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Archive for April, 2013

If there’s one thing that we use all of the time while riding our motorcycles, it’s the handlebar grips. Grips are indispensable, since without them you might as well have a soapbox cart. Handlebar grips need to be sturdy, allow for a good, if not great, grip, look good and be very comfortable.

A buddy of mine asked some help to put on a Kuryakyn Premium ISO Grip on his Harley Road King Classic. So I decided to use the occasion to review these grips.

Kuryakyn Premium ISO Grip

Kuryakyn Premium ISO Grip

Putting them on was quite easy. Unfasten the screws/bolts that hold the current grip (the housing). The left side is glued on, so you need some patience to get it off (use a razor blade or even a cutter). Once off, put the supplied glue in the new grip and slide in. Simple. 5 minutes maximum.

If you’re not so comfortable in doing this, have a look at the video below. It explains how to put the grip on.

Once installed I set out on my friend’s Harley. I have been on it many times, so I know how it feels. The first thing I noticed is that the Kuryakyn grips are slightly thicker than the stock ones. To be honest, they feel a lot better, and I mean A LOT.

The hand is very comfortable holding these grips, even when holding them in a death grip. But the most important part of these grips is the lack of vibrations! The stock grips transmit the Harley’s engine vibrations to your hand, which will make you tired. The Kuryakyn do not transmit vibrations. Fantastic, great for long distance rides.

Not only do they feel great, and do not make your hands tired, they look great. These are the grips Harley-Davidson should have made in the first place.

If you want to customize your bike, I strongly recommend that this is the first thing you change. Your hands and body will thank you.

Click here to see and buy the Kuryakyn Premium ISO Grips

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Having good manners is the right thing to do, in any situation. We’re not savages that only think about ourselves. We don’t exactly need to behave the way Emily Post told us to at the dinner table, or when entertaining, but there should be some form of manners, even protocols or etiquettes, when riding your bike.

Manners are usually a two-way street. It’s like a good stereo system; it needs to come from both sides. A bit like, treat people the way you want to be treated yourself; respect.

Riding

When coming up behind another biker, don’t honk, and don’t immediately overtake. At a red light when the other biker is stopped, don’t pull up beside him/her, but staggered behind the bike. The reasons for this, is that you don’t know the rider’s abilities and street smarts. Coming up behind a biker and continuing fast, may result in the biker suddenly pulling out to accelerate and bump into you. Coming up behind the other biker and staying a few seconds will ensure that the other biker has seen you. Sitting behind the biker at a red light, staggered, will give the biker time to see that there’s someone behind.

MANNER: Don’t suddenly overtake another biker. Don’t honk.

When you ride up to another slower bike and there’s no lanes available to pass, wait. The slower bike will hopefully see you and wave you through on the same lane. If you don’t, you stand the chance of crashing.

MANNER: Don’t pass in the same lane if you don’t have space to pass on the road. Wait for an acknowledgement.

If you are behind a slow car which goes out of its way to let you pass, remember to wave to the car as a thank-you.

MANNER: Wave a “thanks” to cars that go out of their way for you.

If you see another motorcycle that has broken down, it can be a good idea to stop and see if they need help. We’re on our own out there in SUV land, and the more help we get from our brothers & sisters, the easier and safer our lives will be. The same obviously applies to bikers who are in trouble with car drivers. Go and help them.

MANNER: When possible, help out other bikers on the road who are in trouble.

Motorcycle-wave

The Wave

One of the most common forms of manners, or protocols (etiquette) is the famous wave between bikers. When you are riding and come upon other bikers, give them a wave, or at the least a nod with the head. The “wave” shouldn’t be just to motorcycle riders who are riding your favorite motorcycle. The wave is to any motorcycle, even scooters. It’s a form of respect, a respect to their chosen form of transportation. We are a brotherhood.

