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Our Member Tested program puts the best gear in the hands of real riders who give real reviews. You'll hear the good, the bad and the ugly about all the gear they have tested. But when it is over, you will know you can buy the best piece of equipment that is durable enough for MOA members. All product reviews must come from an active member (at the time of submission) and should include photos of the product being installed or used in some way. Drop an email to wfleming [at] bmwmoa [dot] org with your idea for a review or your completed review. Thanks!

 

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Continental ContiRoadAttack 3 Sport Touring tires

Posted By Mark Hearon #209373, Saturday, February 10, 2018

In the last year, I've changed. I must confess I've become a Teutonophile. When exactly this happened I can't say. However, I'm pretty sure it happened sometime after I bought an R 1200 RS. Now, everything I care about in this world is German or on its way to becoming so (Italian wife gets a free pass!). Naturally, when the opportunity to test a German tire brand presented itself, I said, "Yes!" quicker than a Texas boy would jump at a chance for free chicken fried steak. The following represents a 1,500-mile, real-world, first-impressions review of the Continental ContiRoadAttack 3 tires. Before I do that, though, some housekeeping.

If we drink the Kool-Aid, this tire will do it all. It'll out-perform every competitor. You'll ride harder than that dudette who drags her knee on your local twisties, farther than Ewan and Charlie, and faster than a caffeinated squirrel mounted on an S 1000 RR. This tire's so great, even ostriches will take note (please watch Continental's demo video for these tires to get the joke). All this, with (virtually) no break-in, can be yours if you, too, buy this tire. Unsurprisingly (and perhaps thankfully), the truth-from my point of view-is a little more sedate. Let's be real: a sport touring tire is by its very nature a compromise. I still have difficulty defining just what the term "sport touring" means. The ContiRoadAttack 3 tires might have made that task a little easier, but not by living up to the superlative-laced marketing material we're likely to read from OEMs and motojournalists. These are my initial impressions.

Prior to mounting the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires to my R 1200 RS, I rode with the OE tire, Michelin's Pilot Road 4. It took mere moments with the Continental shoes to realize that the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires (comparatively) transmit quite a bit of feel to the rider. For the highway ride home, you might say I was "shaken up" a bit. I didn't know how to think of this at first because I'd never known anything other than the sure-footed, somewhat muted experience offered by the Michelins.

I now attribute much of that stirring experience to over-inflation. At 138 pounds fully fed, I don't normally run the recommended maximum cold tire pressures (36F/42R) and typically opt for something a little less bloated (34F/40R). Backing off the tire pressures did the trick. While the harshness was abated, the increased road feel remained.

I quickly became aware of how much I value this increased road feel compared to the PR4. With Dynamic ESA working to smooth out my ride constantly, I didn't realize how much of the sport experience I was missing while riding my local twisties. As Bill Wiegand will attest, having seen a video of me railing a corner (at perfectly legal speeds) with these tires, they do indeed inspire a degree of confidence.

Fully recognizing not everyone enjoys the sweeper-loving attributes of an R 1200 RS, I nevertheless must convey what a difference-maker these tires have been for my bike. Until the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires got slipped on, terms like "neutral" and "planted" didn't carry much meaning for me. The tires' press release mentions something about ensuring "…reliable stability at high speed and only a low kickback thanks to a 0° steel-belt construction." Yeah, I have no idea what that means. However, if I'm to believe that has anything to do with the experience I've had thus far, I might be willing to buy it. Whether traveling at 60 mph on the highway or 130 mph on an abandoned backroad, the tires feel the same.

With the increased stability the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires appear to provide, my corner entry speeds have increased. Not just because of the aforementioned road feel, but because the tip-in is easier for me to judge. I no longer feel like I have to scrub off as much speed to determine just what my tires are doing and how that'll influence my corner transit. Additionally, getting on the throttle earlier (and harder) is something I've found myself doing more frequently as I simply have had little reason to doubt the tire's ability to carry me through.

If you've made it this far in the review, first of all, thank you. Secondly, you should know I don't commute like the first two sections make it sound like I typically ride. Commuting duties are a different beast altogether. So, how do the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires stack up here? In two words, just fine. The two qualities mentioned above were specifically chosen because they've enhanced my understanding of my bike holistically. Further, they've made every part of my normal riding schema more enjoyable.

As far as performance in various weather conditions, north Texas is experiencing a warmer-than-average late summer (we don't have fall here). That means mysterious things like sky water (precipitation) and mouth steam (cold weather) aren't particularly prevalent. Basically, I've been riding mostly in the mid-low 50s Fahrenheit like a spoiled kid. That doesn't mean it's been all fun and games, though.

I purposefully waited for a Canadian front to pass through so that I could test cold-weather traction. I bargained for something between 38 and 42 Fahrenheit. Instead, Mother Nature served up a 24-degree morning…with a bit of frost. Game on!

Traction seems to not be an issue on cold pavement. The increased feel (I keep going back to that, don't I?) would indicate a tendency to foreshadow any squirrelly happenings with greater transparency. I felt no such tendency with these tires-score.

What about tread life on the tires' centers? Presently, the sporty characteristics of the ContiRoadAttack 3 tires have enabled me to spend a lot more time getting rid of my chicken strips than I ever expected to. What center tread wear I have noticed has been minimal. At 1,500 miles, the tire profile does not appear to be squaring off.

