April in Connecticut is a cruel month. A single early April 80 degree day is enough to have me scrambling out to the garage and cursing my sloth at not installing an assortment of maintenance or go-fast parts gathered over the long winter. The reality is it’s only a single day and the rest of April grinds by offering snow, rain, subzero days and misery.
So, with riding out of the picture, my thoughts turn to gear. My brother has been systematically going through every motorcycle brand on the entire planet as he chases the Unicorn\Leprechaun\Noah’s Arc\Multiple Shooters on The Grassy Knoll of “perfect gear”.
Quite simply, perfection in motorcycle clothing does not exist. But, it’s entertaining to watch people try and find something they breathlessly describe as “the ultimate’ or “perfect”
Excellence can be had at a price. Beyond $800.00 there are plenty of excellent options. BMW Rallye suits are excellent. The Aerostitch one piece jacket is excellent, and just about any high end product from Klim or Held also qualify as excellent.
But what about the folks who don’t have sponsors, trust funds, or income from shady Columbian related dealings? That’s the focus of my new Category – Value Gear.
The focus will be on gear that represents the best value we can find for the price.
How about this? The photo below is a boot made by Firstgear – the Kathmandu Boot. It’s nice looking and retails for around $170.00. As boot prices go that’s not too bad. Similar offerings from Alpinestars or SIDI typically go for $250 – $350.
What if I told you about a boot that is virtually identical in every way and retails for $79.99 with a five year warranty?
Well I’d be interested for sure. Imagine what you can do with the extra $100.00? Well, first I’d consider an excellent Aging Room M356 Major cigar and a glass of Woodford Reserve Bourbon on the back 40.
I can’t take any credit for finding these boots. I was rooting around Google and saw a post from an ADV Rider inmate “SCORCH_TX” Scorch, says he works part time at Cycle Gear and was good enough to post side by side product comparisons. Here is a link to the full article http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=864067
To make a long story short, they are identical except the buckles and an extra $100 schmackers. The next three pictures are from Scorch’s write-up on ADV Rider. It’s fairly obvious these are made in the same factory and they just change boxes and labels during production runs.
PHOTO: $170.00 Firstgear on the left, $79.99 Bilt on the right.
PHOTO: $170.00 Firstgear on the left, $79.99 Bilt on the right.
PHOTO: $170.00 Firstgear on the left, $79.99 Bilt on the right.
So, with my interest piqued, I rode over to the local Cycle Gear in Orange, CT. I wore my old Alpinestars SMX Plus boots. These are full bore road racing boots – with toe sliders, serious reinforcement and thin sticky heels. They are a pain in the ass to put on and always the first thing I take off when I’d arrive at a distant destination.
HOWEVER, I have at least 60,000 miles on this set and they have kept me dry (mostly) and safe (absolutely) for many years. I’ve walked through the powdery white sand of White Sands New Mexico, dipped my toes in the waters in Key West and walked through the dessert in Death Valley. To my utter surprise, they are still going strong.
That being said, I wanted something for casual riding and hopefully better constructed than my last pair of Tourmaster Solution 2.0 boots. Reviewed here.
It’s important to note that neither the Tourmaster or the Bilt boot should be considered “hard core” adventure boots. They lack any real armor, don’t have an aggressive lug sole and would most likely be torn to shreds after an extended romp around rocks and repeated crashes. It would be nice to see some plastic armor sewn into the padded ankle areas of the boots.
At Cycle Gear, my first impressions were not good. The boots looked cheap and flimsy. I was holding a set when a salesperson walked up and asked “what do you think”. I said “they look and feel cheap”:. To his credit, the sales guy kind of dodged that statement and countered with “well, they have a 5 year Guarantee against defects and we want to go out of the way to make our customers happy” also, “you can return them to ANY Cycle Gear, you don’t need the receipt…”
SOLD. I bought the last pair in my size for $79.99 plus tax.
Quick Detail about Cycle Gear Explorer Waterproof Adventure Boots:
Features and Benefits
- Leather Upper (what the hell does that mean?)
