrades plastic bags) I choose a tough bag to put this in so that there would be no spill over onto my other gear if a leak did occur (which none did). Also important to note is that the “fins” and pot support ring around the top are very easy to bend, I know this from personal experience. So take care where in your packing you put the stove so as not to compress it and ruin the top of the stove.The Cranky Pump pump worked flawlessly. A nice feature of this pump is that one of the tube ends has a metal tip that helps ensure is gets to the bottom of the bikes gas tank to provide a good flow of gas when the pump starts. To clean it out after use I just run water through the pump and then leave out to dry. Sine I only needed to fill the stove once on this trip I wasn’t worried about water getting into the stove the next time I used the device.

Kelty Gunnison 2 Tent:

The test that I used on my first moto-camping trip was an old two man tent that I had in my garage from way back. My first mistake was in thinking that this would be fine to use after sitting around for years. I didn’t waterproof it or even try and set it up before the trip. I discovered that A) it was too big to be really affective as a moto-camping tent and B) that it was not longer waterproof (the hard way). Shortly after that soggy trip I starting looking for a new tent. I reviewed a number of tents but settled on the Gunnison based on reviews from several sites and the price.

Review: Shortly after receiving the Gunnison I set it up in my back yard. The setup was easy and certainly something that I could do by myself (unlike the previous tent that I had). The poles are connected at the middle creating an X that then snaps into clips at the corners of the tent and attached to the walls of the tent via carabiner style hooks. The rain fly for the tent covers 90% of the surface area and also creates two vestibules for gear and boot storage (nice not to have the tent smell like dirty socks). The tent performed well on my 4 day trip. Through several rain storms I did stay mostly dry. On the last rain however there was some dampness on the floor under my mat. I believe that the seams need to be sealed and I’ll be applying a fresh spray on waterproofer before using again. I had, on the advise from another site, purchased a cheep tarp and cut it to the footprint of the tent to provide ground cover. This may have contributed to the leaking tent as my cutting skills were not very exact. I will definitely be picking up the purpose built groundcloth for this tent in the spring. Aside from weather protection the tent was very spacious and made getting my 6′ 2″ body dressed and undressed a non-event. Plenty of room for gear and with the added vestibules wet stuff stayed outside and the rest stayed inside. Pack size is good too, just 7″×25″ which fits perfectly into the HydraLight duffel. Overall I’m very happy with this tent.

Coleman TrueTemp Sleeping Bag:

I have a sleeping bag now that I’ve used for years when camping with my family. However, it is very bulky and took up an inordinate amount of space on the bike. I bought the Coleman at Target. It’s a 50 degree summer weight bag but since I generally camp in the spring through fall and tend to run pretty warm it works great. No frills here just a simple bag.

Review: Every sleeping bag that I’ve ever owned since I was a kid has made me sweat when I sleep. I finally realized that I don’t need a supper warm or even warm bag, I need a bag that will cover me when I’m in my tent and that packs small. I happened upon this bag when shopping at Target and it seemed to fit the bill and was inexpensive enough that if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t feel obligated to use it. Turns out that I made the right choice, and it may be the first time in my life where buying the inexpensive item turned out to be the right way to go. I do plan on purchasing a set of fleece pants and undershirt for cold weather riding that will be sufficient to augment the bag if the temperature does dip into the lower register. For now though this bag stuffs into my dry bag and has worked in both warm and moderately cool weather. I took it camping up in the finger lakes in NY in early September and it performed perfectly.

Aluminum Non-Stick Cookset:

My first moto-camping trip I tried to take plastic utensils and paper plates and bowls thinking that I didn’t want to have to clean up dishes. I neglected to realize how ineffective paper products are in the rain and how fragile plastic utensils are when eating steaks and potatoes. I also cannot cook on or with paper/plastic dinnerware. The Aluminum Cookset that I picked up was inexpensive and generally well reviewed so I thought I grab a set and test them out.

Review:This cookset is light and compact. It easily fit in with my gear and there was even space inside to store some salt/pepper shakers and a Hobo knife that I picked up from Duluth Trading Company inside the pots. The quality of the set leaves a little to be desired. The handles are riveted to the pots and upon opening my set I noticed that one of the handles mounting plates had been cracked during the attachment process. The handles are another issue. From the picture that the manufacturer provides it appears that the handles will fold out from the body of the pot and stay put by way of friction or some other means then fold back around the pot for storage. In reality the handles flop around loose and are hard to keep together when the pot is full of water. I’m still working on a way to keep them together when cooking so that the plastic at the end of the handles does not touch the hot pan and melt to it. on the plus side the set does work well and I like the addition of the frying pan with the set. If I can’t solve the issue with the handles though, this may become a play toy for my girls in their toy kitchen.

