BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: My First Ride

My Genesis 4 into 4

I must’ve been about 8 years old when it happened. My dad was spending the morning cleaning the garage, moving its contents into the driveway of our 70s era split level house. Out came the various trappings of the typical 70s garage: the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, my red Schwinn Stingray. Then it came out.It was a Hodaka Ace 90.

My First Ride - Ted Edwards
It’s not mine, but it’s the closest thing I could find that looked like the Hodaka that lit the fire in my body for motorcycles.

My dad timed the light perfect. As the Hodaka emerged from the dark corner of the garage the clouds parted. A shaft of morning sunlight hit its chrome gas tank and reflected directly into my eye blinding me with awe. Somewhere in the background, the Mormon Tabernacle choir sang the Hallelujah chorus and a golden halo surrounded the ratty Hodaka. At least that’s how I remember it. I was mesmerized by the combination of its chrome tank against a red frame. I always knew that there was something sleeping in the back corner of the garage, but never knew it was that. I got closer and looked at my reflection in the chrome gas tank, cautiously touching the sun warmed metal like I had discovered an advanced alien spacecraft.

Right then and there, I became a biker.

I never swung a leg over the Hodaka, it departed my dad’s ownership before I had a chance to ride it. It wasn’t necessary. I had been transformed. I was a biker for life. Also, unbeknownst to me, the chrome and red theme would continue to permeate my existence.

Then, years later, my dad acquired a Honda trail 90 with exactly none of the drawing power of the Hodaka. Whereas the Hodaka moved my soul, the trial 90 had all the sex appeal of a yard sale washing machine. It’s red paint was faded with time and sun exposure and its gray plastic downtube cover had spots worn to yellow, but it was still a motorcycle. My dad let me throw a leg over it and taught me how to kickstart it. When it fired, it sounded like a muffled fart with about as much horsepower. We moved to the vacant field next to our house, my dad showed me how to shift with the left foot heel-and-toe shifter and cut me loose to ride the fields’ trails. I clunked into first and rolled on some throttle.

My First Ride - Ted Edwards
Sure it had 2 wheels, but the Trail 90 left me wanting more in a motorcycle.

Initially I was disappointed. It barely moved. I could’ve ridden faster on my Schwinn Stingray.
Then I remembered that, unlike my Schwinn, the little Honda had gears. I backed off the throttle a tad, caught second and the bike sped up again. The wind flowed through my helmet-less hair and dried out my eyes. Somewhere in the motorcycle compartment of my brain, dendrites reached out and touched each other, crimping, soldering and heat-shrinking a connection that would last a lifetime. I was, at a young age, wrestling with the perplexing paradox that riding a motorcycle is simultaneously exciting and relaxing. I could not stop giggling or riding. I was a biker as of that moment, and would be for the rest of my life. Nothing else could compare.

I rode primarily dual sport bikes from then though my late teens, asphalt existed only to link trails and fire roads together. Then, when I was home from college for the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year working in the fruit sheds, my dad brought home a barn find bike from his uncle Ole’s farm in Ardenvoiur. Ole’s real name was Olaf Laverne Edwards, but nobody called him that. We have a slight hard-edge of our Norwegian heritage, which Ole had in spades. While he was in the Army, stationed at Hanford nuclear reservation famous for contributing to the Manhattan project, he had a habit of going AWOL. This meant that sometimes Ole was guarding prisoners, sometimes he was the prisoner. But, he managed to focus that energy to later become a major executive in the electronics engineering wing of Boeing. He would walk the hangars of Boeing during the height of the cold war with two dozen men in suits trialing behind him like minions, hanging on his every word. Having lived out the high executive lifestyle he did what any rational man would do; he quit his job, married his secretary and bought a farm in the remotest of places to love on his horses, chickens and goats. Every farm has a barn, and every barn has hidden treasure. In Ole’s barn, it was a 1974 Honda CB550.

The bike was abandoned by a farm hand who had left it there, and the bike slept in the goat barn under a tarp ever since. Ole couldn’t have cared less about the bike (obviously the motorcycle gene had skipped his generation) and my dad relieved him of it.

