Member Tested: Real Reviews From Real Riders
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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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Arai’s Quantum-X helmet

Posted By Bill Stermer #32290, Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Arai has always been known as a manufacturer of premium helmets, and with the elevated price range of the Quantum-X, you know you’re definitely paying a premium price here. As a motorcycle journalist, I have tested many dozens of helmets over my 40-year career and can attest that, in my experience, Arai helmets have always been impressive for their fit, finish, comfort, graphics and overall satisfaction.

One unique factor in Arai’s comfort level is that the company offers several interior fit configurations to address the range of human head shapes. The Quantum-X tested here features Arai’s Round Oval interior fit shape, which means it is shorter front-to-back and wider to the sides. For other models and their shape options, consult the Arai website (araiamericas.com). Because of these fine distinctions among its various models, Arai recommends that, when it’s time to buy, visit a dealer and try on their various helmet models to determine your ideal fit.

Arai describes the Quantum-X as being made from a “peripherally belted, super-complex laminate construction shell design” that combines multiple materials and techniques created by Arai. It is basically fiberglass, but more than 20 individual materials are used in constructing the shell. This layering factor is useful in that it can often help in dispersing impact energy, and the helmet is thus certified to meet not only the DOT standard (required for all street helmets sold in the U.S.), but also the more demanding Snell standard.

The interior is deluxe, made of an anti-microbial synthetic material that allows the helmet to slide on easily and, when properly fitted, hug the head. Sealing the lower portion of the helmet is a waterproof chin guard that smooths the airflow and prevents wind or water from coming up.

Venting is quite functional thanks to a pair of controllable intake vents along the top, helped by a pair of adjustable exhaust vents in the rear. Fine tune the adjustable openings with their sliding controls and you’re sure to find a comfortable setting. The two-position chin bar vent is also quite functional, and in addition, there’s a pair of brow vents in the shield.

The only criticism I can offer regarding the Quantum-X is that its shield-changing mechanism is not intuitive. If you’re changing from your tinted to your clear shield at sunset, this factor can become crucial. To change the shield on this helmet, first raise it, push a lever to release each side cover, then pull off the cover to expose the shield pivot mechanism. At this point the shield simply pivots in its grooves; there is no clear indication as to how it releases. However, pushing the release lever further pops the shield outward so that the round, brass button on that side can then slide over and fit into a corresponding red circle on the shield mechanism. This allows it to be positioned so that it can be pulled out and popped off. And speaking of lenses, the Quantum-X is also packaged with a Max Vision, fog-resistant Pinlock lens that comes ready to install.

Reinstalling the shield is literally a snap. Position the brass button over the red dot on each side, raise the shield, and the two sides literally slide and snap into their proper tracks, so you’re good to go.

While riding I found the Quantum-X to be comfortable and very quiet. It fits and seals very well around the head, moves through the wind blast with minimal resistance, and its protrusions are so well integrated as to not create much wind noise. The graphics are first-rate and, overall, I find it a superior helmet.

Pearl Black costs $679.95, White $699.95, Black Frost, Aluminum Silver, Diamond Black, Diamond White $709.95, Fluorescent Yellow and all graphics $829.95, and all are available in sizes from XS – XXL. Find out more on Arai's website.

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Helite Adventure Jacket

Posted By Douglas Olin #183966, Tuesday, December 31, 2019

There I was in Baja, on a heavily loaded R 1200 GS Adventure with well-worn street tires, suddenly facing 20 kilometers of dirt, sand and gravel as the highway turned from solid pavement into a zona en construcción.

It probably would have been just fine, but about halfway through, the “two lanes” of traffic devolved into a Mad Max free-for-all with an oncoming 18-wheeler being passed by an SUV while another SUV was trying to pass me along with a quartet of dirt bikes at high speed somewhere in the middle. Forced out of my line and pushed to the outside edge of what now had become five “lanes” of traffic, I hit a patch of deep sand and went down. Hard. I don’t remember being thrown from the bike. What I do remember was lying on my back, in absolutely no discomfort while feeling a bit like the Michelin Man.

Then it struck me. I was wearing my Helite jacket!

Founded 17 years ago by Gérard Thevenot, a French pioneer in the light aircraft industry, Helite offers inflatable protective and wearable airbag systems for motorcyclists, horse-riders, skiers and pilots.

I was aware of Helite’s line of motorcycle airbag vests, having seen their booths at various motorcycle shows over the years. Despite being an ATGATT rider, I doubted the product and saw the vest as yet one more piece of gear to layer on top of an already heavily armored jacket.

However, when a fellow rider from southern California survived what should have been a fatal rear end collision on I-405 in Los Angeles (a highway I drive with some frequency) and credited his survival to the Helite vest he was wearing, I began to look into it more seriously. Over time, I discovered that Helite has quite a fan club, made up of a significant number of people who have survived collisions, crashes and deer strikes in large part due to Helite airbags.

About three years ago, I bought what was then known as the Helite Adventure Jacket V.1.0. The Helite Adventure Jacket reviewed here has been superseded by the Helite Touring Jacket, which is similar in design and features, but offers slightly larger vents, a different pocket configuration and slightly different color patterns. Both the older and the newer versions may be available through Helite.

I went with the jacket over the airbag vest for two reasons. First, I knew that I would never ride without a jacket, whereas I would consider a vest and too easily forgotten or ignored. Second, I liked the way it looked.

Helite airbags are designed to rapidly inflate if the rider is thrown from the bike. When inflated, the airbag holds the torso and neck in place, providing whiplash and spinal protection while simultaneously shielding the body from impact.

