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Gear Towing and Tools

O'Neal MX Socks

Classic Velocity

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1000 miles in 17 hours in full length boots. This would be a good test for any pair of socks. My go to socks for a journey like this come from ---------. They had done their job on the first leg of this trip, and were now at the bottom of the luggage in a plastic bag. The MX socks were pulled from their new wrapper and put on before daylight. At first glance, they seemed too much like wool. The day was going to be mostly in the mid/upper 80s, and this could make for an uncomfortable day. The socks are long, and came halfway over the knee. They are thick enough to provide a nice cushion, and soft enough to feel good against the skin. 

The best accolade for these socks, is that after being inside Alpinestars boots for 1000 miles straight, they were never a thought. My feet remained dry despite a very warm day. They were never clammy or sweaty. At the start of the day it was in the 50s, and my feet were comfortable.  This is the mark of good underwear, which I consider socks to be. They draw no attention to themselves, and just work...

Plug Up Earphones

Classic Velocity

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The speakers associated with Bluetooth helmet systems are all inadequate in our humble opinion. Cardo, Sena, etc all lack enough volume to overcome highway level noise, and do not produce high quality audio for music. Plus, they can move around if not fully secured, and if you pop for a high quality set of speakers, they do not easily move between helmets. Lastly, if your Bluetooth system is not on, you still need ear protection. So earbuds should be the logical alternative right?

Go to any sizeable motorcycle rally, and you will find multiple vendors in this space offering everything from regular inexpensive earbuds to expensive custom molded solutions. If you have one of those ear canals that don't lend themselves to off the shelf earbuds, you get pointed toward the more speedy end of the spectrum. I have always been skeptical of the value proposition, but a friend went high end and suggested that I speak with the PlugUp folks. After being unhappy with all of the solutions attempted, I relented and sat in the booth for the molds to be made, paid the money, and then waited.

A few weeks later, my custom earbuds arrived. They come with their own compact carrying case along with a couple of clips to help manage the leads where they intersect with clothing. The right ear unit also has a red dot so that you can easily identify it, although custom figment means that left and right are not interchangeable. When first inserted, I was immediately struck by how much sound is blocked. You can hear an engine at higher revs, a horn, an ambulance, but most normal ambient sound is gone. Then, the quality of whatever is played is phenomenally better than regular earbuds much less helmet speakers. Music has the full spectrum and excellent stereophonic separation. Phone calls and speech are crystal clear. 

When plugged into the Sena 20S, they provide the best of both worlds. Bluetooth for phone, music, audiobooks, and PlugUp for sound quality. A year later, the units continue to perform as new. They are comfortable on a ten hour riding day, and their low profile is a big factor in that equation. The ear protection is great even if you don't pump any audio through them. Lastly, PlugUps now accompany me on any flight, as the same qualities that make them great on the bike, make them great on a plane. Highly recommended.

 

Bestem

Classic Velocity

Bestem is known for being good value, but not necessarily high quality.  Bestem manufactures a variety of products, but our experience has been limited to two product types. The first is the T-Box top case. We have use this product for over 10,000 miles including a cross country trip and significant commuting duty in all types of weather. While there is no argument that a box from a company like Givi is of thicker more durable material, the T-Box has worked well, has not had a failure of any kind even when overloaded, and has withstood significant mileage and vibration. The 39 L box holds two full face helmets as advertised, and in our case, has an additional brake light built in, which has been wired to two different bikes. 

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The second type of product is a luggage liner. We have recently purchased a pair of these for the R1200RT, with the thinking that these are not heavily used, and will help to keep things from falling out of the side-loading luggage. There is a large variety of solutions for this application, with well-known names, and prices which are orders of magnitude apart. Upon receipt, we were immediately impressed with the quality of the bags for the price. They are thick and hold their shape fairly well. They have quality zippers, straps, and even have a clear pocket for labeling.  They also appear to have a reflective strip for visibility, which seems a bit strange, but would make them useable even as throw-over soft luggage if needed. More over time, but these appear to be quality bags at bargain prices.

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Of Soft Luggage and Hard Choices

Classic Velocity

For 2+ years, we have been following the development and eventual launch of Mosko Moto products via their thread on ADVRIDER. The unique approach to "crowd design" the products, and the ADV orientation of the founders resulted in strong products from the beginning. However, they were pricey soft luggage and it was tough to justify when we had perfectly good hard panniers. Then the machine was sold with the luggage, and there was a conscious decision to evaluate all of the luggage options out there. There is a dizzying array.

So here is the criteria we used: 

  • Usable when travelling 2-Up. This knocked out a number of otherwise good options which used the passenger seat or rear leg/peg space. 
  • Waterproof. This lead to the sale of the Wolfman Monarchs and eliminated a few other options. 
  • Cost effective to use on more than one bike. This eliminated anything with expensive mounting solutions. 
  • Able to be secured for a short time away from the bike. Eg: lunch stop in town.
  • Portable. How easy is it to carry them 100 meters, or up a flight of stairs to a room? This is related to security. 
  • Capacity for a multi-week trip. This eliminated some dirt bike solutions. 
  • Reasonable cost. This eliminated solutions costing more than a used KLR. 
  • Easy on/off. This is subjective of course, but also related to security. 
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The end result was the Mosko Scout panniers. They checked all of the boxes, except for security.  After speaking with Pete from Mosko at a show, he convinced us that a cable lock solution would be a good compromise. He also mentioned that a locking clasp was in the works and might be retrofitted to the Scouts. Metal panniers had advantages besides security, including capacity, campfire stools, etc, and there were comparably priced solutions. In the end, it was not an easy choice. Soft luggage proponents touted avoiding injury in falls, lighter weight, airport carry-ones, etc. Hard luggage proponents touted security, repair ability, and proven around-the-world cred. The Moskos represented a good compromise. The deciding factors were the molle system for expanding capacity, and the ease of mounting on any machine with a rack. The removable inner bag was also a plus.

