8.04.2016

Viking Bags - Dirtman Enduro Saddlebags

Commuting on a bike tends to require some storage space for things like rain gear, layers and other daily needs.  On a bike like the Ducati Monster, there aren't a lot of budget friendly, daily use luggage options.  Viking Bags  mainly specializes in luggage for cruiser bikes but recently they have added a line of dirt/dual sport luggage.  It includes the Dirtman Enduro Saddlebags and the Dirtman Enduro Tank Bag.  The Monster already has a tank bag so some saddlebags were needed.  



For $80, you get both saddlebags and the mounting hardware.  The bags are rubber lined on the main compartment so they offer some weather resistance but for serious downpours, I would use either an over bag or a dry sack inside. Each bag has an exterior pocket and a single compression strap. The zippers are nice and large and are covered by a storm flap to help keep out the elements. Total storage space is listed as 1375 cubic inches, it's definitely plenty for a daily use saddlebag or even a long weekend if you pack light.  




Since these are made for a dual sport / enduro bike, it will take some trial and error to get them to work with your street bike.  The install time for the Duc was about 10 min.  Some strap trimming was required.  If you trim, be sure to melt the ends of the webbing so it doesn't fray. 

Once mounted, they've been secure and work perfectly for daily use. Anything larger would really be overkill for daily use and anything smaller wouldn't be enough.  


Plenty of room left over!


Contents of Left Bag
1. Hi Viz Safety Vest
2. LED Light 
3. Gauntlet Gloves
4. Short Cuff Gloves
5. Neck Gaiters (warm and cool weather)


Contents of Right Bag:
1. Rain Jacket
2. Rain Pants
3. Tank Bag Rain Cover
4. Water Bottle




Overall these bags are a killer deal and worth every penny.  I'm looking forward to putting some serious miles on them.  






 



The Viking Bags Dirtman Enduro Saddlebags were provided by Viking Bags for this review.

5.09.2016

Gear Review: LS2 Pioneer Review

LS2 Pioneer Review

I've been lusting after a dual sport helmet ever since I saw the Simpson GS-3 MX.  I loved the styling, the large field of view and the air flow.  However, I didn't buy one due to terrible reviews. When I got my Ulysses, I started shopping for a dual sport lid again.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find one that offered multiple shell sizes, fit for a long oval head and priced under $300.  When LS2 offered me a chance to review their new dual sport helmet, I was ecstatic to learn that not only did it meet the above requirements, it is also DOT / ECE rated and has a whole laundry list of other great features.

First, a little background on the fastest growing helmet company you've probably never heard of.  LS2 has been manufacturing helmets for several large companies for 8 years.  They are the #1 selling helmet company in Spain (their home country), #2 in Italy and #3 in France.  In addition to having a Moto GP Team, they have been worn by winners of the Dakar (3 quad riders and 2 motorcycle).  Their moto is "Best product for the price and the best price for the product.", and if the rest of their products are like the Pioneer, they are sticking to that motto.

LS2 is factory owned, with production done in a factory north of Hong Kong.  The location features a full test lab covering all the major certifications: DOT, SNELL, ECE plus Japanese and Australian certs.  After a helmet is created, samples are sent to Southwest Research for independent testing and verification, the results of those tests can be found on the LS2 website.


Let's get down to the meat and potatoes of the Pioneer!

Shell

Made from a proprietary blend, called KPA (Kinetic Polymer Alloy) it keeps the helmet light but delivers low penetration rate and allows the shell to flex in order to assist with energy absorption. The Pioneer is produced in three shell sizes.  As I mentioned in my review of the Icon Airmada, finding a helmet that offers multiple shell sizes is a priority of mine.  The less weight on your neck, the safer you are.







The Pioneer comes in two color schemes, Solid and Trigger. I was torn between the Hi Viz Trigger and Matte Black.  Black, especially matte black, being the fastest color, won.

The peak blocks a great amount of sunlight and has minimal drag, even at highway speeds on my naked bike. The drag is decreased by having large cut-outs on the peak. It is removable but I think the benefits far outweigh a little drag.  You can adjust its placement up and down by about 5mm each direction.  If you push it all the way down (forward?) it does contact the visor when it is raised.





There are 5 vents built into the shell: 1x chin vent (close-able), 2x top vents and 2x side vents.  They flow a massive amount of air and funnel it out via 2x exhaust ports on the backside.