The system is totally mechanical. The jacket has a quick release connection to an elastic lanyard, which is attached to the bike. The airbag activates if enough force is exerted to trigger a CO2 cartridge in the chest pocket; upon release, the cartridge inflates the airbag in less than 0.1 second. It takes about 60 pounds of force to activate the system, which means you won’t set it off by accident, even if you are getting off the bike while still clipped in.

It takes a bit of time to get used to clipping yourself into the lanyard whenever you ride, but after a while it becomes second nature. Helite offers long and short lanyards, depending on your needs. I’ve talked to many riders who, like myself, detach the lanyard when deliberately heading off-road in order to avoid deploying the airbag on slow speed get-offs in sand, dirt and gravel and then reattach when heading back to pavement.

One advantage of the Helite design is that the airbag is made for repeat use. Once the airbag is deployed, it slowly deflates over a few minutes. It takes mere minutes to reset the system and replace the CO2 cartridge. The cartridges may be a bit difficult to source, particularly when abroad. As I learned in Mexico, you will want to carry a spare cartridge when traveling.

From the outside, the Helite Adventure Jacket looks similar to any number of modern, textile motorcycle jackets. Broad in the shoulders, narrow in the hips, the jacket comes in black or grey. The jacket is cut at three-quarter length, which makes it a bit longer than many motorcycle jackets. I think this looks better when off the bike, but the bottom of the jacket can bunch up when riding.

The airbag itself is built into the jacket, under the SAS-TEC CE Level 2 back protector, and is not visible even when deployed. There is CE Level 1 armor for the elbows and shoulders as well as retro-reflective panels on the front, back and arms for increased visibility at night.

The outer shell of the jacket is Cordura 600D, with Cordura 1000D reinforcing the elbows and shoulders. This makes the jacket waterproof, windproof and breathable. It comes with a removable polyester thermal liner and an adjustable slider for the neck. There are a variety of pockets on the interior and exterior of the jacket, as well as two-way waterproof zippers on the sleeve cuffs for ventilation and waterproof zippered side vents as well.

My jacket has two large chest pockets, one of which includes the mount for the CO2 cartridge, as well as six pockets (two large and four small) at the waist and ribcage, and two very small pockets on the shoulders. There is also large pocket across the rear of the jacket, a hidden zippered pocket in the chest, and an interior pocket. The newer version of the jacket has fewer pockets, but they are somewhat larger.

I ride with the jacket in all weather, wearing a Hypercool cooling vest in extreme temperatures (i.e., over 100 degrees F). I have found that well-ventilated jackets can generate a “convection oven effect” on my torso when temperatures get too high, so I tend to avoid them. In cold weather I don’t bother with the included Polyester liner, I use an electric jacket or vest underneath. The Helite jacket has somewhat less ventilation than many other textile jackets, since there’s no place for chest vents. This may see some riders to consider this a three-season jacket.

Helite has been offering an growing line of jackets and vests. My Adventure Jacket continues to serve me well after more than 50,000 miles of travel in all sorts of conditions. For safety and comfort, it has become my go-to jacket.

If you’re ever lying on the ground in Mexico wondering what just happened, you might just be really glad you were wearing one.

Pros

  • Airbags offer substantial additional protection in a crash.
  • No special tools or technical knowledge required to install or operate. No electronic sensors or batteries to change. It’s simple and elegant.
  • Even without the airbag, it is a first-rate motorcycle jacket with many of the features and protective qualities offered by today’s top manufacturers.
  • Excellent value proposition, particularly if purchased at a show or rally; Helite frequently offers discounts and deals at shows.
Cons
  • Additional CO2 cartridges can be difficult to source while on the road. Carry a spare.
  • The jackets tend to run small. Buy a size or two larger than you normally wear.
  • Check with the airline before traveling with a CO2 cartridge.
  • After three years of use, there is some fraying on the jacket where the clip rubs against it.

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Member Tested: Helinox cot and One chair

Posted By Wendy Naessens #211985, Sunday, December 15, 2019

Picture this: you are at your very first rally, it’s 90 degrees at 11:00 p.m. with no break in the heat expected. So, you find respite in an air-conditioned beer hall with a few cool beverages and some great conversation. Later, you make your way to your home for the night, and by the time you zip open that tent you realize you’re drenched in sweat. Too tired to care, you splay your body across a plastic twin size air mattress as the temperature rises an additional ten degrees because plastic doesn’t breathe, no matter what they tell you. Then you toss and turn all night only to wake up lying flat on the rock-hard ground because that cheap air mattress deflated. Sadly, that was me at the 2018 “Experience the Journey” rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

Fast forward one month shy of a year later to the 2019 “Scoot Boot’n Booogie” rally in Lebanon, Tennessee. That first night was downright chilly! Great weather for sleeping, and I had all the confidence in the world that my brand new twin air mattress would do a great job. Unfortunately, that confidence was misplaced, as I woke once again flat on the ground. These unfortunate experiences have pushed me to search for the perfect sleeping solution for all my moto-camping needs.

After doing a little googling and a lot of talking to folks in person, I got a lot of positive feedback on the Helinox cot and chair, so I thought I’d give them a try.

I’ll start with the Helinox One Chair. The super light chair weighs an ounce over a pound yet can hold up to 260 lbs. and folds to a compact 4x 4x14 inch package which fits into the included stuff sack. I honestly couldn’t believe how light it was and how small it was when packed down. It was easy to set up in under a minute and was comfortable as well. Getting it back into the stuff sack was just as easy as taking it out, an impressive fact in and of itself!

The only downside I found was that it does sit a little lower than some of the other, similarly styled, folding chairs. If that’s not an issue for you, then I highly recommend the Helinox One Chair.

The Helinox Lite Cot weighs less than three pounds and packs down into a tight cylinder measuring 5 x 21 inches. Assembled, it measures 23.5 inches wide x 73 inches long while sitting five inches off the ground.