The CB550 arrived into our driveway in the back of our yellow Ford truck, like an ambulance dropping off a patient with little hope for survival. My first impression was that it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. The gas tank was metal flake orange and black like some sick Halloween joke. It had a giant, awkward white fairing like a massive bat wing with matching white saddlebags. And it reeked of goat piss. The only saving grace was its 4 into 4 exhaust with the pressed metal seams top and bottom. In chrome. Chrome rusted with goat pee, but it didn’t matter. It was chrome. Just like a Hodaka gas tank.
And it was hydrolocked. A prod on the kickstarter gave no engine movement whatsoever. The pistons liked where they had been sleeping for countless years and they were not waking up for anybody’s right foot. So, my dad and I pulled spark plugs and WD-40 was squirted quite liberally into cylinders. After some more forceful persuasion, the pistons finally agreed to wake up and move in their bores.
Progress. We decided to push our luck further, removed the seat and sprayed some staring fluid into the airbox residing beneath me and kicked with no results. More staring fluid. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

This time, the bike ignited, firing though the carbs and into the airbox, igniting the swirling mixture of staring fluid and setting the bike and my groin on fire. At first, I started blowing at the flames which only added oxygen and spread the flames further. Next, panic set in and I swatted at the flames like I was being attacked by bees, but just ended up whacking myself in my favorite parts, adding injury to hysteria. Fortunately the flames died down just before my dad pulled the pin on the fire extinguisher he had been pointing at my crotch the whole time. In retrospect, I am surprised he never commenced firing. My dad is a Marine Corps vet and they rather enjoy pulling triggers. Maybe it was cathartic for him, watching his middle child’s groin go up in flames. Which is probably why he suggested we try it again.
So, we tried it again.

More starting fluid.

More flames.

More of the Norwegian Hot Crotch Slap Dance (minus the lederhosen, high socks and suspenders).
At one point, I swear I heard him snicker. How hard is it to use a fire extinguisher anyways? We eventually gave up and off came the carbs.
Taking apart the carbs took me days. They were spread out on the kitchen counter like a mechanic’s exploded view with so many parts that I probably should have taken pictures, if digital photography had existed back then. But it didn’t, so I spent days getting to know floats, needles, jets, o-rings and cables. In my arsenal, I had q-tips, Brasso, time and patience. Out came years of hardened varnish and muddy sludge.
After days spent cleaning with no parts replacement whatsoever, I bolted the carbs on and hoped for the best. I said the prayer we all say before kickstarting a hopeless motorcycle and gave it a whack. The bike talked back with a cough, white smoke, a stumble, then a sputter, followed by a roar. Sounds came out of that 4 into 4 exhaust the likes of which I had never heard before. To this day, the recollection still gives me goosebumps. I had brought a bike back from the dead and the first words out of its exhaust said, “Lets ride.”

You might think that the next part of this story is where my dad and I spend many father-son bonding months in the garage, drinking beer while Jim Croce played “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” on the old spider web covered radio in the corner, doing a perfect nut and bolt restoration of this classic Honda.
Not so. Not even close. Evidently you don’t know me very well. The complete opposite is true.

I rode it as is. It had a rusty chain which, if it was lucky, may have got a spray of WD-40. The old rims, rusted with goat piss, carried ancient tubes lined with old ribbed tires that were as cracked as my grandma’s skin. The sun had faded the once green gauges so the tach’s redline was now light pink and the formerly while needles were pale yellow. It never got a new battery, I never replaced the spark plugs, the handgrips has gotten horribly slick over time and the worn carb needles had a perplexing taper, yet managed to work anyways. I also completely ignored the gas tank. Heck, I never even looked inside it. It must have been fuzzy with rust like an underwater battleship replete with barnacles. The lone exception was the 4 into 4 chrome exhaust. It got polished. Heavily. It was the nicest part of the bike. To this day, I am baffled it even ran, but run it did.

The huge, white bat wing fairing looked like a police bike reject, as did the two white saddlebags. More than one person thought I was a cop and pulled over as they saw me coming. I didn’t care. My initial rejection of the bike had flipped. The bike was magic. It was summer and I was in love, and as with anyone in love, logic and rational thinking got abandoned for passion and lust. I rode it to work, I rode it to the store, I rode it everywhere. I rode it in the nearby hills, pushing it hard until the frame flexed like an old handsaw. I rode it in July heat so hot that it once melted down the raised numbers on the credit card in my jeans pocket. She was ugly and still gave off an occasional whiff of goat pee, but in a sport defined by the connection between man and machine, she was mine and I could care less. I gave her life and she was paying me back in wind, speed, joy and yes, that heavenly, hallelujah chorus of a 4 into 4 soundtrack.