The questions that remain are those that a long trip and more time will answer. I'll report back on the touring credentials of these ostensibly sport-biased tires once a little more riding has taken place. Until then, ride safe!

  • Pros: Enhanced feel compared to another leading ST tire, quick turn-in/lively handling, emphasizes the "Sport" in sport touring
  • Cons: Questionable longevity (more research needed), questionable touring credentials (more research needed)

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Colorado Chaps - Made in the U.S.A.

Posted By Gray Buckley #27846, Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Colorado Chaps is one of the best companies you never heard of! When you need custom fit, hand cut chaps suitable for motorcyclists, hunters, construction workers, horseback riders, snowblower operators and anyone else who enjoys working or playing hard while staying clean and dry, then check out ColoradoChaps.com.

You won’t see much advertising in the usual places, but you will see owner/operator Lorna Reed at motorcycle rallies and small town festivals in western Colorado. She first made chaps in 2002 for a few equestrian friends who frequent Colorado's remote forests. Eventually the customers convinced her to spread the joy to motorcyclists.

I met Lorna at the Top o’ the Rockies Rally in Paonia, Colorado. Looking first hand at the variety of fabrics, colors and styles, and then holding a few samples in my hands, made me a customer. After wearing the product for several summers and winters, I became a believer! During several Rocky Mountain blizzards I wore them while driving a snowblower. They stop the wind, fit comfortably over Bermuda shorts or jeans, and are comfortable on the warmest days.

My Colorado Chaps arm gauntlets live in my side bags, ready for any sudden drop in temperature. They are easier to store and to put on than digging around for the extra jacket. You will be surprised how much protection they provide while covering just the forearms behind a pair of gauntlet gloves. Your hand signals will be a LOT MORE VISIBLE to drivers behind and ahead of you. If you are the delicate sort, you may need a fleece-lined pair.

Neither these chaps nor the gauntlets are cookie cutter products. They are assembled in Mesa County, Colorado, near the Colorado River.

Decision Making

When you decide to get a pair of these chaps you will need specific information, and to make some decisions. How long is your inseam? Do you want leather, water-resistant nylon or breathable cotton canvas? What kind and color of nylon do you prefer: Ballistic, 1000D Cordura, Basofil, Kevlar? Do you need knee armor? (It’s the real stuff.) Get fleece lining if you are going to ride in 35 degrees or less. Do you want mesh backs for hot days? Do you ride at night? If so, consider reflectorized striping. What color stripes do you want? What is the circumference of your thigh at the most ample point? There are more choices if you want a classy pair. Once you are wearing the chaps you may forget the flap-covered pockets on the front of each leg because they fit so well. They come standard. The chaps come with a belted stuff sack that fastens to your rear pack or to your handle bars.

“Not for me,” you say?

You may prefer to wear over-pants, the kind that cover your knives, tools, cell phones and everything else you hook to your belt, and to cover your front port hole even when you really have to go. You may prefer to remove your boots to get out of the over-pants. There is no need to remove footgear to exit Colorado Chaps. Your flexible parts stay flexible and your belt gear says accessible and you never have to remove your boots. Every pair of chaps is custom fit, hand cut, and built for you in the USA.

If you don’t like any exterior bulk above your knee and you don’t wear a belt, then consider the half-chaps, especially if you need shin and knee protection. Colorado Chaps guarantees a custom fit on a durable garment that you will enjoy for a long time. You will not find this quality in a factory made, off the rack wearable from overseas.

Lastly, when it comes time to order another pair, or possibly a gift or two (half-chaps, gauntlets?), you can get your questions answered and any problems resolved directly from the person who supervises the production of every order. Send your email with questions or just pick up the phone. I like this gear! Happy Trails!

Contact: info@coloradochaps.com, call 970-464-5803, or write to Colorado Chaps, 3553 G Road Palisade, CO 81526.

Gray Buckley (MOA #27846) lives in Lakewood, Colorado, and rides a 2015 R1200RT. After service as a Maryland State Trooper and as an agent of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, he retired to ride full time. He is allergic to gravel, asphalt, cement, lead and sharp pointed and/or cutting instruments.

 

Tags:  ATGATT  Gear  MemberTested 

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BMW Driving Academy Maisach

Posted By Frank Campbell #43430, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Bavarian factory has built a solid tradition in performance vehicles. True to the proverb "power is nothing without control," the company has vigorously promoted training for both the car and motorcycle enthusiast. This trend now gone global, is very evident within Germany and of course, the company’s home in Bavaria. The venue in Maisach, some 20 miles due West of Munich is now officially called the BMW Driver Academy.

Training was until recently at the Munich Airport, and presumably for lack of space was moved to the old Fürstenfeldbruck air base just south of Maisach.

The former Fliegerhorst Fürstenfeldbruck air base (Fursty for short) was once an important field for both the Luftwaffe and the US Air force. It has been decommissioned for over a decade, and the closest thing to flying machines you will see here are BMW cars and motorcycles used by the BMW Driving Academy. The runway is now inactive, but the base reportedly hosts training for ground personnel. Instead of the roar of jet engines, all you will hear now are screeching tires of BMW sedans on the skid pads and the golf cart whine of eco-friendly i3 coupes unobtrusively whizzing by.

