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Archive for February, 2013

Scorpion-Exo-1000

Scorpion-Exo-1000

It was time for me to try out a new helmet, and the choice quickly fell upon the popular Scorpion EXO 1000 Helmet. I’d read a few reviews, spoken with a few owners and decided this was the helmet to try.

I got my shiny new, and very black, Scorpion helmet but when I put it on, I noticed that it was a bit too “snug”, if not too tight. I used my previous measurements for helmet sizes, but obviously Scorpion’s sizes are different. So back it went, and a few days later I was the happy “owner” of a new, but slightly larger (1 size) Exo 1000 helmet. Note: when ordering the EXO 1000 get one that is 1 size bigger than normal. You’ll thank me for it.

That one, when it went on was a good, if not perfect fit. There are two really good things about this helmet; a) a very good drop down sun visor and b) pump up cheek pads.

But I’m ahead of the review, so let’s good back to the test ride. Weather was nice and sunny, some 71°F, dry. I took a road through a forest through the Tail of the Dragon. The first thing I noticed is that the helmet is quite. There’s very little outside noise, and even wind noise was down to a minimum.

At a later stage I used the air pump. The air pump, an idea used by sneakers a few years back, pumps air into the cheek pads, making the helmet sit much more snug, as tight as you want to make it. Initially I looked at this as a marketing gadget, but it’s far more that. Not only does you helmet fit you to perfection with this feature, I also noticed that it cut down noise even further. I guess it’s because the helmet “vibrates” less due to the snug fit, so it lets less vibration noise into your head. Color me impressed!

The helmet was already snug, but with the air pumps, I have to say, I felt much safer. Helmets should not move when they are on, and this “gadget” makes sure that it doesn’t. It’s like a customizable helmet, made to perfectly fit your head.

The sun visor is heaven sent. Riding through a forest means that you’ll be facing times that it’s dark, followed by times that the forest clears and you’re hit by direct sunlight. Putting on a dark visor is problematic when it’s dark. Same with sunglasses. Now it’s just a question of pushing down the sun visor, or up if it’s dark. Less than a second and you’re dark or clear.

Ventilation was excellent, no problems there. The visor never fogged up, and the head stayed in a perfect temperature.

The only downside for the Scorpion is the weight. This is a heavy helmet (Kevlar and fiberglass), more so than most helmets in the price range. But after an hour of riding, I have to say that it did not feel that heavy. I thought that my neck would feel it, but apparently the aerodynamic flow of the helmet is done in such a way that it doesn’t push down on the neck. Maybe you’ll feel it in city riding with lots of lights and intersections. But for normal riding, no problems.

As helmets go, I can highly recommend this one. You can’t got wrong with the price, nor with the sun visor and air pump cheek pads.

The Scorpion EXO 1000 helmet received top rating at the very strict UK Government test site, Sharp. Click here to read the test results.

To buy the EXO 1000 helmet, click here

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Safety for bikers is something many look for. Helmets, body armor, gloves, special boots, all are items that most would consider normal in a biker’s everyday life.

But for the last few years, airbags have made an entry in the motorcycle world. They started with big motorcycle jackets with incorporated airbags. The first models had a wire attached to the motorcycle, and if the biker left the motorcycle unexpectedly, the wire pulled a CO2 canister that pumped air into the jacket within milliseconds. This way, if the biker was flung from the bike, the body was pretty well protected from impact.

Michelin Man

Michelin Man

The first models were a bit slow, and when the airbag was deployed you looked like the Michelin man. But in recent years, airbag technology evolved. Much of that is thanks to the efforts of MotoGP racers who tested such airbags, and are currently using them when racing.

The first airbag jackets were made by manufacturers who made nothing else than airbag jackets, but soon big names, like Dainese (D-Air series), Alpinestars (Tech Air), Spidi, etc. came into the game.

Now airbag jackets are high-tech. Many of them don’t have a string attached to the bike, but use sophisticated electronics to determine if a biker is leaving the motorcycle unplanned. Of course, it means that there are counter electronics installed on the bike, which communicates with the jacket. And when we say sophisticated electronics, it also means sophisticated price; a big price. The Alpinestars Tech Air Racing Replica 1 cost for example US$2,899.95

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

But if you’re not a racer, or not someone who makes full use of open track days, it doesn’t need to be that expensive. If all you’re looking for is some added protection without having to spend a fortune on new jackets, you can buy a vest that is put over your current jacket. So you keep your current jacket, and have the added protection of an airbag.