I left for college in the fall leaving behind, but not forgetting the CB550. You never forget your first love. The slightest hint of the bike: a gentle breeze brushing back my hair, the Ellensburg wind drying out my eyes, the scent of gasoline and especially, chrome reflecting the fall sun brought about a melancholy that reached a deep blue where I felt no real highs or lows, just a steady idle of blah, occasional breathing and lots of staring off into space. I could fake it and go about my day to day business in slow motion, but I would catch myself staring blankly at nothing, wondering what was wrong with me, that I thought about the bike so much. When would I see it again? Would it still run when I got back or would it attempt to light my groin on fire?

My First Ride - Ted Edwards
This picture brings back so many fond memories of the infamous CB 550.

Trying to explain this state to anyone was pointless. Only a biker who has been unjustly severed from the sport could comprehend how I was feeling. The separation revealed to me that while the CB550 was firing it’s four cylinders, it was also firing a connection in my brain that had been soldered long ago, on an old, faded trial 90 in a dirt field. I needed to be in motion, alone, imbibing the motorcycle paradox of adrenaline and relaxation as the CB550 played its sweet love song through its 4 into 4 musical instrument, a heavenly song meant only for me. When I came back home from school the next summer, I found it waiting for me, faithfully, like an old love refusing to give up on a long distance relationship. We rekindled our affair that summer along the nearby mountain roads and come fall I decided I had enough. I would not endure another painful separation and did what any love mad person would do.

I kidnapped it.

Yeah, well, let’s just call it what it is: I stole it. From my dad, true, but it was still stealing in the eyes of the law. I just hoped on and rode it back to college in Ellensburg, with my wife driving behind me in my 1967 VW beetle, which was red with gleaming chrome bumpers, just like the Hodaka of my youth (no small coincidence). The bike and I were partners again, snaking tandem through the asphalt curves of Blewett Pass as its larches donned fall colors. The CB550 and Ellensburg in the fall were a magical combination. On weekends, I would put my lovely young bride of a few months on the back of my beloved motorcycle as we cruised through the Ellensburg farmland. We wove and arced our way around and through the green landscape guarded by wooden fence lines as she tapped my shoulder, telling me which way to turn to so she could satiate her desire for spotting baby cows, which are not hard to find in Ellensburg.

We rode for hours never getting more than 30 miles from town, but I didn’t care. The feeling of those rides long ago is so ingrained in my psyche that I can still remember the feeling of her arms around my waist and hear her squeals of joy at the sight of every baby cow, all seven million of them. I must also shamelessly admit that there is no sight more beautiful in motorcycling than long blond hair flowing out from beneath a helmet, and hers was mesmerizing. It would wave golden in the breeze, mimicking the countless horses who watched, as it stuck out from an especially ugly 70s helmet in metal flake orange. It didn’t fit her head properly, wobbling about like a toy bobblehead as we rode and it clashed horribly with the tank’s Halloween color scheme. But I never saw the helmet, only her hair. My bride. My bike. Her golden pony tail. Fall weather. The 4 into 4 soundtrack. Life was perfect. And it all went straight to hell when the phone rang.

It was my dad.

He was calling the police.

Someone had stolen the CB550 and on some weird chance my dad had decided to call me before calling the cops. I timidly admitted to stealing the bike and there was a frightening silence on the other end of the phone. I was thankful that technology had not advanced to the point where a parents arm could reach though the phone line to choke his offspring. I figured my Marine veteran dad must have put the phone down to go to the other side of the house and swear in words only a jarhead would know. Or maybe he just stared out the window shooting daggers across the Cascade Mountain Range that separated us. Thank God for big mountains.

I knew I had to return the bike but I stalled until, suddenly, it was December. My dad had repeatedly demanded the return of the CB550 and I was coming home for winter break so I did what I had to do: I rode it back to Wenatchee. I prepped by wearing as many of my skiing base layers as possible until, like the Randy in A Christmas Story, I could barely put my arms down. Or walk. I did wear my leather jacket for style points.
The perilous journey started eastbound on 1-90 over Ryegrass summit with my wife following me in the VW Beetle. The winter fog was impenetrable and my white bat wing fairing provided perfect camouflage, hiding me from drivers who had bigger things to worry about than a motorcycle in their blind spot in December.