The actual form of wave is not that important, it could be a high held hand, a low one, one, two or all fingers, whatever the “wave”, as long as the others can see it. Obviously when you are riding in a dense motorcycle area, like Sturgis, you don’t need to wave, or even nod. In cities where there are many more motorcycle riders, you could be spending all your time waving. Here maybe a nod will do, or nothing at all.

MANNER: If you can, wave or nod to other bikers riding any brand or type of motorcycle.

Group Riding

When riding in a group, if there’s a smoker out there, would you like to ride behind that person and receive their cigarette in the face when they flick it away;

MANNER: Don’t throw away cigarettes when riding (it’s illegal anyway). Remember the bikers behind you.

Don’t try to get others to ride at your pace, especially when your pace is fast. It’s nicer for everyone to ride at their average pace.

MANNER: Don’t force the pace.

Motorcycle-lane-splitting

(c) Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Lane Splitting

If you are in an area that allows lane splitting, don’t race your bike through the lane, ride at a leisurely pace, but keep an eye on your mirrors. Other bikers may come up to you faster than you. That is their concern and safety, but to ensure good harmony, when you get a chance, move over and let them pass. When you move over, signal the other rider that they can pass, thereby eliminating confusion and misunderstandings.

MANNER: Let faster motorcycle pass when lane splitting.

Parked

When you see a parked motorcycle, even if the owner is right there, never, ever, sit on the parked motorcycle. If you want to sit on it, ask permission. You don’t see people go into someone else’s car to sit in it. It’s just not done.

MANNER: Never sit on someone’s motorcycle without asking for permission.

When you have to park in car spots, if the spot is taken up by another motorcycle, do not put your bike in that slot. You are going to give the other biker problems taking out his/her ride. Only put multiple bikes in one parking slot if you are all riding together.

MANNER: Do not park in the same car parking space as another motorcycle.

Motorcycle-bear-Pillion

Pillions

When you get a new pillion, tell them what is expected from them. Tell them where to get on or off the bike, what to do when you are in a curve and what not to do. Even if the pillion has been riding as pillion with others, just remind them of “your” rules. Why do you think airlines keep telling you about the safety procedures?

MANNER: Instruct a new (to you) pillion on your rules and procedures.

Remember that you have got the pillion’s life in your hands. Be extra careful. Now is not the time to show off, or the scare the pillion. Ride responsible.

MANNER: Ride extra careful.

These are just a few common sense manners. Keep civil, be nice. Let’s all enjoy the ride.

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The dual-sport, or dual-purpose motorcycles have become very popular since BMW came out of the famous GS motorcycle. Many manufacturers have tried to take a stab at the GS crown, some with success, some less so. But whatever brand motorcycle you ride on and off road, you will need to think about your feet.

If you do ride your dual-purpose bike on the streets and the trails, you’d better think about a good sturdy boot to protect your feet when riding off-road. But you also need to think about walking in those boots, since often we go for walks when we’ve arrived at our destination on our dual-purpose motorcycles.

Gaerne Balance Oiled Boots

Gaerne Balance Oiled Boots

One boot I love that fulfills all the above requirements is the Gaerne Balance Oiled Off-Road Boots. These boots look, feel & perform the business. The brown leather is oiled, meaning it will handle very well in damp and wet conditions.

Mind you, they are not waterproof, so don’t go fly-fishing with them, but if you need to cross a stream or river on your bike, you’ll be ensured that your feet will stay warm & dry.

The soles are made out of gum rubber which enhances your grip on the soil, no matter how much dirt and sand. Even when crossing a river, these soles handle the way they should.

I recently took my BMW R1150GS for a run, and after a good 35 miles riding down the blacktops, we went off-road following a fire lane through a forest and then climbing up a hill. There were two smaller streams to cross. Both the GS and the boots functioned perfectly. The GS may be a pig, heavy and sluggish, but it just keeps on riding. The Gaerne boots are light, much lighter than what they look like. The 3 buckles can be adjusted so they fit perfectly. The boots didn’t move but my feet remained snug and safe. There’s sufficient air to keep the feet comfortable, but just watch it when you remove the boots after a long day, and you are in a small enclosed space. But it’s not as bad as many boots I’ve tried.