The technology is still not that cheap that anyone can purchase it, count a couple of 100′s of dollars for a vest. But if you can afford it, what’s the price of safety?

Since more and more manufacturers are now making airbag jackets, the concept is becoming mainstream. In the next few years, prices will become competitive, and most manufacturers will offer airbag models.

Have a look at this video to see how effective the airbag jacket is.

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The last part of the test review of my winter ride is the boots (click here for the Tour Master Synergy 2 review and click here for a review of the Bell Vortex Helmet). Your body temperature must be kept warm, as does your head. But the parts of the body that usually suffers are your feet (and your hands, but that can be solved quickly and reasonably cheaply). Although you can buy heated socks, I decided that those might be too much for 32°F. Maybe for when I visit the North Pole.

I put on my trusty Alpinestars Scout Waterproof Boots. I’ve used them for off-road riding, but it was the first time I used them in the winter. For winter riding you need to not only have boots that are at least waterproof, but also boots that grip well on the ground. When you stop your motorcycle during winter, chances are that the ground at best will be wet, or worse, that there’s ice or snow.

Alpinestars Scout Waterproof Boots

Alpinestars Scout Waterproof Boots

The Alpinestars are made out of leather, but have an inside membrane that is 100% waterproof. So not rain proof; no, much better – waterproof. This means no matter how much water the weather God throws at you, your feet will remain dry (as long as the water doesn’t come in from above).

The ankles are well protected from impact and crashes, and a removable insole helps absorb shocks. However, I’m uncomfortable with the “footbed”, since my feet are high, so I don’t wear it. It’s a question of comfort, and it may work for you, it didn’t for me.

The whole boot is closed with three adjustable buckles.

During the winter ride my feet stayed not only dry, despite there being a lot of wet surfaces, but also warm. I did not feel any cold air, either circulating inside, or from the outside. And that is a good thing, especially in the winter. For boots that are not even billed as winter boots, they do the job very well. Very versatile.

Alpinestars-Scout-Waterproof-Boots-SoleSeveral times I had to stop for traffic lights and intersections while the road was wet and slippery; The boots worked admirably. The sole part is like a Continental TKC-80 off-road tire; heavy studs. The road grip is admirably and safe.

Changing gears was no problem whatsoever. Easy to move, easy to shift.

As boots go, this one is tops. Highly recommendable.

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You’ve probably heard of chicken strips, or maybe you haven’t. Chicken strips is a term used in the motorcycle world for the edge of the motorcycle tires.

Chicken-Strips-1

Each tire when it rolls out of the manufacturing plant has small strips on the side. These strips, depending on the tire type, are the small little cones that stick out of a tire, which can be found on the edge (like in the photo above). Normally speaking, these strips get worn off when you ride, particularly when you use the bike a lot in curves while maintaining a high lean angle. The more you put your knee closer to the road, the less chicken strips will be visible.

Chicken-Strips-2

For other types of tires, particularly sportstires (like the photo above), the chicken strip is the edge of the tire that has not been used, and is therefore still raw.

For many clubs and discussion forums, chicken strips therefore indicate whether you are afraid to take curves aggressively. The less chicken strips you have, the more you are willing to attack a curve.

With many bikers it has become a thing of honor; no chicken strips. So much so that they have started using sandpaper to remove the strips, in other words……. cheating.

Obviously it’s a question of how far you are comfortable in putting your knee down. Never try to outdo your own capability, no matter how many chicken strips you have left on your tires.

Jafrum.com

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Wanna get this poster? Check out this Motorcycle Quotes Poster Giveaway

Motorcycle Quotes Poster

Motorcycle Quotes Poster

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When I went for the test ride of the before mentioned Tour Master Synergy 2 Heated Liner (click here to read the review), I also wanted to test my Bell Vortex Helmet.

The Bell helmet is one of the better helmets that you can buy for a moderate price. Snell and DOT approved, it only weighs 1600 grams thanks to the lightweight composite polycarbonate allow shell.

Bell Vortex Helmet

Bell Vortex Helmet

An important aspect I wanted to test in the cold weather was the air circulation, since when it’s cold outside, my body was being heated by the Tour Master Heated Liner, so you can count on your visor fogging up.

The Bell Vortex helmet has a special area reserved for loudspeakers, and I am using it for my Cardo Scala Rider G9 headset. I just love listening to music while I ride.

