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Thursday, January 22, 2015

2-Stroke Fun

This is a promo for KTM but is certainly worth the time just for the great riding. On the track footage notice that the rider's head stays level and smooth while the bike and suspension are doing all the work.

When Moto GP was all about the engine (2-stroke 500cc) and the rider, not about who programmed the best electronic.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Valentine Suggestion

At a loss to find that perfect Valentine gift for your One True Love? Thanks to my friend Peter you need look no further. Find it here. A candle that will bring back fond memories of that Husky 450 WR or Yami TZ.

Now if only they had one flavored like Castrol R.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

When traveling isn't an adventure

What Adventure?

A few years ago I was visiting my friends Patty and Joe in Switzerland. Joe and I were having lunch at an outdoor cafĂ© when a group of tourists approached us. One of them asked, “We heard you speaking English. Do you know where we could find something good to eat around here?”

Joe pointed out a couple of restaurants close to where we were sitting and suggested the food at all of them was quite good. The person replied, “We looked at all of them but all they have is weird stuff. Isn't there any place around here that has real food?”

Joe and I just stared at them in disbelief. What was this person doing here? Joe was embarrassed for even talking to them. I was embarrassed because they seemed to be from the U.S. He quickly suggested a place that had bland “American” food and wished them a good day.

The person's parting remark was, “Well, next time we'll go to Disneyland where everybody is polite and they serve good food.” To which Joe replied, “I'm sure everyone will be happier if you do.”

“What are these people doing here?” we asked ourselves. Why would they spend so much time and money to go someplace where they didn't want to sample the local food and culture? Sure, we all want a little comfort now and then when we travel, but these people were obviously trying to avoid it completely. Maybe they just wanted to take colorful photos to impress their friends back home. Regrettably that's all they would be taking home.

Adventure travel is listening. That's why I can never understand the people who travel with their music players plugged into their heads. What's the point? If they want to hear the same old music and the same old rhythms why not just stay home? Hearing the wind through the canyons or the crackling of rocks at sunrise is the reason for traveling, not seeing bright colored cliffs while listening to punk, funk, or new age. Nature is it's own best sound track. Sure, I hear songs while I ride. If the music is appropriate the mind will fill it in.

A generation ago it was, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out!” Now I think it should be

Disconnect, Get A Life, Make It Real!

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Friday, January 16, 2015

My friend Dave sent me this in reply to my post about motorcycle lights.
I think your stuff like calling folks with auxiliary lights "people with more money than common sense" is off target and silly if serious but it makes for the kind of fun snarky journalism folks like and will read.  :)  Personally I wish I had them for conspicuity as I think there is evidence (and I've seen some anectdotal first hand) that the wide and low lights make drivers aware of another vehicle approaching at speed rather than just seeing a single light with no idea it's coming at 75mph... I'm too lazy to install though.  Other stuff is similar as I laugh every time I see someone who wrecks in jeans and complains they don't understand how the doctors screwed up and allowed infection to take their leg three weeks later  ;)  All good though as guys like you and me always disagree on a ton of stuff.  
I have a lot of respect for Dave's opinion. He's a better rider and all around better person than I am. He has a very valid point. More lights could indicate that it's a motorcycle coming at you instead of a nimrod with a burnt out headlight. I say could because if they blind the oncoming driver because if they are mis-aimed (and most of them are) they become counterproductive. A blinded driver is not your best friend.

If each vehicle is traveling at 55 mph then the closing speed is 110mph. This is not a lot of time to be critiquing lights on oncoming vehicles. At 75mph there is even less! Why is anyone riding at 75mph on a back road and relying on some lights mounted to their crash bars to maintain their safety? As always it's the wing nut attached to the handlebars that secures our futures.

Lastly, if Dave thinks it's such a great idea, why hasn't he mounted some on his own bike?

Thanks for the the thoughts Dave. Back at ya! =;^)

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Motorcycle First Aid List

Following up on my post about first aid kits, here is a more specific list of items to include. I would also include a clotting sponge such as this for larger wounds. Let's hope you never need any of this but lack of preparation can kill!

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Equipment - From The Bottom Up

Being prepared for the unknown starts at the bottom. Enduro bikes can avoid most obstacles and wheelie over the rest. Heavier adventure bikes have to plow through the mess and take the occasional hit. Just being bigger means they are going to hit more things.

A skid plate takes the hit so that the engine cases don't. Sadly, many factory plates are totally inadequate. The skid plate on my Transalp was made of plastic! A good skid plate is made of heavy aluminum and wraps completely around the bottom of the engine. One that merely covers the bottom is not good enough take a fall.

