I'm back. My truck lives to fight another day. MCN needs Bonneville riders. Piaggio/Vespa off free gas. Motorcycle Cop POV video. On Any Sunday gets a sequel.
Flip-up or modular helmets have become very popular with touring and sport touring riders due to the added protection of a chin bar combined with some of the conveniences of a ¾ helmet. Like anything else, modular helmets can be found at many different price points and with many different feature sets. For several years, companies like Shoei and Schuberth have been building a reputation for making the top-of-the-line modular helmets. New for the US in 2013, and taking aim at the high end of modular helmets, is the Lazer Monaco Carbon.
Lazer, a Belgian company, was started all the way back in 1919 and claims to be the oldest brand of sports helmets in the world. They started out making padded leather items for motorcyclists and it is clear by what arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago, they have come a long way.
To give a little of my personal history with modular helmets, I have owned a couple of HJC modular over the years. The reason I wore them instead of others was mainly due to a lack of selection where I was living and a fear of buying helmets online. Thanks to resources like Webbikeworld.com and retailers with easy exchange policies I am no longer worried so much about ordering online.
When I took the helmet out of the box the first thing that struck me was how light it really is. Lazer claims it weighs 1,350 grams, or 2.98 pounds, but they don’t specify what size helmet they used. According to Web Bike World a size large Monaco weighs in a 1,406 grams, or 3.1 pounds.
After marveling at the lightness I was then impressed by the overall quality feel of the helmet. The fully removable and washable liner feels very nice, as does the flip-up mechanism and pivot. The chin bar is not actually made of carbon, but is instead painted fiberglass. Personally, I like the two-tone black on black effect it gives the helmet.
The two best features of the helmet both relate to the face shield or visor. First, the shield itself is photochromic. This means that it changes tint based on light conditions. The transition from clear to dark is gradual and I didn’t notice just how dark it had gotten until I flipped it up at a stop light. According to the paperwork that came with the helmet, the face shield tints to about 20% light transmission.
The second visor related feature that sets this helmet apart is the inclusion of a pinlock visor. If you haven’t used one, it basically creates a double-paned section in the visor and keeps it from fogging up. I live in the Pacific Northwest and the humidity combined with temperatures in the 30’s are a sure-fire recipe for fogged visors. With the pinlock visor in place, I cannot get it to fog.
Having said all of that, the helmet is not perfect. Despite being almost 3 times the cost of my HJC, it isn’t noticeably quieter. According to Lazer, they did this on purpose. They could have spent more time and money making it quieter, but they’re target audience usually wears earplugs, so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I do wear earplugs. They were right; it doesn’t really matter.
To be quite specific I wear a pair of Westone in-ear monitors. This allows me to have great noise reduction and the ability to listen to music or podcasts while I ride. On occasion I will wear a pretty basic pair of ear buds and in those cases, the area surrounding the ears in the helmet seems a bit small. If you wear a pair of low profile ear buds or just use helmet speakers this is unlikely to be a problem.
On the subject of speakers, the helmet is pre-wired for the Lazer Blue system. This is similar to the Sena or Cardo Bluetooth systems and can be used to communicate with people using those systems. I don’t ride with anyone or have much use for a communicator so this feature is mostly wasted on someone like me.
The other feature I am apathetic towards is the chin strap. It uses a microlock buckle which in my sport touring position doesn’t irritate me. If I were sitting more upright I feel like the buckle would sit right against my larynx and irritate me. It is supposed to be more convenient because you can undo the clasp with one hand, but I was never irritated by the plain double D ring system of my other helmets.
Overall this helmet is a big improvement over the other modular helmets I have used and I look forward to getting many more miles out of it. Keep an eye out in July for a long-term wrap-up of my experiences.
I'm excited to announce that this review, and more in the future, can also be found at www.roadrunner.travel
It’s hard to be an everyday rider or long distance tourer without decent waterproof boots. When I set out to find a pair, I wanted a reasonably priced sport-touring boot, not something that looked like a race boot or a big enduro/adventure boot. The $200-$250 range of boots has become much like the smartphone market. Everyone seems to be making a really good product and most of them look very much alike.