After arriving at our destination (I was traveling with 2 others, both on KTM), we stopped for a picnic. We walked for about 500 yards up a hill, and the boots felt comfortable and despite riding through 2 streams (I’m a bit of a chicken, since I ground my feet on the ground to ensure I don’t tip over, the others just ride fast and splash through), my feet remained dry. For the walk, these boots were more than fine, almost like hiking boots.

As boots for riding street and dirt trails, and for walking, they don’t get any better. But mind you, do not think these are motocross boots!!!! They are not. Do not plan to use them in real off-road riding, enduro or motocross. They are not designed for it; your ankles are not protected enough for this kind of riding.

If you are a real dual-purpose rider, these are the boots for you.

Click here to but the Gaerne Balance Oiled Off-Road Boots

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Red-Traffic-SignalNot many people, if any, like red lights. They are a pain; when they are red you have to stop, and when they are green, you need to cross the intersection while keeping a close eye on the other traffic. There are always idiots who run red lights. The only time you might like a red light is when there’s a big glass window close by and you can admire yourself and your motorcycle (if you don’t think this happens, have a close look at what happens at red lights).

“Normal” red lights are okay I guess. They are timed, and after so many seconds they will either turn red or green. It’s the “demand-actuated” red lights that can be bothersome for bikers. These lights will turn green if there’s a vehicle stopped in front of them. And the way they know there’s a vehicle is because they have a metal wire in the ground, and through this inductive-loop traffic detector it can “feel” that there is a vehicle through its magnetic field. That’s because the wire acts like a metal detector.

This means that when a car is stopped above the wire, the wire senses a metal object and turns the light green. It’s handy since if there’s no traffic at the other side, why would you need to wait for the light to turn green. It’s a waste of time, money, gas and CO2.

However motorcycles are at a disadvantage. The metal mass of a bike is far less than that of a car, and often the light is not tripped. Standing on your own as a motorcycle, even a big one, is not enough. There are several types of sensors, from ones that behave very badly for motorcycles, to ones that recognize even the smallest bike or scooter. Click here to read more about the types of sensors and how to spot them.

For those sensors that just don’t change for a motorcycle, there are gadgets out there that say they can change the lights for you. Most are magnetic, but personally I have never seen one work properly.

So you end up moving aside, hoping that a car will drive up and trip the light.

The only saving grace in all this, is that many states in the USA and countries in the world, are allowing more and more for motorcycles to turn on red. You can’t cross the road on red, but at least you can turn on red. But to do that, you really need to pay attention. Vehicles can travel faster than what you may think. And remember, if you do turn on red, even if it’s legal, and someone crashes into you, you’ll be at fault.

So be careful when turning. Also be very careful when crossing a road on green. Many cars don’t pay attention, even for a red light. Have a look at the shocking video below (this is China, but this can happen anywhere in the world). The car runs a red light.

Warning – this is shocking.

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FirstGear Kilimanjaro Jacket

FirstGear Kilimanjaro Jacket

The weather has changed, winter is gone replaced by some sunshine, warmer temperatures, and more important, lots of rain. Riding in the rain can be fun (see previous article) as long as you dress for the part. When you put on your riding gear, you need to ensure that it’s not only warm, but also very rainproof. And to that effect, there is nothing better for all kinds of weather riding than FirstGear’s Kilimanjaro Jacket,a full 3/4 length jacket.

As motorcycle jackets go, this one is difficult to beat. It has become an industry standard.