To assemble the cot, you first insert the long side rails, then flex and bend the legs one at a time. Not an easy thing to manage at first. The trick is to place one end of the cross bar on the ground and push down from the other end until it flexes enough to pop into place. You’ll only pinch your thumb once, trust me. Oh, and a Pro-tip: save all of the rubber bands. They will help keep the legs together when you put everything back into the stuff sack.

I happen to be about 5’10” and somewhere around 150 lbs., and I found the cot to be plenty long for me. I felt totally secure on the cot and experienced no wobbing or sagging. Comfort-wise, I’d say it’s about as comfortable as a cot can be and was like sleeping on a firm-style mattress. It would be super comfortable if you’re a back or stomach sleeper, but unfortunately, I’m a side sleeper. I think I’ll pick up one of those small pack air pads to throw on top next time camping.

Overall, I was really impressed with how strong all of the materials are, but at the same time so amazingly light. It’s a very high tech and well thought out design.

Helinox really corners the market in light weight, small but mighty camping gear. The products I’ve experienced feel durable and well made. While not always the lowest price, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and after a couple nights on a Helinox cot, it’ll easily pay for itself many times over. For more information, visit helinox.com.

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BMW’s TFT Integrated GPS vs Garmin’s Navigator VI

Posted By Jared Vaughn #216233, Friday, November 15, 2019

The irony of being confused as to which GPS technology best suits my daily needs is not lost on me, even with my mindset being that of a functionally-focused engineer. The fact that there are so many different options available in the marketplace today for two-wheel-focused navigators is overwhelming, so much so that I have avoided the discussion until now.

The cost of the various commercially available options is enough to make one wonder whether the prospect of getting lost would be that bad after all. That’s why I jumped at the chance to compare the navigation system of the BMW TFT display integrated with a connected smartphone app against the tried and true Garmin Navigator VI unit so many riders have come to know and trust. When a fellow rider let me borrow his Garmin unit, this became my opportunity to “test drive” the renowned Nav VI unit against the “free” (trust me…it wasn’t free) system integrated into the TFT on my 2018 BMW R 1200 GSA without having to dish out a cool $995 for a new Nav VI unit.

Most of my review is focused on the integrated GPS solution that comes as part of the new BMW TFT screen/interface working in tandem with the BMW Connected app on the cellphone that you likely already spent $1,000 on. The reason for this is that most of the riders reading this magazine have likely seen or interacted with the BMW-influenced Garmin Navigator at some point or another, but many have yet to see or interact with the new TFT screen that is becoming the way forward on many of BMW’s newest two-wheeled offerings. My hope with this comparison was to determine whether or not the Garmin Navigator unit really still has a place in the market along with the new integrated TFT technology, or if they were simply two tools meant for different jobs with some overlapping functionality (think of using your crescent wrench as a hammer in a pinch—don’t lie, we’ve all done it).

In the end, I think I was able to make heads or tails preferences, but you will have to be the judge for yourself.

The New Kid on the Block

While most people are naturally averse to change, we are all familiar with the old saying, “The only thing that remains constant is change.” Such is the way especially with these new gadgets coming out at an ever-increasing speed, many of which we may not need as we already have something that fits that bill.

BMW took this fact and built on it with their new integrated TFT display. BMW looked at what most people already have and how they can leverage it to meet their two-wheeled navigation needs, which is where the roughly $1,000 smartphone comes in.

The foundation of the TFT-integrated GPS navigation system on new BMW motorcycles is built on the premise that your cell phone (running the BMW Motorrad Connected app) serves as the standard “sat nav” that determines the best route based on your input preferences and then simply uses the TFT screen on the bike as a visual interface (or an “HMI” for you tech types…Human Machine Interface).

To be honest, it’s kind of ingenious; why should one have to pay another $1,000 for a device that he or she already has and carries most everywhere? The best parts of the integration to the bike are the factory Wonder Wheel and Bluetooth audio allow a rider to manipulate the navigation on the fly by adjusting settings such as winding road preference, destinations, etc., all while receiving audible prompts via a Bluetooth headset when the next turn is coming up. You are probably wondering what is so novel about this, and you are right, nothing at all; however, this is one of the first integrations of such a system built directly into the bike rather than being purchased as an accessory such as the famous Garmin Navigator.

Overall, the functionality that the integrated TFT navigation provides is relatively basic with a few BMW touches added in here and there. The BMW Motorrad Connected app essentially allows you to do point-to-point navigation one destination at a time while also allowing you to manipulate the route preferences with details such as the frequency of winding or gravel roads (as most GS riders would prefer) along with the usual preferences such as avoiding tolls, highways, etc. Most of these preferences are accessible from both the app on the phone while stationary or via the bike TFT while on the road. As I mentioned, there is nothing mind blowing about what the system can do, but there is something to be said about simplicity (KISS). Simultaneous operation of the TFT navigation screen and the user’s phone (mounted in a cradle) allows for one to see the visual written instruction for navigation on the TFT, while seeing a visual 3D map representation on the user’s phone for indication of upcoming curves, turns, etc.

While I have by no means exhausted the functionality of the integrated/connected navigation functionality of the TFT navigation system alongside of your existing smart phone, this outline gives you a sense of the simplistic nature of the system. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that I think this system has a long road ahead of it in terms of working out all of the small bugs; it really could integrate some more functionality, such as an on screen map to eliminate the need for a phone to be mounted in a cradle. One must be prepared to work through the development bugs along with BMW as time goes on. New software updates for the TFT display are produced often, and the BMW Motorrad Connected app has even been updated a few times, each time becoming a little more user-friendly and seamless to use.