By the time I arrived in Quincy 30 miles later, I was so cold I was shivering. Violently. I pulled into Harringtons cafe in Quincy and slowed to put the kickstand down but I was so cold I could only just barely move my leg. As I came to a complete stop, I slightly nicked the kickstand with my heel and moved it just enough for the spring to catch and it whacked into place as the bike luckily fell to the left. It must have been quite a show for the cafe patrons: the bike resting on its kickstand with me fully seated, frozen on the bike, my feet still on the pegs. It took about a full minute to pry my frigid form off the bike. I stumbled stiff-legged through the parking lot like a frozen Frankenstein, ordered hot chocolate and immediately my wife grabbed it. If I had taken the cup, my cold seizures would have sprayed everyone in the restaurant like a hot chocolate paint shaker. We must have spent 30 minutes just sitting there as I sipped hot chocolate through a melting plastic straw, hoping the warmth would leach into my frozen limbs. I was only 30 miles from Wenatchee, but it just as well could have been 30 days. I did not want to get back on the bike, but I had to. There was no turning back. Eventually, I forced myself to remount and successfully made the final push to Wenatchee, timing my shivers to countersteer.

The next summer my dad got rid of the CB550 and I never saw the bike again. I was heartbroken when I heard of its sale, but knew that I had gotten the best the CB550 had to offer. We had our time in the sun. However, the sale was not in vain. He sold the bike to his friend Terry Hammond so he and Terry could tour together. This was the beginning of the Mild Hogs touring group. The bike had been my genesis in motorcycling and it was igniting the same spark in others. Currently, the Mild Hogs group includes my son, step-brother, brother in law, cousin and others numbering about 35. Without that orange and black goat barn derelict, none of this would have happened.

My First Ride - Ted Edwards
It’s not red, but this Honda Passport has brought joy to my family and myself. 1 of my 3 kids has caught the 2-wheel bug but that may change soon.

Next came a very long gap in motorcycle ownership as I raised my three kids, until a 1982 Honda Passport talked to me from a roadside yard sale and begged me to take it home. I couldn’t say no.
I would pick my kids up from school on it. My daughter would point and squeal with glee as we rode by ranches on the way home, her long black hair flowing out from beneath her helmet, waving in the breeze like the ponies who stared back at us, mirroring her mom’s antics a decade earlier. Curiously, two out of my three children have discarded cars for two wheels, although they pedal theirs, which I can’t quite figure out. The youngest of my three is hard-wired like me, riding dirt bikes since he could spell Yamaha. He started touring with the Mild Hogs a month after turning 16, riding with us to Canada. He currently loves his dirt bike so much that is it parked in the bedroom of his apartment. Don’t tell his apartment manager.

Years from now my children might reminisce about their childhood and that little Honda Passport as their motorcycle first love as much as I reminisce about the long lost CB550. This time, unlike the CB550, we did it right and kept the bike in the family. Also unlike the CB550, my dad fully restored the Passport as he drank beer and listened to old Jim Croce songs on the spider web covered radio on his garage shelf. It is a perfect restoration, every nut and bolt. And it is beautiful. Especially the chrome exhaust which gleams in the fall sun. It sounds like a muffled fart, nothing like to a 4 into 4.

Now that I have bared my soul in front of both of my readers, it’s your turn. When was that moment that you fell in love with motorcycling? What compelled you to get involved with the bonkers idea of strapping yourself to an engine with little regard for common sense and hurling yourself recklessly through the atmosphere? What was your first bike? Your Genesis moment? Rekindle that first love and tell me your story.

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Appalachian Adventure Part 2-The Cherokee Shootout

 

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner

Kane continues the ride through Asheville, North Carolina, the northern mountains of Georgia and South Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, moto-camping in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest (sort-of), and the Back of the Dragon on Virginia State Route 16. The ride turned solo after Gabe’s leg injury in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest put him down for the count (see Appalachian Adventure Part 1 – Who Needs a Tibia Anyway?).

Six hours of sleep later, I am groggily packing and loading the bike. My motel neighbors’ are Harley riders and can’t help but inquire about my wildly different loaded down adventure bike (a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom 650 or as many know it, ‘The Wee’). It’s a cool, overcast morning as I point the bike south on US-220 to head towards Gabe’s broken leg in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Gabe is still waiting for surgery when I arrive, but is in good spirits (probably due to the pain meds). His bike is on the way to his son’s mother-in-law’s near Nellysford, VA and his kids are on the way from Columbus, OH.

A shared family vacation / motorbike trip was the plan for this particular outing, so I met my wife and kids, wife’s cousin and husband, and my mother at our rental house in Asheville. I changed up my riding plans due to Gabe’s unfortunate circumstances and spent an extra day in the amazing town of Asheville checking out the 4th of July festivities downtown, tubing on the French Broad River, gallivanting around town, and general family quality time.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
Welcome to Georgia! The author posing after a little peg scraping on GA-28.

