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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.
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.
Despite 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).
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.
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.
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.
Many 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.