Going Naked: XJ600 Naked Conversion Stage 1

Over the weekend, my XJ went from this:

To this: 

The process was fairly simple since I'm using an old Garmin GPS as my speedometer and trip meter.  I'm not sure how well that will work out but it's better than nothing and my penny tech budget doesn't have room for new gauges.  I used 1.5" anti-vibration clamps on the forks, shimmed with some rubber drawer liner.  For the ears, I cut up an old street sign I had laying around.  The headlight is from a Suzuki GS.  

There is still a lot left to do.  Stage Two includes making a dash to house my power plug, heated grip switch and the warning LEDs (oil, signals and neutral).  Then it's on to making covers for the coils and horn.  I plan on cutting down the stock wind screen and making a little fly screen. 

I'm looking forward to riding it this week. (I have no choice, a CV Joint failed on my Element.). 


Gear Review: Viking Cycle Ironborn Textile Jacket

I've owned quite a few different motorcycle jackets ranging from 3/4 length touring jackets, perforated leather, to denim and leather. Every motorcycle jacket has its own set of pros and cons. Most of them have been well over the $100 price point and when MotorcycleHouse offered to ship me a Viking Cycle Ironborn to review, honestly, I was pretty skeptical about the quality.  I thought to myself, "Seriously, how nice can a $69 riding jacket be?".  I'm eating my words right now and they're pretty tasty.

What will 70 bucks get you?  A nice 3 season textile jacket that, if you're very tolerant of heat or live in a cooler climate, could get you through the summer heat and if layered properly, be a four season jacket.  It's no $400 Klim or $1000 Rukka jacket, hell, I've bought bikes there were less than those but it is packed full of features you can actually use on a daily basis.

Things like:
- Waterproof Rock Tex 600 Outer Shell
- Removable CE armor in the shoulders and elbows
- Foam backpad
- Zip out, insulated and full sleeve liner
- Fit adjusters on the forearms and waist
- Useful pockets all over the place

The Ironborn is constructed of black Rock Tex body and sleeves with different color accents, Red, Grey, Black or Hi-Viz Green.  I chose the Hi-Viz to help keep me visible on my commute.  The sleeves and shoulders also have retro-reflective accents and reflective piping across the back.   The Rock Tex material is light but feels thick enough to be protective if you go pavement surfing.  My arms are pretty thin but the forearm adjuster keeps the elbow armor in place while not being restrictive.

Venting is achieved through two vertical vents on the bicep area and two large exhaust vents on the back panel.  The vents are placed well and easy to open. For being a waterproof jacket with a full nylon liner (more on that later), it vents very well. Commuting on city streets with temps in the low 60s in the morning, I was comfortable with the vents closed and just my work shirt underneath.

When the mercury hit 77 degrees, I found the jacket to be comfortable at highway speeds with all the vents open.  However, like all non mesh jackets, when you're stopped, things get a bit sweaty.  This is where that full nylon liner comes into play.  It gets sticky and while sitting still it can almost make it feel hotter than it is.   This could be decreased somewhat by wearing a full sleeve wicking shirt.

Riding at city streets or highway speed, the jacket felt great, no flapping or ballooning.  I did find the wrist cuffs to be a bit tight under my gauntlets but nothing I couldn't live with.  There are no tight spots or limits to my range of motion.

On to the pockets.  They're everywhere and useful.  I've had jackets in the past that have "cell phone" pockets that couldn't hold a flip phone, no chance it could hold a modern smart phone.  The Ironborn has two chest pockets with water resistant zippers and zipper garages.  Both pockets fit my HTC One M8 without issue.  They also feature a port for your headphone cable that routes into the inside of the jacket.  From there it can be secured with several cord keepers and routed under the collar.  I don't ride with headphones but I know a lot of people that do and this idea is ingenious! No more getting tangled in your cords or having them strangle you while you ride.

On to more pockets! The two hand-warmer pockets have water resistant zippers and garages as well. In side the right hand pocket, there is a a snap loop that you can use to secure your keys.  This has already saved my butt.  I left a meeting in a hurry and forgot to zip up that pocket.  Thankfully, my house keys were attached to that loop!