The training facility occupies some 320 acres on the east side of the former air base. The website in German and English can be accessed at bmw-drivingexperience.com. The site contains ample details regarding the facility and scope of training. The cost on a BMW-supplied motorcycle is 240 Euro, and 200 Euro on your own bike. This is a no-brainer for me. A simple tip-over can cost well in excess of the 40 Euro difference (replacing a broken clutch or brake lever may cost around 200 Euro).

The motorcycles are fully insured for damage, so in the event of a mishap you will not be held liable unless you engage in reckless behavior. Personal medical coverage is the responsibility of the rider, which for EU residents is generally provided by the state. Risk-averse American riders should consult with their insurance plans in the US. At the moment, training is only offered in German (the English option box is greyed out on the application). Presumably at a later time this will change to accommodate non-German-speaking riders. However, if you have a reasonable command of German, you should definitely consider attending a training session. The instructors are very helpful and for the most part speak better English than most of us will ever speak German.


An R 1200 GS similar to the one the author used for his session in Maisach, though obviously this photo was not taken at the air base. Photo courtesy of BMW Motorrad.

My letter of acceptance reiterated that the training would be conducted "ausschließlich auf Deutsch" (exclusively in German). Considering the increasing trend by corporate BMW to use English lingo, I reckoned some latitude would be allowed.

On my appointed date I showed up half an hour late for class, as I could not find the entrance to the tightly padlocked air base anywhere. As I was about to give up, I spotted a rather subdued sign pointing to the BMW Driver Academy. The first session of the day was spent in general orientation, basic motorcycle control and emergency maneuvers. The class included some 20 students divided into two groups presumably on the basis of experience. By virtue of age rather than skills, I was put in the "experienced" group.

Following the classroom session, we walked out onto the parking area where our assigned mounts awaited us. My R 1200 GS with some 1000 kilometers on the odometer was otherwise showroom-new. The bike was equipped with mag wheels and shod with dual sport Anakee tires. Other equipment included full electronic regalia as well as cruise control. The driver seat was placed in the lowest position, which allowed my 29-inch inseam-challenged legs to reach the ground comfortably.

The motor fired up readily and settled into the familiar flat twin rumble, although more muted than its predecessors. The hydraulic clutch is feather light, which made it easy to follow the instructor’s commands to use two fingers for control. The bike seemed narrower than the previous oil-cooled models, and with a more centralized mass, felt quite light. The oil-bath clutch revealed its nature by the typical clunk and lurch felt when shifting from neutral into first, similar to the F-series. Pulling the clutch in and waiting a minute or so reduced this tendency only slightly. After riding it a while, I opted for shutting down and starting the engine in first gear, which eliminated the problem.

The exercises during our first session were based on the notion that if you cannot control the bike at slow speeds, you certainly will not be able to do so at higher speeds. The instructor had us weaving around cones, doing ever-tighter circles and figure-eight turns in first gear with the engine at idle (about 1050 RPM), controlling the speed with the clutch. The exercises felt easy due to the motorcycle's superb handling characteristics. There was no noticeable driveline lash, which certainly helped in this respect. I would have been hard put to do duplicate these maneuvers on my old R 1100 GS, which sat forlornly in the parking lot.

As the morning proceeded, the instructors increased the complexity of the exercises and had us add speed. The motorcycle maintained its unflappable composure throughout it all. I witnessed no tip-overs during the training, but I cannot guarantee there weren’t any.

During the noon break, we enjoyed the full buffet lunch included in the cost of the course. In the afternoon session the instructors added more complex exercises at greater speeds. The motorcycle had plenty of power, yet proved docile, which made it a joy to ride. For the more spirited rider, it might become a willing wheelie-machine.

I found the training the Riding Academy very worthwhile. It gave me an unequalled opportunity to put the motorcycle through its paces, all in a controlled and safe environment. For the potential buyer of a new GS, the time spent at the Academy will provide him/her a solid basis to decide whether or not to invest in such a machine.

 

Frank Campbell is a retired physician residing in FL. He has ridden almost every BMW model dating back to the R 26. He has done solo and group adventure tours throughout the Americas, Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and Asia. Although his preferred motorcycles have always been of the GS type, presently he favors more sedate "cappuccino style" tours on mostly well surfaced roads.

Tags:  R1200GS  Skills  Training 

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Corbin Dual Canyon seat for the R 1200 RS - and much more

Posted By James P. Smith, Ph.D. (#12333), Wednesday, February 8, 2017

After completing my Ph.D. dissertation, I wanted to escape academia with a little saved money. I had a used BMW R 80 ST in the garage that begged to return to the Alps, where I had contracted Alpinitis. Alpinitis is a disease you get when you ride the Alpine passes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy. I did this six times and the addiction was, by 1987, incurable. I rode the ST across the United States, shipped it to Europe and rode around there for three months. Never once, even after riding for hours on end, did I notice any discomfort sitting on that bike. I didn't even notice it had a Corbin seat. Granted, it was someone else's Corbin seat that may have fit them better than me, but I loved riding that bike.


Jim with his beloved R 80 ST.

I loved it so much that after leaving the ST in Europe and coming home to work I decided I had to have an ST to ride here. I answered an ad in the BMW Owner's News for an almost-new ST with less than 3,000 miles on it in Reston, Virginia. I flew there from California, bought it and rode back across the U.S. via the Great Canadian Highway. I had to stop often because my seat was sore and my shoulders and arms ached. I realized this ST was exactly the same model as the one I rode in Europe – except it didn't have a Corbin seat!