Most adventure bikes have fairings. Fairings are made of plastic. All that plastic is very expensive. When the bike falls over, which it always does, it will break all the plastic and then your bank account when you go to replace it.

Crash bars take the hit instead of the plastic. Generally they cost about the same as a single panel, which means that they are a very good buy. Plus, they look really cool.

Running out of gas can ruin your day. Either you're stuck or your buddy is stuck, and nobody is happy. Most factory tanks are good for day rides but going farther afield requires a bigger tank. A bonus is that most after market tanks are made of plastic, so they are significantly lighter than stock. This is weight saved high on the bike, which helps handling. The clear plastic tanks also let you know your fuel level at a glance. For some odd reason, people with large tanks constantly fill the tanks when they don't need the extra range. Putting three extra gallons in a big tank adds 18 pounds at the highest point on the bike. This will obviously affect the handling in a bad way.

Can you change your tires with your current tool kit? If not, make sure you have plenty of water and Power Bars for the hike to get help. Motion Pro makes some very nice tire irons that incorporate the axle wrench into the end. They are made from forged aluminum so they are both light weight and very tough. There is also an adapter that converts the tire iron into a 3/8” drive for sockets. More savings on weight and space.
Rocky Mountain carries a Mini T-handle wrench that works with 1/4” sockets. I went to Sears and expanded the collection of sockets and screwdriver tips to cover every screw, nut, and bolt. It's now my go-to tool when I'm away from my shop.
I'd love to have the set of titanium wrenches for their light weight but my budget isn't quite up to it at the moment.

To state my position clearly - Auxiliary lights are bling. “Hey, look at me!” Just another thing to break when you fall. Add the silly guards and the facade screams that you have more money than common sense. Usually seen with bikes that have no mud or scratches on them. I will allow an exception if you are going to the Arctic Circle in January when the sun never rises above the horizon.

On the other hand, additional lights at the rear of the bike that supplement the stock tail/brake light are good. Just skip the modulators please.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Equipment - When Murphy Strikes

I'll assume that before any ride you've checked the fluids, tuned your bike, and used Loctite liberally. What could go wrong?

Quite a lot actually. This video shows a simple class 2&3 ride that went very bad, very quickly (just after the five minute mark). Honda had an ad campaign a few years back that said, “Stupid Hurts!” I would add that “Lack of preparation kills!”

Home made kit ...
When things do go bad, your first line of defense is a first aid kit. However, being the most obvious defense doesn't make it the most prevalent. I've asked many fellow riders if they are carrying anything and I'm generally lucky to find one with some BandAids in their bag.

That is advertises what it is ...
Googling motorcycle first aid kit returns over a million results in less than half a second. You can find everything from a $7.50 pocket kit to a $7,000 expedition pack. An alternative to a prepared kit is to make up one of your own. You don't have to carry a complete field hospital with you - a few BandAids, gauze pads, and tape, plus some antibiotic ointment and ibuprofen will cover most day trips. For longer trips look at the commercial adventure kits and raid your local drug store.

And is in a dry bag to protect it - This gets tied down on top of all my other gear!!
Whatever you choose – put it in a waterproof container! A water crossing can make everything useless. A zip lock bag will do for simple supplies and a small dry bag will keep larger kits clean and dry. 

Then put it someplace instantly available and marked so anyone will recognize it for what it is. Put it on the top of your pack not behind zippers or locked lids. Keep a flashlight with your med kit. You don't want to be fumbling around in the dark while somebody is bleeding.

Blood,Sweat & 2nd Gear is a great book for the average motorcyclist. It is full of information on motorcycle related health. It is written by a motorcycle rider for other riders. Thankfully it is short on medical jargon and won't render you unconscious on the 3rd page.

When the poop hits the propeller who ya gonna call? More to the point - if you're out in the middle of nowhere, how are you going to call? The SPOT Gen 3 Tracker is the device that will call for help wherever you are in the world. When the tumble you just took broke your smart phone into pieces, or you're in the many places with no mobile service, SPOT will get a message through.

The SPOT Messenger uses GPS to know where it is at all times. I won't cover all of its capabilities, but there are three important ones.
  1. I'm OK – send this message when stopping for lunch or for the night.
  2. I'm in trouble – send help but I'm not in any immediate danger.
  3. OMG I'm screwed – send the helicopter! NOW!
The SPOT Tracker will send these messages with the GPS location to a central service who will forward the request to whatever organization can respond in the best manner. When you activate your SPOT you have the option to sign up for disaster insurance that will pay your medical and evacuation bills. That could be the difference between getting medivac to a good hospital or taking a slow bus to a witch doctor. Surprisingly cheap, the insurance was a no-brainer for me.

