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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle Gear’ Category

It does happen, even if many of us think it’ll never happen to us. Accidents, either your fault or someone else’s, happen and you need to be prepared. Obviously making sure no accidents happen is the best thing you can do, but they do happen.

So what do you need to do after an accident. Imagine a car just ran a red light and bumped you, causing you to crash.

Car_vs_motorcykle_accident

Everyone Okay?

The first thing you need to do is ensure that everyone is okay physically, even the car driver. Take note, that even if you think you’re fine, it might be later that you discover that you are not fine.

It’s advisable to call for medical help, unless of course it was only a small fender bender. But if you have been flung to the ground, your adrenaline is preventing you from knowing that you may have cracked a rib or elbow, or worse. Even if you had on proper riding gear, with jackets, full body armor and helmets, you might still have problems and you just don’t know it yet.

In many cases, it’s wise to call in the cops, but you need to judge the situation. If the police do show up, ask them to fill out an accident report. This will help you with your insurance company.

car-motorcycle-accident-1

Take Many Photos

When you can, take out a camera or better yet, a smartphone that can take photos, and take several photos from different angels. The reason I say smartphone, is because most of them have a built-in GPS that records the exact spot. Handy if things go South afterwards and you end up in court. Take photos from different angels, distances and make sure you get the license plates. It also helps making photos of bystanders.

Now that you have recorded the accident spot from several angels you can ….

Clear The Road

If at all possible, move your motorcycle away from the road, and if possible, help the other vehicle off the road. Obstructions on the road are dangerous for you and other road users. Others might not be pleased with a traffic jam and seek ways to speed through, endangering you and others.

So clear the road as quickly as you can. The photos you took will help prove where all vehicles where and in what shape, so no worries there.

motorcycle-accidentsignExchange Contact and Insurance Info

Make sure you get the other person’s contact details, preferable from something like a driving license or ID card. Get the other person’s insurance details (hoping that they have insurance).

Write down their names, address, phone numbers, license plates and if you have witnesses, their names, addresses and phone numbers.

In many countries, you can fill out an accident form supplied by the insurance company. The form only gets filled in if both parties agree, if not, you fill out your own form.

Draw A Diagram

Whether you use a specially supplied insurance form, or just on paper, make a diagram of the accident, including names of the street. Note where each vehicle was, and where it was going.

If you do end up in court, it’s not going to be the following day, but months from now. Your memory will be hazy, so the more you have written down the better for you.

NEVER, EVER Admit Guilt

Even if it was your faulty, you never, ever, admit to it. If you do, your insurance company may (and probably will) not cover your expenses. You will be out of pocket, and the costs can be very high.

You may think it was your fault, but the insurance company’s lawyers may not. If you admit to the fault, there’s nothing they can do, so they will disown you.

Contact Your Insurance Company

As quickly as you can, preferably right after the accident, or even when you are still there, contact your insurance agent or company. Each insurance company has its own deadlines by when you need to report an accident, but the faster the better.

If you call them while you are still on the scene, they will still be able to give you instructions what you need to do.

After the Accident

If you have been knocked off your motorcycle, you may want to get on one as soon as possible. Even if your bike is badly broken and needs to be repaired, borrow/rent a bike. If you let it rest for a few days you may develop a fear that will prevent you from riding ever again. When you’ve fallen from a horse, best is to get back on one immediately. The same applies to motorcycles.

So let’s hope you never have to follow these instructions, but you never know.

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Time for some riding, and a review of the fabulous Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest. Although I remain quite fanatic about wearing safety gear all the time (the famous ATGATT), I at times feel stifled with my heavy leather jacket, armor, gloves, boots etc. The Top Gear term of Power Ranger comes to mind. For a nice spring ride, with pleasant temperatures, no rain forecasted, a slight wind, there’s nothing more comfortable and easy going than going for a motorcycle ride wearing a hoodie. But if you do fall from your bike, a hoodie is not going to protect you whatsoever. You might as well ride naked.