A year later I flew to Munich to pick up my ST. I rode it from Germany to England to join the AMA Tour of the UK, including a visit to the Isle of Man. What a difference! It felt so good to ride the bike in Europe with a Corbin seat, the same model bike that back home with a stock seat gave me aches and pains.

In June 2015, I contacted Corbin to inquire when they would have a seat and Smuggler setup for my new R 1200 RS motorcycle. The Corbin rep who returned my email, Sergio, thanked me for my interest, but informed me that they didn’t have any such product for the R 1200 RS. He offered a free seat in exchange for letting them use my bike as their test bed. Another employee, Joni, scheduled the work and warned me Corbin would need the bike for about six weeks. We scheduled the drop off for just after the New Year because I wouldn't miss riding in the winter. I explained that I wanted a Smuggler trunk that fits behind the Corbin seat, because unless you have side cases for this motorcycle there is no place to carry anything. Joni had to check with Mike Corbin, the owner. She got back to me the next day and let me know they could make the Smuggler, but it would require them keeping the bike an additional three weeks.

My wife and I trailered the bike down to Hollister and met Freddie, who helped me unload it and explained that any accessories would be locked away and that the bike would not be ridden at any time.

Many weeks later, I came back with my daughter to pick up the bike and met Julio, who manages all custom repairs and factory tours. Julio gave me what they had already made, including the Corbin seat with Smuggler trunk, a Dual Canyon seat with a back rest for riding two-up, both sporting electric heat at the flick of a switch. They wanted me to try out the standard seat they made for pictures and advertising, then return for a custom seat to be made to go with my Smuggler trunk. My daughter and I were treated to an hour-long tour of Corbin's immense factory; it covers a large city block and includes the Wizards café, where you can have breakfast or lunch while you wait for your motorcycle.

Corbin uses a Contoured Comfort Cell foam which feels firm compared to the cushy-feeling stock seat that, over time, compacts and eventually loses its resiliency. This causes the rider to feel the seat is too hard, which is really the result of the foam being too soft to start with. Corbin’s closed-cell foam is made up of a series of small bubbles which hold air pockets that keep the saddle resilient indefinitely. This enables them to vary the density to suit the personal shape of the customer's seat. As a result, Corbin's seats are able to provide an average of seven pounds of foam density compared with three to four pounds on stock seats. In addition, Corbin's foam will take the shape of the rider and keep it that way after about 1,500 to 2,000 miles, providing better weight dispersal and a custom fit.


Corbin's closed-cell foam.

Corbin uses fibertech as a base pan material. It is stronger than plastic, won’t rust like metal and offers design flexibility for a precise fit to the motorcycle. With good base pan strength, the seat will always support you in the right places.


Every seat Corbin makes starts with a mold.

The seat I got was Corbin's black leather with blue stitching and a blue welt that matches the Lupin blue of the R 1200 RS, and is exactly what I would have chosen even though while touring the factory, I noticed Corbin offers many leathers in a riot of colors such as Bright Red, Navy Blue, Chocolate Brown, Indian tan, Oaknut. They also offer a menagerie of textured leathers such as Alligator, Snake, Ostrich, and Stingray, and in a variety of colors as well. You can also get your seat covered with textured vinyl in Yellow, Ninja Red, Burgundy, Teal, Lavender, Harley Blue and many more vibrant colors.


Corbin sports a dizzying array of seat covering options, including smooth and textured leathers and vinyls.


Pouring foam into a mold.

Leather is best for a motorcycle because it breathes, keeps you cool where you contact the seat, and will conform with the foam shape as it breaks in to give you a personalized fit.

During the two months I waited for my bike, I saw many pictures of it in motorcycle magazines and on Corbin's website. I had agreed to allow Corbin to have my RS a little longer to show it at the Quail Motorcycle gathering at Pebble Beach, in Carmel, California, but I was getting anxious to ride again.

While many bikers ride in to Corbin's factory in Hollister and wait on a first come, first served basis for their bike to be fitted with a custom seat, I couldn't wait to start riding again. I picked it up with the products already made for pictures and advertising and trailered it away to return after I had tried out Corbin's seat and Smuggler trunk.


Jim tests out his new Corbin seat, shown here with the Smuggle trunk in place.

Packing only my sunglasses, water, aqua vest, sun hat, notebook and pen in the Smuggler trunk, I was off riding up highway 49 out of Nevada City, across the South Fork of the Yuba river to my first stop at Downieville. I didn't want to get off my bike but Chris, my riding companion, was hungry. He skipped breakfast, so we had an early lunch of delicious soft tacos and iced tea at La Cocina De Oro.

We headed northeast on 49 past Sierra City to a waterfall that Chris found just off the highway before Bassetts, where we turned north on Gold Lake Road. I noticed that my position on the Corbin seat had me sitting a little more upright, which took the weight off my arms and eliminated the tiredness I felt riding the same distance on the stock seat. There was no extra wind turbulence as I was able to raise the windscreen on the RS. I was definitely having more fun with this new equipment.


Chris, left, and the author.