To sum it up, I am a list person. Everything is easier to compare in a list, which is why I have outlined a few of the major pros and cons of the system as I have experienced it in my daily use of the integrated TFT navigation system:

BMW TFT with the BMW Connected app

  • Pros
    • Free, Free, Free! (Did I mention it is free?)
    • Integrated display (Less clutter)
    • Voice prompts through the bike (need Bluetooth headset to work as designed, which can be a challenge)
    • Quick on-the-fly destination changes
    • “Winding” road feature and other custom avoidances
  • Cons
    • Requires smartphone (yes, it needs to be fully charged) and the BMW Motorrad Connected app
    • Requires a little tech savviness to get everything to play well together
    • Not an in-depth technical navigator
    • TFT doesn’t display a live map (But your phone can simultaneously)
    • Cellular signal needed or pre-downloaded maps required when “off the grid” (not a big deal with today’s phone storage)

The Old Faithful

Now that I have briefly outlined the benefits and functionality of the new integrated TFT navigation system and BMW Motorrad Connected app, we can discuss the solution that many riders have come to know and trust: the widely accepted and wildly powerful BMW Navigator VI (Powered by Garmin). To be 100 percent honest, I really didn’t understand what all the hype was about when I read about the BMW Navigator VI online or when I saw it at the dealership. It is a small “sat nav” device that looks a lot like the other numerous devices on the market and is one of the most expensive options to boot. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong when I decided to judge this book by its unsuspecting cover, so to speak.

The first thing one notices about the BMW Navigator VI is not the sleek look, or the newly updated screen, but rather the significant “price of admission” to pick one up new from your local dealership. At roughly $1,000, this unit requires a significant investment that may be better spent by filling your tank on your bike quite a few times and just taking “The Long Way Round” for the sake of adventure (that is the point after all). However, it doesn’t take one long when flipping through the menus to realize that this device has been tailored to the needs of all types of BMW riders, from those completing cross-country road tours to the more adventurous souls conquering Backcountry Discovery Routes using GPX files they obtained from a friend. You name it, this GPS can likely do it.

Much like the integrated TFT system, the BMW Navigator VI is set up to be operated through the Wonder Wheel of the bike, assuming one has the navigation preparation package to provide the cradle and cabling required, but it can also be manipulated through the touch screen of the device (glove friendly). Using this link between the bike and the unit, the display is capable of providing the rider with the obvious navigational information associated with a stand-alone GPS, but also other information relevant to the bike’s performance such as trip details, engine parameters, tire pressures, etc. However, my focus was mostly on the navigational function and how it compared to the capability of the integrated solution.

The primary difference between the BMW Navigation VI and the TFT-integrated GPS navigation system is the ability to preplan a large trip with multiple waypoints and details worked out ahead of time. Ultimately, the functionality of the integrated TFT solution is limited to point-to-point navigation, which is great for the drive home or from point A to B and back. However, if one wants to hit multiple waypoints, you either need to load them in to the history of the connected smartphone app to pull them up through the TFT interface while riding or simply enter them when you get to each waypoint and have a moment to stop and make the changes (assuming you have cell signal or pre-downloaded the maps).

In contrast, the BMW Navigator VI allowed me to develop complex maps of where I wanted to go with all sorts of preferences and details built in, either from the interface of the device or through the tool some have come to love or hate known as Garmin Basecamp (not discussed here). This kind of functionality truly speaks to a large volume of BMW riders who either need the complex detail of a backwoods trail outlined ahead of time or for those folks traveling cross country who want to pre-plan their route. This outline of the BMW Navigator VI capabilities certainly does not do it justice, but the point here was to complete a high-level comparison to really determine if one of these two solutions fits better than the other for most users.

Of course, there are about 100 (give or take depending on who you ask) other amazing features that the BMW Navigator VI has, but you will just have to go purchase one yourself or borrow a friend’s to figure out what those are. That being said, the BMW Navigator VI does have a lot of the same features as the integrated TFT solution such as audio (assuming you pair a Bluetooth headset to it) and visual turn by turn instructions, as well as an onslaught of other useful information such as upcoming roads, etc.

Hands down, this solution can do everything the integrated TFT solution can without even breaking a sweat, but the question that remains to be answered is whether or not that functionality is something you truly need, which is what I am ultimately after. To follow suit with before, I came up with a short list of items that I found to be worthy of notice:

BMW Navigator VI

  • Pros
    • One of the most feature-rich GPS units on the market for motorcycle riders, specifically designed for BMW owners
    • Vivid display with multiple map preview options
    • Ease of pre-trip planning off the bike
    • In-depth technical navigator with loads of fun route generators for winding roads and off-road adventures
    • Voice prompts
    • Preloaded maps that do not require a cell signal to operate
    • Live traffic integration
  • Cons
    • Definitely not free! ($995-$1,000)
    • Requires additional navigation preparation package
    • Something else to carry and care for
    • A shiny object that looks expensive and attractive to thieves
    • Steep learning curve

My $0.02

Overall, I think BMW has done a great job with both options. At first, I was struggling to see a place for both of these solutions to coexist in the market without one driving the other to extinction, but I think BMW has differentiated them enough to maintain their usefulness while sharing some of the neat features they have developed specifically for motorcycle riders. While both units will get you from point A to B, how you want to complete that goal determines which solution may fit you best.

Given that most of my riding is point A to B, I can stomach preloading destinations into the history of the free BMW Motorrad Connected app on my phone ahead of a trip which allows me to easily select them later through the TFT using the Wonder Wheel as opposed to spending a cool $1,000 on the BMW Navigator VI. For me, the price tag is just a little too significant for the number of times I would use its full functionality, but that doesn’t mean that is the case for everyone.

As with opinions about motor oil, tire pressure, and paint colors, your mileage may vary. That being said, if the price was right, I would not hesitate to add the very power BMW Navigator VI to my bike to aid in my riding adventures.