FirstGearKilimanjaroJacket-bThe Kilimanjaro Jacket is made out of a waterproof but very breathable shell (in contrast with others that use rainproof liners), using nylon materials. To show you that this jacket is meant for rain, it has a rain hood that can easily be worn under your helmet. What that means is that no rain water will drip down your neck from your helmet, something that does happen often enough with other jackets.

The jacket is well protected with the ultimate in biker armor; D3O. This means you really don’t need to worry when hitting the pavement unexpectedly since D3O is a liquid gel that hardens on impact without adding too much weight or bulk.

Another thing I really liked about the FirstGear Kilimanjaro Jacket are the air vents. If the weather gets warm you can open a total of 6 vents allowing fresher air to circulate, cooling down your body.

Another great thing about the jacket is the numerous pockets. As a biker I can never have enough pockets. The many pockets available on the Kilimanjaro have proper all-weather closures so no water can seep into them. Only thing missing IMHO is a sleeve pocket since that is where I keep my credit card and driving license.

If you’re riding in-between seasons, you have a removable thermal liner which keeps you warm when the temperature outside is too cold. If you have got the matching pants, you can zip them up to the jacket, thereby ensuring that no cold air moves through your body.

Review Ride

For the ride, it was very damp and rainy. Temperature was pleasant, around 55-60 but the whole day was rained on by the weather Gods. A perfect day to test the jacket.

Putting on the Kilimanjaro is no problem.Usually you need to squeeze on a motorcycle jacket, but this jacket uses stretch material in the shoulder, arm and elbow areas, making it much easier to put on. With the straps on the bicep and forearm, you adjust the the sleeves to fit your body. With the waist belt, you adjust to your belly. This unique capabilities make the jacket fit you like it was tailored, a very nice experience.

I had put on the rain hood under my helmet, no problem there, and set out for the ride. The ride lasted 1 hour 45 minutes and throughout the ride, my body never felt wet nor cold. The jacket fulfills its promise to 100%.

At one stage, later in the day, temperatures started rising so I opened the back vents, enough to give some cooler air, but not allow water to get inside. A cool back is enough to stay comfortable.

Summary

On the positive side, the Kilimanjaro is heaven. It’s comfortable, it blocks water and cold air, it allows cool air in when it’s warm, it’s not heavy and you can get it in high-visibility colors.

On the downside, the sleeves at the hand are very open & wide. If you are wearing thin gloves, you’ll be getting air and rain inside via the hand, though there is a neoprene closure. It’s not a biggie.

The jacket is an all-round perfect jacket.

Watch the video below for more information.

Click here to buy the FirstGear Kilimanjaro jacket.

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Most people when they go for a motorcycle ride end up doing 100 miles or so. Usually they commute or do day trips, traveling to a destination within a day’s reach and back. Some bikers can’t get enough saddle time, while adventure riders can go hours and many miles, often visiting foreign places.

The group of fanatics who love extreme long distances have been well documented, the Iron Butt Riders. They can go for some 1000 to 1500 miles in one day, which if you think about it, is phenomenal. Talk about saddle sore.

But these are not the records. The current Guinness World Record for the longest distance travelled in 24 hours is held by Texan L. Russell “Rusty” Vaughn. Rusty rode his Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide motorcycle during 24 hours for 2,0194 miles (that’s 3,249 kilometers)!

Rusty Vaugh   © Guinness World Records

Rusty Vaugh © Guinness World Records

2,000 miles is enormous, but almost impossible to do on the road (due to speed limitations). That’s why the attempt was performed on the Continental Tire Test Track in Texas.

Source: Guinness World Records

The longest distance on the public roads was not set in North America or Europe, but somewhere you would not expect it, namely in Oman (Middle East). There, Omar Al Mamri and 36 year old biker drove his Honda CBR 1100 from the capital of Oman, Muscat to Salalah, a distance of 640 miles (1031 kilometers) AND BACK. And this road that would not qualify a good rating since it was full of potholes.