- DRY+ 100% HIPORA waterproof/breathable membrane lining
- Rugged oil resistant rubber sole
- Reinforced shin and outer ankle
- Molded rubber overlaid gear change patch
- Softee stretch panels and padded top line for a comfort fit
- Hook-and-loop adjustment system
The ability to return the boots to ANY Cycle Gear is what made the sale. With the Tourmasters, I bought them from an online retailer via e-bay. When the boots started having issues, Tourmaster directed me to return them to the retailer who would in turn, return them to Tourmaster and eventually, I’d hear something. That’s complete nonsense and guaranteed to turn a customer into a whinging, complaining, social media bible thumping evangelist.
I’m not in love with the crazy rubber shifter patches. The First Gear’s are smooth material.
Typical inner sock of Hipora “waterproof” material. Again, identical to the Firstgear product except for the buckles. The Bilt boots offer full Velcro. As you can already see in the photo above, there are loose threads in the Velcro patch. Not sure if that’s a problem or not.
The initial fit was very tight. I have a D width size 12 foot. I was not too worried as the Tourmasters also were extremely sung out of the box and the loosened up to provide an excellent fit almost immediately.
In the past, I’ve been burned by boots that felt right initially only to become too large after breaking them in. I had a set of Alpinestars Roam boots that ended up fitting like Clown shoes. With this in mind, I thought the tightness might be alright.
A single day of walking around loosened the boots and the fit was better, tight, but not too tight. Still, I had thoughts about going up a size. If you have WIDE feet you can forget about this boot. It’s D width, no more.
The heels have a reflective patch. All pretty standard stuff. From the stitching to the padding it’s all, uhhhhhhh, mediocre. You can see the level of detail ain’t that great. Check out the stitching around the reflective panel. Sloppy.
You won’t find any zippers on this boot. It’s completely held on by Velcro. Two lower tabs and a larger upper cuff closure.
Apparently this sole is identical to those used by Tourmaster, Bilt and Firstgear. That’s a bit disturbing. If it’s the same sole (CLICK HERE to check out my old Tourmaster Solution 2.0 WP soles) it will most likely wear out in the same way…. But, the bright spot is the 5 year guarantee (who knows what they will say when the soles are gone in a year) and, again Bilt cost significantly less than the others.
Wow is that plastic shift guard ugly.
Back of the boot detail. These were floor models – hence the RFID security tag mark.
The inside of the boot has a velvety sort of soft material that is sort of fake suede. It looks and feels horribly cheap. If the boot has an obvious weak, point I’d guess it’s here. This stuff is just begging to get torn off by a foot peg.
The insoles are a joke. Wafer thin and absolutely awful. It’s one area where the boot’s comfort can be significantly increased by adding a set of aftermarket insoles. I added an old pair of Superfeet Orthotics. Those toe marks below, are from about an hour of wear……
Trust me, toss them immediately and get something better.
Wafer, thin. Awful.
|Durability||Unknown – check back for long term review|
|Value||A+ Almost a full hundred dollars less than an identical set from Firstgear (http://www.firstgear-usa.com/kat_boots.html)|
|Warranty/Customer Service||A++ Fantastic! The best I can find. No hassle returns at any Cycle Gear and you don’t need a receipt.|
So, here we go. I’ll be posting monthly updates on how these boots perform. The more I look at how these boots are constructed, the more it looks like they are made in the same factory as the more expensive competition.
To my eyes, they look like a real VALUE.
I’m in the process of starting a new Equipment Review Category “VALUE GEAR”. It’s anything that I can find that offers superb value for the price. Often times, the SAME motorcycle brands (just like shoes, cigars, electronic equipment, etc.) are manufactured in the same place and simply given an “A” or “B” label. The “A” label is a known brand name and commands a price reflective of the brand. The “B” label is given to a lesser brand.
Over the next few months I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and buy gear I think represents a good value and beat the ever loving crap out of it. We will see how “value” gear performs versus the big brand names.
This week I’m starting a long term review on Cycle Gear’s Bilt brand. Specifically , I’m testing a pair of Bilt Adventure boots.
Check back later this week for an unboxing, comparative analysis and the start of torture testing. Unlike other websites, I BUY the gear myself – its not provided by the mfrs.
More to come soon! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at my findings.