After riding around on it for several months with my daughter Jamie exclaimed, “I love it.” Also, my granddaughter who traveled with me to Hollister while Corbin made a custom single seat for me with a Smuggler trunk said the Dual Canyon seat was the best, especially because it was electric and kept us both toasty warm. When riding solo I prefer the Corbin single seat with Smuggler trunk as it holds just enough for day rides and avoids putting on panniers – perfect for traveling light. The Corbin single seat can also be electric and ordered separate to go with the stock passenger seat.


A good look at the solo seat with the Smuggler trunk in place.


The other finished product - Corbin's Dual Canyon seat and passenger backrest on the water-cooled R 1200 RS.

Tags:  accessories  Corbin  R1200RS  seat 

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Roam the planet ... carry stuff ... in the Tool Tube

Posted By Ron Davis (#111820), Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I’m one of those guys who believes you can never carry too much stuff, so nothing bugs me more than seeing empty spaces on my bike that could be stuffed with gear. On my F 700 GS, I just couldn’t ignore the gaping cavity between my right pannier and rear of my bike. There are custom-made boxes and bags designed to hold goodies in spaces like these, but a cost/benefit analysis, colored by the shabby pink state of my checkbook, had me searching for a more economical solution. That was when I ran across the Tool Tube.

tooltube mega tube
Tool Tubes can be ordered in three sizes with accessories such as tool rolls, fuel or water bottles, and lock sets. All come with an assortment of mounting hardware. Pictured is the “MegaLock Moto Kit.”

Storage tubes similar to the Tool Tube are sold by most of the main moto accessory vendors, and indeed, they can also be found in many other kinds of markets. A true crossover hit, I have a hunch screw-top storage tubes like these were originally intended for holding welding rods, but it didn’t take riders long to see their potential for stowing gear like tools, fuel, and water in small spaces. I have also seen them mounted as standard equipment on heavy machinery to hold manuals. What makes the Tool Tube versions different is the variety of sizes, the clever accessories, and the mounting options.

I probably could have gone with the original Tool Tube, which is about a foot deep and four inches wide. I knew one of these would easily fit inside my pannier rack, but since I wanted to make the most of the space, I decided to order the “Mega Tube” which is an inch wider, hoping I could make it work. Like all the canisters from Tool Tube, the Mega is offered in a variety of kits and packages. For instance, some kits come with Primus fuel bottles, while others include a tool roll and/or locking mechanisms, though you can also go ala carte and choose any options you want. I ordered the “MegaLock Moto Kit” ($34) which comes with a clever steel cable and padlock system for securing the top. I still have my eye on the “NanoTube,” however, which has an inside diameter of about two inches and looks to be perfect for maps, a decent flashlight, or documents, and like all the Tooltubes, it is offered in a locking kit.

tooltube rearview
The Tool Tube provides a solid, secure option for a bit more storage wherever there’s some open space.

Where and how a rider mounts a Tool Tube is only limited by his or her imagination. All models come with assorted stainless, rubber-sleeved clamps and/or zip ties and bolts with nylock nuts. I love the problem-solving process of making a farkle like this work where I want it, and in my case I fabricated some aluminum brackets to anchor the Mega Tube to my pannier rack in a rock-solid position well up and away from the running gear. The Tool Tube site also offers all kinds of mounting hardware and locks to suit, but one of the best features of the website is a huge gallery of photos showing how all kinds of riders have mounted Tool Tubes on all kinds of bikes.

Tool Tubes are constructed of injection-molded polypropylene with integral mounting brackets featuring molded bolt holes. A neoprene gasket seals contents from water or dust.

Though my son calls me “cheap,” I prefer to think of myself as “thrifty,” and with prices ranging from only $16 for the standard Tool Tube to $66 for the MegaLock Tool Roll Kit, these storage solutions are my kind of bargain. Ordering was slick and quick through PayPal, and delivery was very prompt. For more information, visit TheToolTube.com.

tooltubeside
Integral brackets, mounting clamps, nuts and bolts are provided with Tool Tubes, but a little fabrication may be needed to install one on your bike. Use of one of the included zip ties is recommended for bikes that will be seeing off-road use for added security. /

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VnM Sport Cooling Compression base layers

Posted By Deb Gasque (#182082), Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The record-breaking extreme heat during the summer of 2016 was intense, to put it mildly, and may have put the brakes on many planned motorcycling trips. Riding is a struggle when our bodies are put to the extremes due to weather. For cold weather riding, there are several gear options on the market to keep us comfortable, but for scorching temperatures, I haven't had much luck finding gear that accommodates the body from neck to ankles and works well - until now.

Aliki Karayan of VnM (pronounced “venom”) Sport started her mission in 2009 to produce high-performance, cooling compression base layers for herself and others in her field of super bike racing. Having no experience in garment manufacturing or design, she took her strong passion to produce hard-working, quality gear and started making phone calls and meeting with people. Aliki persevered through trial and error and finally found a high-performance fabric from Italy and a manufacturing company in North America to make her dream come true. Today, she custom designs her cooling compression base layers for racing teams and has been very successful creating products that are superior in performance.

Debcrop
Deb models the base layers her, showing off her R 1100 RS.

