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BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Pants – First Look

As part of a package deal with Cycle Gear for buying the BILT Explorer Waterproof Jacket I also got the BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Pants. Formerly known as the BILT Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Pants, their name changed just after I purchased them. I expect that the H2O seemed redundant, but I’m still not sure how Explorer and Adventure aren’t. Despite the name these pants are pretty well-appointed with some features I find impressive for the price, and some that I have come to expect in a pant that were not included.

The Adventure pants are made of the same 600 denier PRO-FLEX™ outer shell and 1200 denier ENDURA-BRADE™ areas as the Adventure jacket. The 1200 denier areas are more integrated into the pants then they are the jacket as they are the main fabric used. The ENDURA-BRADE™ fabric covers the lower half of the front of the leg (from the knee down) and the entire back of the leg starting at the seat. There is a stripe of the PRO-FLEX™ fabric on the outside of the leg where two cargo pockets, reflective material, and the leg entry zippers are. The knees have stretch material to help seat the CE rated armor and make siting on the bike more comfortable. There are no hip pads nor are there pockets to add any.

As with the Adventure jacket there were loose threads when I unpacked them, but far fewer. The seams are cotton thread but double stitched. The pants feel slightly more put together than the jacket. Probably because there are far fewer pockets, angles, and hook and loop areas.

I had ordered a size 36 (I’m 6′ 4″ 210 lbs. 36″ waist) that were to large around the middle and a bit to long so I traded them in for a size 34 at a local Cycle Gear store. My first experience with Cycle Gear customer service was very enjoyable. No fuss, I was in and out of the store with my new pants and pleasant conversation to boot.

I commute to work about 3-4 days a week most of the year so I wear my motorcycle pants over my work pants. With the quilted liner installed it is a tight fit but it has kept me warm the few times I wore them on 40 degree days. Without the liner they fit really well and are a good commuter and riding pant. There’s not a lot of adjustments to speak of. One pull tab at the waist on the left side hip and the other right side pull tab is part of the fly closure. They fly has a zipper and hook and loop closure plus a gator for better weather protection. At the pant cuff there is a 12″ zipper with a hook and loop pull tab. It is impossible to put these pants on over boots. The cuff opening with the zipper does work for slipping on boots once the pants are on, but trying to get a booted foot down that pant leg would challenge a cirque du soleil performer. Best to not try in my opinion.

Like the Adventure jacket the pants also have a waterproof liner between the outer fabric and inner mesh lining. Two vents run the length of the thigh in a diagonal slash with pull/snap stays to hold them open. The vent opens to the WP liner and not directly to the skin. On cooler days this works better than on hot days. I wore this suit in 80+ degree heat recently. While the vents are large, the WP liner does not allow the air to get to the skin and so by the end of my hour commute I had some pretty soggy pants. My fully faired Concours 14 may have also contributed to the lack of air flow, but in any event they did not cool off my legs.

I had really hoped that the Explorer Adventure jacket and pants where a three to four season suit. They have all the appearance of a do it all, go anywhere setup but they have fallen a little short for me. I cannot really wear them in the summer heat for commuting unless I want to change my clothes at the office. I have ridden in them on a recent 450 mile ride where I didn’t have to wear work clothes underneath. This did not solve the heat issues. There is still little to no air flow through the vents to my legs. 

My opinion is that the Adventure pants are better for Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring gear. Even then, only when the temperature stays below low 70’s – high 60’s. They are comfortable, waterproof, and somewhat protective. Paired with the BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Jacket they will keep you warm and dry, and looking sharp too.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in BILT Gear Review

 

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Interruption

NC BorderOn the border of Virginia and North Carolina just off US RT 29 there is a small gas station that does a fair amount of business for a Wednesday afternoon in mid-July. I know this because I’ve just spent the last few hours here. My bike is doing its best impression of a statue. I am sitting in a decreasing pool of shade from a highway sign trying not to sweat too much. The last hour was spent tearing my bike down with a limited tool kit trying to figure out why I have no electrics. I finally concede defeat and call roadside assistance who assure me they will be here soon. The tow truck will take me to a dealer that should be able to help me get back on the road.  

Over the years I’ve read several motorcycle travel stories where the authors assert that it’s the delays in a trip that make the journey interesting. These interruptions usually are the best stories. Every good road trip account I’ve heard or read is about the stops more than the riding. I’m fascinated by riders tales of around-the-world and around-the-country adventures. Where they went, what they saw, what they needed to do to get from where they were to where they wanted to go. Is it the adventure in foreign lands that entices me? Sure that’s part of it. Stories of far off, and not so far off, places and sights I probably will never see draw me in. More than that though, it’s the bumps in the road. It’s the stories of the places people stop, the people they meet there, and what they experience. That’s the heart of it. A unique experience being shared. On my motorcycle trips and wanderings the best, and most often repeated, stories my friends and I share are about the pauses, the struggles, and the strange things that happen on or around a motorcycle once it has stopped.

