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National Cycle VStream Tall Touring Windscreen Review

I’ve found the stock windscreens on motorcycles just aren’t very good at their job. I’m 6′ 2″ tall and the screens on every motorcycle I’ve owned or ridden over the past 20 years seem to be setup for riders much shorter than me. They excel at creating a flow of rough air that hits somewhere between my neck and forehead. Even the Concours 14’s adjustable windscreen hasn’t been able to solve this problem. Now that I’ve had my Connie for 6 years, and have no plans to buy a new bike in the future, I thought I’d spend a little money to see if I could finally fix this issue.

After much research I landed on the VStream® Tall Touring Windscreen. My goal was to find a screen that would provide a clean-ish flow of air over the top of my head, make sure there was sufficient airflow during the summer to keep me cool, and provide decent protection in cooler temperatures. Weather protection in the rain was also at the top of my list. In short, I wanted a do-it-all windscreen for all seasons and riding conditions.  Its been 2 years since I purchased the VStream®, so I’ve given it a fair long term test.

VStream-stock

VStream® Tall Turing Windscreen left, stock windscreen right.

The Positive:

This windscreen is tall, that’s not just a marketing term in the title. At slightly over 2 ft. it’s practically a sail compared to the stock screen. In the highest position on the Connie, I can just see over the top (on straight roads). Coupled with the generous fairing on the Concours it creates a pocket of protection that the stock screen cannot even hope to compete with. When it’s raining, as long as I don’t stop, everything behind the screen (head, chest, shoulders, lap) stay bone dry.  I’ve ridden in some pretty decent storms over the last few years and been thankful for this level of protection.

Being almost as wide as it is tall (height: 24.10 in, width: 21 in.) I was concerned about the tall screen blocking too much air to keep me cool in the summer. This was not the case. The unique “V” shape of the screen creates a relatively clean flow of air over my helmet while allowing a stream of air to slip around the screen. Setting the height of the windscreen on the Connie at the 2nd pre-set position sends this stream of air right along and under my arms. The combination of the airflow over my head and along my sides also pulls air from my back. This is ideal for mesh jackets and those with underarm and back vents.

VS_VortexThe Nation Cycle website for the VStream® Windscreen explains this better:

“The typical airflow pattern of the wake from most windscreens is called a van Karman vortex. At speeds of 50-90 mph, the air swirls off the windscreen in an approximate 90-degree segment of rotation, hits the bottom of the rider’s neck on the way up, and curves off the shoulder at approximately 45 degrees.

We gave the VStream® its name for the shape it takes at the upper edge. The patented “V” shape is so quiet because it pushes this vortex out and away from the side of the rider’s head. The rider’s helmet then resides in still air, and the passenger’s environment is greatly improved as well.”

I can personally attest that these claims are accurate and true. With the adjustable screen on the Connie I can direct where the stream of air created by the “V” shape hits me and in essence control how cool or warm I want to be.  Great for summer riding but also very useful when the mercury starts to drop.

Installation was easy. The screen attached to the existing mounts on the Connie with no additional hardware needed. I had my old screen off and the new one installed in about 15 min., 10 of which was spent searching for my allen socket set.

The Negative: 

As I stated before this screen is tall. At highway speeds it flexes quite a lot. This does concern me regarding its longevity. My hope is that the polycarbonate material is strong enough to not crack where I feel it’s week spot is, the mounting screw holes. According to Nation Cycle, “All VStream® Windscreens are made from thick, durable polycarbonate with National Cycle’s exclusive Quantum® hardcoating or FMR hardcoating.” In two years of commuting and long highway trips I have seen no issues, but it’s still a concern for me.

The flexing can also disrupt the otherwise clean air flow produced by the screen. At highway speeds, in traffic, the disruption of air caused by other vehicles coupled with the flexing of the shield can create some buffeting and noise. No more than the stock shield, but it does defeat the special design of the screen. This is not an issue when riding back roads or at lower speeds at all.

Conclusion:

The VStream® Tall Touring Windscreen has all the features I was looking for when I started my search. It provides good weather protection, clean airflow, and good control of that airflow to keep me cool in the summer and warm in the spring and fall. I’m very happy with my purchase.