So what I do is wear some armor under my hoodie (or summer jacket). This way I don’t feel like a giant rubber man but I’m still protected.

Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

My armor of choice for this is the above mentioned Icon Stryker Vest. It’s a vest that’s thin enough to slip under your normal street clothing, but with some real protection.

The Stryker vest protects your back and front, and what I love about the product is the liquid metal d3o insert for your back. I love that d3o material since it’s soft, it takes any shape, and when subjected to a sudden impact, it becomes as hard as metal.

IconStrykerVest-back

Mind you, the Stryker Vest is not a t-shirt, so do accept that even under a hoodie it’ll show, but it’s not enormous, and more important, it’s not heavy.

Air flows quite good through the vest, although I’d prefer to have a bit more air since when the sun is hitting you in full force I start to sweat. It’s not a biggie, but it would be nice to have a few more vents.

I can’t tell you about the Stryker protection since I haven’t crashed, and I’m not planning to. If I do, I’ll let you know how I faired.

I do recommend that you complement the vest with some elbow protection, since if you’re going to go down, your elbows will for sure be hit. Try the Icon Stryker Elbow Field Armor.

Have a look at the video below about the Icon Stryker range of protection:

Click here to buy or learn more about the Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

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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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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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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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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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Rain-RidingIn all the years that I have been riding a motorcycle, I can honestly not remember one biker who loves riding in the rain. I do not think that there’s anyone out there who, when looking out the window and seeing a downpour, will say “ohhh great, it’s raining, let’s go for a bike ride”.

However I do know a lot of bikers who flatly refuse to go out riding when it rains. Personally, I think that is a mistake. Rain is nothing but water, and as long as a) it’s not raining very hard, b) falling horizontally (in other words a strong wind) and c) you wear the proper clothing, then the ride will be fine.

High Visibility Rain jacket

High Visibility Rain jacket

There are a lot of things to take into account when riding a motorcycle in the rain, but one of the most important ones is that you have to dress appropriately. Having your normal jacket and trousers might not be enough. If there’s a light drizzle, it probably will not be a problem, but when there’s consistent rain, water (usually cold) will seep through your clothes onto your body, and that is not fun! Getting wet, or at least humid, when riding is distracting and very uncomfortable. It’s also when you will get a cold, or worse.

Rain-Boot-CoverSo whatever you do, make sure the clothing (jacket, trousers and boot covers) you use during a rain ride is rain proof.

This is the most important tip for riding in the rain, all other tips are more or less common sense. The clothing doesn’t need to be a diver’s suit you use for deep sea diving, but it needs to keep the water away.

  1. Wear proper rain gear, preferably Gore-Tex or equivalent. It needs to be able to breath but still not allow water to creep in. Make sure your helmet covers your face, since rain above 30 mph is going to hurt you.
  2. Make sure your tires are correct for riding in the rain, in other words, do not go out riding in the rain with slick tires.
  3. Watch the road. What used to be kind-of slippery is now very slippery. White lines on the roads will have become ice rinks, metal plates/manholes are super dangerous, avoid them like the plague.
  4. Watch out for puddles. Yes, it can be fun riding through one, but since the water hides the surface you just don’t know what you are riding into. Can the puddle in fact be a 3 feet deep hole? Do you want to find out the hard way?
  5. When riding and you see a colored rainbow on the ground, watch it. It’s got nothing to do with the gay movement, chances are it’s oil.
  6. When rain first starts after many days of dry weather, it’s when it’s the most dangerous since there’s a lot of oil and dirt on the road. Wait an hour or two for the rain to wash away the oil/dirt before riding since the road surfaces are at their slipperiest. If it’s just drizzle, then the road will remain slippery.
  7. Railway crossing are to be taken as straight as possible. Remember the railway tracks are metal, and wet metal is slippery. Straighten your bike.
  8. When you need to brake, apply more rear brake than normal. If your front wheel starts sliding you’re done for, if your rear wheel slides you can easily correct.
  9. Do not brake strongly if possible.Brake gently. If you need to urgently apply your brakes, pump them so that you do not start aquaplaning.
  10. Give yourself more space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Braking distances are much longer in the rain.
  11. Relax when riding. Getting all cramped and bunched up is not good. First of all you will get tired real quickly and it is dangerous. Relaxed riding is much better.
  12. Be visible. Rain makes it difficult for cars to see you. If you have high visibility clothing, now it is the time to put them on.
  13. An obvious advice, but here it is anyway: reduce your speed! In many countries legally you need to reduce speed by some 10-20% when it rains, and there are good reasons for it.
  14. Since we don’t have wipers on our helmets (well, maybe some do) you can easily spray something like Rain-X on the visor to help you with your visibility. Rain-X keeps the rain from the visor.
  15. When lightning starts up, stop riding. Head for cover (don’t stop below a tree).