Whatever your choice, you cannot make a bad decision with either of these two fantastic technologies.

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Café Racer Collection by SHAD

Posted By Jean Excell #112063, Monday, October 14, 2019

I am always looking for different options to carry my gear for moto camping and commuting on my 2018 R nineT Urban G/S, so when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing the SHAD Café Racer Luggage system for the R nineT, the gear geek in me was happy to give it a go.

The SHAD SR28 Rear Tail Bag has a capacity of 27 liters and includes a waterproof rain cover, a TSA Security Lock, three inner pockets for organization, and a shoulder strap to carry the bag off the bike. The outer material is a Synthetic Leather and 1000D Polyester.

The Tail Bag was a breeze to install using the SHAD Quick Mounting System. I opted to attach the four harness points to the screws under the seat, but you can also use the Velcro® strap version which simply wraps around the rear subframe. The Tail Bag then slips onto the straps using four Trimmer® aluminum ionized clips which provide a very secure mount.

The SHAD SR18 Tank Bag has a capacity of 8L and includes a tank base for easy access to the gas tank, a waterproof rain cover, and a lockable and glove-friendly zipper. I secured the bag tank base in place using quick clips that attach to the frame of the bike. The outer material is also the Synthetic Leather and 1000D Polyester. There is an inner mesh pocket for electronics and a large padded handle for transport off the bike. There is also an optional tablet holder that can be added on top.

The SHAD SR38 Saddle Bag has a capacity of 10L and attaches using the SR18 Saddle Bag Holder fitting kit, which attaches using three screws to the bottom side of the seat pan. This installation proved to be a bit more difficult, as the fitting kit bracket did not work with my Rizoma Rear Rack. The rack would have had to be removed to attach the fitting kit and since this would have involved removing the tail lights to get the rack back off, I opted to leave my rack on. The bag is only available for the right side, as the exhaust on the left side prevents having a matching set, but this would provide for an additional 10L of storage. The bag also locks to the frame and has a roll down top closure.

In order to give the system a full review, I used it for nearly a month of commuting, weekend day rides and trips to the grocery store. I have to say the system as a whole worked very well and provided ample storage for the trips that I took. I was most impressed with being able to put my helmet in the rear tail bag, as I like to be able to store my helmet on the bike, and with the locking tail bag this was quick and easy. Though the tail bag itself does not lock to the bike, at least the helmet is out of sight. I was also able to commute and keep my laptop and office gear secure in the tail bag.

Would these bags be able to accommodate a full weekend of moto camping gear including a tent, sleeping bag and Kermit chair? No, but that is not what they are intended for. I was lucky enough not to hit any rain, so I cannot attest to the performance of the rainproof covers, but they were made of quality materials that should stand up to the elements.

The styling of the bags in my option would be better matched to the R nineT Scrambler with its brown leather seat, but I did get many compliments on the overall appearance of the bags.

Overall, for the quality, functionality, style and price point of these bag, I give the system a thumbs up!

MSRP for the gear is $199.99 for the SR28 Rear Tail Bag, $99.99 for the SR18 Tank Bag, $126.99 for the SR38 Saddle Bag, and $117.99 for the SR18 Saddle Bag holder. For more information, visit your local dealer or SHADUSA.COM.

Tags:  Gear  Luggage  MemberTested  rninet 

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Trilobite Ace jacket

Posted By Justin Marquardt #219185, Saturday, August 31, 2019

When I first saw the Trilobite Ace jacket at the MOA Getaway at Fontana Dam this spring, I realized this wasn’t traditional cotton denim. Stiffer than denim, it was more like a technical, textile-based riding jacket. The cut and style of the Ace jacket are like a modern textile sport riding jacket as well, and it fit me like a glove, though just a little tight in the arms.

The jacket features a pair of zippered chest pockets as well as two zippered hand-warmer pockets. Inside the main zipper are interior pockets on each side with metal YKK zippers. These pockets are likely waterproof or at least very resistant, considering their placement, and during a ride through a light rain the contents of the pockets remained dry. The jacket's collar features a soft, microfiber lining and uses a single metal snap to close. I found the snap requires a deliberate action to release.

The long arms of the jacket feature zippered cuffs and a two-position adjustor that snaps for closure, allowing a rider to wear gloves inside or outside the sleeves. The jacket's branding is somewhat subdued, with only a small metal “Trilobite” text logo above the left chest pocket, while at the rear above the waist is a larger, embroidered version of the same text. Between the shoulder blades is a Trilobite graphic. The jacket's shell is made from a tough polyester fabric treated for water resistance. Additionally, there is a TriTex ® waterproof but breathable membrane for serious protection from the rain.

I found when reaching for the grips on my Yamaha R1, the extra sleeve is perfectly taken up by the riding position, and stretch panels behind the shoulders and on the hips make the reach comfortable.

A denim jacket isn’t usually what one reaches for when it is chilly or wet outside, but that is exactly where this jacket shines. One of my first rides with the jacket was on a cool morning ride on the Dragon. It turned out that I never got chilled. Between the polyester shell, liner and TriTex waterproof membrane, very little wind passed through the jacket to my torso and arms. Later that afternoon with the temps starting to climb, the jacket began to get a little stuffy. While not a summer jacket, I believe the temperature range of the Trilobite Ace jacket is suitable for mild weather, but on hotter days I’ll likely reach for a mesh jacket.

The jacket is constructed of a water resistant, polyester denim material with impact zones including the back, shoulders and elbows lined with Dupont Kevlar® aramid fibers. Trilobite includes their own brand of CE Level 2 armor in the shoulders and elbows, which are inserts consisting of three foam layers of differing density. While no back protector is included, a pocket for one is there. For visibility, the Ace jacket has a little secret that I didn’t notice until my riding partner told me he noticed the 3M reflective stitching along the upper back and arms. While not “blinding,” it is certainly better than nothing. This is something most denim riding jackets don’t offer.

