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IMS and Other Thoughts After a Long Time Away

It’s been a long time since my last post. In July I took on a new role at my company and just haven’t been able to get back into a rhythm with writing and riding since then. Most of my riding in the second half of the year was commuting so nothing exciting there.

Part of my reason for not posting was also that I like to write really finished article style posts. I figure if people are going to read posts on this site the content should be worth their time. I’m slowly coming to the realization that not every post has to take weeks to pull together and edit. It is a blog after all. And it’s free. And it’s mine. So, it really can be whatever I want it to be. I was recently reminded that good content along with consistency is really the key here. I’m going to try harder to do both this year.

The most recent motorcycle related event that’s happened in the past few months was attending the IMS in Washington DC. I always try to make this show every year in January. It’s the perfect way to get a dose of motorcycle excitement in the middle of winter.

IMG_1155 IMG_1154

There were two bikes that stood out to me at the show.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000LT.

IMG_1141

I am finding myself drawn to the 1000 cc range of bikes that are coming out in the market. They are powerful, agile, and comfortable. The Versys, was all of those things. At least from what I could glean from marketing materials and sitting on the bike for longer than was probably appropriate by the looks I was getting from the booth reps. The bags are a little smaller (28 liter) than those on my Connie 14, but they are large enough to be useful. There’s also an aftermarket top case, so no worries on storage. It has all the technology that I’m looking for in a bike: ABS, traction control, multiple riding modes. All the fun stuff. I also really love the orange color. The Versys is sized well for me too. The reach to the bars from the seat is perfect. No lean over at all (for me). I’m going to try and find an enterprising dealer this summer and see if I can get a ride on one.

For more information on the Versys visit Kawasaki.com

 

2015 Yamaha Super Tenere ES

IMG_1151

The other motorcycle the continues to catch my attention is the Super Tenere.  Everytime I sit on this bike it just seems to fit. It pushes all my buttons too. Electronic suspension, ABS, traction control, multiple fuel maps. Being an “Adventure” bike it has an upright sitting position and easy ergonomics. I know that both of these bikes fit the adventure/off road style of bike that’s become very popular, but that’s not what really draws me. I also think that the reason these style of bikes have “become” popular is that there are no standard bikes anymore. If you want neutral handling, comfortable all day riding bike you have to buy one of these adventure style bikes. I’m fine with that. I’m more interested in comfort for long rides, flexibility, and utility.

For more information on the Super Tenere go to Yamaha’s website.

 

Here are pictures of a few other bikes that were honorable mentions or at least caught my eye.

IMG_1153  IMG_1124 IMG_1126 IMG_1127 IMG_1128 IMG_1129 IMG_1130 IMG_1131 IMG_1133 IMG_1134 IMG_1135 IMG_1136 IMG_1138 IMG_1139 IMG_1140 IMG_1142 IMG_1143 IMG_1145 IMG_1146 IMG_1147 IMG_1149 IMG_1150

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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in Motorcycling, Uncategorized

 

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Blind Date: Meeting That Special Riding Group

GroupRidingIt’s a little intimidating at first. I didn’t know what to expect having met online or getting hooked up by a friend. Sure, I’ve looked at a few pictures and profiles and everything looks good, but there’s still some doubt. Is it going to work out this time? Is it going to turn out like last time where everything was great at first but then really kind of fell apart at the end? Or is this the one? Meeting a riding group for the first time is a lot like going on a blind date, even with a friend along for support. There are a lot of unknowns and different personalities involved. The best thing is to just dive in and see where it goes.

To ease into riding with a new group I generally look for a short ride that involves a lunch or dinner stop. This makes it seem even more like dating but the meal actually serves the same purpose in both situations. I don’t generally get a chance to have more than a 5 min conversation at riding breaks so a lunch or dinner is a great way to get a feel for the group. I can meet and talk with several members usually for over an hour in a relax setting. Some more formal riding groups have meet-and-greet nights, bike washes, BBQ nights, etc. These are perfect for meeting other group members and getting to know the structure and personalities of a group before going on a ride. Sometimes I know right off the bat after meeting a group if it’s going to work or not even before I go on a ride with them.

After meeting some of the members and getting a feel for their riding styles, if I’m still interested I’ll meet up with them for a longer day ride. Short rides are good for getting to know the members of a group. Day long rides are good for getting to know the riding dynamic of a group. How often does the group stop for breaks? How fast or slow do they ride? Are they sticklers for staying in formation and together as a group? Are they OK with letting faster riders meet the more casual riders at the next stop? My comfort level on a ride is as important to me as the people I ride with. If the group and my riding rhythms are not compatible then I’m not going to enjoy the ride and I’m not going to want to come back. There’s always some level of adjustment and compromise when getting to know a new group. In general I know my patterns and if the group isn’t within a tolerable range of what’s acceptable to me, I know I’ll just be frustrated. My time is important to me and I don’t want to spend a glorious weekend riding frustrated and feeling less relaxed then when I left. That kind of defeats the purpose.