Visor(s)

The visor gives you a huge field of vision and is UV, fog and scratch resistant.  Most of my commutes have been in temps ranging from 40 to 80 degrees, thanks to all the airflow, fog has not been a problem.  When shopping for dual sport helmets in the past, the visors all seemed to have some distortion due to the curve of the shield.  The Pioneer is distortion free and seems to be 100% optically correct.   It's easy to clean and the removal process, while not as fast as most street helmets, is simple.  Unscrew the side screws, remove the peak and visor. Assembly is the reverse.







The Pioneer features a drop down internal tinted visor that is operated via slider on the left side of the helmet.  Some helmets use a clunky linkage or spring system to operate their visors, the Pioneer uses a cable.  Due to the peak blocking a good amount of sunlight, I haven't really needed to use the internal shield very often.  When I have used it, it has worked well and is easy to operate.






I tested a set of goggles and they fit perfectly.  The goggles fit properly within the eyeport of the helmet, the visor closes over the strap without issue.  The strap sits securely between the exhaust port and a raised section above the DOT tag.  













Internals

The Pioneer uses  a multi-density EPS that is channeled to help air flow.  The liner is hypoallergenic, removable, washable, breathable and does a good job at wicking away sweat.  The liner features a recessed portion for glasses.  I wear "vintage" style glasses with thick arms and they fit well without being pressed into my head.







The cheek pads are laser cut from a solid piece of foam and feel much nicer than the standard pieced together cheek pads in most helmets.  Another feature of the cheek pads is the quick removal loops on the bottom.  If you are ever in a crash, EMS workers can pull straight down/out to remove the pads and then remove your helmet with a greatly lower chance of compromising your c-spine. This really should be an industry standard in all helmets.  I spent a brief time as an EMT and removing a helmet from an injured person is no easy task.




Instead of the standard D-ring buckle system, the Pioneer uses a ratcheting buckle system with a quick release tab.  It is DOT approved and a time saver, especially if you need to adjust/remove your helmet while wearing your gloves.


Fit and Comfort

I wear an XS in every helmet I've ever owned. I prefer my helmets to be tight, on the verge of uncomfortable. The Pioneer seems to run a bit big.  Not unsafe but just a bit looser than I like.  This is easily solved by wearing a Buff or other type of balaclava which I do on about 90% of my rides anyway.  The internal shape is a long oval style and fits great with no hot spots or pressure points. The wind noise isn't bad, with ear plugs it's just a bit louder than my other full face helmets.  As I mentioned before, the peak does cause some drag at highway speed but it's not terrible, even without a fairing.  It's only really noticeable during head-checks but it's not enough to jerk your head back.

Quality

For a helmet that falls in the sub $150 price range, I was truly amazed at the overall build quality and features that are packed into this lid.  The vents all work well, the chin vent opens and closes smoothly. The visor latches closed securely, there no mid position notches, it's held in place by friction.  I've found no issues or "quirks".  Using black EPS would be a good touch (maybe there is a reason why it's white?).  Overall, the quality is outstanding.  




Final Thoughts

My ICON Airmada was my go-to helmet but I've been grabbing the Pioneer instead. It delivered features and quality far above my expectations, especially for the price.  Besides the slightly loose fit, I have found no negative points to this helmet.






3.02.2016

Cheaper to Keep Her

Over the winter months, I get some serious bike lust.

My eyes start to wander to Craigslist or ADVrider and soon I'm day-dreaming about another Ulysses, a naked DL650 Strom or maybe even something small and stupid fun like a TW200.  Then reality sets in and I remember I'm currently self limiting to one bike right now.  Even though I sold the XJ once before, I don't think I could do it again willingly (if it was a financial emergency, sure).  Plus, after a certain point, you won't be able to get back what you put into a bike.  I don't have much money thrown at the XJ but I have time and a bit of my soul wrapped up in there.  It was my first real bike that wasn't a complete POS and it was the first bike that my wife and I rode together on.  Nostalgia can be priceless.

Loaded up for a 5 day trip, last October. 

Loving an old, almost outdated when it was new, bike can be a bit disheartening at times, especially if there isn't a good amount of aftermarket or support for that model.  The XJ600 SECA II (Diversion outside the USA) is like that.  Thankfully, XJRider.com is a wealth of knowledge and support.  When a bike like this starts to get long in the tooth, we have to begin scavenging parts off of compatible bikes, like the FZ6R.  Since the tail of my XJ is getting a bit squishy and low, it's time to bring in a donor part.  En-route from eBay is a 2010 FZ6R rear shock which should a great improvement over the stocker.

     It's a simple swap w/the stock unit, no mods or spacers required.


