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It’s My Birthday!

My Connie on the BRPW

Photo by Mike Hammond

I know this is a little self-serving but I had to put a quick post up about my Birthday today. I’m so grateful to have the opportunities that I have to ride motorcycles, write about motorcycles, and take pictures of motorcycles. This past year was amazing. I cannot wait to see what adventures next year will present. I’m thankful for my family for being supportive and understanding of my obsession with motorcycles. They allow me the freedom to pursue riding as more than just a casual hobby. I’m also grateful for all the friends that I get to share my love of riding with.

Stay safe my riding friends. See you down the road.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Boots – First Look

When I look for footwear for motorcycle use I start by trying to find something that will serve as many functions as possible and will still be comfortable. The BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Boots (formerly the BILT H2O Explorer Waterproof Adventure Boots)  seemed like they might fit the bill. They have all the features that I look for in a boot: leather upper, waterproof/breathable liner, oil resistant sole, reinforced shin and outer ankle, toe and heel protection, generous opening, and some style. I ordered a size 11 because they don’t come in half sizes and I know I can deal with a boot that’s a little too big a lot easier than a boot that’s too small.

Fit is excellent. The large opening makes pulling on the boots easy. The cuff type closure and two lower straps allow for a snug fit that is adjustable to any calf size. There is ample space for my wide American foot, no pinching at the toes or ankle. I specifically like the soft material around the top of the boot. As a commuter I can wear normal work socks and not worry about being uncomfortable.

I have tested the waterproof liner on several occasions and it works well. No rain gets into the boots. However, the breathability of the liner leaves a lot to be desired. It’s great to have a waterproof boot, but if my feet can’t breathe then they end up wet anyway. These boots can get pretty warm on days where the temperature climbs above 80 degrees. Because of the heat, I’d classify these as Fall/Winter/Spring boots.

These boots have now seen over 3000 miles of riding and are holding up well. I see no issues with the material, seams, or glued on parts. I expect that they will be able to take a lot more abuse then my old lug boots did.

If you are looking for a cool-weather riding boot that’s comfortable and waterproof you could do a lot worse than the Adventure boots. For the price, they are steal and well worth every penny.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in BILT Gear Review

 

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Published Story

20130707-082556.jpg

I am very excited that the story Dad’s Bike from this blog has been included in the July/August issue of Motorcycle Times. This is the first story I’ve written that’s been published. I’m pretty excited at this milestone. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Your encouragement has helped me along this path.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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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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BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Jacket – First Look

Riding_Modified

Motorcycle gear is expensive. There’s no way around it, usually. I cannot begin to count the number of gear reviews that have excited me about a particular piece of kit and then brought back to reality when I see the price. In all of this reading I’ve yet to see a review of some of the less expensive gear out there. Even when I went to research Cycle Gears house brand BILT I was only able to find message board reviews. So I thought I’d take the plunge, buy the gear and see for myself if it’s inexpensive or just cheap. I’ll start with the BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Jacket (formerly the BILT Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Jacket).

Construction

The Adventure jacket is 3/4 length and made of a 600 denier PRO-FLEX™ outer shell with 1200 denier ENDURA-BRADE™ shoulder and elbow panels. It’s lined with a non-removable DRY+™ 100% waterproof lining, a removable quilted liner and removable CE approved armor at the shoulders and elbows. The 600 and 1200 denier material is highly flexible and light weight making the jacket comfortable with no break-in time at all. In fact it feels light enough that I really appreciate the 1200 denier fabric added to the shoulder and elbow areas. I cannot tell because of the inner liner, but it seems that the 1200 denier patches are sown inline with the 600 denier fabric of the jacket and not sown as an added layer over the shoulder and elbow. This was a little disappointing because I expected these areas to have a layer of 600 and then 1200 denier fabric for added abrasion resistance, but that is not the case.  My attempts to find out what the PRO-FLEX™ or ENDURA-BRADE™ materials are actually made of has turned up little information. They are not Cordura or ballistic but are a lighter nylon or poly fabric similar to a duffel bag or backpack. This will be nice in the summer as it’s lighter fabric weight but I’m not certain of their abrasion resistance because I can’t find the exact base material used.

Out of the box, the construction is decent but there were a number of loose or hanging threads that I needed to trim. The seams are double stitched, which is good, but I noticed a few missteps here and there where the seams didn’t get put together with the greatest of care. This is particularly noticeable around the hook-and-loop patches, zipper folds and at the ends of the roll-up front vents. For the most part these areas show some pretty sloppy sewing and I fear that I’ll be repairing them before the jacket’s end of life. The important thing is that where I would be likely to contact the road the seams are in good shape. There’s a noticeable lack of finishing the product off well which I suspected might be the case for this price point. The thread used on the seams is regular cotton thread and not nylon or another stronger material. So while I expect that in a get off the jacket material and armor will hold up well, the seams are pretty likely to fall apart fast.   