When you put on the helmet the first thing you notice is the magnetic strap keeper mechanism. It’s handy, but I’m worried for long usage, but that is something we’ll see over time. But what the strap keeper does is keep the remainder of the strap from flapping in the wind. On its own, a great idea, but time will tell how it holds up.

As mentioned before, the weather was pretty cold, about 32°F, and the Tour Master was doing its job in heating my body.

The collar of the helmet is padded, which means that there’s less cold air entering the helmet from below, and the noise is reduced as well, although I have to say the helmet, for its price, is quite silent. Obviously when you open the air vents, more noise comes in, but when the vents are closed the helmet is surprisingly quite.

I started with the air vents closed, but quickly the heat coming from my body started putting patches of fog on the visor, so I opened up the vents. That not only cleared the visor, although I did have to open the visor once or twice, but the air flow was comfortable over my head. I was afraid it would freeze my brain, but it didn’t and it felt nice. The helmet fit is snug, but that will depend on your own head size and shape.

Noise levels with and without air vents were more than adequate. I was listening to the Cardo Rider built-in FM radio, and had no problems hearing anything. Even with the radio switched on, noise levels are kept to a minimum. Remember, this is a sub-200 dollar helmet!

The one thing I didn’t like about the Bell is its size. It’s bigger than my other helmets and has a problem fitting in the top case. But for the price, I can live with that. On the other hand, you can get many different colored visors and other accessories.

Click here to buy the Bell Vortex Helmet

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MIC-LogoDespite gloomy forecasts last year, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) announced that a very strong sales of new motorcycles and scooters was achieved during 2012 in the USA. An increase of 2.6 percent was gained by the leading 19 manufacturers that the council tracks.

A total of 452,386 motorcycles were sold last year.

Almost half of the motorcycles sold were Harley-Davidson, who saw their growth increase by 6.2% in the USA (and +5.6% abroad).

Harley-Davidson-Showroom-Door

All four main segments of the market grew, a first since 2002. The scooter segment had the best increase, with 7.7%, showing that more and more people are turning to scooters for their daily commute, a lot like what has happened in Europe.

Dual-purpose motorcycles also had a spectacular growth, with 7.4 %. Dual-purpose bikes allow bikers to ride on and off road, an attractive proposition for many.

Off-highway motorcycles, i.e. dirt bikes, grew by 2.1%, while on-highway bikes went up 1.8%. All very positive results showing that more and more Americans are using motorcycles & scooters for fun and work.

MIC compared the number of miles travelled during 2009 and 2003, and the difference is astonishing; during 2009 29 BILLION miles were travelled, an increase of 8 BILLION miles over 2003.

Source: MIC

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During the cold winter months we’ve managed to try out the Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heater Jacket Liner. We all know how important it is to stay warm when riding during the winter months, and it also applies to those times of the year that temperatures drop, especially at night. Staying warm is essential, since a body temperature that is too low, means that you are not functioning the way you should.

The Synergy 2.0 is a liner, in other words, you put it under your normal motorcycle jacket. It doesn’t replace your jacket. The liner is hooked up to your bike’s 12V system by means of a wire.

Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heater Jacket Liner

Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heater Jacket Liner

The liner comes equipped with a temperature control device. You use the device to lower or increase the temperature according to your personal preference.

We tested the liner in cold weather, it was some 32°F (0°C), cold enough not to ride normally speaking unless you have lots of layers of clothing. We hooked up the control unit to the bike’s 12V accessory plug. NOTE: Tour Master warns you NOT to combine heating units from other brands, if you do, your warrantee expires.

The liner is much thinner than what you’d expect. It fits nicely under any jacket without it feeling bulky. The liner is lightweight, so it didn’t feel like you had on a heavy jacket (apart form the heavy jacket itself).

Initially we used the Synergy 2.0 with our normal winter gloves, but that proves to be not so smart in cold weather. The body was nice and warm, snug like two bugs in a rug. But quickly our fingers were cold, and since we don’t have heated grips, we had to stop.

We added a heated glove for Tour Master (the Tour Master Syngery Electric Heather Leather Glove). The only downside for me was that the lead going to the glove is a bit short, meaning you need to “wrestle” a bit to put on the gloves. A few inches more would have made it easier.

The included thigh-mounted leg band, onto which you place the temperature control unit is God-sent. It means the control unit is not flapping around, and you can reach it easily to adjust the temperature.