Once the rear suspension is remedied, it will be time to look at the front fork.  The ride is a bit too harsh for my taste.  This didn't really come to light until my trip last October when I went on a very spirited ride on some crazy back roads.  One particular section almost had whoops like a motocross track.  The front fork was pogo-ing pretty bad and that made me feel really uneasy; and feeling uneasy about how your bike handles is a recipe for disaster on a tight and technical road.  

When my wife used to ride with me, I replaced the fork seals and fluid (moving to 15w).  Now that I ride solo, I need to move back down to stock weight.  I've looked into fork swaps but that will require a lot of additional parts (wheel, brake calipers and etc) and will have to be handled at a later date along with a rear wheel swap (move away from the legacy tire size).  These mods will definitely push my invested amount past what the bike could realistically sell for. That's ok, because there is something to be said about creating what you want out of something and in turn, knowing everything about it.  

When I start to day-dream about a newer bike, I think about how little I paid for my XJ and how much enjoyment it's given me.  The insurance is down to $75 a year,  with good coverage amounts and it still gets 40 mpg (if don't get too throttle happy).  It might not have fuel injection, high end components or the exact engine characteristics that I prefer but she's a good bike that will take me where ever I want.  In the end, it is cheaper to keep her.  

12.20.2015

Review of the Viking Bags Extra Large Sissy Bar Bag - Part 2 - The ride.

This is part 2 of the Viking Bags Extra Large Plain Sissy Bar bag. I told you in my last post that I would be taking it out for a spin on the back of my bike. I did and I made a video of the that ride. It's my first video review and it was also my first time using my Sena Technologies Bluetooth Audio Pack to pass my voice directly from my Sena 20S communicator into my GoPro Hero 3+. The audio quality was outstanding and I know for future reference that the quality of my reviews will only be limited by myself and not my equipment.

Overall impression on the sissy bar bag is positive. One can see that it is definitely designed for motorcycles with larger standard sissy bars and luggage racks. Since mine is only 13" tall measuring from the mounting screws, it makes it difficult for this bag to anchor securely. With that being said, I felt confident that the bag would not be falling off on any regular road trip. If I was going off-road then I would have to use a different bag and a completely different motorcycle.

Here is the video. It's long. I'm not usually one to edit any video's so stay with me as this one is a little long. I will do better with my next video's.

Again, a special thanks to Motorcycle House for providing me with this Viking Bags Sissy Bar bag to review.

Stay tuned for my next review as I take an HCI No 89 Modular helmet out for a spin.

12.02.2015

Review of the Viking Bags Extra Large Sissy Bar Bag - Part 1 of 2

So I received my first piece of gear from the good people at Motorcycle House to review and it's big. It's the Viking Bags Extra Large Plain Sissy Bar 4,553 Cubic Inches. This thing makes me feel like I'm back in my SUV because it's so large. This is a good thing and I'll get to why in a little bit.
 This gear review will be broken into 2 parts due to weather and my novice approach to writing a review. This first part will contain a video review of the luggage inside my apartment. The second part will be when I can actually take it out for a spin on the bike.

 I like to have the ability to carry things regardless of if I actually do carry anything, hence driving an SUV. My motorcycle was a step towards a minimalist lifestyle, and yet i'm finding this is not the case. I'm buying more items than I had ever anticipated needing, e.g., several jackets, several sets of gloves, several pairs of boots, and so on. Just riding around town necessitates attaching a magnetic Sedici Garda Tank Bag or a Biltwell EXFIL-7 bag to bring along all of the items that I don't really need but feel naked without. I had considered saddle bags but don't really like the look. Still debating on a swing arm bag but it would have to look and function just right. What right is I still haven't figured out but I'll know it when I see it.

So tooling around town is covered but I didn't just buy a motorcycle to tool around town. I want to see America! Sure, the internet has nice pictures and videos of the good 'ol U.S. of A. but I also want to touch it.
Viking Bags has a lot of different luggage solutions for just about any cruiser or street bike. If you're looking for adventure bike luggage, some of their products could work in a pinch but that is not their intended purpose. I have a Harley Sportster 48 with a Burly Brands 13" Sissy bar which I have used for strapping on all sorts of small items. I never intended for it to support a large heavy piece of luggage but, like me, it will adapt and overcome.
The seat of a motorcycle is probably one of the best ways of getting closer to this great country and I feel I'm finally due to experience it. This means lots of carrying capacity. I don't want to be somewhere and feel like I forgot something.