Riding in the rain will at times be necessary, and you should not stop riding just because it is raining. Relax and enjoy the ride. You are after all riding a motorcycle and that is fun. ENJOY IT.

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Many people think a battery tender/charger is only of use during the winter months when your motorcycle is hibernating, but I respectively disagree. After any trip, at any time during the year, I’ll plug my bike onto my batter tender. I want to be sure that even if the bike is not used for a few days, that the battery is in perfect working condition. It will not be the first time I roll out one of my motorcycles out of the garage, turn the ignition and all I hear is clicking noises. Dead battery, despite having been on a ride a week ago. It all depends on weather and the state of your battery, so I’m no longer taking any risks.

But, and that’s a big BUT, the most important thing for charging your battery is making sure you’ve got a good, if not great, battery tender. Many people think that by buying a battery tender that trickle charges, your battery is safe. Wrong! A trickle charge keeps sending small amounts of current to the battery, even when it’s fully charged. What happens then, is that the battery starts “cooking”, and that’s the death spell for your battery.

DelTran 12 Volt Battery Tender Plus 1.25 Amp

DelTran 12 Volt Battery Tender Plus 1.25 Amp

My favorite battery charger/tender is the DelTran 12 V Tender Plus 1.25 Amp. Obviously as the title suggests, it’s a 12V charger, so if you’re using one of those 6 V batteries (your bike must be pretty old), then don’t even think about it (a 6V version does exist). The interesting thing about the DelTran is that it compensates charging depending on the ambient temperature. Temperature strongly affects your battery, the colder it is, the worse your batteries behave (that is why electric motorcycles and cars misbehave in freezing climates). When it’s colder, you just need more juice to ensure a 100% charged battery.

The best part of the DelTran is that it doesn’t trickle charger, it switches from full charge to floating charge mode automatically, meaning that when the battery is fully charged, it will send a low level juice to keep the battery fully charged. This method is much better than trickle charging since your battery will never be cooked, and will always be charged at 100%. You can click here to read more about float charging.

One of the other things I like of my DelTran is that when you hook up the charger you don’t get any sparks (okay, I admit, this happens when I use it on my car). My old charger always did that, and it scared the living daylights out of me.

The Tender Plus comes with normal alligator plugs (like what you’d use for a car) but also with a quick & easy access plug-in (a hard-wire you keep connected to your battery, allowing you just plug in the tender). The quick access plug-in is great for motorcycles. Batteries are usually well hidden and would involve removing lots of pieces of motorcycle (like the fuel tank) to get at the battery. With the DelTran Tender Plus, you only need to do it once. Wire the quick access to the battery, and place the extremity of the wire somewhere you can easily reach on your bike (under your saddle, in your front cowling, handlebars, etc). Then all you need to do is plug-in and charge.

To be honest, I love this product. I’ve currently got 3 bikes, and each one has its own DelTran Tender Plus. I never have a problem starting one of the bikes, even if they haven’t been moved for months.

Click here to read more about it, or to buy it.

Here’s a short video explaining a thing or two about the DelTran:

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Let me start with the short review. This is one seriously cool and well thought out backpack. Simply one of the very best backpacks you can use on a motorcycle especially a sportsbike.

So that was the short review. If you’re interested in more, read on.