I’ve picked up a number of smaller items that are just generally good to bring along and have actually made my moto-camping trips a lot nicer. The Aquis Travel Towel and personal camp towel are great for showers, dishes and wiping down the bike. They are supper absorbent and quick drying (especially when strapped to the back of the bike for a little bit). Speaking of showering I highly recommend J.R. Liggett’s bar shampoo. So much easier than carrying a bottle of shampoo. I take various flashlights, deck of cards, fatwood, matches, etc. For the most part though I’ll just keep refining my list as I camp and continue to try and perfect my gear list. I’m sure there will be more reviews to come.

 
 

Tags: , ,

Helmet Review Nolan N103

Monday March 22, 2010

Just before last Christmas I realized that my HJC Symax was showing its age. The flip-up chin bar was breaking at the connection to the helmet on one side and it was pretty scratched and scuffed. I have to say in its defense that it has held up very well for being around 10 years old. I started hunting around for a new helmet in the hopes that I would have one selected in time to tell Santa what I wanted under the tree. I did and here’s a review of my new (now three months old) Nolan N103.

I have to preface this review with a few things first. The most important is that I’m borrowing the categories and format of the review from the good folks at webBikeWorld where I spent hours reading and comparing helmets before buying the Nolan. The other item of note is that I have only owned three helmets, A Fulmer (lineage not remembered), an HJC SyMax and now the Nolan, so my basis for comparison is limited. I do however ride a lot and have ridden a lot in the Nolan so I do have a fair amount of information regarding the Nolan.

Background

Having had the Fulmer full face helmet and the HJC flip-up I knew that I wanted another flip-up helmet. The convenience of being able to pull up the chin bar at a stop light or when putting on the helmet was a feature that, having had, I could not do without. This narrowed my search for a new lid considerably by eliminating half and full face helmets. I don’t consider the “novelty” helmets that many H-D riders where practical or even really helmets. You get about as much protection from a baseball cap as you do wearing one of those so they were not even an option. Color choice was another important feature for me. I wanted a color that was highly visible as i use my bike to commute to work several times a week. I settled on yellow or possibly white as the dominant color choice. This was probably the most restrictive feature as most flip-up helmet makers choose several variations of black or gray as their color options, I suspect to catch a majority of riders preferences. My last important feature was venting. My HJC, as great as it was totally lacked any real top ventilation and was a real sweat box in the summer.

I first became aware of the Nolan helmets through the Aerostich catalog. I’m an avid reader and purchaser of their equipment (yes, even though I ride a Harley). I was impressed with the helmet and with the optional communications packages that are available. Already being a regular to webBikeWorld I headed over there to see if there was a review of the N103 and sure enough there was. I read that and almost every other review that I could and decided that the next step was to find one to try on. Fortunately a local dealer sells Nolan helmets and I was able to do a test run in the store. Needless to say I was won over and bought the helmet on the spot.

Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

From an aesthetics perspective the N103 is, well, large. That was my first impression when putting it on. The bright yellow only served to accentuate the feeling that I was going to be a giant lolly pop riding down the street. Once over that shock I was able to and have been able to appreciate the build quality and finish of the N103. It’s solid yellow paint so there are no graphics but the finish is smooth with no imperfections. It has worn well since purchased and the yellow hides the normal swirl scratches that are inevitable (and highly visible on a black helmets).

There is an integrated spoiler that, as far as I can tell, does nothing but then I ride chest into the wind so even if it did I’m not sure that I’d benefit from it. Other exterior details include chin and top vents with a rubber “switch” to open and closing them, tool-less visor removal, chin curtain, and a unique latching system to open the chin (I’ll get to that later). All the details and functional items seem to date to work as intended and that means well. I know that it’s only been three months but everything is still clicking and sliding like it did on the first day I bought it.

The interior is very plush and soft. Nolan marketing refers to this as the “Sanitized Clima Comfort antimicrobial hypoallergenic interior.” While all that may be true the most important aspect for me is that it is, hands down, the most comfortable helmet interior that I have ever felt. This is compared to all the helmets that I tried on and have owned. It was one of the main factors in purchasing the Nolan. It is removable and washable. My only complaint is that the snap on the right side near the chin bar will not stay seated and pops out just about every time I take it off. It’s not intrusive but seems out of place related to the quality of the rest of the N103.