National Cycle offers the VStream® series windscreens in Sport, Sport Touring, and Tall Touring sizes to fit most motorcycles. Check out their entire catalog at NationalCycle.com. You can purchase VStream® windscreens from most online motorcycle stores. I bought mine from Revzilla for $179, not cheep but well worth the price.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Gear Reviews

 

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SENA LAUNCHES WORLD’S FIRST INTELLIGENT NOISE-CONTROL (INC™) HELMET AT 2015 AIMEXPO

Smart-Helmet_Color-Options22

October, 15, 2015

 Sena Technologies, Inc., a Bluetooth innovator in the motorcycle and outdoor actives market, debuted today the world’s first Intelligent Noise-Control (INC™) helmet EXCLUSIVELY to the media, dealers and trade members at the 2015 American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) in Orlando.

AIMExpo has grown substantially since its inception in 2013, establishing itself as one of the fastest growing trade shows in the U.S. and the largest powersports trade show in North America. Likewise, Sena has shown impressive growth and innovation throughout the past three years, solidifying its position as the global leader in Motorcycle Bluetooth technology.

“We’re thrilled to have Sena unveil its latest innovation here at AIMExpo,” said Cinnamon Kernes, AIMExpo Show Director. “They have been an exhibitor and partner since our launch. Choosing AIMExpo as the place to debut their new helmet and taking advantage of the media and dealer presence exemplifies exactly how the AIMExpo platform was intended to be utilized.”

The Sena Helmet will be equipped with innovative smart technology with a premium comfort, ergonomics and finish. The ultra light-weight and durable carbon fiber material provides a high quality and comfortable experience, with ground breaking Intelligent Noise-Control (INC™) technology to actively control the loud and damaging noises associated with riding. “We are ecstatic to yet again be pushing innovation with the world’s first true quiet helmet, with our focus as always on creating the safest and best riding experience possible for our customers. It only seemed logical that we unveil this game-changing device at AIMExpo, a place where the entire motorcycle industry has gathered to see the latest innovations to hit the market,” says Sena CEO, Tae Kim. With all of the key features such as optional Bluetooth 4.1 Communication module, ultra light carbon fiber material, Plug & Play (PNP) installation feature for the INC™ and the patented Sena Bluetooth Technology, users can enjoy their ride like never before.

Additional new products being showcased at AIMExpo include the 10S, 10R, 10U, Wristband, Handlebar Remote Controls, and Prism Tube.

AIMExpo opens its doors to the general public this Saturday, October 17 (9 a.m. – 7 p.m.) and Sunday, October 19 (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) where enthusiasts will have the opportunity to see all-new products from more than 500 unique exhibitors and demo a wide variety of two- and four-wheel, on- and off-road models at AIMExpo Outdoors!Tickets are available online at AIMExpoUSA.com or on-site at the Orange County Convention Center.

About Sena Technologies Inc.
Sena Technologies, Inc. is the global leader in Bluetooth Innovation for the motorsports, action sports and outdoor sports lifestyles – enabling real-time communication and optimal performance in the thick of the action. Since its first and flagship product, the SMH10 Bluetooth intercom/headset for Motorcycle helmets, the most cutting-edge technological designs have allowed riders across powersports and motocross to change the way they communicate while charging tracks and courses worldwide. With cyclists, action sports and outdoor sports enthusiasts taking advantage of its impressive communications and onboard technologies – coupled with its sheer innovation in creating new perspectives with Bluetooth audio action camera technology – Sena is enhancing the lives of speed demons and action-seekers for the better. Sena currently offers its products worldwide through its global network of distributors, retailers and OEM partners.

For more information on Sena Technologies Inc. and its products, please visit www.Sena.com or contact (951) 719-1040 or marketing@sena.com.

Facebook: facebook.com/senabluetooth
Twitter: @senabluetooth
Instagram: @senabluetooth

#RideConnected

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Gear Reviews, Motorcycling

 

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What To Do While Not Riding.

IMG_1165I had knee surgery recently to repair two tears in the meniscus in my left knee. The injury was not motorcycle related but it means I’ll be off the bike for a while. So, what to do while I can’t ride?  Well, I took advantage of the down time to get through a few projects I’ve wanted to do.

The first was to get my bike ready for the spring riding season, even though I can’t ride it for several weeks. I changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, rear tire, and gave it good once over. I tightened all the nuts and bolts and lubricated everything. All pretty straight forward except for changing the Air Filter. I have to hand it to the folks at Kawasaki, 12 bolts, 3 plastic rivets, 3 body pieces, and several connectors to unplug just to get to the air filter. Total time to do everything except the air filter was a few hours. The air filter was another solid hour. It kept me busy at least and even though I couldn’t ride my bike I still got to play with it.