Inside the jacket, on the left side there are several built in pockets, each one has a nice label showing it's intent. The top pocket is labeled for a cell phone. However, it's not for you phone, rather it's the internal port for the headphone cables.  Below that is a knife/pen pocket that works perfectly for my sunglasses. At the bottom is a labeled pocket for sunglasses but I've been keeping my work badge and ear plugs in there.  Along the waist line of the coat is a super secret stash pocket but you'll have to find that for yourself.

The top two pockets are duplicated on the right side as well as the bottom sunglasses pocket.  Behind the liner zipper is another pocket.  This one has a water resistant zipper and is padded on the chest side. It is made to carry either a large "phablet" phone or an 10" tablet.  I don't have either one of those but I did use it to carry my new bike plate and documents home from the BMV.  There was no discomfort or obvious lumping on the outside of the jacket.  Told you this jacket was packed full of pockets.

Thankfully, it rained on my commute home one day.  Well, it was more of a thunderstorm, less of a gentle rain.  The Ironborn held up well, however the two chest pockets did seem to leak a bit but keep in mind this wasn't a sprinkle I was riding through.  Every waterproof motorcycle jacket has it's limits, even high dollar Gore-Tex. The arm vents got wet as well but that's because "someone" forgot to zip them closed.

 Overall, I'm really impressed with the quality and features you get for such a small amount of money. I look at textile jackets, regardless of who makes it, as disposable. One crash and they've done their job and are probably damaged beyond repair.  I think the Ironborn would keep you safe and wouldn't hurt your wallet if you had to replace it after a crash.

There are a few things I would change though.  First and most of all, that full nylon liner should be replaced with mesh liner. It will feel cooler, dry faster and should be able to go longer between washings.  Second, the arm vents and main zipper should be water resistant like the rest, for consistency. Finally, this is just me being picky but a wrist/arm pocket would be nice.  They work well for ear plugs or quick access change at toll booths.

Like a lot of riders, my budget for riding gear and expenses can be pretty limited.  It's good to know there are jackets out there that are packed full of features but don't break the bank.  With jackets in this price range, there really isn't much of an excuse to ride without gear.  Road rash sucks and it's better to sweat than bleed.


The VikingCycle Ironborn jacket was generously provided by Motorcycle House for our review.
Company Profile: Motorcycle House has been serving riders of all types since 2007. We’re a quick growing company of similar minded riders who want to help make a difference in the Motorcycle Industry. The company was started when we realized that there wasn't a company that was passionate about riding. We’re passionate about Motorcycles regardless of what Model and Make you ride. Our company goal to help riders save money and also provide the best customer service possible. We’re tired of big motorcycle retailers that don’t understand the motorcycle lifestyle. Since we’re committed to bringing the best values and comparable products. We can use our overseas manufacturer connections, and offer necessities like Motorcycle Jackets, Chaps, and Gloves for much better prices without sacrificing our own integrity or quality. We’re always improving and looking to expand, be sure to let us know what we can improve on. There is also a company named Viking Bags which is our sister site. Viking Bags has become the motorcycle luggage authority for bikes of every type. You can see that they are producing top rated motorcycle saddlebags for all type of bikes.


2015 Ducati Demo Days: Scrambler Icon Review

On Saturday,  I drove out to the local Ducati shop for the Demo Day.   Having a choice of a wide range of fine Italian motorcycles to ride, I was really only interested in riding the Scrambler Icon w/the Termignoni exhaust.  My preference was set for a number of reasons, like riding position and most importantly, price range.  The Scrambler Icon is the only Duc that I could even realistically dream about owning.  I got to see the Urban model but I didn't really dig it.  I like the base model the best.  Tall bars, cast wheels and no extra bits.

Since I got there a bit later than I wanted, I missed the 11am ride and someone had already claimed both Icons for the 12pm ride.  So, I farted around the shop until it was my group's turn.  I talked Ducs with Peter from the demo truck and some other random folk.