A riding group can mean many things to many people. Some are formal groups or clubs with strict rules, membership dues, patches, and officers. Some are just a group of friends who get together every few weeks to ride. I belong to and have belonged to both kinds. Unlike dating, I can belong to as many riding groups as I want. This gives me options for attending more types of rides.  I don’t have to go on every ride for every group either. It also means when I host a ride there’s a larger pool of riders to pull from, so I’m sure to at least get a few people to show up.  Personally, I prefer groups that lean toward the informal . Some structure is fine, but too much makes me feel obligated to the group in a way that is counter to why I ride with a group in the first place. My main goal in riding with a group is to enjoy the friends and social aspect as much as the riding. Not that clubs and riding associations don’t have a good time, I just like to keep my riding a little more casual.

Of course groups change over time as people join and leave, just as my riding style has changed. So, if a group doesn’t work out I can always go back to a group I haven’t ridden with in a while. Things might have changed in that group or my riding habits might have changed making us both more compatible than before. I try not to burn any bridges when I leave a group. I never know if they are going to post a ride that looks interesting or I want to ride with them again. Also, the ridding community in my area isn’t incredibly large. It’s surprising how many people know each other.

Riding with a group is about carving up great roads together and at the end of the day getting to hang out with some pretty fun people. It enhances the ride and should not detract from it. So, get out there. There’s plenty of fish in the sea … I mean riding groups to choose from. Go find one, and have a great ride.

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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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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Dad’s Bike

My introduction to motorcycles was riding on the back of my dad’s 1980’s Honda. I can’t tell you what year or model it was. I do remember my dad taking me and my sister, in turns, on rides through the then country roads around our house in Bennion, UT just outside Salt Lake City. Back then my riding gear was a t-shirt, shorts, sneakers and a purple metal flake helmet that barely fit. I was big enough to reach the pegs from the passenger seat but not tall enough to avoid the pipes. A good number of our weekend rides ended with both my sister and I in the bath tub running cold water over pipe burned patches on the backs of our legs.

My dad bought the Honda after a break from riding for several years. When I was in my teens he would tell me stories about running around in the canyons and fields near Tooele, UT, where he grew up. He had a number of bikes when he was young and spent a lot time fixing their broken parts or recuperating from his broken parts. My grandmother used to tell me she never thought he’d live past 15 the way he tore around on his motorcycles. After having kids and settling into work and family life he decided to get another bike. Unfortunately like many of us life, family, work and in the case of my dad a bad back, caught up with him and he sold the Honda. In all honesty I don’t remember its departure at all. It was there one day and then it wasn’t.

I didn’t think much about motorcycles again until I was in my mid twenties. My sister and I were out of the house on our own and my dad’s work had settled down some. Time to get a new bike. This time he was able to get the bike he had wanted for a long time, a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electrglide. There are few times in my life that I’ve seen my dad happier then when he was riding his Harley.

It wasn’t long before the entire family got excited about the idea of riding motorcycles. Before we knew it dad bought a Suzuki Savage 650 as a learner bike. First my sister learned to ride, then me. Originally the bike was to teach my mother how to ride but she realized early on that the pillion was the place she felt most comfortable. My sister, having earned her motorcycle license, never really caught the bug. I, however, got hooked immediately. So with no home for the Savage, I decided I’d volunteered to take care of it. That was the first of several motorcycles I was to own.

My dad and I went on several rides together. Not nearly enough now that I look back. Our favorite ride was down Rt. 55 to a country store that sold home-made doughnuts. Then it was off to find some country roads and a good lunch. Honestly it really didn’t matter where we went, it was just fun riding.

When I got back into riding I bought a Harley Electraglide too. I’d taken a break for many of the same reasons that my dad had; new family, new house, work, etc. The choice of the Harley was purely an emotional one. When I saw it, I thought of my father who had passed away a few years before. It was a connection to him that I needed to have and so I bought it. The bike was bigger than any I’d ever owned. I really had no business riding it, but I needed it. There were times when I was riding the Harley I imagined I could feel his hands over mine on the grips and sense his smile as we motored through the countryside. I can still feel that now. It’s a large part of what I love about riding.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Motorcycling

 

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