In speaking with Aliki about the possibility of her gear working for riders in the long-distance riding world, she didn’t hesitate at all and sent me a set to try out. Upon receipt of the package, I immediately tried the two-piece base layers on and was thrilled with the comfort and fit. The top loosely fits up around your neck to keep it cool and protect it from chafing from your riding suit. Around the bottom of the base layer top, there is a strip of a rubber-type material on the underside that lies against the skin on your abdomen to keep the gear in place so it doesn't ride up over time. The long sleeves keep your arms cool, as well as block the sun on your wrists for those who, like me, get “racing stripes” where my gloves and riding gear sleeves don’t meet. Additionally, there is compression built into specific areas such as the arms to help with body fatigue. Aliki also added mesh panels in certain areas to heighten the cooling function. The base layer bottom, which fits to the ankle, was equally as comfortable in all areas, including the knees and the crotch where discomfort can really make a good ride bad.

VNMcompressionshirtman   VNMcompressionshirtwoman
Standard VnM base layer shirts, male version on the left and female on the right. Which was probably obvious.

I put the Vnm Sport cooling compression base layers to the test during a two week ride in extreme temperatures last July. Prior to putting on the base layers while preparing for each day’s ride, I wet them in the sink. The high-performance fabric held the moisture and wicked it slowly as I rode, which maximized the cooling effect. On days that the temperatures were horribly extreme, I used the restroom sink on my fuel stops and breaks to rewet the fabric when it dried out. On days when the temperatures were in the 70s and 80s, I found the gear worked well without wetting it. I did notice that when the temperature dipped below 70 in the early mornings and evenings, I needed to put on a layer between the base layers and my summer riding suit, as the cooling effect was a little too chilly for me. As far as maintaining the undergarments while on the road, I washed them in the shower with me and hung them out to dry overnight. The fabric is sturdy and high-quality, and it feels as if it will hold up very well over a long period of time. The basic base layers come standard in black, but Aliki also designs super-fashionable custom gear with color panels and graphics. I highly recommend the VnM Sport cooling compression base layers to our legion of riders, as they really does their job, are extremely comfortable, and are high-quality products for a reasonable price (they retail at $97.99 for each piece and can be purchased at vnmsportgear.com).

VNMshirtman   VNMshirtwoman
Male and female compression shirts. Below, compression pants.

VNMcompressionpantswoman

Tags:  baselayer  Clothing  MemberTested 

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Any ride, any weather: The Aerostich Roadcrafter R3

Posted By Jerry Riederer (#135671), Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Like most riders, I have accumulated an assortment of riding gear over the years. Various jackets, pants, insulated liners and rain covers now fill more than half of our mudroom closet. Any time my wife expresses frustration at the sheer volume of waterproof/windproof/coldproof/reflective/padded/breathable fabric preventing the closet door from fully closing, I point out that different riding conditions require specific pieces that help ensure my safe return to her loving arms. This explanation had been working well to justify my penchant for buying the next, newest thing. That ended the day I came home wearing an Aerostich Roadcrafter R3 suit. More than 15,000 miles later, I have yet to open the mudroom closet for another garment.

The Roadcrafter is an unlined, one piece suit that is designed to be worn over any base layer, from street clothes for a ride to the store or office, to comfortable riding clothes for a long day on the road.

Roadcrafter R3 01

Clearly Aerostich is not a company that rests on its laurels. The Roadcrafter 3 (R3) is the third generation Roadcrafter suit, and as such utilizes the latest in materials, craftsmanship and features. The 500 denier Cordura® GORE-TEX® fabric shell is cut on a computer-guided machine and then sewn and seam sealed for consistency. All zippers are rubberized (think drysuit zipper) to keep the rain out. The oversized shoulder, elbow and knee pads are made of Aerostich’s proprietary TF impact armor. The pads are removable and each armor attachment point is adjustable to allow the fit to be fine-tuned for comfort and to ensure it stays in place for best protection. Optional hip, spine and chest armor is available for further protection.

Fitted with nine pockets, the Roadcrafter has a place for everything. In fact, there are so many pockets, that I discovered one that I did not know existed two months after I started using the suit. I personally love the pocket located near the right wrist, which is a great place to keep money for tolls, etc.

Road testing this suit took considerable time (and miles) in order to really appreciate all of its features. Having now ridden with this suit for an entire year and over 15,000 miles, I can honestly say that I no longer give much consideration to the weather conditions in preparation for a ride. I look at the temperature to decide on my base layer and how much venting to open, then hit the road.

While I have yet to find any protective clothing that keeps me from feeling too warm when temperatures get above 85 degrees, I was surprised that the one piece R3 was comparable in comfort to flow-through mesh gear. When I wear a wicking tee shirt and shorts as a base layer and open the vents fully, I can ride all day in relative comfort. Anecdotally, I am under the impression that I don’t dehydrate as quickly when I do long rides in the suit. I can't determine whether this is due to reduced airflow over my skin, or perhaps just my imagination, but I have done some long days in this suit, including an Iron Butt 1000 around Lake Superior, and I do notice a difference in fluid demand.

In cold weather it’s all about the base layers. The R3 essentially removes windchill from the equation with great, glove friendly, hook and loop closures at the wrists, ankles and cozy collar; just layer to your liking and ride. On a recent 320 mile ride to the Canadian border, my on-board thermometer never read above 34 degrees and got as low as 31, but my comfort and safety were assured with the right layers, which included a heated liner under the Roadcrafter R3. When an electric heated under layer is in order, the Roadcrafter accommodates with a thoughtfully located rubberized port through which you can thread your power cord.