If you have seen other sport-touring boots, the Gaerne G. Kings are not going to surprise you in terms of styling, features, or price. These boots are about as average as it gets for close to 200 bucks. The G. Kings are tall and made of top grain leather with plastic inserts for protection in the ankle and shin. They have an elasticated front panel to allow for flex and reinforcements around the shifter area and the outside of the toe. Like most other boots of this style, they are kept closed with a zipper on the inside and hook and loop at the top.
The G. Kings initially felt a little tight in the store, but while on the bike, they felt good. After about 3,000 miles, I can say that they aren’t the most comfortable boots when you’re off the bike, and they do still feel a wee bit narrow. The sole is pretty stiff and absorbs a good amount of vibration, but that doesn’t translate into a great boot for walking around in. I have worn them for 10-12 hours or more on several occasions, and they are okay overall. If I were to give a one to five score for comfort, I would give them a four when riding and a 2.5 off the bike.
I bought these boots specifically to keep out water, and they do a great job of it. The inner Dry Tech liner has kept my feet dry in the rain for several hours at a time. The liner is also supposedly breathable, but with no venting panels, it doesn’t make a noticeable difference. Keep in mind that I live in a part of the country that doesn’t get very hot or cold, so these may not be four-season boots for you like they are for me.
Overall I would say the G. Kings are a good value if you are looking for a waterproof sport-touring boot. Some might say that being right in the middle of the pack in every way is a bad thing, but if I had summer rain boots, I would also need winter rain boots. These are good enough that I can get by with one pair for both jobs. There are so many boots that fit in this category that it is hard to recommend one over the others. My advice is to try on as many as you can and get the ones that fit the best. The Gaerne G. King boots are available for a little over $200 and come in any color you want—as long as you want black.
Sizes: Men’s 8-13
This episode is dedicated to my good friend and fellow rider R J Toland, who passed away after he was struck by another driver while riding.
Getting the bike out for a new season, tips for noobs(and veterans), Euro Moto 2013, Interview with Jack from Riders for Health
I interview Vicki Gray of Motoress.com, Oxford redefines "biker." Euro Moto 2013 happens next weekend.
When I rode from Seattle to Salt Lake City last year I didn’t camp anywhere, so I didn’t need to pack as much stuff. As a result, I took a big waterproof duffel bag, my tank bag and an empty backpack just in case I had more stuff on the way home. This time around I am going to be camping and that means I have to figure out where to pack all the extra gear.
When I opened the package containing the bags, I found that there was some hardware and a large folded sheet of plastic inside. Initially I was not sure what to do with the pieces as there were no instructions included. Fortunately my googling skills resulted in a nice PDF with simple instructions that had no words, just pictures. I contacted Aerostich about the lack of instructions and Andy Goldfine, the company’s General Manager, assured me that they would be including the aforementioned instructions with every order.
So what were the hardware and the plastic sheet for? The plastic sheet forms a U shape along the bottom of the bag and the hardware attaches it to the bag. This causes the bag to retain its shape even when it’s empty.
Once assembled it is quite clear that these bags are made to be tough. The material seems similar to typical camping dry bags but feels thicker and more durable. The bags differ slightly from the ones pictured on aerostich.com but they are clearly just a newer revision of the same bag. In addition to very solid construction, the bags have reflective material added in key areas. These bags are made to be installed on either the left or the right side so there are reflective patches on both the front and the back of the bag. Inside each bag is an organizer pocket area with slots for pens and pencils and other small pockets. I doubt they will be useful at all to me but if you didn’t have 4 other bags on the bike you may find them handy.
According to Ortlieb’s website, the bags are about 1700 cubic inches each. To give you a better idea of what they can hold, I was able to get all of my camping gear (sleeping bag, cooking stuff, 2 person tent, camp pillow, etc.) into both bags. The only items that would not fit were the tent poles and sleeping pad. Both are too long to fit into the bags.