Over the years, there have only been a few brands that I have considered to be of absolutely outstanding quality. For years, the brand SmartWool was my trusted, reliable, and dependable source for merino wool socks. If you don’t’ know, merino wool is considered to be the best type of sock for just about every sporting activity. They regulate heat, wick moisture, are insanely comfortable and hell, they are even flame retardant.
But something changed. My most recent purchases of SmartWool socks just simply fell apart. In one period, I wore the same pair for five days in a row and by the fifth day the socks had HOLES in the toes. Something’s rotten here.
SmartWool socks were incredibly tough, lasted forever and had virtually no toe seam. They also retained their shape and elasticity over long periods of use/abuse. Priced from between $20 and $25.00 they are not cheap. To have every pair, and I mean EVERY pair I’ve purchased over the last few years completely fall apart means something has changed in the quality of manufacturing or materials.
You’re probably thinking hey retard, why did you keep buying them? Well, call it product blindness. They worked the best in the past and I could find no real alternative.
What changed at SmartWool? I’m thinking that it’s got something to do with the sale of the company and departure of the original designers and owners. The company was sold to Timberland in 2005, and then sold again in 2011 to VF Corporation.
Somewhere along the way the quality of the socks simply evaporated. That’s my opinion, but if you get a bunch of ski instructors or outdoor enthusiasts in a room together and the consensus is the same. The product has become very disappointing.
My friend Ric Cabot manufacturers Darn Tough socks, I’ve tried a few different pair and found them not to my liking. They were almost impossible to put on and I thought there was a noticeable toe seam. Darn Tough went into the trash bin.
So what to do? Through a ski instructor friend (The guy is a Stowe legend. We’re are talking Elvis/Sinatra level legendary, he’s the guy who the word ‘”legendary” was invented for and who shall remain nameless to keep this blog from turning into a crazed fan page to him), I learned about a company called Point6. Who owns Point6? The same folks who founded SmartWool and the original high quality merino wool sock craze.
This funny Point6 video pretty much captures everything you need to know about how the brand started and why they now sell a similar but (again in my opinion) far superior quality sock.
About the Socks:
At this point, I’ve tested a pair for more than a month and wore the same pair for three weeks straight. They lasted a nine day stretch teaching skiing at Stowe and are not showing any signs of wear and most importantly – don’t stink to high heaven.
Merino wool socks are absolutely perfect for motorcycling. You only need a few pair, as they are tough as nails, warm in the winter, cool in the summer and you can wash em in the sink and they will be ready to go in the morning. That’s important when you are saving space.
On one long ride that lasted many months, I took TWO pair of merino wool socks and traveled through Death Valley, Key West, the Mojave Desert, White Sands New Mexico and a million other places.
For long distance travel via motorcycle, bus, train, backpack, whatever, you can’t beat a high quality merino wool sock. Now that I’ve found a new brand I’m excited to buy more. It’s neat that the owners of Point 6 recognized the market was being destroyed by the awful quality of their old brand and jumped back into the market.
Also, Point6 socks are priced attractively from about $5.00 to $15.00. Sierra Trading Post has the full line. That’s not an endorsement – just a link if you want to buy a pair and can’t find them anywhere else.
Our Point6 Sock Ratings:
I’ve been looking for a “causal” set of riding pants. When I ride long distances I wear my leather Alpinestars V-Twin pants. While they offer superb protection they are unvented, not waterproof, hot, too long to walk around without wearing riding boots and really only suited what I’d consider serious high-speed riding. So, I’ve been in the market for something a bit more protective than jeans or khakis. I think I’ve finally found the perfect all around riding pant.
Klim’s Dakar pants are being sold as a closeout and offer a superb value!. While supplies last they are available from several of internet suppliers. I got mine from Rocky Mountain ATV for $99.99 including three day shipping. Here are links to some of my favorite suppliers:
$101.00 from RevZilla (they also offer the pant in long sizes) Revzilla has a video about the pants on their website.