So here is the video of me exploring the bag indoors.

video


The Extra Large Plain Sissy Bar bag holds an enormous 4,553 cubic inches. I should have no problem carrying all of my junk. It consists of two separate bags, a main bag with 3,459.5 cubic inch capacity and a top roll with 1,093.5 cubic inch capacity. The main bag can be used without the top roll but the top roll can not be use without the main bag. All required straps come with your purchase and include backpack straps and shoulder straps. This is a rather cool feature because one might want to walk around town with a small roll bag once you reach your destination or you just want to carry everything on your back to your hotel room without unpacking in the parking lot. Last to be included, and most important in my book, is a rain cover that looks like it's up to the task of keeping all of your gear dry and mud free.

The main bag has six pockets on the outside with six additional inside pockets. 


Let's talk about the outside of the bag first.

The front of the bag has three pockets with a large pocket towards the top and two side by side below it. Since this is the plain sissy bar bag, you won't find much for decoration. Fine by me. If you've seen my bike, then you can see that I'm not one for much chrome. With that being said, the buckles are chrome. Since they are catering to mainly cruisers and since most cruiser owners like chrome on their bikes, it stands to reason that even the plain bags are going to have some chrome. The good thing is that it is tasteful and limited to the buckles and zippers. Underneath each buckle you will find a quick release. This speeds access to your pockets considerably and keeps the synthetic leather from getting worn around the buckle. There is no locking mechanism for the pockets which at first bummed me out. I was ready to start complaining, to no one in particular, before I realized that a lock is pretty pointless on one of these sissy bar bags. This goes to show how the expectations of a beginner rider don't always reconcile with the reality of riding. Locks on a bag made of leather and cordura, which is attached to a sissy bar with quick disconnect straps, seems rather silly but we'll get to more on that subject when we get inside the bag. Each of the front pockets have elastic on each side for expand-ability. The top front pocket also has slot style pockets inside to carry pens, credit cards, maybe a passport. My first thought is why? Wouldn't I keep those items close at hand like in my jacket? Well, on second thought, I won't ever be away from my motorcycle while traveling and the pocket is really acting like the glove box of my SUV so it makes sense now. Plus, you may want to use those pockets for entirely different purposes anyways.

The side of the bags have identical accordion style pockets to allow for larger items. There is also a mesh pocket that could hold large water bottles. There are straps to ensure your water stays put. The accordion style pockets have a zipper within a zipper. The outer zipper expands the bag and does not need to be closed to still be secure. The inner zipper allows access to the interior of the pocket. Interestingly, this zipper is a locking zipper, in that it contains little loops onto which one could attach a padlock. Pretty cool but...why? A sharp knife will get into the pocket or they could just take off with the whole bag. I guess if someone is out for a quick and easy target, sight of a padlock may serve as enough of a deterrent.

The top of the bag has a nice little pocket that takes up space on the interior of the bag. So if you pack the main bag completely, you will barely fit a set of keys in the top pocket. Load up the interior sparingly and you could probably fit two 12oz beer cans in the top pocket. Not saying you should but you definitely could.

Now let's go to the interior of the bag.



It has wrap around locking zippers (again with those locks. Pretty sure I could bypass those zippers pretty quick if I was so inclined.) to allow entry into the interior of the bag from both sides. There is a fairly hard plastic liner that is on the side doors and around the interior of the bag. This plastic is what gives shape to the bag and allows it to be sturdy enough to hold up a full roll bag on top when the main bag is empty. There are three mesh pockets on the interior of each door. The top and bottom one have an elastic opening and the middle one uses a zipper. These are useful to see what you have stashed before having to dig in each pocket. A stiff shelf is attached to the interior by way of Velcro straps. This allows for elevation adjustments depending on your load out.

Speaking about just the main bag, I like it. It meets my expectations for carrying luggage and has plenty of places to separate and store items.

And now for the roll bag.

This roll bag is just a tube that attaches to the top of the main bag via four quick disconnects. One of the straps that comes with this luggage can be attached to the roll bag to make it serve as a shoulder bag once you get to your destination. There is only access to the interior of the roll bag from one side. The sides do not hold their shape as well as the main bag but it's really not intended to support any weight. It's really more of a stuff sack type of container which suits me just fine. There is a little sheath style pocket on the inside that could easily hold a compact umbrella or the backpack straps when they are not in use. Not much to this bag. It hold things and that is all it's required to do. Sometime simplicity is the best way.

A couple of thoughts on future enhancements. Again, these are coming from a beginner rider without any long riding trips under his belt.