Roadcrafter R3 02 Whatever the temperature, rain gear is no longer a consideration when preparing for a ride. The entire suit is constructed of totally waterproof, American-made mil-spec 500d Cordura® GORE-TEX® fabric. All zippers are seam-sealed, rubberized and rainproof, so you’ll stay completely dry, even during the wettest conditions. I really put this suit to the test on my trip to the MOA Rally in Hamburg, New York, last summer. We rode the 350 miles from Sudbury, Ontario, to Hamburg in weather that vacillated between a steady rain and intense downpours for the entire day. While it would be a considerable stretch to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the day’s ride, I can honestly say that not a drop of water got through the Roadcrafter.

I like to visit motorcycle dealers and rally booths where I can look the latest in riding gear. A review of the country of manufacture tags on these garments, regardless of quality or price, reads like a travel journal for a Far East adventure: made in China, made in Cambodia, made in Korea, made in Indonesia. Every Roadcrafter is made in Duluth, Minnesota. Mine was made by Mary. In fact, riders are encouraged to stop by the factory, meet the dedicated craftspeople and see the production facility. A must-visit destination for any riders passing through Duluth on their way around Lake Superior, they will find a nice rider lounge, generously supplied with bottles of water, maps and camaraderie.

Roadcrafter suits are available in an impressive range of standard sizes. Add to that the ability to get custom alterations and you will be hard pressed to find a better fitting piece of riding equipment. Over 30 standard color combinations give you the freedom to make your suit truly your own.

I typically like to make comparisons between products in order to form the basis for a review, but this suit is in a class by itself. More a piece of safety equipment than riding apparel, its function-first design is bold and revolutionary. I can honestly say that I ride more now because the Roadcrafter makes it easy to wear “All The Gear All the Time.” I get dressed in clothes for a business meeting, zip on the R3 and throw a leg over, instead of climbing in my Camry and driving to the office. The Roadcrafter R3 costs $1197. There are too many options and features to cover on these pages, so visit Aerostich on the web for all of the details.

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BestRest CyclePump Expedition

Posted By Bill Wiegand (#180584), Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Last summer I learned the hard way that regardless of how much you need to pack in your panniers, the first things you absolutely must pack are a tire patch kit and an air pump.

On a beautiful Wisconsin weekend last June, I rode to Road America for the MotoAmerica series on a nearly new set of Continental Sport Attack 3 tires. It had been a long time since I had experienced a flat tire when traveling, and I guess I fell into a false sense of security, thinking the inevitable wouldn’t happen to me. Well, fate finally caught up to me last summer when I rolled the dice and lost. Thankfully, friends I was with were able to bail me out, but because I usually ride alone I know I got lucky.

I’m pretty anal about my motorcycle maintenance, especially my tires, and I check pressure and condition before every ride and would hate for my wife to know just how much I’ve spent on the many tire gauges in my toolbox. If there was something that fell through the cracks and wasn’t given the attention it deserved that day, it was the air pump I neglected to pack.

Though it was a hand-me-down from the friend of a friend, my old pump did work as long as the duct tape held and I positioned the chuck just right. I knew I needed to upgrade, but it seemed there were always better ways to spend my money. Unable to shake the memory of my flat once I made it home, a new motorcycle tire pump was pushed to the top of my needs list.

Surfing the interwebs and talking to other riders offered many good options. I guess I’m a sucker for marketing and just like golf equipment that promises longer and straighter, add a word like “Expedition” to a product description and I’ve got to have it. The pump I finally ended up ordering was the BestRest CyclePump EXPEDITION model.

Available at bestrestproducts.com, the CyclePump Expedition model uses a 2” x 4” x 6” aluminum case to house and protect the motor and compressor inside. Rubber bumpers at both ends of the case offer some protection against drops and rough use as do two nylon bushings on either side of the on/off switch. Also coming from the case is an eight-foot power cord and an 18-inch air hose.

BestRest CyclePump

Buyers of the CyclePump have the option of either a straight or 90-degree clip-on chuck. I chose the straight chuck. To connect the pump to your bike’s battery, both an automotive-style cigarette lighter adapter and a fused set of alligator clips are included, with both connecting to the pump’s power cord via SAE two-prong power plugs. If you’ve already got an SAE lead connected to your battery for heated gear or other 12-volt accessories, you’re ahead of the game and ready to go. Finally, the included red canvas pouch keeps everything together when traveling.

A direct battery connection is mandatory on CAN bus-controlled BMWs as the CyclePump requires between 7 and 10 amps to operate effectively, and the CAN bus-controlled outlets only allow 5 amps.

To test the capacity of the CyclePump, I fully deflated the front tire on my BMW 1000 XR. Beginning with a zero air pressure reading on my MotionPro air gauge, I connected the alligator clips to my battery, connected the SAE connector, the chuck to the valve stem and switched on the CyclePump. After running the CyclePump for one minute, I switched it off, disconnected the chuck and read 20 lbs. of air pressure. Another minute of pumping gave me 30 lbs. of tire pressure, and after one more minute, I received a 40 lbs. air pressure reading and using the bleed button took the pressure back down to the prescribed 36 lbs. While traveling, it takes just minutes to check and adjust tire pressure, and once again I’m riding with the confidence of knowing my tires are inflated to their prescribed pressures.

While I still prefer to use my six-gallon compressor when I’m at home in my garage, I’m very pleased with my purchase of the BestRest CyclePump. With an MSRP of $115, the CyclePump offers peace of mind, knowing a flat tire won’t strand me. For more information, visit bestrestproducts.com.