Ogio No Drag Mach 5

Ogio No Drag Mach 5

The Ogio No Drag Mach 5 Backpack is a very sleek aerodynamic backpack, made for motorcycle riders. Its dimensions are Height: 20.5”, Width: 14.5” and Depth: 7”. So, it’s big but not cumbersome, an ideal size for any type of motorcycle, but specially for sports motorcycles.

The Mach 5 is aerodynamic, meaning you’ll not be pulled when riding, even in a crouched position. I tried it on my Ducati, and honest, you don’t feel any drag whatsoever. Empty, the Mach 5 bag weighs next to nothing, 3.7 lbs (that’s 1.67 kilos for people living in Europe and Asia). But we don’t use backpacks with nothing in them, so this is where the genius of the Ogio come in.

Ogio Storage

Ogio Storage

Storage

The Mach 5 has so much space in special compartments you’d think it would be heavier. There’s a special compartment for a 15” laptop, and the compartment is padded for extra protection. It’s always been a fear of mine that knocks onto the backpack will mess up my precious laptop, but have no fears with the Mach 5. There’s also an equally protected compartment for iPad or other tablets/e-readers, AND a compartment for smartphone.

But the Mach 5 has several other very nicely though out designs; there’s a special protected compartment for helmet visors (how many backpacks can you name that have that?), there’s even a compartment to put your street shoes in. Imagine the comfort of that. You ride up to your office using your motorcycle boots, and at your destination, you put on your street shoes. Very handy!

Ogio Straps

Ogio Straps

Comfort

I have to say, after 6 hours on the road on the Ducati, the backpack was still comfortable. The back is padded so it feels like a soft pillow on your back, and the straps do not bite into your shoulders; they are padded and can be fully adjusted.

The Mach 5 has a handle that is 1) aerodynamic and 2) concealed. At your destination, you can easily get at the handle and carry the pack. You can use the handle to hang up the Mach 5 on a coat rack.

OgioNoDragMach5Backpack-onThe Ogio is rainproof, close even to waterproof. So there’s no worries when it rains. One thing that’s always bothered me with backpacks on motorcycles is the hip belt. They often scratch my fuel tank when in crouched position. The Ogio hip belt can easily be removed, preventing scratching.

Despite being quite big myself, it wasn’t difficult to put the backpack on, and more particular, taking it off. I’ve had easier ones, but I’ve also have far more difficult ones.

Have a look at the video, you’ll be amazed:

You can’t go wrong, except maybe with the price, since it doesn’t come cheap; but quality and well designed products never do.

Click here to buy the Ogio No Drag Mach 5 Backpack (you will not regret it)

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Tennessee is going to be the 32nd state to pass a law that allows bikers to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, unless it gets held up at the last moment. But it’s not likely.

The new bill will allow bikers to ride in the fair state of Tennessee without a helmet if a) they have $25,000 in additional medical coverage, b) a minimum of 2 years motorcycle license, c) have taken a motorcycle training course and d) are at least 25 years old.

So bikers don’t just get to ride without a helmet, they need to fulfill a certain set of criteria. But is this good or not?

The helmet debate is a heated one in the USA (in most other countries it’s not a debate, since it’s mandatory), with as many pro-helmet and anti-helmets opinions. On one side, people say you need proper protection because if you don’t, medical bills for everyone will rise, and on the other side, people want to be left alone to decide themselves what they do to protect their own lives.

Total ATGATT

Total ATGATT

Myself I’m more in the you-can-never-protect-yourself-enough corner. No matter how experienced a rider is, an accident can quickly happened. It doesn’t need to be your fault, it can be anything from a SUV driver who is not paying attention to a bird hitting you in the head (I could say a helicopter crashing on top of you, but that doesn’t matter if you have a helmet or not, you’re going to be very dead).

But there are limits. We’re not going to ride with a metal suit of armor to protect ourselves, so how far are we planning to go to protect ourselves? If we really want total protection, drive an Abrahams tank.

And that is where opinions differ. For some, you don’t really need protection, for others it’s ATGATT.