Originally Gabe and I were going to do an overnight moto-camp in the Chattahoochee National Forest and loop back to the rental in Asheville through Gorges State Park in South Carolina. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to add a couple more states to my riding resume, I came up with a reroute that would allow me to touch rubber in Georgia and South Carolina on a day loop. Albeit, there would be less dirt and gravel on the route but fun nonetheless (and I would still be able to ride in more amazing National Forests, a premise for the trip).

The highlights of the day included beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains and awesomely twisty tarmac in the southern Appalachian Range (particularly on the peg scraping GA-28, giving the Tail a run for its money). I crossed the Georgia-South Carolina border singing the Dukes of Hazzard theme on an amazing forest service road crossing the Chattooga River. Running another scarcely used forest service road paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway in Pisgah National Forest was another amazing experience and a great way to end the day.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
The twists and turns of a Pisgah National Forest service road.

For the return trip home I planned on splitting up from the family and meeting them in Columbus, Ohio the next evening. The family planned to take all interstate up through Knoxville with an overnight stay around Lexington, Kentucky before meeting me at a hotel close to the Columbus airport. We would spend the night in Columbus and get my daughter on a plane back to Tucson the next afternoon before heading back to Youngstown. My plans to get to Columbus were a little more adventurous.
After running through Asheville I took the wonderfully curvy Town Mountain Road to connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway. As soon as I crossed through Craven Gap and onto the BRP I could see a helluva dark set of clouds in the direction I was heading. I stopped at Tanbark Ridge Overlook for a few photos of the mountainous backdrop and to ponder jumping into my rain gear, which I decided against.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
A ride into the clouds anyone?

As I was soaking in the breathtaking views of this national treasure a vintage BMW R bike pulls up and stops next to me. After checking out each other’s rides, he decides to turn around and go the other way as I proceed to the north. As I climb the mountainous terrain back into Pisgah National Forest it felt as though I was launching into the sky. Clouds were moving in and around the ridgelines as I rode, heightening the feeling of flying through the air. Visibility was limited but with little traffic to worry about it was amazingly relaxing and peaceful.

The wind picked up as I climbed above 5000 feet into the Craggy Gardens area. A pit stop at the Visitor Center resulted in an empty bladder and a few new stickers to add to the collection. Continuing through tunnels and slowly passing or stopping at all of the overlooks, I eventually rounded Mt. Mitchell and climbed down out of the clouds to find beautiful blue skies on the other side.

I eventually found myself in the quaint Little Switzerland area and exited off the BRP for a quick side trip. I quickly descended and ascended a few thousand feet on the superbly twisty NC-226/226A before completing the circle along the ridgeline. On the descent I came across a group of deer chilling out in the middle of the road but was able to scrub speed and rapid-blast the horn to avoid any real problems. If you are ever in the area I highly suggest making this loop and stopping at one of the café’s or staying in one of the lodging options. Beautiful views, amazing roads, and southern hospitality will definitely lead me back in the future.

Continuing up the BRP for a while, I made my exit at NC-181 and eventually found myself running past Sugar Mountain. A few years back we did a destination Thanksgiving with the wife’s side of the family, staying up the road at Beech Mountain with a little snowboarding at Sugar. Growing up with the nickname ‘Sugar Kane’, the mountain had a blast of nostalgia in the air as I rode past.

The bike and I were both getting hungry so I stopped for gas and lunch in Banner Elk. I planned to camp that night so I decided to sit down at the Bayou Smokehouse & Grill for a late lunch. Great service, excellent food, and a relaxed atmosphere had me kicking my leg over the bike with a smile on my face. The climb up to Beech Mountain and over to the back bowl was fun, dragging a foot peg here and there. At the top I hit some tight kickbacks past a few bungalows and ended up reaching 5572 feet, my highest elevation for the trip.

Eventually I made my way to the back of Beech and missed my turn next to Buckeye Lake. Luckily, the mountainous twisty roads were fun so I didn’t mind a little back tracking. Back on the route, I turned off onto Buckeye Creek Rd, the first of only two dirt roads I would traverse on this leg. The short dirt section led me into the zigzagging goodness of the state and county roads out of western North Carolina and into eastern Tennessee.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
Seems like a theme?