 Finally, the clock hit fifteen 'til one and it was time to gear up and meet for the rules.  Standard stuff, no wheelies, stay with the group etc etc.  Mounting the bike, you notice it's weight and size, or rather, the lack there of.  It's light, about 410lbs wet and thin, with a 31" seat height.  The bars are high with a bit of sweep.  The ergonomics fit me well.  There is no windscreen or anything to obscure your view, just a tiny multi-function gauge.  Thumbing the start button, the Termi exhaust barks to life with a nice tone.

From the first bit of gas, it's all torque.  It reminds me of the Uly but tiny and not as choppy in the lower rpms; however the mapping wasn't perfectly smooth.  Out on the road, city and highway, the bike was damn nice.  The only negative about the handling was the rear shock, it was set for a rider with more mass.  I should have adjusted it before the ride.  Our route took us on the highway and off on to some city streets, then on to some nice hilly and twisty roads.  The handling in the curves was effortless, the bike just flicks from one to the next.  Some bikes you just mesh with and this, like my Ulysses, was one of them.

Back to that single gauge, the tach is on the bottom and consists of bars that fill up, like a battery meter.  It's hard to read at a glance. I know that once I got used to the engine and the feel of the bike, I wouldn't use it much but it's hard to see.   The cable routing is weird to because it loops up and over the gauge.  Didn't really bother me, just kinda odd. Beyond that gauge, it's just your front wheel and the road.

The ride was short, only about 30 minutes but it was enough time to know that I'd be damn happy with that bike. The ultimate test is how well it would handle two-up duty.  We'll see how next year goes, my garage might get a bit exotic.

Does Ducati America take kidneys? If so, do they have to be your own?

The 11am group rolls out. 

The Urban model, fully decked out.

Can I take it out alone?  I promise I'll be right back.


Service: XJ600 SECA II Cam Chain Adjuster

The XJ's cam chain has been a bit noisy since I got it back.  It has an auto tensioner but sometimes they can get bound up.  So, following instructions from XJrider.com,  I made time this weekend to finally take care of it (and solve a minor oil leak).

Easy peasy, pull the tension bolt (12mm), remove it and then remove the mount (5mm allen). Plug the tensioner hole and scrape off all the old gasket.  Hopefully you have an easier time that I did.  It took some serious work to remove it all.  I used gasket remover and let it soak over night.  Finally I got it cleaned up.

Does anyone else write notes on their engines in Sharpie? I got into this habit on my old CL450. 

Bits n pieces.

Why pay $4 for a gasket plus $5 shipping when you can make your own? 

All plugged up! After assembly, rotate the engine forward (counter-clockwise) at least twice, slowly.  You should hear the tensioner click as it takes up the slack.  After that, I started the engine and enjoyed the lack of cam chain noise.  


Contour ROAM durability test

My friend and future riding buddy (we've been resurrecting his G650GL) loaned me his Contour ROAM back in 2013. I used it on the Ulysses on an almost daily basis and got some great videos. I finally mounted it to the XJ over the weekend and yesterday I used it for the first time.  I was traveling from the north to the south side of Indianapolis to do some training when I hit the I65 exit, I noticed something was missing.  That something was the ROAM.   That meant, I had almost 14 miles of 3 lane highway to retrace and search.

After the training session, I rode back to the start of my trip and started looking.  I had the camera mounted in it's waterproof case to help keep it safe from flying road debris since it was mounted fairly low.  Riding down 465, everything on the side of the road looked like it.  Shiny and clear. "There it is! Oh, nope, another bottle. Wait, is that it? Damn." This happened over and over.  I was worried that I lost it while in a middle lane and it got run over or worse, it bounced and hit someone's windshield.

It's lost somewhere along the blue line.