The Tennessee helmet bill seems like a reasonable compromise. They’ll not let anyone ride without a helmet (particular youngsters), but if you want to, and fulfill the requirements, you can do so at your own (medical and financial) risk. But does that mean only wealthier or well-off bikers can ride without a helmet?

So what do you think? Should this no-helmet law be more widespread, or should it be more like the rest of the world?

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This is part 2 of a long review of the Scala Rider Q2 Pro Helmet Headset, a wireless communication device for motorcycle helmets. Click here to read part 1.

Music
I turned on the iPhone’s music. The Q2 Pro is equipped with the A2DP/AVRCP Bluetooth profiles, meaning you get a very good quality stereo, and it showed. The sound was excellent, close to being in a concert hall. It’s a very enjoyable experience, listening to music while riding. And if your music player doesn’t have Bluetooth, the Q2 Pro has a standard audio jack into which can plug your player.

The advantage of the Q2 Pro is that sound is priority driven, meaning that while you are listening to your favorite music, if your pillion starts talking to you on the intercom, or your riding partner does, or even if your GPS has navigation instructions to give you, the music is interrupted until the other party is finished. Then music is turned back on, and all this is done automatically.

Obviously the same applies to your phone. If someone rings, your music or conversations are interrupted, and you can talk to whoever is calling you. BUT, please pull over to continue your conversation. Talking on the phone while riding is VERY dangerous.

The Q2 Pro is also equipped with a decent FM radio with a RDS function (that’s a feature that bikers love, since if a radio station has different antennas located in geographically parts of the country, the Q2 will select the transmitter with the strongest signal; No need to “dial” the best station, the Q2 does it for you). 6 stations can be pre-programmed, and selecting the station is relatively easy, a question of pressing a button sequence.

Battery
The Q2 Pro battery is slated for a total of 8 hours continuous operations (and 7 days in standby mode). Our experience is more or less that. We did spend most of the day on the road, had lunch, continued riding, and in between we did turn off the units. So we can’t tell you 100% if the 8 hours were met, but if they didn’t, it was close. But do remember that the older the batteries become, the less long they go.

Charging the units takes about 3 hours, so easy and quick.

Scala-Rider-Q2-Pro-3

Summary
The units worked very well as advertised. Sound was crystal clear and loud enough at any speed. The intercom usage was great, even fun. Music was beautiful, the range of notes that can be played through the speakers was very good. It made the riding experience, whether riding with others or solo a more memorable experience. If you’ve never tried riding with music, TRY IT.

The Q2 Pro can be used with other Scala Rider units, which is an advantage; It means if you buy it, you can continue using it even if your friends have upgraded to more advanced Scala Rider units.

On the downside of the Q2 (and other Scala units) is that using the models requires you to memorize button sequences (it does have voice commands, but it’s not very practical). Often it’s not a question of pushing one of the four buttons, but a sequence. And that makes it more difficult when riding, when your brains are focussing on the road, it become difficult to remember what to press.

My suggestion to Scala is make a remote control unit that gets placed on your handlebars (like the Parrot SK4000), or maybe even an application for the smartphone to control the units.

But for the rest, I really liked the Q2 Pro. And for the price, you can a full biker entertainment & communication system. What’s there not to like in that?

Click here to buy the Scala Rider Q2 Pro.

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There’s something to be said about riding your motorcycle with only the sound of your throbbing engine, wind blowing over your helmet and the whistling of the tires on the road. You’re on your own, and nothing and nobody to bother you in the solitude of your ride. But then there are times that you would want to communicate with someone while riding.

Many of us bikers ride with pillions or with other bikers. During the ride we do want to talk to them. For example with your pillion; “do we stop now”, “should we go left here”, etc. Same with your riding buddies: “watch out for that SUV!”, “I’ll wait for you at the gas station”.

There’s also a large population of bikers who like listening to music while riding. Many bikers can blast music through rainproof speakers, but that’s not very friendly towards other people who are sharing the road.