  1. How about some way to protect the interior from entry like steel mesh? Pacsafe does something like this and I think it would probably make the sissy bags locking zipper make more sense. This will probably increase weight and raise the center of gravity which in turn would compromise safety. So maybe not a good idea.
  2. Subdued molle on the outside so individuals can attach their own pockets or even extra gas bottles. I know the average cruiser owner probably doesn't want this but I know there has to be some riders that would love to customize their own bag.
  3. Speaking of customizing, some fuzzy Velcro material on the outside and inside. Being able to swap out patches on the outside could be nice and some people might want to attach holsters or other gear to the inside.
  4. As I was looking at the bag just sitting on my floor it occurred to me that is was pretty close to airline carry-on bag size. Maybe some roller wheels and a larger handle on top. Could prove useful for even the older riders that don't want to lug it into their hotel room on their back after a long hard ride.
These were just some of the ideas that came to me while I was sitting fiddling with the bag. I'm sure that when I complete an actual ride, hopefully this weekend, that I will appreciate the forethought and design of the luggage much more.

Please comment any suggestions or concerns and i will be sure to respond. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review where I'll actually be taking the bag out for a ride vacation style. 





11.24.2015

And now for something completely different...

I've been asked to provide a different prospective for the blog. I am a Harley rider. My ride is a 2013 XL1200X, otherwise known as the Sportster Forty-Eight. It's my first bike and it's a keeper.

A little about the bike. For those who don't know, the 48 is a relatively new model making its debut in 2010. It is based on models that were around in 1948, hence the name. This makes for a unique looking bike that comes in a short light frame. Harley decided to use the 1200cc evo engine which gives it plenty of power. I decided that I wanted more. A stage-one kit, Vance and Hines pipes, and Screaming Eagle tuning map have boosted the power from a nice 55hp to a grin inducing 79hp. All of this is great except for the model 48 gas tank. It looks nice but only holds 2.1 gal so my fuel reserve light went on constantly. I've swapped it for a 3.3 gal but still need to paint it how I want. I changed out all of the lights to LED lights, added a small Memphis Shades cafe fairing, threw out the seat for a Mother Road Customs On The Frame seat, added a USMC EGA derby cover, and a miniature Burly Brand sissy bar to carry any little tidbits I pickup while out riding. All together it makes for a pretty nice ride.

And now a little about me. I've always wanted a Harley. Never really narrowed down which one I wanted but I would always gravitate to the older WWII style hard tails. As a grew older, other family members would go on to buy bikes but I still held out. I wanted my first bike to be a Harley. When the Model Forty-Eight came out, I said "This is it." I proceeded to research it over the next several years and find all of the different websites that sold accessories or upgrades for this model. Knowing which Harley I was finally going to own simplified matters for me. I signed up for an ABATE course in 2013 (I highly recommend everyone take the course regardless if they've been riding for years or are just starting like I was.)

 I finally decided to pull the trigger last year when I went in to look at the 2014 models. They hadn't come in yet and the dealership had this last 2013 already setup with several of the options I was going to do to it anyways. It became mine that day and i've been riding it since.


I will be writing about my experiences as a 1.5 year rider. My expectations and reality have not always matched up but I am always learning and pushing myself on this bike. You will hear what a new rider expects from his gear and about how much those expectations are well founded or just a figment of an eager imagination. Regardless, this will be a fun journey.

Stay tuned for my first review of some sissy bar luggage.

11.02.2015

Pilot Motosport Breeze Blocker Review

As I mentioned in the previous post, I recently took a nice 5 day motorcycle trip.  The temps ranged from the low 40s to the high 70s.  When the mercury dropped or the wind was cold, I needed an additional layer without restricting my arms, so I added the Breeze Blocker by Pilot Motosport.




The Breeze Blocker has a REISSA  breathable waterproof layer sandwiched between a windproof Pilotex 330D front and a insulating fleece back.  The combo worked out great!  The collar tightened down snug, without feeling like I was being choked.  It came up high enough that I didn't need to add a neck gaiter.  By keeping my arms free from another layer, it kept my movement unrestricted and left dead air for insulation.



The windproof and fleece layers kept me warm while the breathable layer kept me from getting soggy.  It rolls up and packs well, easy to toss in your tank bag. If you're a cold weather rider or if you wear mesh gear and want to keep your torso warm on frosty mornings, this would be a good option.  For $35, it's a good investment in your riding comfort.




The Breeze Blocker was generously provided by Pilot MotoSport. for our review.