Usage so far has proven this to be a good choice. Only a few thousand miles (2786 to be exact), but they are certainly waterproof (in fact air tight), rugged, and easy on/off. they have been caked with muddy water, they have been on their side bearing the full weight of the BMW Sertao off road, and they have withstood general road grime. After all of this, a good rinsing with a hose has them looking almost as good as new. The carry handle works surprisingly well for transporting the bags off the bike. A molle fuel bottle and an additional general storage pouch have been added, proving how useful the expandable capability of these bags can be. 

Are they perfect? No, but the list of shortcomings is short. First, you have to be careful what you just throw into the bags. Sharp objects have the potential to damage the inner bag. They are thick, so it would take some doing, but it could happen. Second, it would've been nice to have some greater fore/aft or height adjustment with respect to mounting. The pucks dictate the angle relative to any rack and the height. Lastly, they are ridiculously easy to remove, which is both a plus, and a security concern if someone knows these bags. A lock or security system is certainly needed. That's it, on balance the benefits are many, and the challenges are few. The evidence of good design and a high standard of quality abounds on this luggage, and we expect them to hold up well over time.

 

Trailer Shoes

Classic Velocity

Lessons learned. When you get a flat on your trailer, don't settle for mismatched tire sizes. Any Mergen situations, you make do with what you can get. In this case, the trailer tire torn to shreds was replaced by a car tire with a lower profile. That is OK none emergency we are not going very far, but with hundreds of miles to get home, the imbalance simply shredded the other trailer tire to within an inch of its life. Now you need to trailer tires. And since the other two were fairly worn anyway, it just made sense to get four new trailer tires.

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Wolfman Monarch Pass

Classic Velocity

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We all have our favorite brands, and for what is now called "adventure" gear, Wolfman is one of ours. Long before the craze, Wolfman had, and we owned a great tank bag. They also had tank panniers, gender bags,  and other soft luggage. The Monarch Pass bags are no longer in the lineup, having been replaced by newer models but they are still out there if you search and they are representative of the smaller soft bags. This is a longterm review after a few years of ownership.

First, the things we would change. The protective pad on the back of the bags is great for protecting a finish, but the buckles on the crossover hook&bloop straps often fall right on paintwork, so we would add some kind of the same material on the back around the buckles. Speaking of that back pad, we would also add some thin heat shielding either outside or inside the bag.  You have to fiddle with universal straps, which are a pain when dirty and muddy. That's about it! These are all easily remedied, but there you go for niggles.

The plus column has many items. The picture is a current one of bags that are four years old and have about 12,000 miles. 60/40 road/off-road. The off-road includes trans-Labrador, a small section of the TAT, and several adv rallies. The on-road includes crossing the USA, MOA rallies, Death Valley, etc. They have been caked in mud, covered in dust, and washed by rainstorms. They have alternated between being stuffed to capacity (in fact, perhaps a bit beyond once or twice) and almost empty. They have served as a pillow for 3 different bikes that decided to take a "nap" in rocky or sandy areas ;-) The stitching and seams are all in tact, the handles and hook/loop are all still fully functional. Zippers work. Reflective piping reflects. In short, other than looking a little worn, they are in great shape. 

High Budget Lid

Classic Velocity

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In a bizarre twist of fate, the purchase of the Sertao came along with a pair of Alpinestars Tech3 boots in almost my size, and an Arai XD3 in almost my size. Both items are barely used. I discovered that the XD3 had thicker cheek pads available which essentially make it my size. $35 and I now have a high quality helmet with excellent fit. It is in flat black, which is not what I would choose, but this is free ! After some cleanup and an initial ride, I can appreciate the Arai features similar to my older quantum. The vents work well and the comfort is very good. I did need to get a replacement plastic screw for the left side as it had broken. I am not sure why Arai has chosen to make these plastic when the screw insert is metal. Now the choice is what helmet to wear ! 

Update:  

Following a 700 mile trip with this helmet to the GS Giants Rally, and the MOA rally, there is much more experience on and off road. Off-road, the eye port is wide and provides a good angle of view. The helmet is relatively light weight, and the liner is very comfortable for all day use. Airflow is adequate with all of the vents open, but could be better. It would probably improve on a true dirt bike with no windshield, but even the minimal windshield on the Sertao blocked much of what would get to the chin vent. Leaving the shield fully open was much better also, so it is probably best used with goggles and without the shield off-road. On road, the visor was surprisingly good at blocking the sun while not really impairing vision much at all. Lift was minimal  and buffeting was not bad unless behind a semi. Overall an impressive dual sport test.