The SPOT Messenger uses satellite technology to send a tracking signal every 5-10 minutes. This can be tracked on the Internet by anyone you share the website with. During my Mexico trip anyone who was reading this blog could follow my progress in nearly real time. The side benefit to this is that if things go really bad and I can't press the OMG button somebody will notice that the bike hasn't moved in a long time. That will mark the spot to start looking for the body. That's why I press the I'm OK button whenever I stop for very long.

SPOT – Don't leave home without it!

Nothing will replace common sense but accidents do happen. Adventure travel is a step into the unknown. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared!”

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Africa Twin Revealed

The new Africa Twin was reported in this article at

I'm ready to break open the piggy bank for this one!

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Equipment - Wheels & Tires

Boston to Anchorage to Panama
To tell a real adventure rider look at the panniers. If there are no scratches they either are a poser, or just got them for their birthday. Maybe poser is too strong a word. Maybe they like the look and comfort of an adventure bike and are happy to stick to paved roads on weekend rides. I'm not here to judge.

OK, maybe a little bit. When I see a GS in full battle gear with extra lights and gear but no dirt, I'm suspicious. When the skid plate is pristine without a single gouge or dent, I'm pretty sure. And when I see the Hero Cam mount, I'm convinced. DORK!! Adventure riding is inversely proportional to bling and directly proportional to dirt. A clean bike is the emblem of an unimaginative mind.

Adventure travel is all about less. Less weight, less stuff, less self.

There are many suppliers of adventure gear. Among my favorites are Twisted Throttle, Touratech, Wolfman, and Happy Trails. Whitehorse Gear is not as big but gets a thumbs up for being a local New England company that is very supportive of riders.

When you get a new bike the first thing you think about is bags. It's the most obvious symbol of being a serious rider. Serious riders need stuff and need a place to put it. Saddle bags have evolved into metal panniers, textile bags, and rubberized, waterproof vaults.

Truth be told, the luggage is one of the last things to think about when equipping an adventure bike. Maybe we should start with how the bike rolls down the road.

First, wheel bearings! Nothing says Stop! like your wheel not rotating. The dirt, mud, and water crossings take a huge toll on the bearings and seals. Sooner or later they will fail and Murphy says they will fail at the most inconvenient time and place, like 20 miles into the woods. Fresh seals and bearings are smart prep for an adventure ride of any significant length. Original bearings and seals can be had from the manufacturer but they can also be acquired from after-market suppliers like All Balls. An inexpensive alternative is to look for a bearing and seal supplier local to you, and buy direct. I've always found that the sales people at such places have been great at helping me find what I need and often suggest better alternatives. Maybe they get bored looking up parts for truck transmissions.

There are lots of videos on YouTube to show you how to replace the bearings and seals. Watch a couple of them to get a feel for the process. CAUTION: When you are installing the new bearings press on the outer edge only! I always put the new bearings into the freezer overnight before installation. Then I use a big socket that fits the outer edge to push them in.

Next on the list is tires. You are not going to get far off the road on street tires. They won't dig in on rocky slopes and they will load up and leave you stranded in mud. This is where you really need to honestly ask yourself whether you are going to be a serious or occasional adventure rider. Adventure tires will definitely get you through tough terrain but at the cost of some highway grip and comfort.

For a bike used mostly for commuting, the Heidenau K60 Scout or the Michelin Anakee 3 will provide great road grip while allowing ventures on Class 1 & 2 roads with confidence. They are good in the rain and twisties. They have long lasting wear characteristics.

To get serious off-road you need the Continental TKC-80 or Dunlop D606. As you might imagine, the on-road performance is inversely proportional to the off-road grip. The TKC-80s are 50/50 on-road/off-road tires while the 606s are 25/75 tires. The TKC-80s are what I used on my latest Mexico trip that had a lot of paved road to cover. They got me where I wanted to go but I admit to skipping a few places that might have been a problem. They lasted 4000 miles but were totally shot in the end. I would have replaced them sooner if I had the opportunity.

The Dunlop 606s are my tire of choice when the going gets tough. Hands down they are the best DOT legal adventure tire in my opinion. They are noisy on paved road, you want to be careful in the rain, and they wear out in 2500-3000 miles. However, they take a beating from rocky trails and never let you down. They get into the mud and keep going like a Caterpillar tractor. This is basically a street legal enduro tire. When I wanted to descend the Shafer Trail and traverse the White Rim Trail in Moab it was the 606s that I trusted.

Not the place you want to be worrying about your tires!!
Next – the next two pieces of equipment to get before you get going.

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