Tow TruckThe tow truck driver is here now and we strap down the bike to the back of a flatbed tow truck. I’m lucky the driver is also a motorcycle rider. He understands how to strap down a bike correctly. We are soon on our way to a dealer about 30 miles away from the gas station. On the way we talk about the bikes we’ve owned, trips we’ve taken, and other bikes he’s towed. We cover a bit of ground in our short conversation. He’s mostly a sport bike rider and likes to stay around town. Right now he’s in between bikes but has a line on a GSXR that a buddy of his is giving up on the cheap. I can hear the excitement in his voice  when he thinks about being able to ride again.

So much of what I hear in conversation at work or have when I’m out with friends is regurgitating information gathered from sound bites and headlines. In our busy lives, and because of the onslaught of information thrown at us every day, it’s an easy pattern to fall into. Glean a little information from the news headlines, twitter, facebook, etc. Then meet up with a friend, reiterate the soundbites and maybe discuss them a little. This is what passes for conversation. I think this is more information sharing than conversation. There’s a place for this type of discussion but I find too often that it’s taking the place of people sharing their own experiences with each other.

When my riding buddies get together and talk we recount stories of the time our friend got a flat tire outside Gatlinburg, TN. The time our boots melted when we tried to dry them out around the fire after riding all day in the rain. The fajitas we made at Mt.Pisgah campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway after a long day of riding. We rarely talk about the multiple miles we rode on a trip, except to maybe comment on a nice section of road. I’ve rarely gone on a ride longer than an hour and not come back home without something interesting (or even frightening) to talk about.

Draper CyclesThe tow truck pulls up next to a building sandwiched between several houses on a neighborhood street.  The only indication that it’s a motorcycle dealer is the faded sign and motley assortment of scooters and ATVs lined up in the mostly gravel parking lot. This is not what I expected when the woman from road side assistance said I’d be going to a Kawasaki dealer close by. The only other dealer in the area couldn’t make room for me for 2 weeks and this dealer could look at my bike today so I don’t have much of a choice. I help unstrap the bike and wheel it into the service bay at the back of the building. The service area looks more like my buddies garage who can’t seem to throw old bike parts away. It’s complete with an old 50’s era fridge, 80’s era boom box belting out 90’s era music. The mechanics are nice guys and take the bike right in. I’m not encouraged when their first question is “What kind of bike is that?” The closest motorcycle they have in their stable to my Concours 14 is a used Ninja last seen with Tom Cruise astride it in Top Gun.

Fortunately the basic workings of bikes are the same. Based on the ATVs, Minibikes, and “custom” motorcycles waiting to be serviced, these mechanics are accustomed to improvising and thinking outside the box. They locate the source of the problem in a very short time. The issue is an overheated (partially melted) fuse behind the battery due to a bad ground. The mechanic replaces the fuse and files down the powder coat on the frame so the ground can get a better contact. Things look like they are going well until he has to drill out the screw he just torqued the head off. After fixing the screw, he reattached the ground and the bike fires right up. With well wishes on a safe journey, and an apology for the broken screw, I’m off.  Total cost: $20.00.

I arrive at my hotel three hours later than I expected. After unpacking I walk over to the rally I was trying to get to all day, grab an adult beverage, and find a few friends. We catch up and spend the rest of night telling stories about our adventures over the past year. I have a few (and one new one) I’m just itching to share. My story prompts the telling of other stories about on-road fixes.  20 uses for baling wire, best fixes involving duct tape,  the multiple virtues of vice grips, and many more.  The story telling and conversation go on late into the first night, and the next. Great conversation is easy with friends, especially when you have good stories to share.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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Risk Assessment

Assortment Of Bizarre Road SignsI am a professional troubleshooter. I worked at several IT help desks and even ran one for a time before moving into project management. These jobs have one thing in common. They require me to review a situation, assess the information provided, and make a choice to solve a problem. Every issue I encounter builds my knowledge base and ability to make the right choice when presented with information. In some cases I don’t even need very detailed information because I can recognize the situation and symptoms pretty early and correct it to resolve an issue. On a help desk we call this a decision tree. In project management we call it risk assessment. Whatever it’s called, you do it every day. We are always taking in information around us, reviewing that information, and then making choices based on our own experiences. This same process applies to becoming a better rider. In the MSF courses this is IPDE; Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.