The Nolan has a chin curtain and a neck roll for “wind-noise reduction”. I’ll get to the noise part later but the neck roll is nice on long rides, it helps stabilize the mass and size of the N103 and reduces neck fatigue if not wind noise. I have an internal debate ongoing regarding the chin curtain. I like it when it’s cold out because it does limit the amount of air that comes in under the helmet. The debate is that I also wear a neck warmer when it’s really cold and the chin curtain tends to bind up a little and can make it difficult to turn my head. The bunching at the neck also presses on my neck which can be uncomfortable. I haven’t ridden in summer heat yet and so don’t know how this will affect hot weather riding. The good news is that the chin curtain is easily removed and installed so when it does get in the way I can just throw it in a saddle bag and install it again later if I need it.

Nolan has fitted the N103 with a visor that I have some issues with. It is optically correct and there is no distortion, but at this point in helmet technology that’s really a given. My gripe comes from the fitment of the shield to the actual eye opening. There is a rubber ring around the eye port that the visor should match up with to create a seal. My helmet visor does not match up quite right causing some additional wind noise. Noise I can deal with, the real issue with this not matching up is in the rain. The gap allows water to drip inside the visor which collects at the chin guard until it drips down to the chin curtain and then down the neck of my jacket. This waterfall effect is pretty annoying and I’m currently looking for a way to correct the issue. I’ll post a fix if I find one.

Helmet Shape and Fit

The N103 is defined as a Long Oval shape. This means that if you take out the liner and look at the open bottom of the helmet it has an egg shape oval to it. It also means that it is longer front to back and narrower side to side. This shape fits my head well and leaves plenty of space between the chin guard and my chin. The sides are a bit snug but not uncomfortable even on a long trip. I’ve completed a 300 mile day ride and didn’t have any issues even with ear phones in and sunglasses on.

I’ve mentioned the plush and soft interior, it really is comfortable and provides a nice cushion all the way around my head with out pressing in too much. The liner does make wearing sunglasses a little hard but once they are on there are no issues with them slipping or moving during a ride. Over all this is a very comfortable fit for me but if you have a more round head shape I think that the narrow sides may press in and cause comfort issues.

Venting

Ah, venting. Here I am totally biased since this is the first helmet that I have owned where when I opened the top vent I actually felt air flow. Neither of my previous helmets provided any top vent air flow that I could ever discern. Both the front vents and the top vents are manipulated using a rubber switch that, once you know where it is, is easy to operate with gloves on. The front vents open forward and act as scoops to pull air in and push it up onto the visor. They work very well for defogging and also for air flow to the face. I have not noticed any increased wind noise with the vents open.

I’m obviously a big fan of the venting and combined with the moisture wicking effects of the liner works well (so far) in warmer weather. I’ve not ridden in temperatures greater than 80 deg. so far so it still remains to be seen if they are functional enough for hot DC summer temps, but I’m optimistic that they will perform well.

Noise Levels

Here was a real shock for me. Based on the over all quality of the N103 and all the features that it has it is noisy, more so than I would have guessed. The noise levels are greater than the HJC that I had and are better than the Fulmer by far, but it is there. I don’t notice an increase in the noise with the vents open, and it’s only mildly increased with the visor up so I have to attribute it to the air flow over the helmet. I believe that some of this is due to the short windshield on my FLHTI but I have to assume that the rest is just the normal flow of air passing over the helmet and bouncing off the integrated spoiler. I’m not sure if the design expects the rider to be hitting the wind at a different angle or that they expect the rider to be seated safely behind a larger windshield. Nolan’s are very popular with the BMW RT/Honda ST type rider where there is a slightly forward, more sporty riding position and a larger adjustable windshield so maybe this does not affect them as much. I can over look this flaw mainly because I always ride with ear plugs (or foam ear buds for my IPod) so the issue is masked. It makes me wonder though how effective the helmet speaker system would be if I were to have it installed. I’ll talk more about that in the Misc. section. I’m a little scared to install a $100.00+ item in the helmet if it’s not going to deliver the volume level (undistorted) to be able to really enjoy my music and pod casts.

Visor

I’ve already mentioned my issue with the visor not sealing well against the rain so I won’t go into that again here. The N103 does come with an integrated, retractable sun visor that I really like. I’ve read a lot of complaints and criticisms regarding these sun visors. Most center around the visor not being tall enough when lowered and the bottom edge being visible. I have only noticed this when I first lower the sun shield, once it’s down, I am able to adjust to it and don’t have this problem. The nose cutout at the bottom seems pointless since it’s just not that close to my face. The sun visor is not really dark enough for mid-day sun but combined with my regular sunglasses works very well. It’s also great for evening and morning sun and I can forgo the sunglasses altogether.