A couple of interesting features of the jacket include what looks like a buttonhole with a strap beneath it on the right chest. After a little research, I found this is for holding your glasses. The idea is that a rider slips one temple arm of their glasses into the buttonhole and then the glasses are safely held against the chest under the strap. Additionally, the Ace jacket has a small LED flashlight tucked into a little rubber covered "garage" at the lower left front of the jacket. The small light is activated with a simple squeeze and is perfect for any situation where a little more light might be needed. The small light is attached to the jacket via a 20-inch auto-retracting tether so it can't be lost.

Overall, I would highly recommend this jacket not only for mild weather riding, but as a casual jacket when the armor is removed. MSRP of the Trilobite Ace jacket is $319 and is available in sizes S - XXL. For more information, visit motonation.com. Pros:

  • Good looking with good protection.
  • Water proof with liners
  • Quality construction with interesting features including glasses holder and flashlight
Cons:
  • Lack of venting can make the jacket warm on hot days
  • Runs one size small

Tags:  Gear  jacket  trilobite 

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RKA's 18-liter Starr II seat bag

Posted By Justin Marquardt #219185, Friday, August 2, 2019

Relatively low in cost, rear seat bags can be pretty handy for storing a lot of gear without the need of special mounting racks, and there are many different quality brands and styles to choose from. The main problem with them is often their mounting systems.

For example, the SW Motech bag uses friction clips to hold the straps. Other systems can be downright ridiculous, and most require looping various accessory straps around the rear of the bike and using clips or hooks to hold the bag in place. On some seat bags, the built-in strapping system is so lame you’ll need another solution - like ROK straps - to hold the bag on the bike.

RKA came up with an ingenious solution with something they call "The Pad," which eliminates all that bother, and does so with style. The Pad is a flat base with built-in straps and square D-rings at each corner. Center The Pad on the back of the seat, then connect the straps under the seat using the hook-and-loop straps to secure tightly. You may end up with some extra strap length at the rear if the seat tapers towards the back. I suppose you can cut it shorter if it really bothers you, but simply lay it flat on top of The Pad before mounting the Starr II bag. Next, slide the straps built into the bag through the D-rings on the outside corners of The Pad. Pull the straps tight and secure them on the sides of the seat bag using the hook-and-loop on the straps. The seat bag is now secure.

The RKA mounting system for the rear seat bag is simple, easy to use and has a low profile, without the use of any additional hooks, bungees or straps. It’s also very secure. It’s more secure than using auxiliary straps and much better than bungees. (You don’t really use bungee cords, do you?)

The Starr II seat bag is expandable and has two compartments. It measures about 12 inches long by eight inches wide by six inches tall, which yields approximately 9.5 liters capacity, but undoing the top zipper expands the upper compartment another five and a half inches upward for an additional 8.5 liters capacity, giving you 18 liters of storage space.

Under the lid is a separate, translucent pocket for papers or maps, along with loops for a pencil, penlight flashlight, tire pressure gauge, etc. There is also a plastic key ring holder, perfect if you have a fob. The Starr II bag also has a big rubbery carrying handle and a shoulder strap that connects to the two D-rings on either side of the carrying handle.

The Starr II bag is easy to remove. Simply unfasten the four hook-and-loop straps, grab the bag and carry it away. I am impressed with the Starr II seat bag and believe The Pad mounting system is a work of genius. There’s nothing I can really think of I’d change, except maybe adding a padded cushion for the shoulder strap.

The 600-Denier outer shell of the RKA Star II Seat Bag is offered in standard black with silver non-reflective piping. Bag stiffener material is 9.5mm foam "combined onto a 200-denier coated nylon for the inside lining." The bag is nearly waterproof (is any textile truly waterproof?), but waterproof vinyl covers are also available as an option.

All of the RKA bags come with a limited lifetime warranty which includes zipper replacement. There’s also a 30-day return policy for unused luggage. For more information, visit rka-luggage.com.

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Omega 600 upgrade for Airheads

Posted By Joseph Pallaria #33417, Friday, July 5, 2019

My 1977 R l00 S has run great for 40 years. Performance has improved from over 30 modifications I’ve made over its 30,000 original miles. Despite BMW's excellent track record for reliability, it has but one major weakness: the electrical system. The original system cranked out about 240 watts of power and often needed the engine churning at 4,000 rpm to keep both the electrics working and charging the battery at the same time. Unfortunately, that often left me with a choice of running the headlight and having freezing hands or running just the parking light and turning on the heated grips.

The Omega 600 ends the years of making that choice; it is essentially a complete charging system minus the battery. The system is a bolt-on modification and includes a rotor, stator, rectifier (diode board), solid diode mounting bolts, solid state voltage regulator, alternator, brushes and all the wiring. It's a fantastic upgrade because it resolves problems that come with running several electrical components at once and does so at just 2,000 rpm. The Omega 600 also represents a drastic improvement over the stock 240-watt unit by boosting electrical output to 600 watts! The state-of-art replacement parts are made of heavy duty, high-quality materials and encompass today's advanced technology in bulletproof electrical components.

The kit went in last spring and received its testing over the summer. The system presented exceptional reliability throughout the summer and once running, the Omega 600 seemed to also give the old bike new life. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it seemed to run smoother and respond quicker than before. The Beemer performed flawlessly over a 1,600-mile testing period and left me pleased with the upgrade as summer sadly faded into fall.

Besides keeping the battery charged at much lower rpm, there was more than enough electrical power to operate the headlight, heated grips and even an electric vest for my thin-skinned riding partner’s needing extra warmth!