Initially I had put the temperature too high, afraid of getting cold, but quickly I adjusted the temperature to be really comfortable. It worked like a charm. But unless you have heated handlebars, I strongly recommend using heated gloves.

As far as heated liners go, this one is above reproach. It works like a charm, keeps you warm, doesn’t make you bulky and for the price, you can ride all year round. I plan to use it when ever the temperature drops too much.

Click here to buy the Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Heater Jacket Liner.

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Tail-of-the-Dragon-mapMany countries have twisting roads, but none are as famous as our Tail of the Dragon in Deals Gap North Carolina bordering with Tennessee. And since Jafrum is from that part of the country (we are headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina), it’s about time we talked about it in more detail.

The Tail of the Dragon, AKA The Dragon, is motorcycle heaven; it’s an 11 mile road (US129) counting no less that 318 (yes, you read it right, three hundred and eighteen) curves. The 2 lane blacktop road brings you through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in other words a forest with a magic scenery. And since it’s a national park, no sudden intersections that can cause a danger for you. But the road is not meant for the scenery; don’t slow down or stop to take photos. It’s the road itself that attracts bikers.

The 11 mile ride is an incredible motorcycle ride for those of you who love the twisties. It’s one curve after the other. Although speed has been limited to 30 mph since 2005, many bikers still try to run The Dragon as fast as they can (which is not very smart since law enforcement is out in force).

Many of the sharpest curves have received funny sounding names, like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner or Brake or Bust Bend.

Deals-Gap-Tree-of-Shame

Part of the folklore of Deals Gap is the Tree of Shame, a tree decorated with motorcycle parts of bikers who went just that bit too fast. It’s a reminder that it’s best to ride the road at a moderate speed. You will also need to remember that it’s not just motorcycles riding the road, you will also find many cars.

If you ride The Dragon, chances are you’ll see a photographer taking photos of you. This photographer is an institution; called Killboy you can find many of his photos on his website Killboy.com. Once you’ve done the 11 mile run and you are back safely at home, head on over to his website, since you might find a nice souvenir photo of you riding The Dragon.

If you want to see what The Dragon looks like on a motorcycle, have a look at this video (do turn down the volume before you do).

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It’s getting to be that time of the year again that many bikers are going to start looking for their next motorcycle. Many of you will be opting for pre-owned (better known as secondhand) motorcycles. It is a great way of getting a new-for-you motorcycle at reasonable costs. But as we all know, there are always hidden dangers. Has the bike been properly maintained? Are there any defects? What will the extra costs be during the riding season to repair all these problems that will arise while riding?

Even the most seasoned mechanic cannot determine if a motorcycle is in perfect condition, unless the bike is stripped down totally, but that costs a lot of money and time. But there are some basic steps you can do yourself, even if you’re not mechanically inclined, when looking at a new bike to see if there might be some problems with your new acquisition.

rusty-motorcycle

1. Engine

The engine is obviously the most important part, and the part that can cause the most problems. Before starting the engine open the throttle fully and let go. The throttle should click back instantly, if it doesn’t and goes back slowly, it could mean that the cable needs lubrication or that the gas handle is damaged, or worse, that the butterfly mechanism inside is damaged.

If you are able, drain some of the engine oil. Look to see if there are small metal shaving in the oil. If there are, walk away.

Start the engine. If it starts immediately, you’re fine. If it takes a while it could mean that the battery is dead or almost dead. Once the engine is running and has reached its normal temperature, the idle should decrease. If not, the timing on the engine could be off.

Open the throttle. If the increase is regular, without a gap in between the revs increasing, you’re fine. Same when you let go of the throttle, it should reach idle rapidly without the engine sputtering.

Listen to the engine, if you hear clicks & clacks, the engine could have problems. Engines are meant to be turning effortlessly, the more clicking noises you hear, the worse the engine is.

2. Gearbox

Unless you’ve got an automatic motorcycle, and there are not that many around, you’ll need to pay attention to the gearbox. When you put it into first gear, many bikes will clunk, so don’t worry about that. But when you are riding, all other gears should go in pretty smoothly, without any resistance. Some manufacturers have gearboxes that are more noisy than others, but you should always be able to select a gear without any resistance. If it does prove to be hard to get into gear, you’ll be needing to replace the gearbox.