Up to this point I’ve been a little shy about doing the service work on my Concours. It’s a very complicated machine and not like anything I’ve worked on before. Being able to take the time to work through the service knowing that I wasn’t riding took a lot of the pressure off. If I didn’t finish the work I wasn’t missing anything and could get back to it when I had more time. Of course it turned out it was easier than I thought and once I got into it everything was very much the same just in different places. I didn’t take on changing the spark plugs, that’s a task for another long weekend. Something about having to remove the gas tank … not sure I’m ready for that yet.

IMG_1169Next I organized my gear by building custom shelves, a rack, hanging cabinets, and generally putting things in their place. It’s so nice have all my gear in one place. There’s also a practical reason for organizing and hanging up my gear. We moved to a new house last summer and I had a similar setup in my old house. Having a place to hang sweaty or wet clothes is great for letting them air out and dry. They tend to last longer when they have good airflow. It also helps them smell better next time I use them. The other reason is for convenience. Like most people, I don’t like to search for something. If it’s not in reach when I need it I’ll find an alternate solution. Having my riding gear all in one place means when I get ready to ride everything I need to grab is right there. I’ll have options instead of only using the jacket I can find, and I will use the gear that’s appropriate to the ride I’m going on.

I realized as I was putting my bike back together and organizing my gear that they had a similar purpose. Having my gear all together makes it easier to know what I have and what condition it’s in. Organizing my tools and other bike related cleaning and maintenance materials also helps me know what I have, how much I have, and where it’s at. Working on my bike regularly helps me understand it. The more parts I look at, and  work on the more familiar I am with my machine and how it works. The more familiar I am the more apt I am to know if somethings wrong and I might even have an idea of how to fix it. My gear collection grows as I understand what different conditions require in terms of protection and comfort. The more comfortable I am the longer I can ride and longer my riding season is. My tool collection grows as I work and maintain my bike. The right tool for the job is always the best tool to use. So too does my understanding of my bike grow as I ride it and work on it. The more I know the better I can care for my bike and extend my riding.

This train of thought brought me back to my knee surgery. I’ve tried for several years to “get in shape”. I know intuitively that it’s important. Looking down the barrel at 40 my body isn’t going to bounce back on its own. So, while I work on my bike getting it into shape for the summer I concluded I need to do the same to me. Just like a bike that’s out of tune, it might run for a while but eventually it’s going to need some work to get it going again. The amount of work really depends on how well it is maintained. My body is very much the same. I’ve missed a few regular service intervals at this point. So, as I get my bike in order I’ll also be working on getting me in better shape this summer too.  Let’s see if I can tune this body up before it’s too late and I get put out in the shed with a tarp over me.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Concours 14, Motorcycling

 

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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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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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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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Used Motorcycle Gear

motorcycle gear closetIf you’ve ridden for any length of time and are like me you’ve probably got several pieces of gear that are just taking up space in your closet. For any number of reasons you’ve moved on to other gear and abandoned these items. So, what do you do with all that used gear? Here are a few ideas.

The most common way to get rid of your gear is to post it on Craigs List or eBay and wait for someone to find it and buy it. Both of these are viable options but they have their downsides. The first being that if your item doesn’t sell you have to re-post your listing. This isn’t the end of the world but it means that you have to remind yourself every few weeks to update the listing so it stays in the service. Then there’s collecting the money and shipping or coordinating a pickup and money exchange. It’s a lot of work, but a successful way to get some cash for your old gear.

Another option that I’ve come across are motorcycle shops. Some have started taking “gently used” items on consignment. For me this is a far more appealing option. I can drop off my gear and the store will display it, take payment, and then send me a check. This way my gear is seen by other motorcyclist and is more likely to sell. The downside here is that it’s up to the store to accept or reject your offering and they get to set the price. They also get a cut of the sale for all their trouble. Still, I’ll take their cut and call it a convenience fee for me not having to deal with the buyer, marketing, and shipment of the items. Most of these stores have a set time limit they will display your gear for before you have to come pick up. Usually around 90 days.

I’ve also found several shops that are taking used gear as trade-in toward new gear. What a great way to offload old gear and stock up on future used gear at the same time!

There are also donation centers where you can give your gear away and receive a receipt for a credit on your taxes. You do get some of the benefit in the way of a tax write off, but it’s not that immediate satisfaction of getting money in your had.