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket FrontBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Back

Fit/Adjustments

The Adventure jacket fit better than I expected. I’m 6′ 2″ and 210 and I bought the XL. It fits everywhere as good gear should. There are adjusters on the arms to help pull the elbow armor into place and hold it there. Adjusters at the waist help snug up the middle. The neck closure is lined with a soft neoprene-like material and closes with some room left over if needed but tight if wanted. Down the front of the jacket there is a full length zipper enclosed by a rain gutter that secures via both hook-and-loop and snaps, which I really liked for reasons that I’ll get into later. The zipper was easy to pull the first time. With the quilted liner in place the fit is a little snug, but it keeps the liner close to the body and I suspect will keep me toasty.

Sleeve length is perfect for my reach to handle bars (sitting test only). The hook-and-loop closures on the end of the sleeves, and the end of the sleeves themselves, could do with a bit more refinement in design. While the closure allows me to wear a glove either over or under the sleeve end, there’s a lot of excess fabric. This fabric causes a loose seal around a glove worn under the sleeve which may let in cold air. It also bunches up fabric under a gauntlet that may prove uncomfortable over a long day. Both of these I will need to test in riding conditions to see how they affect my riding comfort.

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Lower AdjBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Lower Adj OpenBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Side Adj

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Slv OpenBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket Slv Closed

Amenities/Comfort

For cold weather comfort the Adventure jacket comes with a removable quilted liner. This is a pretty standard liner similar those found in my other riding gear. It has two inner pockets and is easy to remove and packs small. When the days start to warm up the Adventure jacket has six vents. There are two arm vents and two rear vents with snap pulls to hold them open. On the both sides of front of the jacket are roll up covers that expose shoulder to torso vents that should pass a lot of air over the rider. I will note that all these vents open to the inner waterproof liner and not directly to the rider. This is similar to another riding jacket that I have and isn’t horrible for cooling me down but does need air flow for it to work. I imagine sitting still will be hot, but then that’s the case even with my mesh jacket.

In regards to venting a summer heat I was actually really impressed with one particular aspect of the front zipper  closure. I mentioned before that this closure secures via snaps and hook and loop. The snaps sit right in the middle of the main closure and allow me to open the main zipper about halfway down. With the hook and loop closure at the neck having the hooks on the pull tab and the main zipper closure having the loop on the right side of the storm flap I can secure the neck pull tab to the storm flap so that it’s not flapping in the wind. This will offer direct venting to me and should help on the hottest day. Whether this was intentional or not, I’ll call it a feature and enjoy the breeze.

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  back ventBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket FrontVentBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Front Vent 2BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Open FrontBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Arm Vent

Pockets there are a plenty. In the removable quilted liner there are two pockets, one on each side. With the liner removed the base jacket has one internal pocket in the lining on the left side. There are two napoleon pockets along the main zipper near the neck, one inside and one outside the main zipper but both lined with waterproof material. At the waist are two large cargo pockets with flaps that close both with snaps and hook and loop and are lined with waterproof material. On the side of the cargo pockets are zipper closed hand warmer pockets lined with the same material found around the collar. On the back is a large snap closed waterproof pocket the width of the back and from the waist to the bottom of the coat. There’s even a pouch for a hydro pack that sits between the vent zippers. That’s 11 pockets before I even put the pants on. I’m sure to lose something.

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Front PocketBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Front Pocket OpenBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Front Pocket side

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Back PocketBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Back Pocket Open

I decided to buy the tan or Sand color for the Adventure jacket and not the all black for better contrast to my bike (which is black) and more conspicuity. There are also reflective panels along the front of the shoulders, above the elbow patches on the side, and at the back of the neck and midway down the back of the jacket. I’ve taken a few pictures with a flash and can say that the reflective spots are placed to offer a good view to motorists in low light and dark riding conditions. Since this is a waterproof coat I find good placement of the reflective spots a big plus.

BILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  ReflectiveBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  ReflectiveBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  ReflectiveBILT ADV Waterproof Jacket  Reflective

Shoulders and elbows are equipped with removable CE certified armor pads. I took a shoulder and elbow pad out to inspect and I was pleasantly surprised that it was marked as CE (of that I had little doubt) and that it was pretty substantial (here I was more surprised). I have several riding jackets and pants that all have CE rated armor, however not all CE rated armor is the same. I’ve seen some pretty flimsy CE armor up to hard molded plastic CE armor. Basically as long as it meets the European Community (CE) standard for impact distribution it is certified as CE armor. I’m relieved that armor was not a place BILT cut corners like some other more expensive brands I own have done here.  