One way of doing all of the above is by using a special headset that gets fitted into your helmet. The unit communicates with other devices, including music players, without any wires. The wireless technology is called Bluetooth, something most modern smartphones are equipped with, and many electronic devices use as standard.

One of the undisputed leaders in the field of biker wireless communications is Scala. They have a range of Bluetooth headsets called “Rider”. For this review, I decided to try out their best selling Q2 Pro model.

Scala Rider Q2 Pro

Scala Rider Q2 Pro

Before you begin using the Scala (or any other manufacturer’s model) you need to install the unit inside your helmet. Most of them are stereo, so you’ll need to fit two (usually very flat) loudspeakers, a microphone (make sure you’re ordering the right one for your type of helmet) and the control unit/battery. For some it’s going to be easy, for others it might be more of a problem.

Test Ride
For the review I went for a ride with Jake, who was on his Harley. He has a similar Scala Rider Q2 Pro fitted in his helmet (NOTE: Bluetooth communications devices will only work with other units from the same manufacturer, not with other ones; you can not mix & match units from different manufacturers).

Both units were paired to each other (pairing is a way to inter-connect units to each other and to other devices, and it basically involves pressing a button sequence), and my Q2 was paired with my iPhone. My iPhone has, obviously, music in its “iPod” part and a TomTom GPS navigator software. All these items can be accessed through the Q2 Pro, including the phone.

Scala Rider Q2 Pro Devices

Scala Rider Q2 Pro Devices

Bike-to-Bike/Intercom
The bike-to-bike communications function is billed to work up to 2300 feet, but that’s the theoretical range, not the real working range. The real range will depend on where you are riding and what the atmospheric conditions are. In our case, when we had an open road with little traffic the range was pretty good, some 1900 feet, which is pretty impressive. In the forests, range dropped to 1300-1500 feet, and in the city we would be lucky with 900 feet. But despite the range being lower than what it’s billed for, it’s still very good. It beats shouting.

Talking to each other is a great way of riding. Sharing the fun is twice the fun. Sound is loud & clear (you can turn the volume up sufficiently), and the communication with Jake, even at the limits of the range, was very good and clear at all times The noise cancellation microphone works very well. Not a single time did the communication channel get opened because of outside noise, something older units suffered from.

An important aspect of Bluetooth communications is that it’s not like the good old CB radio or walkie-talkie days. It’s not one person talking and then saying “over”. The transmission is full duplex, in other words, both parties can talk at the same time.

The Q2 Pro will only handle one intercom; your pillion or your riding partner. If you need to handle multiple bikers, either go for one of the bigger models (and more expensive), or get a Bluetooth equipped walkie-talkie.

That ends part 1 of the review. Click here for Part 2.

Click here for more info on the Scala Rider Q2 Pro.

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For those of you who use protective clothing when riding your motorcycle, one of the latest advances in safety technologies comes from D3O Labs.

D3O is a material that you will find more and more in all sorts of clothing meant to protect the person dressed in them. It is not only for the motorcycle world, but in any activity that exposes people to sudden shocks (snow sports, horse riding, military, etc). D3O is also know as dilatant non-Newtonian fluid (like a liquid metal), a material that hardens when exposed to a shock.

D30 example

D30 example

What this means, is that the D3O material, an orange putty-like material, is placed in areas that need to absorb a shock. The material itself is soft and deforms easily when moving around. You can barely feel the resistance, in sharp contrast with material like Kevlar.

But when exposed to an impact, for example if you are ejected from your motorcycle and hit the pavement, the D3O material instantly becomes hard as metal and in the process, absorbs the shock. Moments later, it returns to its original soft state.

D3O is slightly more expensive than materials like Kevlar, but because the flexibility and lightweight of D3O, it’s much more usable then other types of protection. You will find D3O nowadays in gloves, jackets, pants and even back packs. Myself, I have a D3O protection for my iPhone, and after having dropped it several times, I’m happy to report that the protection works.

Click here to see all the D3O equipped materials we offer.