Lastly, have a gear swap with your riding buddies or riding group. This way you might at least be able to see your old gear once in a while and know that it’s gone to a good home.

Here are a few links to places in my area and other sites that offer trade in, consignment, or will take your gear as a donation:

http://www.ksumotorcyclegear.com/

http://www.wherethepoweris.com/used-motorcycle-gear.htm

http://www.mortonsbmw.com/parts.html

http://www.yellowdevilgear.com/

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Gear Reviews

 

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Coocase S50 Astra Topcase Review

photoI tend to carry a bit of “stuff” on my bike just as a precaution. I’m a little over careful that way. Be Prepared having been drilled into me as a Boy Scout. This means that one of my side cases is always full of tools, rain gear, tie downs, first aid kit, tire puncture kit, and various other  odds and ends. I accumulated these essential items by way of either needing it and not having it or having it and begin really glad I did. Once items go into the side case they rarely come out.

Pro Tip: If you put wet rain gear away in a waterproof side case, make sure that you take it out to dry when you get home. This may seem obvious but waterproof cases are not only waterproof on the outside, they are also waterproof on the inside. This is why I now have a fuzzy tool roll.

Being one side case down for storage meant I either needed to strap a bag on the back of my bike or get a more weather proof option like a top case. I did extensive research online as well as polled other riders about what they had purchased. I narrowed my options down to three choices: OEM, Givi or Coocase. Each of these options had their pros and cons but in the end I chose the Coocase S50 Astra Topcase.

For those not familiar with Coocase, they offer a line of motorcycle and scooter top cases that are feature rich and cost about half that of a Givi. I purchased my Astra from Twisted Throttle. Their site was also very helpful in choosing the case thanks to their videos and customer reviews. The Coocase comes standard with a padded inner liner (top and bottom), integrated alarm, LED running lights, brake lights and remote control. There is also a connector in the case for an optional accessory charger, I haven’t purchased this but I plan to. In addition I also bought a passenger back rest and SW-MOTECH’s steel toprack that replaces the plastic OEM rack that came with the Connie.

The build quality of the Astra is excellent. The gloss black matches my bikes color exactly. This being my first top case I cannot compare it directly to other cases. My opinion, however, is that the case itself is rigid enough that I would feel comfortable and safe leaning against it while riding on the passenger seat. The steel toprack connected to the Astra’s mounting base instills me with confidence that the Astra will stay put without issue. If there is a nit to pick it is with the locking mechanism for the lid. When I received the case it was very stiff. To close the top case took a fair amount of effort. I had to both push down on the lid and push up from the bottom of the case to get the latch to click home. The key lock was also pretty stiff. A few shots of WD40 into the lock solved this problem.

TailTurnWiring up the break/running lights was simple and direct with a kit and instructions provided by Twisted Throttle plus a set of Posi-Lock and Posi-Tap connectors (note: if you are not familiar with Posi-lock products, you really have to check them out. They are the simplest way of wiring electronics to your bike I’ve ever seen). I did not connect the case directly to the battery as suggested in the installation instructions. Instead I tapped into the license plate light and the brake light line. This does mean that I am unable to use the remote to lock/unlock the top case or use the alarm unless the bike is on. This didn’t present a problem for me as I ditched the remote pretty early on. As for the alarm, if you can actually get the top case off the bike without the key you are welcome to what’s in it. You obviously need it more than I do.

I’ve had the case now for over a year and it has been a welcome addition of my daily commute as well as on longer trips. It has held up well. The lenses for the lights have started to yellow a little. I’m not worried as they look more smokey then faded at this point. There are no cracks in the plastic and minimal scratches. I did recently have to repair the female connector on the bottom of the top case. The solder points that connect the wiring had broken off inside the connector on the base of the top case. I had to remove the plug and solder new connections in place. This involved having to take apart the entire locking mechanism inside the case and adding new wires to the plug as the ones that came with the case had no slack to work with. The repair took about … well let’s just say if I was better at soldering it would have been about an hour. Everything is working as designed now.

Overall I’m still happy with the top case. It’s large (holds two full face helmets) which comes in handy more often than I would have thought. The added brake/running lights are a nice addition too. I’d recommend this product to anyone looking for a less expensive (but certainly not cheaply made) feature rich top case for their bike.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Gear Reviews

 

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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.

 
 

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