Godspeed Oliver Sacks.

Your journey into the unknown has begun.  May the roads always be smooth and twisty; and the views be stunning. You sir, were an amazing human being.

Pegs down.


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 ($89 as of 10/5/15) riding jacket be?".  I'm eating my words right now and they're pretty tasty.

(For the 2000 mile review, click here.)

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.