Klim makes some absolutely fantastic products that seem to be mostly oriented towards adventure or enduro riding. However, I think they are fantastic for just about any type of riding. Let’s take a look at the pants in detail:
Details from Klim on the Dakar pants:
- CONTROLLED VENTILATION CHASSIS
- DESIGNED TO BE WORN OVER THE BOOT
- 2 ADJUSTABLE 20” THIGH MESH- LINED VENTS WITH DUAL ZIPPER HEADS
- 1682 DENIER NYLON BALLISTIC PANELS IN HIGH-WEAR AREAS
- REMOVABLE HIP & KNEE PERFORATED PADS
- 840 DENIER CORDURA® FABRIC
- POLYESTER RIBBED STRETCH CROTCH GUSSET & ABOVE KNEE & SEAT AREA TO ALLOW PANT TO MOVE WITH RIDER
- ADJUSTABLE VELCRO PANT CUFF OPENING DESIGN ALLOWS RIDER TO ACCESS & ADJUST KNEE BRACE, SOCK AND BOOT
- VELCRO WAIST ADJUSTERS
- AUTO-LOCK & HIGH DURABILITY YKK® ZIPPERS
- STORM FLAP ON FRONT FLY
- MESH-LINED REAR LEG VENT
- TWO LARGE-VOLUME SIDE LEG VELCRO CARGO POCKETS
- WICKING POLYESTER MESH LINING WITH LYCRA STRETCH PANELS & KNEE BRACE REINFORCED CORDURA® INNER KNEE PANELS
- LINER STRETCH PANELS MATCH STRETCH PANELS ON SHELL OF PANT SO LINER MOVES WITH SHELL OF PANT
- HIGH-BACK SELF ADJUSTING ELASTIC YOKE TO HELP PREVENT PLUMBER CRACK DIRT SCOOP
- HIGH QUALITY EMBROIDERED GRAPHICS
- REFLECTIVE INDUSTRIAL-GRADE 3M™ PIPING ACCENTS
- IMPROVED HIGH-TENACITY STITCHING THREAD WITH DOUBLE-STITCHING & BAR-TACKS
- DWR COATED TO SHED WATER
WHAT WE THINK:
I really like these pants. They are fantastic quality. The 20” side zips on the thighs look like they will flow a ton of air on hot days and there are small exhaust vents on the back of the pants. The construction is fantastic and the leather on the inside of the knees runs all the way to the bottom of the cuff. The cargo pockets are large and very secure.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the “riding” construction of the pants. That’s loosely described as bent knees sitting on the motorcycle. On many pants the designers compensate for length by making the pants have an arbitrary 35” inseam. That’s great if you are 6’4” or taller but too long for most of us. On the Dakar’s the pants fit properly and have a the cuff length is just right. It’s so perfect that I was virtually certain when I got on the bike they would ride up significantly. But they absolutely did not. They were in the same position on my ankle as when standing – that’s really cool and a great design idea.
The interior lining is fantastic and comfortable with riding shorts. I usually ride wearing shorts (LD Comfort shorts) and some liner only pants can be rough on bare knees. Not so on the Dakars. The waist adjusters are fantastic and sit right in the middle of the adjustment range.
WHAT ABOUT THE PANT SIZING? – in a word, PERFECT. Whatever your jeans size, the Dakars are an excellent match. It’s refreshing to order riding gear that does not fit “Euro sized” Any average size American male who has ever tried to squeeze on a pair of Italian designed riding pants knows what I’m talking about.
However there are a few small issues to consider. At under a hundred bucks they had to save money somewhere. So here goes:
The armor is pathetic. The knee and hip armor are of the “foam with holes” type. This stuff is absolute junk and should be tossed immediately for something more substantial. Klim’s more expensive gear all is equipped with D3O armor. The Dakar’s can easily be retrofitted with a few options. I’ll get to my choices shortly.
On the plus side, this is the only riding pant I’ve ever owned where the hip armor is virtually undetectable. I’ve had several pants where the hip armor was so bulky, it appeared I was wearing a diaper. Not so on the Klim’s.
For the hips I’m going with SAS-TEC pads ($25.99) that are drop in replacements (and a significant upgrade over even the D3O option). For the knees I’m going with BMW’s NP armor . (under $12.00 a side!) This is similar to D30 but offers more coverage, has a left and a right (as opposed to universal) and wraps around the knees.
BMW NP Armor versus brand zero (this photo is an example of the BMW NP armor, and does not represent what is included in the Dakar pant) :
How this will fit in the stock armor pocket is unknown and I imagine I will have to have a bit of custom tailoring to make them fit properly. But no matter what, I’ll still have amazing pants for under $200.00
The other thing to consider is that these pants do not include a zip in insulated or waterproof liner. From what I’ve learned on ADV Rider, the pants are fairly water resistant but will absorb water in the knee area and the crotch during a downpour. It’s not an issue for me for a couple of reasons:
1: The idea of a zip in waterproof liner is stupid. Let me get this straight, the pants will be completely and totally soaked but you will be dry under the pants………. Uhhhh, no. You may actually be dry, but sure as death and taxes you will be frozen and miserable. Not to mention that the pants will weigh 10,000 pounds and anything in the pockets will be ruined.
I’ve ridden across this country in the worst weather you can imagine. I’ve been cold and wet and miserable. At this price point just buy a set of Frogg Toggs and toss them on over the pants if the weather is that awful. Unless your pants are Gore-Tex you are going to get wet.
2: Insulated liner. I’ve never been cold enough to need an insulated liner. On the few occasions where I’ve ridden a thousand miles or so in December, If I was cold I would put on a set of long johns and call it good. I just don’t need or want the extra bulk. In my experience pants that have zip-in liners are uncomfortable when liners are removed.
Assorted photos of the Kim Dakar pants.
The pants have 20” zippered front vents! This is going to be fantastic for those super hot days. There are exhaust vents on the backs of the thighs.
This the first pant I’ve ordered that does not appear too long when walking around. My Alpinestars pants have a 35 inch inseam. That’s just way, way too long for walking and they look awful without boots.
Back view. Check out the tabs on the side adjusters.
Reflective piping shows up in a flash photograph. Also this is a good photo of how the pants fit in the “riding” position.
Cargo pocket detail.
Double snap closure. In a perfect world these pants would include belt loops. Also, I’d like to have one of the closures be a hook type. But it’s not that big of a deal. The cool thing about the pants is that they stay absolutely flat around your waist and never double over. Good stuff.
The color is black and sort of greenish black in the high abrasion areas. You can see how high the inner leg leather goes. The quality of the leather is fantastic.
The leg closures offer a ton of adjustment and make getting in and out of riding boots very easy. If you have to wear knee braces there is plenty of room. There has been some criticism from a few websites that the legs are a bit baggy and allow the armor to move around. I have no opinion yet, as I have not completed the BMW NP armor upgrades. Check back soon for more.
We think this is a fantastic pant at a great price. Although the stock armor is garbage it’s easily upgrades and at $99.99 they beat everything else on the market. I’ll post a long term durability report later this summer. If you are looking for pants – get going as these won’t last long at this price.
_________________________________________________________________ LIKE what you read? Enjoy the Gear Reviews, Trip Reports, Photos and general ranting and raving? Consider supporting me with a donation in the amount of your choice. Buy me a tank of gas or a Slurpee if you like. I’d appreciate it! (note – paypal links are broken – PM me for paypal info if you want to donate)
LIKE what you read? Enjoy the Gear Reviews, Trip Reports, Photos and general ranting and raving? Consider supporting me with a donation in the amount of your choice. Buy me a tank of gas or a Slurpee if you like. I’d appreciate it! (note – paypal links are broken – PM me for paypal info if you want to donate)
How I managed to survive being twenty years old and owning the fastest (at that time) street legal production motorcycle on the planet amazes me. I was dumb, wore only the most basic protective gear (sneakers, jeans, gloves and, yeah, I admit it, a Top Gun inspired A2 leather jacket – and no, it did not have patches like Maverick’s) and thankfully, an excellent helmet. The bike was a thundering monster of a motorcycle – a Kawasaki ZX-10 Ninja. 137 HP, Of course, being the fastest bike in the world wasn’t enough. I added the entire kitchen sink of performance parts to make it faster. Yoshimura 4 into 1 exhaust, Stage III jet kit, individual carburetor air pods, timing advance, and a heavily modified cold air ram induction air box.
It was fast. To this day it’s one of the fastest motorcycles I’ve ever ridden and it had wood blocks for brakes – as compared to modern motorcycle brakes. I’m lucky. Lucky to still be around and typing this today. I regularly hit the rev-limiter, maxed out 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears and once even triple digits on a long straight outside a certain Delaware Air Force base.
These days I wear the best protective gear I can find. My regular gear kit includes a SNELL rated Shoei helmet, leather Alpinestars pants, either a leather SPIDI jacket for warm weather or my Tourmaster textile jacket for cold or wet weather. I wear Alpinestars boots and either Alpinestars or SPIDI full gauntlet gloves. I’ve replaced the original equipment back armor with a new style “intelligent” back armor.
I used to believe the best protection had to be hard plastic shell armor. My thinking was that I wanted protection from impact and penetration (say a foot peg landing on my spine, etc.). Turns out that this way of thinking was completely wrong. The best protective armor these days is CE rated, and the very best tests beyond established CE ratings.
“Intelligent” armor is designed to be soft and flexible in the garment to allow for comfort and movement. When the armor is subjected to an impact it stiffens and dissipates the force of the impact. This is what the D30 and SAS-TEC are designed to do. The “how does it work” is so complicated I’ll leave the explanation to a handful of inserted video links and hyperlinks.
I own both of the products below. Of the two I like the SAS-TEC more. It’s a bit thicker and does not have the venting of the D30 and is therefore warmer in hot weather. Why do I like the SAS-TEC more? Well, I’m not crazy about all the venting in the D30 – it just looks like its begging for something sharp to come through the vents and spear my spine. Considering I’ve worn the SAS-TEC in Death Valley, and through extended 90-100 degree days, it’s not that much warmer. In temps like that just about everything sucks – especially in my black leather SPIDI jacket.
D3O Viper T5 Pro Back Protector:
My brother Mark bought D30 armor for his motorcycle clothing and raved how soft and flexible it was. “D30 feels like it’s not there and is super comfortable” were the comments that made me fire up my browser and buy the back armor from Revzilla (click the link to go to the D30 page). This stuff is not expensive considering it’s the best you can buy at any price and $39.99 is a deal.
How D30 works – video
More on how D30 works – video
And of course, for humor – a couple of guys beating the shit out of each other with frying pans, baseball bats, etc.,. to test D30.
SAS-TEC Back Protector:
I bought SAS-TEC before a long distance ride around the country and after reading the ADV Rider forums where SAS-TEC got glowing reviews. It is seriously beefy looking and it’s heavy. I had to superglue some Velcro to the armor to keep it in the correct place inside my SPIDI jacket. I’ve got thousands and thousands of miles on this Armor and luckily it’s never been crash tested. It’s a bit hot and it’s heavy, but I feel safe and that’s a quality that means a lot to me.
It’s priced at $49.99 which is $10.00 more than the D3O
An intelligent demonstration of SAS-TEC armor:
A completely un-intelligent SAS-TEC test and review – complete with drinking, cursing and drunken mayhem.
And finally, Anthony at Revzilla discussing a variety of armor types, from foam to D30. He looks a bit frustrated at trying to describe why SAS-TEC is “way above” CE rating without actually having a way to prove it. Anyway, he provides just about everything you want to know.
New for 2013 is Revit’s Seesoft armor. Essentially this is layered “intelligent” material (like SAS-TEC or D30) and may offer even better protection. Interestingly, this armor is rated at CE level 2 which is apparently not of the same level of protection as “CE Plus” as described by Anthony in the video. So I assume SAS-TEC is still the best protection available.
REVIT Seesoft Back Protector Insert
The revolutionary new REVIT See Soft CE-Level 2 back protector is designed to absorb multiple impacts without compromising on comfort, ventilation or freedom of movement. The highly impact-resistant blend of Nitrille and Polynorbornene rubber results in a memory foam that is multi-impact rated and CE Certified to the highest level of prEN 1621-2:2010 level 2.
In the case of severe angular impact, the individual Memory Foam layers will shift relative to one another, resulting in impact dispersion over a larger effective surface area and therefore minimizing the energy that is transmitted to the spine and back. The Seesoft back protector performs extremely consistently in all weather conditions and is unaffected by temperature ranges from -4° F to +104° F (-20° C to +40° C).
Most REV’IT jackets are designed to accommodate a Seesoft CE Level 2 back protector insert. Newer jackets will have a marking on the protector pocket that indicates the matching type and size of the protector.
That’s all the info I could gather on Seesoft. Check Revzilla later in the spring for a product video (hopefully). The great thing about this armor is that the best protection available is very affordable – less than $60.00.
Sooooooooooo……. with a ton of world-class protection available, why keep the cheap, old or perhaps foam non-CE rated padding in your riding gear? Do yourself a favor and upgrade your armor. I find that when I have confidence in my gear I don’t mind riding in aggressive traffic situations or difficult weather – it’s just one less thing to worry about.
This spring I’m going to upgrade my elbow, knee and shoulder armor to SAS-TEC in my textile jacket and D30 in my leather gear.
Complete brake upgrade on my Aprilia Caponord (floating rotor conversion, new EBC HH brakes, and a how-to on bedding in new brakes).
LIKE what you read? Enjoy the Gear Reviews, Trip Reports, Photos and general ranting and raving? Consider supporting me with a donation in the amount of your choice. Buy me a tank of gas or a Slurpee if you like. I’d appreciate it!
I rode more and less in 2012. What does “more or less” mean? Well, I rode my motorcycles MORE but traveled to fewer adventuresome destinations. So, MORE and LESS… get it?
I’m still enjoying Continental Road Attack tires on my Aprilia Caponord. Plenty of front and rear tread and the rear tire is only now getting worn in the center. I’d guess I have something in the range of 6000 miles thus far.
On my Aprilia Futura, I’m running a pair of Michelin Pilot Power 2CT tires that were installed in Phoenix Arizona. The rear tire is (not surprisingly) just about gone. But then again, I can’t complain. The tires have been ridden hard and the rear went through an entire day of dyno testing at AF1 Racing in New Braunfels, TX. When I change rubber in the spring, I plan on replacing BOTH bikes with Michelin’s amazing Pilot Road III tires. The trail version for the Caponord and the regular two compound tire for the Futura.
By far, the coolest thing that happened as a result of writing this blog was the handful of support donations I received from readers! THAT REALLY MADE MY YEAR! IF YOU DONATED, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!
If you are feeling generous and want to donate any amount – click on the PayPal button. Rest assured your donations are being used for Slurpee’s, gas for the bikes, or saving up for a much needed FIRE EXTINGUISHER! (See my brush with disaster article here).
Let’s get to it!
2012 – Motorcycle of the Year:
Ducati Multistrada 1200
Until Kawasaki releases the allegedly supercharged ZX-15 Ninja, I’m still absolutely amazed by the Ducati. It’s three bikes in one. Mostly this is an upright sport bike with a rip snorting 150bhp and shed loads of torque. An absolutely brilliant motorcycle. For 2013 the Multistrada has been updated with twin spark, more torque, and a semi-active suspension. Trust me – RUN to your dealer and demo one. The only thing keeping this thing from being perfect is the complete and utter lack of an electronic cruise control. HEY DUCATI! – GIVE US A FRIGGING CRUISE CONTROL!!!!!!
2012 – Meal of the Year:
Assateague Island, Maryland – by the campfire with my brother Mark and his wife Kelley. Mark and I wanted to eat in a restaurant and Kelley wanted to eat fireside. We rode into town and found a grocery store. It was raining when we arrived at the campsite and lightly misting now. I was absolutely certain dinner would be a disaster. But, Mark and Kelley are, to put it mildly, well traveled and experts at outdoor living. So I shut my yap and went with the flow. A short time later I was eating BBQ Shrimp and kabobs fireside.
2012 – Gear of the Year:
I changed from my stock air filter to the excellent DNA brand air filter. (Info here) Bench tests show significant improvement from stock and better flow than with a K&N. Also, the filter can be cleaned and re-used.
Magnecor Spark Plug Wires – Talk about quality! I’d heard for years about Magnecor from Land Rover owners. Magnecor was an excellent upgrade to the Caponord. The only issue I had was fitting the spark plug boot over the new replacement coils (the fault of the coil design, not the plug wires. If I were to order a duplicate set, I would call Magnecor and have a custom boot end installed). Also, Magnecor are American made, manufactured in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Gerbings Heated Clothing – A few years ago, I planned a ride to escape the northern winter cold and head for Florida for the winter. I bought a motorcycle and outfitted myself with a Gerbings. I started the ride in 20 degree December temperatures, and ended up in Key Largo where it was 80 and sunny. The Gerbings heated jacket liner kept me toasty warm the entire way down to Florida.