The next twisty goodness led me up Cross Mountain Rd and into the heart of Cherokee National Forest. Heading southwest on TN-91 I spotted my final destination high up on the ridgeline: Holston Mountain Fire Tower. I took the right onto Panhandle Road (also known as National Forest 202) and headed up the mountain. The dirt road at the bottom was rough but as I climbed and hit the kickback section the dirt turned to rough pavement. Once towards the top the road returned to dirt and I noticed the gate for the fire tower was closed.

Banking to the left I quickly found a trailhead with what appeared to be a campsite. After a quick recon, I decided that the top of Trail 48 would be home for the night. Still early in the day I was taking my time unpacking the bike and setting up the tent. I was on the side of the ridge so I rode the bike down to the bottom of the trailhead and up onto the flatter campsite.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
Dispersed camping in Cherokee National Forest near the Tennessee-Virginia border.

The ridgeline housed several antennas so my cell service was excellent. At this point, I had heard from the wife that they were having truck troubles. They ran through a massive thunderstorm and the truck was having problems starting after they stopped for gas. She said it was raining so hard on the freeway that they couldn’t get over 30 MPH and it felt like they were driving a boat. Luckily the storm went through quick and they were able to make it to the hotel just outside of Lexington, Kentucky. We decided they would see if someone could look at the truck in the morning and give me an update if I had to ride their way instead of my chosen route the next day.

Unfortunately for me, that huge storm was coming directly at me. At this point I started picking up the pace and set up the tent, put everything inside, and hung my food bag on a tree a couple hundred feet away. The clouds continued to get darker as I gathered firewood and just as I went to light it, the sky opened up. I quickly dove into my tent and hunkered down. The thunder was booming on either side of the ridge, dramatically echoing in the valleys below. I was just below the ridge and there were plenty of trees to block the wind, but the rain was coming down in buckets. I had to cinch down the cover as close to the ground as possible but my Alps Mountaineering Mystique tent held up perfectly.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
Chillin’ with my new friend before the storm.

Laying comfortably I waited out the storm reading motorcycle articles and occasionally texting the wife. A couple hours passed and the storm subsided. The remaining dark clouds, nighttime sky, and shadow of the ridgeline made for a pitch-black night. I decided to stretch my legs and grab dinner from my critter proof hanging food bag. With soaking wet wood the warmth, light, and cooking potential of a fire was out of the question. I quickly ate my “dinner” of jerky, granola, and dried fruit and rehung my food bag.

Back in the tent as I started to get ready for bed I hear a vehicle heading up Panhandle Road at a brisk pace. Since it is around a quarter after nine, pitch dark, and I am on a dead-end road I decided to err on the side of caution. For whatever reason I just had a ‘feeling’ so I grabbed my Glock and my flashlight before jumping out of the tent. I walked about 25 feet down away from the trailhead into the woods. With a few small trees to my back, I see the headlights come up the other side of the ridge. Moving slowly now, the vehicle made the turn and crept along towards the intersection of the trailhead and stopped.

The only things I can hear are the captured rain drops being released from their leafy captors as they randomly hit the ground and the sound of the ominous engine. I parked my bike so that it was down where the end of the trailhead and campsite met, tucked behind the woods. I have my CCW (concealed carry permit) so when I am riding and planning on dispersed camping by myself I will carry in my tank bag but I never keep a round chambered just as an extra precaution. Generally speaking, I usually only carry to ward off any large animals and would only discharge a ‘warning shot’ to scare the creature away. In this situation I figured I would wait to chamber the round until absolutely necessary… everyone knows that sound and maybe that alone would deter trouble.

Seconds feel like minutes as I stand there in my modified-Weaver stance with one hand ready to chamber. At this point my mind is racing, why would someone come up here after that hellacious storm this late in the evening? It is a Friday night and the campfire ring seems like it has been used recently with signs of a little beer drinking. Is it a ranger checking the common camping areas? Or is it a bunch of kids out trying to party? Did I steal their make-out spot? Did I steal their drinking or drug spot? Or are they debating on robbing me or worse?

After a while of this, the vehicle decides to drive on down into the trailhead. At this point I crouch down and wait to see what happens. Again, seconds feel like minutes but the car just sits there, engine and lights running, but I know for sure that they can now see my bike and tent. At this point I cross off the ranger option because if it was a ranger they would have announced themselves. After some time, they back up the hill to the top of the trailhead entrance and point the vehicle back towards the way they came. Instead of heading back down the mountain they stop near the trailhead entrance, cut the engine, and turn off the lights.