    Pros:
  • Easy to connect
  • Fast
  • Durable
    Cons:
  • More expensive than others
  • No built-in gauge, though BestRest sells one

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HEX ezCAN Accessory Manager by the GS911 Team

Posted By Bill Hooykaas, Monday, July 25, 2016

The wizards who brought us the various GS911 diagnostic tools have now come up with an ingenious solution for attaching accessories to CAN bus-equipped BMWs. Rather than bypassing the tricky CAN bus wiring of the new bikes by wiring accessories direct to the battery, then using various voltage regulators, switches etc., their brand-new invention integrates the most common accessories directly into the CAN bus system in a simple plug and play system.

My GS LC was loaned to Ted Porter of the Beemershop at Das Rally to demonstrate the new GS911 Wi-Fi, and to my surprise they had equipped it with this new pre-production HEX ezCAN. It attracted a crowd of interested folks during the Rally. They left it attached to my bike after the rally so I could attach my own accessories through it.

I removed all the wiring for my Rigid spotlights and red Rigid brake light and plugged the single hot lead from each light into the appropriate color-coded ezCan lead, and connected the black ground to each item. The ezCan had already been connected to the battery for power, and the bikes CAN bus wiring was fed directly into the ezCan, and then a new lead was connected back to the CAN bus controller.

That was it, a five-minute install, then it was a matter of connecting a USB lead from a laptop to the ezCAN to configure it in many ways. My accessory lights are all controlled directly from the bike controls, extending the use of the left thumbwheel, turn signal and high beam switches to perform some magic on the bike. This includes options to strobe the spot lights, dim them when the respective turn signal is activated so that it does not disappear in the blinding spot beam, dim the lights for bright daylight and brighten them as conditions warrant using the bikes ambient light sensor, strobe the lights when about to pass, or when the horn is depressed. There are also four settings for brake light functionality. In addition, there is a high power horn outlet and a charging output for iPhones, cameras etc. that are connected into your wired tank bag.

This is a simple and cost-effective way to integrate all your accessories into the mysterious CAN bus world. It will be available this fall wherever you buy your GS911. Although the first model is specific for the GS LC, specific versions will be made available soon for other BMW models.

For more info, see the website at hexezcan.com, and watch this video.

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AltRider Crash Bar System

Posted By Bill L. Hooykaas, Thursday, January 29, 2015

I first met Jeremy LeBreton a number of years ago at the Mines and Meadows GS event in Pennsylvania, when he was just launching his company, AltRider, making high quality products in the USA.  He is a passionate rider at heart and fully battle tests all his products himself in the most challenging situations.


Enter his solution for an integrated "suit of armour" for the GS. I ordered my 1200 GS LC with the OEM guards, but quickly found that they were inadequate for real world conditions, and that the stock skid plate was just too flimsy and short to fully protect the undercarriage. In Salem, I saw a demo of the prototype of his crash bars and was impressed by both the beefy 1 1/4" stainless steel tubing (I am told they are 50% stronger than stock but only 10% heavier), and the fully 12 points of attachment to the frame including a new stainless motor mount. The finish is shot peened to blend with the silver frame of the bike perfectly and never needs painting or touch up after an upset (this will save me a bundle in paint!).

They have recently completed engineering the complete system to incorporate a stout upper bar attachment to better protect the tank fairings and radiators, which is in itself attached to the bike at 8 points. They also now have a 3/16" thick anodized aluminum skid plate that bolts directly to the lower crash bars at four points and also with a brilliantly engineered stainless rotary broached pivot pin assembly to replace the nylon OEM centre stand mounts (one of the strongest frame points on the bike). This is the first skid plate that I have seen that does not attach to the engine at all, allows for draining of the oil without removing the plate, and most importantly offers a full 11" of ground clearance for an unladen bike. This is way more clearance than the stock plate, twice as thick as OEM and extends twice as long, fully all the way back to near the rear wheel!
Suffice to say I have not tested the system in a tip-over situation, so I will have to defer to the video on the AltRider site of Jeremy rolling his new GS completely over on a hillside and not even breaking a turn signal, pretty impressive stuff, check it out:

The items come well packed with complete instructions. However, it will take the better part of the day to get everything mounted properly, as there are many points of attachment to address. A bike lift will certainly help a lot in lining things up underneath the bike. The only small annoyance I have found with all their products is that they use Allen bolts instead of the OEM Torx bolts which requires I carry additional tools along, although I do agree that the Allen heads do provide a more secure grip and less prone to stripping over the newer Torx bolts.
I finished up by attaching a pair of Rigid LED lights onto the front of the crash bars which tuck nicely into a space ahead of the tappet cover so as to not impede any air flow to the heads. Lastly, I attached a pair of re-purposed header guards from my old 1150 GS to complete the armour cladding of the beast. Now, hopefully my aging bones can also withstand the beating this system is designed for!
I am very impressed with the quality and precision engineering that went into this system. The price of the lower crash bar/skid plate system has a MSRP of $790, but compared to what the OEM system offers for around $550, it is money well spent to protect your valuable investment. Throw in the cool looking upper crash bars for $349 and you now have an armour-clad GS! You can order AltRider products directly, through various dealers. #moamembertested

Tags:  R1200GS 

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