Identify

The first step in avoiding or correcting an issue is to identify that there is one. Seems simple enough, however in the world of distractions we live in it’s becoming tougher to keep our focus and attention on the road. Even on a motorcycle there’s GPS, music, buttons and dials to fiddle with, and even Bluetooth headsets that let us make and answer phone calls and send text messages via voice control. Car drivers are not the only ones out there distracted while driving, there’s plenty of things on a motorcycle to distract a rider. Keeping an eye out for danger isn’t enough. To really identify an issue we need to continually scan the road ahead as well as around and behind for potential hazards. The more situations you can identify and catalog the easier it is to predict, decide and execute the proper actions to take to avoid or mitigate the risk. This takes practice and repetition, just like anything else that we are good at. That means seat time on the bike, scanning the area you, and always looking for real or potential issues.

Predict

Once identifying a risk, potential or real, what happens next is where experience really counts. Predicting what will happen in a situation often depends on a few different factors. Have you been in this situation before? Have you read about this situation before? or have you heard someone else describe this situation before? Experience in dealing with a situation and having come out the other side unscathed is probably the best for predicting that event, or others like it, in the future. Of course there are other, potentially safer ways, to get that experience. Rider Training courses are one safe way to gather skills and techniques for predicting risks without actually having to experience them on the road. There are books and videos that cover a variety of riding situations and how best to identify and react to them. Street Strategies by David Hough is a concise page by page guide for dealing with real road situations. Listening to experienced riders and your friends can also help you understand risks. If your buddy is able to tell you the story of a near miss he had, that means he made a correct prediction. It might be worth listening to his story.

Decide

Once you predict the situation the next step is what to do about it. Deciding what action to take to avoid or mitigate the situation has as much to do with your mental and physical state as it does with your knowledge of how to handle a situation. If you have impaired judgement by being tired, cold, angry or under the influence of alcohol or drugs it’s possible an incorrect decision may lead to injury or worse. At this point you’ve gathered all the information about the situation and have to make a choice. All the knowledge and experience (or lack of) you have gained leads to this moment. Making an incorrect choice will lead to executing an incorrect action. Here again practice and education are your best friends. Practicing defensive maneuvers and good riding techniques sets up the muscle memory for you to execute corrective actions without much thought. When time is of the essence, that’s when you want instinct to take over and the right choice at your finger tips.

Execute

You’ve now identified the issue, predicted the outcome, and decided on the course of action. The only left to do is take action. Again, this is where practice and experience will pay off. Executing avoidance maneuvers effectively and smoothly is a matter knowing not only what you need to do but how the bike will react to what you are doing. The more you ride and become familiar with your bike’s and your capabilities the more effective you’ll be at executing the decided upon tactic to avoid or mitigate the identified risk.

One last step that’s not covered by IPDE but that I recommend is to take time after the incident to review it. Not immediately after you’ve come through the situation, but some time shortly after take a moment to think about what happened. Think about what you did and if there’s something that you could have done better. Could you have been more attentive and avoided the situation altogether? Was the decision you made the most appropriate for the situation? Could you have executed the avoidance maneuver more smoothly or sooner? In my opinion this is critical to building the knowledge base that will help you in the future. Better even than reviewing the situation by yourself, if you’re riding with someone talk over what happened with them. Being an observer, they may have seen something or have suggestions that can help.

We ride motorcycles because we love doing it. Being prepared to handle the risks inherent in this hobby will keep you riding for a lot longer. Plus, practicing is just another excuse to ride. Be safe and ride well.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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RoadRunner Touring Weekend 2014 – Registration Open

TW-Logo-2014

 

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel magazine are holding their annual touring “weekend” in Snowshoe, WV this year. The event will take place from July 17- July 20.

This will be my third year attending the weekend and it’s become and event I look forward to every year.

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 page about the touring weekend.

I’ll be there again, 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 December 6, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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Why We Ride – Official Theatrical Trailer

1-ValleyOfFire11If you ride, or want to learn, or want to understand why those of us who ride do it … You must see this film.

Why We Ride is a story about who we are. Individuals with a desire to dream, discover, and explore. Seeking a life outside our daily confinements and sharing those moments together. It’s a story about the journey, not the destination.

Motorcycles represent the milestones of our lives. From a kid’s dream come true, to a retiree’s return to freedom. From a family riding together on the sand dunes, to hundreds of choppers carving through the canyons — the bond is the same. It’s about the passion of the riders and the soul of their machines.

Your senses will heighten as the world rushes in, your heart will beat to the pulse of the engine, your mind will race and set you free. Once you let a motorcycle into your life, it will change you forever.

For more information about the film, when and where you can see it, and more videos go to the Why We Ride film website.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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Another Published Story!

RidingAloneWOthersI am very excited to once again have a story from this blog published. Riding Alone with Others has been included in the Sept/Oct issue of Motorcycle Times magazine. Please pick up a copy and support the magazine and their advertisers.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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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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