I stand and strain every sensor in my brain towards my ears. It is pitch black and the rain drops are still freeing themselves from the leaves above. Standing completely still with such focus is exhausting but the adrenaline does its job. After what seems like an eternity I hear a door shut, engine fire up, and see the reverse lights kick on. As the ominous presence backed up, I decided to do the same. I moved another 15 feet back, placing small trees on my back and left side, then crouched down again.

The vehicle came back down the trailhead but this time a few feet further and pointed the car and its menacing headlights towards my tent. What is this, Stephen King’s Christine? Time slowed again as I kept my head on a swivel and concentrated on hearing anything besides the sound of the engine and randomly falling water drops. Then suddenly the ominous vehicle backed out and drove down the mountain.

Since I only heard a car door once I decided to wait for a while before I made a move. I could not be sure that everyone that may have been in that vehicle on the way up the mountain had the same number of people on the way down. After about 10-15 minutes I decided it was time to clear the area. I chambered a round, clicked on my ultra-bright flashlight and cleared the area until I felt it was safe. I made the quick decision that I could no longer stay there, maybe they were going to get more muscle or their own firearms and planned on coming back. Since I stayed out of site they had no idea if someone was there or if there was one or two people.

I ran down and grabbed my food bag out of the tree, tore down the campsite, loaded up the bike, and geared up all at record times. Truthfully I lost all concept of time and felt I was out there standing motionless in the woods for hours upon hours so I was amazed to find out exactly how long I was out there with the ominous presence. Minutes before I heard Christine coming up that mountain road I had texted my wife. I was planning on shooting her another text just to say I had to bail on camping and would let her know when I made it to a hotel. I looked at the time stamp from the original text and it was 21:18. As I stand there next to my loaded bike it was 23:24! I spent over two hours standing in the woods with a gun in my hand (that thank goodness I did not have to use).

Once again on this trip I find myself riding very late at night searching for a hotel. The ride down the mountain was interesting especially after the massive storm that swept through: mud, water, downed tree branches, washed out road, and extreme darkness. I made it to the bottom and reconnected with TN-91. I searched my GPS for the closest motels and didn’t find much. I picked one up in Bristol, TN and figured if I saw one along the way I would just stop there. The first gas station I came across was closing so I asked the attendant in the parking lot but they just point me the way I was already heading.

Eventually I made it past Bristol Motor Speedway and had yet to see anything except the glowing eyes of the occasional family of deer on the side of the road. My old GPS disappoints me again and sends me down residential streets that eventually dead end. Back on the main road I crossed into Bristol, Virginia and find the Econo Lodge on VA-381 (which luckily only had one room left). I text the wife, unpacked the bike, hung all of my wet gear around the room, took a shower, and passed out around 2am.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
Onward, through the fog!

Luckily the truck complied the next day and brought my family into Columbus. After repacking my now dried out gear I hit the road north but not before a little side trip. After a few interstate miles I made a foggy ascent into Hungry Mother State Park and the beginning of the real fun of the day, the Back of the Dragon. Thirty-two miles, 438 curves, and crossing three mountains, the BOTD is definitely not for the faint of heart! The route connects Marion to Tazewell on VA-16 and is a must see if you are in the area.

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
The last mountain descent on the Back of the Dragon heading north towards Tazewell.

Gabe ended up having that surgery with a couple cadaver parts, plates, and screws added to his leg. He was out of commission until late fall and couldn’t bear much weight for a few months. In December we drove down to Nellysford and took turns riding his BMW F650GS the 389 miles back to Columbus. This August we plan on retackling the GW&J National Forest roads on the newly minted Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route so that Gabe may finally conquer those woods… hopefully Christine doesn’t track me down again!

Appalachian Adventure pt 2 - Kane wagner
I ended up with a total of 1888 miles with 33 state line crossings through OH, PA, WV, VA, TN, NC, GA, and SC. I recorded a minimum elevation of 479 feet and a maximum of 5572 feet and was able to ride in the National Forests of Monongahela, George Washington & Jefferson, Nantahala, Chattahoochee, Sumter, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Wayne.

Summer Jacket Buyers Guide

BikeBandit.com’s best jackets to beat the heat while you ride

Summer is here. The skies are clear, the sun is blazing and you want to go ride but you’re going to roast yourself if you even step out of the house in

Summer is prime season for riding but even when temps skyrocket, you still need to stay protected.

that jacket you’ve been riding in. Sure the manufacture calls it a 4-season jacket, but is a jacket that will keep you warm enough in the winter going to keep you cool enough when temps on the street are breaking the century mark? The reality is that you need multiple jackets if you plan to ride year round and that’s the exact reason why companies offer them. There are a ton of choices out there in different materials from mesh to textile and even leather, but how do you know which is actually the best for you?
That is where we come in. We’ve got all of the latest gear from the top brands in every style that you can think of and we’re going to give you some of the best options in various price ranges from our list of top sellers. We’ve even decided to throw in a customer review or two so you can hear it from straight shooters like yourselves. So grab a seat, take notes and let’s get you educated on some of the best jackets that let you ride in comfort all summer long.