If you’re interested in more information about the making, and the usage of D30, here’s a short video that explains it all.

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Motorcycle boots are as important as motorcycle jackets. Many bikers don’t think so, but in my (humble) opinion, the choice of good boots is as important. When you go unintended off your bike, your back will hit the ground, but so will your feet. If your boots aren’t properly tied to your feet, they’ll come off during the first impact, and then the rest of the trip over the pavement will result in severe asphalt rash on your feet, and possibly broken ankles.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you come at a stop for stop lights or at an intersection, and car can easily drive over your feet. It’s not uncommon, and having boots that are sturdy and protected will save you loads of aggravation.

I decided one day to go for a ride during a bit of rain, since boots should be rain proof. I selected the Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots for the ride. The reason I took these is a) touring boots are supposed to be more comfortable, b) rain proof and c) a low price. Here’s what I saw & felt:

Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots

Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots

The Alpinestars boots are made of different materials; synthetic leather, some rubber-like compound and what appears to be a leather-like plastic. For the price, don’t expect a 100% leather boot.

Putting on the boots

Putting on the boots, in contrast with a few others I’ve tried, is easy. Open the zipper all the way, and there’s ample room to slide your foot in (and out when finished).

The fit is, I have to say, very comfortable. There’s an instep that allows your foot to rest comfortably and still allow enough wiggle room not to feel restrained.

The toe and heel area is reinforced, and you do notice it. No fear that some cager is going to drive their SUV over your foot.

Riding Comfort

Riding was fine. The boot is not totally “air locked”, so it breathes properly (something I determined after removing the boots, it wasn’t smelly). My feet stayed warm, despite the “almost-spring” air not being that warm.

There was occasional drizzle, and the boots stayed dry. There’s a waterproof membrane which prevents water from entering your boots. Possibly if you’re riding in a tropical downpour, you’ll get water coming in, but I suspect that it’ll be more a question of ensuring that your trousers block the top part of the boots. The membrane does the job admirably.

Walking

These boots aren’t really meant for hiking. You can easily walk in them, but if you arrive at your destination and plan to hike, bring hiking shoes. You can walk in the boots for a good 20 to 30 minutes, after that it’ll get uncomfortable (which is a pity).

Another thing I liked were the soles. They handle dirt and oil on the road very well, and don’t slip. I needed to fuel up, and the gas station had fuel on the floor, but the boots did not slip.

The rear part of the boot have a light reflecting strip, which adds some visibility at night from vehicles coming behind you.

Click here to read more about the boots or to buy them.

Have a look at the video below:

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Icon Regulator Search and Destroy Vest

Icon Regulator Search and Destroy Vest

The name of this vest, Icon Regulator Search and Destroy Vest, says it all already. This is some serious stuff.

The 100% leather vest is meant not only to look cool and to protect your back, but to make you look serious while riding your cruiser. The back has removable armor, just an added extra safety, and the nice part is that it can easily fit over your existing jacket.

I went for a quick spin with the vest. First I went out with just the vest, but temperature proved to be still a bit too cold. It was 57°F and although I had on a jumper, my arms were getting too cold. I did have the armor on, just in case (you never know). My body was kept quite warm, so the vest will work nicely when the weather turns really nice, but pre-spring, without a jacket, wasn’t for me.

Icon-Regulator-Search-and-Destroy-Vest-2So back I went and put on a normal leather jacket (Basic Leather Jacket MJ402). There’s more than enough space in the Icon vest to put it over the jacket; no squeezing in, no straining. Since the leather jacket wasn’t equipped with armor, I kept the icon back protector in.

The vest worked like a charm, but then why wouldn’t it? It looks good, if not cool, and it’s got two zipper pockets deep enough to carry most of my stuff. On top of that, the straps on the sides allow you to make the vest fit perfectly. The back armor is well located, you don’t feel it.

The Icon is “pricey”, but that’s because only the best leathers were used. This is no cheap knock-off, it’s the real deal. Solid, warm and safe.