One other nice feature is the Pin Lock “Nolan Fog Resistant System” insert for the visor. It’s basically a smaller strip of the same visor shield material that fits into the Pin Locks (small nubs that the shield locks into) to prevent fogging. I have to say that it really works too. The true test was to not wear sunglasses or my regular glasses (I have contacts, don’t worry I’m not riding blind) and make sure that the fogging I was seeing was the glasses and not the windshield. So far I have no complaints about this system other than the trouble it took to install, which really was a few minutes if grunting and trying not to break my new helmet. Once installed it works as advertised which is nice to see in motorcycle gear.

Helmet Weight

The N103 is heavy at 4 lbs. 2-5/8 oz. in size XL.Heavier than any other helmet I tried on or have owned. That said, it is balanced well and the fitment of the interior and neck roll help to make it feel a look lighter, on my head, than it really is.

Miscellaneous

Nolan has created for the N line an N-COM (Nolan Communication System) that integrates into the N103 (and previous N versions) by way of channels already built into the helmet. The basic kit includes helmet speakers, mic, and a wired connection for a cell phone and another wired connection to a music player of your choice. Upgrades include on helmet controls via an integrated unit in a preexisting door on the side of the helmet, Rider-to-Passenger intercom kit and a Blue Tooth kit for wireless connection to phones and music devices. There’s even an option for Bike-to-Bike communication with connection to a GMRS/FMRS radio. I happen to think that this integrated approach to communications is commendable. I do not however feel the same way about the price. The basic kit is ~$100.00, but you have to purchase the intercom kit, another $150.00 to be able to use the on-helmet controls or any communications and the blue tooth kit is $250.00. All this and you still have to purchase the wires to connect to the various devices that you want to add in. With the cost at about $250.00 – $300.00 to get the kit setup for use in a meaningful way, after purchasing a $350 helmet is, in my opinion, gouging the customer. I’d be less offended if the basic kit was sold with the helmet and then the other items offered as upgrades. This would put the pricing in line with other aftermarket communication systems and be more understandable. As it is, I’m not sure that I want to risk spending $150.00 when I may not even be able to hear my music over the wind noise that the helmet produces. So, A for effort but D+ on execution. I’ll just wait and see.

Conclusion

I’ve pointed out the flaws as I see them for the N103, but I believe that overall this is a superior helmet. I now understand why it is as popular as it is. I have already recommended the helmet to other riders and will most likely purchase another Nolan in the future. The most important elements of the helmet are those that the N103 excel at, fit, comfort and quality (visor aside). I hope that if you happen across this review it provides you with some information that you did not have or did not know. For a more professional review I suggests going to WebBikeWorld and reading their review. I found it very helpful and was also able to read reviews of other similar helmets for comparison.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 22, 2010 in Gear Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

 
Moto Adventurer

Confessions of a Motorcycle-Aholic

c90ftw

an avid motorcyclist's journey transitioning from the street to the track

Motorcycles and the Cynic

My motorcycle adventures and thoughts

Two Wheel Tripping

Adventures in motorcycle road tripping

EXPERIMENTAL GHOST

motorcycles, travel, friendship, respect... I may drift off into WTF-land at times so hang in there.

The Texas Rambler

Motorcycling, Motorcycle Touring & Travel Blog

I JUST WANT 2 RIDE!!

Our Motorcycle Blog about Motorcycle Stuff

FoodMapAdventures

Eat well - travel often!

Ride2ADV

Shrinking The Planet - One Ride At A Time

riderako

I ride, therefore I am

built in the bathhouse

the progress and inspiration of a retro classic motorcycle builder

hollywooddesmo

Splitting Lanes and Taking Names

Motorcycle touring and its lessons in turn.

Passionate love for the simple joy of travelling on two wheels

Louda Goes Vroom

(Laʊd-uh gohz vroom)

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

The Wheelnerds Podcast

A couple nerds talk weekly about motorcycles and stuff...

CouchSurf America

CouchSurfing my way across the 50 states of America and 10 Provinces of Canada.

Darlene Steelman McGarrity

Writing With A Day Job

Adventurous Wanderings

Stories of Sailing, RV-ing, Motorcycles and Adventures

notwithoutthebike

Freedom and the open road.

Northwest RoadRAT

A blog about bikes, me, and whatever else comes to mind...

TwoTireTirade

Keeping the faith of fanatics who feel fired up for anything motorcycles. It’s all about the journey and the philosophy of riding on two wheels. Let’s bring alive the truly unique culture of motorcycling and never let the ride leave the fibers of our being.

The Great 80's

All The Things We Love (and Hate) About The Eighties!

%d bloggers like this: