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Friday, 20 May 2016

Gear Review

Last Friday, the 13th of May, I started my annual road trip to East Rutherford, New Jersey for recurrent flight training. Since I am spoiled private jet pilot that never sees an airport terminal, or has to go through airport security, the mere thought of having to fly commercially makes me....well sick. Jammed into an uncomfortable seat next to people you really don't want to be around, and then having to wait hours at another airport for a connecting flight, etc, etc, etc. It sucks. If you watch the news, the line ups at TSA are off the hook. Three hours to clear security.......WTF.

So each year I make it a motorcycle trip, which is way better, even if it is to Jersey. This year I took three days to get here, took my time and saw the sites along the way.

I made the pilgrimage to the school of flight on the Guzzi this year. I was a little hesitant since it was a smaller bike, and with the clutch issues from last fall, wasn't 100% confident in it's abilities to deliver me to school on time. I certainly didn't want to have a tardy on the first day. Part of my problem is reading bike specific forums, where mechanical issues of a few owners can dominate a thread, and before long your doubting the mechanical abilities of your motorcycle, even though there is nothing wrong.

The Guzzi performed flawlessly, and turned out to be a surprisingly good, and comfortable touring bike. No problem pulling 120kph on the interstate, and easy to put in a long day.

Prior to leaving I added a few things to the Guzz, to make it more comfortable for the 1200km trip to The Garden State.

Top priority was the Dart Merlin Flyscreen, that I reviewed before. It is a must have to ride comfortably at speeds over 100kph for any length of time. It doesn't provide the protection the Strom Givi screen did, but it more than does the trick.

I had a set of old Gears, soft saddlebags that I threw on, they were less than $100 new, and work pretty good. They are expandable and hold quite a bit of stuff. I keep some tools, tire plugs, air compressor, bike cover, rain gear, jacket liners, and spare gloves in them.

I will say the rain covers suck. Water pools at the bottom, and soaks through the bag. The easy solution was to stuff my gear inside the rain covers, and put it all in the saddle bag. Viola, problem solved.

My trusty Airhawk seat cushion was also added. The stock seat is not bad for day trips, but for three days of riding, one which was close to 11hrs, the added butt comfort was welcome. I don't think any seat is perfectly comfortable after 10 hours.

The FirstGear tank bag I bought, worked really well, and the GPS pouch was awesome. It's not too big, but is also expandable in case I need to squeeze in a few pints of microbrew.

All zipped up with the GPS hidden from site. Nice cellphone pouch. I can quickly glance to see if I have any messages waiting.

I keep toll money in this pocket, it closes with velcro. The bag also comes with clips if you do not want to use the magnet attachments, or have a plastic tank.

Magnetic attachments

Lots of room for stuff, plus two exterior side pockets.

GPS pocket. Touch screen on the Zumo works through the plastic cover.

Only downside is it's not waterproof. There is cover that comes out of a pocket at the front of the bag, but I have yet to use it. My experience when riding in the rain is, deflection from the windscreen prevents the bag from getting wet. I rode for an hour on Friday on the I95 in light to moderate rain and don't think there would be a need for the cover unless I was parked somewhere.

Until recently I only had one full faced helmet. My old Icon Alliance was 9 years old and had seen better days so that was retired from service quite awhile ago. I have a Bell Bullitt, which is nice, but the retro look also has a retro noise level at speed. It's extremely noisy and drafty. I am not a fan of ear plugs so that idea was out.

I spent a lot of time researching helmets, wanted something quiet, comfortable and light. I knew that came with a premium price tag. I looked at Schubert but the one I wanted was not available in my size and the others were a cool $1K. 

I stumbled on to the Shoei RF-1200 Terminus. The graphics were kinda old school and matched the Guzzi, and the helmet received great reviews. I was looking for something that was quiet since my head was no longer tucked behind a big windscreen. 

Sizing was a gamble since I ordered it from Canada's Motorcycle. Typically I wear a size small in a Bell helmet, except the Bullett, which was a little tight in that size. My LS2 Bobber helmet is a medium and fits well. The small would have been too snug. I guess my old noggin is a medium/small. 

I ended up ordering a medium and it fits perfect. First impression......beautiful helmet, great graphics.

After three days and 1200km of riding I've come to the conclusion that this is the best helmet I've owned yet. It's very comfortable, and light weight. At first the cheek pads were a little tight, but either I'm used to it or they have "broken in".  At interstate speeds, 120kph, the helmet is relatively quiet, I have no problem hearing the Sena BT. It cuts through the wind nice with no buffet. There is a slight whistle with the chin vent open.

Vents....yes there are many vents on this helmet, no excuse for being a hot head. The above mentioned chin vent, a forehead vent and two more side vents near the top, plus a rear exhaust vent.

The helmet comes with a breath guard and chin curtain, both which I have installed, and Shoei's pinlock anti fog system which I cannot comment on since I haven't used it.

My ride down consisted of rain, fog, sun, and temps between 10C and 27C, and in typical east coast fashion....all in one day.  No real issues of fogging except when stopped, and cracking the visor alleviated that problem.

My only gripe, and it is a minor one, is the field of view. I find it to be slightly narrow. Mind you I have been wearing open faced, and dual sport helmets for a long time and that may have skewed my view. No pun intended. 

Is it worth the hefty price? I think so, especially if you do a lot of riding and long trips like I do. The weight, comfort and noise levels are worth that alone.

So what's up next? The Fundy Adventure Rally documentary will need some tweaks in the wake of  Rob's death, also the future of the rally itself is in limbo at the moment. A rewrite of the storyline is in order. 

Tomorrow I head home from Jersey. I had planned to ride home in two days and stick to the backroads and do some more exploring and sightseeing. However since Rob's death all I've wanted to do is go home and see my family. It's been really tough being away from them this time, so I'm basically getting on the Interstate at 5am tomorrow morning and heading home in butt numbing 1000km ride.

Some pics from the ride down

Some ADV fun on a gravel road in Maine. Need some scrambler tires once these wear out.

Mount Washington, NH

This was just after I crossed into New York State from Connecticut. What a beautiful road with smooth pavement. The switchbacks on one of the hills was awesome.

I'll save the real bike trip for another time. My longtime friend James, or Jimbo as I like to call him just bought a nicely setup BMW F650GS and is eager to go on a road trip. So I'm thinking we need to head off on a long weekend in June or July for some 2 wheeled fun.

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