Finally, I tell myself I'm not going to find it and then, what the hell? There it is laying on the stripe between the breakdown lane and the fast lane!  I quickly scan the breakdown lane, merge over and jam on the brakes! Kill the bike, put the side stand down and start the long walk back to find it.  By the time I stopped, it was probably 150 ft behind me.  Thankfully, I got to it before it got hit.  The waterproof case was ground down in places and the door was broken off.  However, the camera was intact! It survived an impact at roughly 65-70 mph and a slide from the middle lane.  Unfortunately, I don't have video of it hitting the ground and sliding through traffic, it stopped recording when it broke free of the mount*.

Way to go Contour, you make one hell of a product! Now, it's secured via camera lanyard looped around my helmet strap.

* Disclaimer:  I was not using the stock supplied double sided tape.  This failure was not the fault of Contour.  It was purely user error.  


Initial Review: Icon Airmada Stack Helmet

Icon Airmada Review
Both of my helmets are well past the standard 5 year replacement recommendation.  My M2R helmet got decommissioned after the 2015 Indy Mad Max Run and my Caberg V2 is now my backup helmet and will be modified for next year's run.  Knowing I needed a new lid, I've been doing a lot of research on the net trying to find the best helmet for my penny tech budget.  Thankfully, there is some merit to having a small head.  I wear an XS in most brands and that size tends to be on clearance fairly often.  However my small head and long oval head shape makes finding a proper fitting helmet difficult.  Especially since a lot of manufacturers use the same larger shell for the smaller size helmets.   Ever since reading Dexter Ford's report, "Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off" I've tried to find a helmet that fit the following criteria:

1. Multiple Shell Sizes
2. Polycarbonate Shell
3. Long Oval Fit
4. ECE Rated

Originally, the Icon Airmada Stack helmets caught my eye due to the dazzle camouflage style graphics. When I read the features, I was surprised to see it fit all of my criteria.  Plus, most of the colors I liked were the previous style and on clearance.  It's no secret I am a big fan of a lot of Icon's products. I have a pair of the first gen Super Duty Gloves that are pushing 10 years old now and they still get regular use.  Plus, the ICON 1000 line is damn cool and basically what I would wear all the time if I could afford it. (I'm really hoping to pick up a Basehawk Jacket this year.)

I'm a die hard Revzilla  shopper but I found an absolutely killer deal on the Hi Viz Yellow Stack in XS from Riders Discount.  At $101, I couldn't pass it up.

I'm still not a fan of the white trim but it's tolerable and the pros greatly out weigh that little quirk.

The SENA SMH5 had to be mounted with the adhesive plate instead of the clamp due to the PVC neck collar.  I peeled off the stock tape and used Gorilla Glue Mounting Tape.

Rear Shot

The shield features a metal pin that locks the visor closed.  This makes it a bit more difficult to open but it's worth it. 

The Airmada fits me better than any helmet I have ever tried on. The internal shape fits my head perfectly with no hot spots or pressure points.  The small shell size makes the helmet feel tiny and feather light in comparison to my last two.  While riding I get minimal head buffeting and the wind noise is very low.  I think the PVC neck roll really helps cut down on the wind noise. The Icon Optics shield gives me a wider field of vision and is optically perfect with no distortion.  

Venting is great and you can really fine tune how much air and were it goes by using different combinations of the four different sets of vents (upper, brow line, under nose and two on each side of your chin).  I've ridden at commuting and highway speed, the venting was great at both. 

The only thing I don't like (besides the white trim) is the texture of the HydraDry liner material, it's a bit rough.  This might smooth out over time but it's a small price to pay for a wicking liner.  

After I've but a few hundred miles on it, I'll post an updated review.  


Adding a Pelican case to an XJ600 Part 3

The front top case mounts failed last week.  When I built them, they had to be tall enough to so I could still remove the seat but I was worried that they were too tall and the weight of my laptop bag would bend them.  However, I didn't think they would break at the bend so quickly.

The case barely made it home.  After stripping the mount and racks apart, I dug out the parts for my original plan.  Basic PVC spacers to go between the case and the bike.  Since I swapped my Corbin seat for a stock one, the case no longer needs to sit almost 3 inches off the bike.  Everything went together perfectly.  The case is very stable but I did add a friction fit rubber spacer at the tail of the bike to help support the case.