Click here to buy the Icon Regulator Search and Destroy Vest

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For many bikers riding a motorcycle is fashion enough. It’s the bike that is important, not the outfit. But for some, the outfit complements the motorcycle. Many will color-match the bike’s colors.

Dior Jacket

Dior Jacket

Although motorcycle clothing is not a fashion as such, the fashion industry does have biker clothing that is inspired by the motorcycle world. But very few bikers will wear that kind of clothing. Very few. These fashion items are not safe for bikers. Leather biker jackets, biker boots, all are part of today’s fashion industry.

But to what point do bikers dress up when riding to be fashionable? Actually, a fair number of them. Fashion is that what non-bikers wear, but real bikers do put on clothing that is fashionable. Hoodies have become quite an important part of today’s fashionable biker. And before that, bikers would put on clothing that was popular; chaps, vests, cut-offs, etc.

Chanel-Biker-Boots

Chanel-Biker-Boots

The clothing isn’t to make a fashion statement, but more to be identified as a biker. When you see someone dressed in a cut-off vest, chaps and big boots, you’ll automatically identify that person as a biker. Someone who is proud to be a biker.

So most bikers don’t dress in “biker” style, but non-bikers dress fashionably as bikers. It’s a strange world out there.

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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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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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All bikers need motorcycle gear, even if it’s the minimum, and not all of us have the money to spend on top-of-the-line equipment. But that doesn’t mean that we have to do with bad equipment. It’s very possible to buy gear at low prices without sacrificing quality. Because quality is what we’re after when selecting stuff that will save our lives, not cheap and dangerous gear.

Just because a helmet or jacket is low in price does not necessarily mean it is bad quality. Not all manufacturers have enormous marketing & advertising costs, so their product quality is very good, but their street price remains low. Obviously you will need to look carefully when selecting gear on a budget. It’s tempting to buy something that is cheap just because it’s cheap. Make sure it’s cheap AND reliable.

The last thing you want is to buy gear that is cheap, both in price and quality.

For example, when buying a helmet – the essential safety equipment – low cost does not mean bad quality. One quick way of finding out if a helmet is to be trusted, is to check the English Government’s SHARP site. The British government does laboratory testing on many helmets, and will rate them according to predefined methods. Here you can see if the helmet you want is to be trusted, no matter which price. Even very expensive helmets can be of worse quality than cheap ones. There are other sites that test helmets, but this one is the most extensive and the most neutral testing organization.

UK SHARP site

Another way to find out if the helmet or other gear is to be trusted are reviews by web sites and discussion forums. Although individual reviews do not necessarily mean they are accurate (there may be biases or commercial incentives involved), if the product you are looking into on average gets good marks from reviewers, then you can be assured it’s a good product. The internet is your friend, use it to your advantage.

Take the webBikeWorld site for example. This web site tests a lot of gear every month and publishes detailed reports, often comparing the product with other ones in the same category. It will allow you to make a good informed purchase decision. They are not the only site, just Google reviews to find out how many, but as sites go, they are very extensive.

webBikeWorld

The other way to buy quality gear for a good price is a question of timing. If you can wait and have the time to buy your gear, why not wait for a) sales or b) a new updated model of the gear you want comes along.

Sales

Almost every store and on-line site have sales, sometimes several per year. That is when you can buy really good and upmarket gear for big discounts, often half price.

Check the major sale times at on-line stores, usually the holiday seasons like Halloween, Christmas etc. On-line stores are usually cheaper since their infrastructure costs are a lot lower than brick & mortar stores.

Model Updates

Manufacturer have to make new models or update older ones on a regular basis. It’s like sharks need to keep swimming if not they’ll die, manufacturers need new models if not they’ll disappear. And when they do bring a new or updated model, the current stocks of older models need to be gotten rid of quickly. So keep an eye on the motorcycle press, written or on-line. If a new model of whatever gear you need is announced by a manufacturer you like, you can bet your bottom dollar that within weeks you’ll find the old gear being discounted.

Check on-line stores which have closeout sales. That’s your best bet for find good quality gear at a lower price.

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