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Gear Towing and Tools

Filtering by Category: Gear

Grid Insurance

Classic Velocity

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A generator is a comforting thing. It means that when the power grid does not exist, you can create your own. The solar suitcase from Renogy was the first level of insurance. It is free power, and reliable power as long as mother nature is cooperative. But therein lies the rub. The sun does not shine at night, nor when it is obscured by clouds or mountains. If you need power during those times, you need an alternative.

Getting to places that are off the grid is often a goal. Solar is portable, and the generator needed to be portable as well. Space is always at a premium. A chance encounter with a fellow gearhead revealed that he was selling a like-new portable generator in order to get a larger one. A great deal on an item I was not really looking for at the time. The unit is a Westinghouse WH2200iXLT. It has a 1 gallon gas tank and a run time of around 10 hours at 25% load. It started on the first pull and was surprisingly quiet. Turning on Eco Mode made it even more quiet.

The unit claims 1800W running, and it comes with dual 110v outlets, a 12v cigarette lighter outlet, and alarm lights for low oil and overload. a brief test handled 600W with ease and bumped it out of Eco mode. This will easily power everything in the Bus for a road trip that involves being off the grid. It is not light at 50lbs with fuel, and it is compact but not small. However, in the situations where it would be needed, it is well worth finding room.

RAM X Grip

Classic Velocity

Every now and then, a product lives up to its’ hype. In this case, a few friends had raced about the RAM X Grip after trying several others. I surrendered, keeping all the original packaging handy for a quick return. The product is interesting in that it allows for a swivel of 5-10 degrees in either direction. I thought that this might cause vibration and produce an unusable product. No such worries. The phone stayed in place even in gusty wind flow. 

Next the ultimate test; high speed on a naked bike. Passed again with flying colors. The rubber grips on the X are the perfect consistency to grip a phone, and the spring is strong enough to keep the phone in place at close to triple digits (closed course, professional rider, someone else’s phone;-). The rubber grips also provide decent vibration damping. The X Grip has been a fixture moving between vehicles and the fact that it is a RAM device means that applications are endless. 

Other means to attach your phone are emerging, but the RAM X Grip will be hard to top.  

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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.

 

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.