When pressing the clutch, unless the bike is equipped with a dry clutch system, you shouldn’t hear any noise. If it’s a dry clutch, you might hear some spinning vibrations, which is normal. If you feel shocks or slippage, your clutch will need replacing.

3. Chain

If the motorcycle is equipped with a transmission chain, inspect it closely. Makes sure it’s properly mounted, not too tight, not to flexible. If the chain is on tight, it’ll mean the chain has been exposed to excessive tension and probably is ready to be changed. Go for a ride while selecting a gear higher than normal, i.e., if you should be in 2nd gear, select 3rd or 4th. That’s when you’ll hear the chain noises. The noise should be regular without clunking.

4. Suspensions

Push hard in one swoop the front and then next the rear of the bike. The suspension should contract fluidly, without sound. When you let go, it should go back to its original position fluidly and again without sound. If you hear a clicking sound, it could mean that the suspension is as good as gone. When test riding it, slowly go onto a sidewalk. Feel how the suspension compresses. Is it fluid both ways? If it jerks or bounces, you’re in trouble.

5. Brakes

With the engine off, sit on the bike and press the brakes (front and back) one at a time. You should not hear any noise that resembles suction. If the levers soften, it could be that there’s air in the system, or worse, that there’s a leak.

When riding at a slow speed, brake independently (front and then back). You should hear a soft and regular whistling of the brakes. If not, your brakes will need to be replaced.

At higher speeds, you should not feel any vibrations. If you hear metal grinding, it means you’ll need to replace the brake-pads.

6. Wheels

Best is if the bike has a center stand to put it on the stand, if not you’ll need help. With the front wheel off the ground, spin it. It should turn freely without any lateral movement. You should not hear any clicking sounds. Same with the rear wheel.

Juggle each wheel laterally. There should be no movement or clicking sounds.

If the wheel has spokes, hit each spoke with a metallic object. The sounds of each spoke should be almost identical to the previous one. If not, it’s replacement time.

If the bike has a center stand, sit on the bike so that the front wheel is in the air. Move yourself while pressing the front brakes forward and backward, so that the front wheel presses on the ground and then goes up again, same with the back wheel. You should not feel any “play” in the bike, no movements in the structure. If there is, the structure of the bike is not sound.

7. Paperwork

The best is if the seller has all the maintenance papers, i.e., invoices for each service performed. This way you can be sure it has been maintained to spec. See when the last time the spark plugs were changed, or the battery. Have you got a new chain?

Has the bike maintenance log been kept?

All of these, and many more, will ensure that you get a properly working bike. Remember that some people will sell their bike because it’s not working properly anymore, and they don’t want to be bothered with maintenance bills. Some will just get rid of their bike because they want a new model.

Spending time upfront when buying a new-for-you motorcycle will mean that you’ll be spending more time riding it instead of having it in the shop for repairs.

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Riding your motorcycle, especially in the winter, comes with inherent dangers. Many of them are very obvious; slippery roads, cars not paying attention, speed, etc. They are all well documented, and most bikers are very well aware of them.

Asking for it

Asking for it

But there’s one hidden danger that many bikers don’t think about, and often enough they happen in the winter, though not limited to the winter. And that is the danger of riding with scarfs and other items that can get caught in the motorcycle’s wheel.

If your scarf, or for example a backpack strap, is too long, it stands the chance of intertwining in the spokes of your wheel, or in the chain. While riding, it’s an as-good-as death sentence. The scarf is pulled into the motorcycle wheel and within a second your are being choked to death. It can happen very fast, and there’s very little you can do about it.

One of the first recorded death by scarf on a motorcycle was the famous dancer, Isadora Ducan. Back in 1927, she was riding her motorcycle in the South of France, when her scarf got caught in the spokes of her wheel. She was almost decapitated by the incident, and died on the spot.

Backpack-strap-danger

But there have been several case of this happening, and not always limited to scarfs. A backpack strap that gets caught in the rear tire means you are going to get ejected, pulled off your bike.

The item doesn’t even need to be tied to you, it can be anything that will get caught, Last year, a biker in Ojai, California had a piece of clothing that was tied to his sissy bar get caught in the rear wheel, which resulted in the rear wheel being blocked. The biker was ejected and died from the impact (source).

On January 21 this year in France, a motorcyclist also lost his life when a scarf got caught in the spokes of his wheel (source)

As you can see, they are not isolated incidents, they do happen. So when traveling on your motorcycle with objects that can get caught, make sure they are safe. Stow away any object, better safe than dead.

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