The Omega 600 kit is not cheap at $595, but the high quality of the parts and proven functional excellence seems to justify the cost, and Rick Jones, the owner of Motorrad Elektrik, was helpful with installation tips along the way.

The kit comes with a threaded bolt that screws into the center of the alternator and releases the “pressed fit” of the old alternator, allowing it to easily be removed from the engine. Obviously, you’ll have to cut the three wires leading to the stator. Once the alternator is out of the machine with the stator and alternator cap removed, the cap is sent to Motorrad Elektrik where Rick solders the three stator wires of the new alternator to the cap. He then sends that along with the rest of the kit for the bolt-in modification. Rick recommends different modifications for different generations of Airheads, so be sure to contact him to find out what your specific Slash 5 or 6 may need. Regardless, it’s an excellent upgrade with high quality parts!

Running the Omega 600 turned out to be a straightforward project even with the advanced planning of getting the original cap soldered to the new stator. This is a great upgrade for 1977-95 airheads needing more electrical power to drive all the accessories and electrical goodies available today. This upgrade may even have me add driving lights before the next riding season!

(PS Don't forget to check out Airheaded, the MOA blog dedicated to air-cooled BMW motorcycles!)

Tags:  airhead  Airheaded  electrical  MemberTested  upgrade 

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Shoei GT-Air II: The next-generation sport-touring helmet

Posted By Julia LaPalme #202446, Thursday, May 30, 2019

Everyone has their favorite go-to helmet for commuting or long-distance riding, that helmet that fits like a glove and becomes a part of your riding routine. What we want from an everyday helmet is a light weight, comfortable fit, and good airflow while minimizing wind noise, all while protecting our precious noggins. Shoei claims to tick all those boxes with their new GT-Air II sport touring helmet, an updated version of the first GT Air released in 2013. After listening to feedback from riders over the years, Shoei aimed to improve an already well-loved helmet, from ventilation and aerodynamics to their drop-down tinted visor while also incorporating a streamlined integrated Sena communication system. I spent a couple weeks with this new helmet to test out all the features.

The first thing I noticed about the GT-Air II is how narrow the chin porthole is when pulling the helmet onto my head. This is designed to help minimize wind noise by reducing how much air can get into the helmet from the bottom. The helmet felt pretty snug at first, with the interior foam closely cupping my jawline. I half expected to get a headache from the close fit, but after 5 or 10 minutes, the helmet simply remained snug and comfortable. Fastening the new mini-ratchet chin strap was fairly easy, and the clip feels like it grips the metal ratchet strap firmly. Shoei has done extensive testing on their patented version of this convenient chin strap design, and their tests showed it is just as secure as a double D-ring chin strap in an accident. The major benefit of the ratchet style is how much faster I can get in and out of the helmet compared with a double D-ring style. My only gripe about Shoei’s ratchet strap is if you rest your helmet on your tank, you have to be careful about not scratching your tank paint with that metal ratchet piece, something to keep an eye out for. The other downside to a ratchet style strap is you can’t use it with an under-seat helmet lock.

During the presentation for the new GT-Air II, the folks from Shoei put a lot of emphasis on how much wind tunnel testing had been done, not just for aerodynamics, but also for ventilation. The GT-Air II has three intake vents and five exhaust vents, which was evident with the amount of airflow I could feel when riding at speeds above 40 mph. The top vent was easier to open and close with gloves on than the chin vent, but both provided ample airflow. With the vents closed, there was still a fair amount of ventilation; for better or worse, Shoei focused a lot of attention on drawing warm air away from the rider’s head. This is great in hot and steamy climates, but I wonder how it would feel in significantly colder weather. A balaclava may be necessary to trap in heat if that’s your goal.

As for aerodynamics, the GT-Air II does a great job directing wind over and around the helmet at high speeds. I tested this helmet while riding a naked cafe racer, as well as a fully faired sport bike. While the GT Air was getting the full force of wind speed and turbulence on surface roads and freeways aboard the cafe racer, there was very little upward pull from high-speed wind force, meaning my neck wasn't sore after a solid hour of riding. It also helps that the helmet feels very lightweight. Shoei’s aerodynamic styling, including an integrated spoiler at the back and beefed up visor seals, helps the GT-Air II transfer a minimal amount of wind noise.

One of the most convenient features of the GT-Air II (and its predecessor) is the drop-down tinted visor. Whether you embrace the full rebel X-Wing pilot aesthetic (nerd alert) or not, you can’t deny the convenience of not having to carry a separate visor to swap out for day or night riding, trying to fit a pair of sunglasses inside your helmet, or shelling out an extra $150 to $200 for a Transitions® lens. Once I became familiar with the placement of the lever, the tinted visor was easy enough to operate with my gloves on while riding. Shoei even increased the coverage of the drop down visor an extra 5mm, almost completely closing the light gap between the drop-down visor and the chin bar.

The absolute standout feature of the new GT-Air II is the ability to integrate with the SENA SRL2, which was designed specifically for this helmet and provides all the convenient features of an intercom system without a bulky unit clipped to the outside of the helmet. The SRL2 fits into a cutout in the GT-Air II's helmet shell, which keeps the helmet shape more streamlined. Aside from benefiting the aerodynamics, there are some arguments that the SRL2’s nearly seamless integration is safer in the event of an impact than a standard exterior clip-on communicator. Thankfully I have not personally tested that theory in a crash, but I certainly appreciate having less bulk on the outside of my helmet for the wind to grab at during freeway riding. The SRL2 only took about 10 minutes to install, and its 20S-based system is just as easy to use as any other late generation Sena.

The GT-Air II is available in a total of 18 different color and graphics options, including three different graphics, each with a variety of colors, and seven solid colors. The solid-colored design will set you back $599, while the graphics design goes for $699. The SENA SRL2 is an additional $299. With the communication system installed, you’re looking at close to a $1,000 helmet. It’s a pretty penny, but you’ll end up with a comfortable, light and quiet helmet with the convenience of an integrated communication system. And if you're a daily rider, that kind of investment can be a lifesaver.