This jacket has saved me (and passengers) more times than I can count. From an early spring blizzard at 10,000 feet over the Beartooth Pass to rainy Oregon coastal rides, Gerbings is my go to product whenever I’m freezing.
Originally I was on the fence about heated gear. It was too complicated, too wussy, and too expensive (especially considering that the controller costs an additional $65.00). I bought my Gerbings at a Delaware motorcycle shop that specialized in aftermarket Harley parts. The woman who sold me the gear insisted that I go for the dual controller. I balked at the extra price. Considering I was already north of $300.00 on gear I was not sure I actually wanted. Long story short – she was absolutely right – I should have purchased the dual controller as Gerbings heated gloves are on my short list of products to purchase.
2012 – Trip of the Year:
Assateague Island, Maryland. You can read about it here: https://dryohe.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/wild-horses-assateague-island-md/
2012 – Worst product:
TOURMASTER SOLUTION WP 2.0 Boots. Absolutely awful boots. Read the review for more:
2012 Retailer of the Year:
This is the one retailer who has consistently emptied my wallet over the years on everything from leather track pants to a variety of riding jackets. Their closeout specials are addicting and if that wasn’t bad enough, last year they introduced “practically free” deals. Where you buy something for say $149.00 and get a gift card for $100.00 back! Amazing.
www.sportbiketrackgear.com (racing and riding gear) is also excellent as is
www.jakewilson.com (the best place on the internet to purchase tires)
2012 – Likes:
- My Aprilia motorcycles – Aprilia Futura ETV and Aprilia RST Caponord
- Triumph Adventure 1200
- BMW’s new water cooled boxer engine
- SPIDI anything
- Ethanol free gas. Why oh why does the government ram awful fuel down our throat? It’s bad for engines, fuel tanks, fuel systems, etc., etc., etc.
- Caffeine and Carburetors in New Canaan, CT
- D30 and SAS-TEC protective armor
- Winning best story contest and $100 gift certificate from Twisted Throttle (hey, I have issues, but am grateful for the swag)
2012 – Dislikes:
- Riding 400 miles round trip for a useless job “interview” with Twisted Throttle. Thanks guys…………………for nothing, absolutely and completely nothing.
- See above………….not returning my calls……
- See above…………………arrrrgggg………..jerks.
- Almost burning the Caponord to the ground with starter fluid and stupidity.
- Finding a mouse condo inside my air box.
- Finally purchasing the SPIDI Gara jacket and hating it. Argggggggg.
I’ve accumulated a pile of parts to install on my Aprilia Caponord. New floating brake rotors all around, new EBC HH rated brake pads, throttle cables, and other odds and ends. Just last week I used TuneECU to remap the Caponord’s ECU and the changes were staggering. Improved throttle response, fueling, ignition mapping, the works. What an amazing change. I’m looking forward to getting many miles behind me to see if the fuel economy improves.
It’s January now and the east coast of the USA is experiencing a cold snap. At my winter playground in Stowe, Vermont it was –26 yesterday. Brutal. But the weather will change soon and it will be riding season again. I’m looking forward to spending at least a week on the road. This is THE year I’ll get to Deals Gap and ride the Blue Ridge Parkway………….
No matter what bike you ride, consider this.
You don’t need the best gear or the best bike or unlimited funds. It’s far better to be under prepared and riding than over prepared with the bike sitting in a garage under a dust cover. Just GO! Ride there!
In the photo below my Caponord is parked on the Oregon coast – that’s the Pacific Ocean.
On this ride, the week before, I was standing in the Atlantic Ocean! Travel like this fundamentally changes you. Your horizons will be broader, you will be more patient, and your outlook on life will be forever changed.
So, yank off your boots and wade in – metaphorically speaking. The (insert Desert, Ocean, Key, Mountain, Dirt Road, whatever) waits for you.
Check back soon for more reports from the garage and the road! To everyone who reads and supports my blog – THANK YOU! It’s gong to be a fantastic year!
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