When it comes to fitment on the bike itself, ideally you would want some sort of tubular saddlebag rack that allowed the top latches to grab onto it and then the bottom pieces would hook inside the bottom of the rack. My Bonneville doesn’t have that sort of rack. The top latches are able to lock onto the top portion of the saddlebag supports but I had to get creative with the placement of the bottom pieces. Included in the packaging are some inserts for the top latches in case you have smaller diameter tubes. Ortlieb advertises that they will fit tubes from 11-16mm in diameter but they include a piece for an 8mm tube as well. My racks are ½ inch tubes which is about 13mm. The only inserts were for 8mm and 11mm. In order to get a tight fit, I ended up using the 11mm inserts. It doesn’t feel like it is putting too much tension on the locking mechanism.
For those of you that don’t have a way to attach the quick release bags, Ortlieb makes a nearly identical set of bags that are designed to be thrown over the passenger seat. To be perfectly honest, I probably would be just as happy with those as I am the quick release ones.
Other than getting them to fit on the bike and doing a sort of “test pack,” I have not been able to use them, yet. Once I get in a camping trip or two with them I will be sure to post a more thorough review. These bags are sold individually and can be found in Aerostich’s catalog at www.aerostich.com. They retail for $127 each.
Aerostich have been making messenger-style bags for over 20 years now and have become the go-to source for minimalist over-the-shoulder bags. So when it came time for me to get a new bag to use for my commute and as a sort of catch-all for odds and ends when I travel, the Aerostich Courier Bag was on the top of my list.
Aerostich sells messenger bags in 4 sizes, all of which have postal service inspired names. From smallest to a largest they are as follows:
Letter - 300 cubic inches (very small, almost like a purse)
Dispatch - 1100 cubic inches (big enough for a small laptop and your lunch)
Courier(pictured below) - 1700 cubic inches (big enough to carry a laptop, change of cloths, lunch and many other odds and ends)
Parcel - 2700 cubic inches (huge. This is probably past most rider's upper limit on size for a bag. You could probably fit a body in here.)
The bags all come in 2 fabric options, Cordura (the same as their Roadcrafter riding suits and many high-end motorcycle clothes) and Waxed Cotton. All of the bags, regardless of outer fabric, are lined with a yellow reinforced vinyl to aid in water proofing and have a wide reflective stripe on the flap. These bags aren't completely waterproof but should withstand a light to moderate rain.
I chose the Waxed Cotton Courier Bag for a few reasons. First, the bag I am currently carrying is close to the same size as the Dispatch and I needed a little more room. Second, the waxed cotton just looks and feels great and goes with the retro look of my Bonneville perfectly. Also, I really have a thing for brown and the Cordura bags don't come in brown.
My first thought upon opening the box from Aerostich was, "Wow, this is bigger than I thought it would be." Sure I had read the dimensions on the site but it really didn't hit home until I had it in my hands. The next thing that hit me was how solid this thing feels and how nice the waxed cotton fabric feels. It makes me want to pick up the Aerostich Falstaff jacket but that certainly isn't in the budget. My wife commented that the fabric shows scratches easily and I attribute that to the same way you can brush all the pile in your carpet one way and it looks like a slightly different shade of the same color. Overall I am very impressed with the bag and it definitely has plenty of room for the stuff I need to carry back and forth on my commute. I commented to the guys over at Aerostich that the bag was bigger than I expected and they reminded me that they would be happy to exchange it, should I find it to be too big. In all my dealings with the company I have always had exemplary customer service and they have never left me unsatisfied. Once I get a chance to ride with the bag some more I will be sure to follow up with a more in-depth review. Take a look below for a picture of the bag with my 15.6" laptop sitting in front of it. That should help you understand the exact size of this bag. The Aerostich Waxed Cotton Courier Bag retails for $107. Find them at www.aerostich.com
Calendar giveaway winner announced, Motorcyclist Blog ponders Cafe Bikes and Art, KTM Duke 390 comes to US in 2014, I go to the 1 Moto Show in Portland.
Catching up in the news after missing a show. ADV Cafe video blog launches. Calendar giveaway begins. 1 Motorcycle Show in Portland Feb 8-10, I'm going. You should, too.