This totalized to a trip of 2,062 kilometers (1,281 miles), averaging 94.1 kph. What makes this record even more impressive was that the temperature in the desert was between 42 and 48°C (107 – 118°F).

Source: World Record Academy

And if you are interested in knowing about all those folks who have traveled long distances on their motorcycles, how about the record holder of the longest distance traveled in one trip?

That record is held by Argentinian Emillio Scotto who in one trip took his motorcycle 457,000 miles (735,000 kilometers), traveling around the world, visiting 279 countries. It took him 10 years to do the record breaking trip, and he did it in luxury & style, riding a Honda 1100 Gold Wing.

I have to presume that Emillio didn’t set out one morning to go and buy a packet of cigarettes, returning 10 years later. During the trip (he left with only $300 in his pocket), he went through 13 big sized (64 page) passports, used up 12,500 gallons of fuel and 86 tires.

Source: Guinness World Records

So next time you go out on your motorcycle and think that the 300 miles you have traveled was much, think again.

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Bell Star Helmet

Bell Star Helmet

I had stayed away from Bell Helmets for a while since their build quality had been dubious, but after hearing a lot of good things about their Star helmet I decided to give it a try. So I went to the shop and borrowed a Bell Star helmet.

When you have it in your hands you notice that it’s a quality product, something that in the past Bell was well known for. At first glance it looked like they got their act together. So let’s see how they stack up.

The Star helmet is a full face helmet which can be bought in one of three colors (black, matte black or metallic silver), I went for the black model. The helmet itself is made out of lightweight TriMatrix Composite material and Kevlar combined with Carbon and Fiberglass making it very strong but also very light (1550 grams). Despite being a full face helmet, it feels very light in your hands, and once you put it on, you can barely feel it.

Putting it on was quite easy. Make sure you pull the straps wide open and slip it on. The cheek pads fit me very fine, but I have read somewhere that you can get different cheek pads in case yours are too tight. I have to say, the fit was very comfortable with very little top pressure.

The helmet has a clear visor, but you can buy different kind of visors, liked a smoked one (and even a photochromatic one). I prefer the clear one. The helmet has the Bell patent pending magnetic strap keeper, which is a magnetic holder for the end of your strap; it might sound like a gadget, but after having been hit by the end of the strap at high speed because it was flapping, I know it’s not. It’s a great idea making the helmet just that touch better. Just “click” the end of the strap onto the buckle holder and it stays in place.

Once I hit the road with the helmet it was time to find out how good it really was. Temperature was high 40′s, pleasant sun and a bit humid. First thing I noticed was that my ears were very comfortable. I hate it when a helmet presses very hard, specially when riding, on my ears. The Bell helmet has a recess for the ears, meaning your ears are not squashed.

Since it was sunny I put on my sunglasses. I had to remove the sunglasses before putting on the helmet, but once I put on the glasses, they fit fine. I have to say there’s a slight pressure on the glasses, but hardly noticeable on the face.

Noise levels, even at high speeds were very good. The helmet is very quite, maybe not the quietest I’ve had, but very quite nevertheless. In fact, it’s quite impressive.

The visor/shield can be set to three positions, something you’ll love when riding in traffic, or when riding on a track. You can set the shield to open a crack to let air in when you are riding in the city or at lower speeds.

Ventilation is no problem whatsoever. You can adjust the air flow giving you exactly what you want. Remember that the Bell Star helmet was born from motorcycle racing so Bell understands airflow and aerodynamics. Ventilation options are plentiful and excellent.

After a 5 hour motorcycle trip, the helmet stayed comfortable (which is not always the case, since things can start hurting or itching) and quite.

Bad points: In fact, I can’t really find one except the price. It’s in the higher price range for motorcycle helmets, but you pay for quality. If you want something that is really good, be prepared to pay a price. On the other hand, the helmet has a 5 year warranty.

Check out the video below for a more detailed explanation about this awesome helmet.

Click here to buy the Bell Star Helmet

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