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.


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.

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. 


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.


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.


Quick Update - Viking Cycle Ironborn Jacket: 2000 miles later

For the initial review, go here.

Recently, I took a 1600 mile motorcycle trip through OH, PA, MD, VA and WV.  The temps ranged from the low 40s into the high 70s.  The Ironborn held up well to the mileage and abuse (I'm not gentle with my gear) and has quickly become my go to jacket.

The only issue that occurred is the left chest pocket zipper garage tore off.  It was already starting to tear on the first day of the trip and it finally broke free around day 3.  Other than that it's still a great jacket and did well with multiple layers underneath when the temps dropped.

Every motorcycle jacket deserves patches.


Video Review: Viking Cycle Ironborn Jacket

Check out our first ever video review! 


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.


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.


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.