Conclusions

At this point I’m generally happy about my purchase. It fits right, feels good, looks good, and is put together moderately well. I think that there are more pros than cons when it comes to the gear so far. I think it will serve me well, but not for a long duration. It has real potential to not show wear and tear rather quickly. I also think this is a one-and-done piece of gear should I get into a crash in it. I believe it will protect me as much as the next jacket, but it will not survive to ride another day as some higher end kit might. The real test will be riding with it over the summer and seeing how it handles cold and hot weather and regular daily use. I’ll let you know how it fares later this summer/fall in my long-term test results.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in BILT Gear Review, Gear Reviews

 

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Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013

Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013

Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013 (SCGT13) is proud to be a sanctioned AMA National Grand Tour and a featured Team Strange Airheads™ GT once again.

Smoke Chasing is a self-paced BBQ/”Smoke” nationwide Grand Tour that combines your love of motorcycling and great food.

This GT can be completed in any state or states at the discretion of the rider and the GT concept is simple. A rider simply documents 20 or more visits to BBQ and Smoke restaurants, streets and cities taking photos featuring their motorcycle cycle, GT Flag and signs.

SCGT13 is a perfect complement to your day trips, weekend rides, team rides, club rider events, and can easily be part of your long distance adventures and rallies. SCGT13 is open to all makes and models of motorcycle and all types of riders.

Registration opens on February 15th and riders can register through June 30th. The GT runs from March 1st to November 30th 2013.

Your $27 entry fee includes a “rally flag” to document your ride. All finishers will receive a certificate and a chance to win prizes.

Visit www.smokechasing.com for more information.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Rallies and Events

 

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RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend 2013

RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend 2013

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel magazine are holding their annual touring “weekend” in Maggie Valley, NC again this year. The event will take place from July 11 – July 14.

I attended the weekend last year and had a great time. You can read about how much fun I had here.

If you’d like to attend a more intimate rally (~300-500 riders) full of riders with a focus on touring, making friends and riding great roads this is the rally for you. To get more information about the rally go to the RoadRUNNER website’s page about the touring weekend.

I’ll be there, I hope to see you there too. If you are coming let me know so we can meet up.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Rallies and Events

 

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BILT Gear Review

Cycle Gear LogoI cannot count the number of hours I’ve spent leafing through the Aerostitch catalog or browsing the RevZilla website lusting after this or that piece of gear. There are so many gear manufactures in the market these days that we as riders are truly spoiled for choice. It’s been my experience that most of the gear I see online is pretty pricey. Generally it can cost $1000 – $2000 to purchase an entire riding kit (jackets, pants, gloves, helmet, and boots) and that’s for moderately priced gear, you can spend significantly more. So where can a rider go to get quality gear at a more reasonable price? I’ve been taking a hard look at CycleGear’s house brand BILT for a few months trying to determine if the gear they offer is just low priced or cheap. My search online found, like most things online, deeply divided opinions regarding this question

Well I’ve decided to give BILT a try. I’m neither a new rider nor a poor rider but I am tired of shelling out thousands of dollars on gear and am hopeful that the BILT will be a viable alternative. I purchased the following BILT items that arrived today:

Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Jacket
Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Pants
Explorer Adventure Helmet
Explorer Urban Rider Adventure Gloves
Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Boots

The jacket, pants, helmet and gloves where a promotion package that cost $499.99, and the boots where $79.99. Shipping was free and after taxes the whole kit came to $503. Not bad for a full set of riding gear. I plan to use the gear all summer and write up my thoughts on each item. Look for an initial impression coming soon and then a long term review as I use it this year. I hope that this experiment turns out to be a positive experience because finding a reasonable source for gear would be a benefit to all of us riders.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in BILT Gear Review, Gear Reviews

 

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Google Glass for Motorcycles

Google GlassGoogle Glass for Motorcycles Are these forthcoming “digital glasses” the ultimate navigation and heads-up display for motorcycle riders or just another threat to traffic safety?.

The possibilities are pretty amazing for this technology. I personally love the hands free abilities that this would provide both drivers and motorcyclists. My mind is racing with the opportunities and applications. But there is the potential here for more distractions from other motorists. Read the article linked above. Let me know what you think. Is this the next leap in our interactions with technology or is this the next big distraction. I’m hoping for the best.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Gear Reviews

 

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