Tags:  helmet  Shoei 

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ContiTrail Attack 3 tires

Posted By Mark Hearon #209373, Thursday, May 2, 2019

There’s no way I can completely describe the experience I’ve had testing the ContiTrail Attack 3 tire as I rode the most challenging, potentially dangerous and outright rewarding ride of my moto life thus far.

On the island of Crete, our test group dodged rockfall, Wile E. Coyote-style boulders, running water, standing water, silt and mud, and a few goats, while we endured virtually non-stop rainfall and fought high winds on narrow mountain switchbacks (many without guard rails). In short, the perfect environment to test a tire! Needless to say, the storms didn’t allow the Cretan roads to show at their best. I don’t want to spoil things before I get too far into it, but let’s just say I’m impressed.

Continental knows they scored big with their ContiRoad Attack 3 tire launched a couple of years ago. For me, it was such a compelling offering that after riding with a set for a few months and a subsequent review in the BMW Owners News, I’ve wanted nothing else on my R 1200 RS. It seems a lot of other folks felt similarly, and following their success, Continental naturally wanted to incorporate the best elements of their ContiRoad Attack 3 tire into successive generations of products.

The ContiTrail Attack 3 is a 90/10, road-biased tire with the heart and soul of the Road Attack 3. Positioned on the road side of their off-road/enduro line and aimed at the adventure rider whose ambitions lie squarely on tarmac, it’s the newest offering to be situated on the conservative side of the TKC 70 (and by extension the furthest thing from a TKC 80 imaginable).

Setting the ContiTrail Attack 3 apart from its predecessor, the new tire boasts two additional core technologies from Continental’s repertoire of awesomeness, “Performance Over Time” and “EasyHandling”—both of which I admittedly have difficulty qualifying as technological in nature. Rather than thinking of these as innovations, perhaps it may be slightly more accurate to describe them as key attributes.

Regardless, “Performance Over Time” is an attribute migrated from the ContiRoad Attack 3 that focuses on tire wear reduction. Through a combination of compounds, tire baking techniques and the general absence of siping on the center tread of the tire, overall wear is reduced, allowing for better mileage. Honestly, if you read the marketing material on the Continental website, they’ll tell you up front that this is a function of their “MultiGrip” technology. In my opinion, it’s just another way of saying your next Motourlaub (motorcycle vacation) can be as long as you want.

As for “EasyHandling,” this means the tire will continue to show its “Continental-ness” throughout the tire’s lifecycle. When I reviewed the ContiRoad Attack 3 tires some time back, I was struck by how progressive and linear the tire handled, especially while transitioning in and out of corners along twisty roads. This feeling of confidence is what allowed me to ride my R 1200 RS more like a sport bike and less like a touring bike.

Rounding out the technological suite of distinguishing factors of the ContiTrail Attack 3 tire are RainGrip, MultiGrip, ZeroDegree construction, and TractionSkin. For full details about these techno bits, hop on over to continental-tires.com/motorcycle and click the Technology tab.

So what about that inexplicable experience I mentioned? As promised, read on.

These tires were brand-new production models and not yet broken in. During the launch, I rode a brand new bike in a new environment full of the aforementioned hazards and obstacles, all of which usually offer a recipe for bad things to happen and enough acute pucker syndrome to produce a small fortune in diamonds. Not only did nothing bad happen, I was no richer at the end of the day—alas.

Wet roads couldn’t keep me from enjoying myself because Continental’s RainGrip technology kept me glued me to the pavement all day long. The new tire carcasses were no obstacle to riding normally from the get-go as TractionSkin made typical break-in procedures unnecessary. Changing road surfaces (even while at lean) couldn’t steal my school-boy grin because MultiGrip had my back through thick and thin.

Even when the tire gave something up to the muddy slop we occasionally had to ride, this road-focused tire gave me the impression it was meant for handling such conditions. Our test group motojournalists conquered hills on these tires with G 1250 GSs, Africa Twins, Multistradas, and even S 1000 XRs, bounding over things we probably shouldn’t have taken on without something short of a TKC 70.

Despite our German hosts insisting they requested the horrible weather to allow us to test the ContiTrail Attack 3s in less-than-ideal conditions, we all tacitly desired the sunny paradise these launch events aim to be. I think it’s fair to say nobody wants to see a product fail to impress because of factors that are out of everyone’s control. Still, at the end of the day, everyone was impressed with this tire.

After lunch on the last day of testing, a third of our group chose to return to our hotel due to the deteriorating conditions while the remainder decided to push on into the mountains for another photo opportunity in the snow. While I wanted to be a part of the second group, I was advised to return because my pace wouldn’t be on par with the others. I resisted at first, but ultimately relented. I had no desire to find myself in a foreign hospital.

Safe at the hotel, I was nevertheless dejected the riding day was over. Forget the weather, the road conditions, the damp nether regions and sopping wet helmet liner—I wanted more. And not only did I want more, I was confident the ContiTrail Attack 3 had it in the bag.

You can ride a bike considered among the best in the world. You can possess all the skills humanly possible, and you can have all the best tech to boot; however, if you can’t trust the connection between you and the ground, your adventure is dead on arrival.

Back at the hotel, our Continental hosts were delighted to hear I volunteered to ride again. While answering their questions about the ContiTrail Attack 3 tire, it became clear to me that this is where confidence can take you. This is what adventure consists of. This is what accomplishment feels like.

I’m excited and looking forward to mounting a set of ContiTrail Attack 3s on the new adventure bike sitting in my garage and remain hungry for more adventures.

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