Mesh Jackets

Mesh jackets are extremely popular in hot conditions for their ability to easily cool riders. PC: Canyon Chasers

When it comes to staying cool and protected while you’re out cruising out on the highway, a good mesh jacket is the closest thing to AC you can have on a motorcycle. The only thing that might be cooler is riding without one, but come on…. Do you really want to risk riding without protection? Remember that we pick our gear for the slide and not the ride, which is why we emphasize choosing a jacket that not only keeps you cool but also offers additional protection like CE approved armor in various parts of the frame.
Check out some of our top picks for Mesh Motorcycle Jackets and what we like about them.

1. Fly Flux Air Mesh Motorcycle Jacket: If you want to keep cool and protected while riding in the scorching days of summer but don’t want to drain your savings account, then you just might want to check this jacket out. With a main shell that is constructed of mesh for maximum air flow, it features CE Level 1 removable armor in both shoulders and elbows in addition to a protective PE back armor that can also be removed and upgraded to CE level armor as well. The arms of the jacket feature volume adjusters as well as Velcro® cuff and waist adjusters to ensure optimum fit in addition to side expansion panels, in the event you’re riding after a big lunch. The YKK main zipper is easy to use and belt loop snaps ensure the jacket doesn’t ride up when you need it down. A great value for a jacket that’s priced below $120.00, but don’t take our word for it. See what BikeBandit.com customer William P. had to say about it.

“This jacket is Great. Good protection and visibility. The size was right on point. The mesh allows to wind to flow so cool, it feels like an AC unit. Designer needs a raise. KEEP UP GOOD WORK. I WILL DEFINITELY ORDER AGAIN. PLUS A RECOMMEND TO ALL. I have received many comments on look. But the feel is light but still protected. Thanks for a true summer jacket.”

2. Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0 Motorcycle Jacket: The Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0 is by far one of our best seller and for good reason. This jacket is loaded with features and still comes in below the $175 mark. Aside from the quality that you find with all Joe Rocket products, the Phoenix 5.0 also features CE approved armor in both shoulders and elbows and a removable spine pad that can be upgraded with CE Level armor. This jacket takes protection up a notch with the inclusion of sculpted high density padding at the ribs, kidneys and lower back and guarantees a superior fit with their 6-point SureFit™ custom adjustment system. If you just happen to get caught in that random summer shower or maybe your ride takes you into the night when temps drop, the Phoenix 5.0 also comes with a zipper secured removable waterproof liner to keep you comfortable.

“A really nice fit with pretty good protection for a summer jacket. Exceeded my expectations. Great airflow even at low mph. I ride in Arizona so this garment works well in the desert sun.”
Paul W., BikeBandit.com Customer

3. Scorpion EXO Yuma Mesh Jacket: Named after one of the hottest locations in the country, this mesh jacket better be able to keep you cool. The chassis of the Yuma is made from 500 Denier and is upgraded to 1680 Denier in high abrasion zones, while the mesh panels are made from 250 Denier with two different weave patterns to ensure maximum ventilation. Like the Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0, the Yuma also features a removable Airguard® waterproof Liner and CE certified armor in both elbow and shoulders with upgradable spine pad. For optimum fit and comfort, the Yuma has accordion stretch panels at the elbows for easy range of motion and YKK zipper with elastic panel so you can connect the jacket to Scorpion EXO pants. A premium jacket with premium features at a premium pricepoint.

Good Better Best
Fly Flux Air Mesh Motorcycle Jacket
Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0 Motorcycle Jacket
Scorpion EXO Yuma Mesh Motorcycle Jacket

Fly Flux Air Mesh Motorcycle Jacket

Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0 Motorcycle Jacket

Scorpion EXO Yuma Mesh Motorcycle Jacket

Features:

  • Full flow mesh for max airflow
  • Adjustable Velcro® adjusters in cuff and waist
  • Side expansion panels
  • Available in sizes Sm – XXL in 4 different colors
Features:

  • FreeAir™ poly/mesh shell reinforced with RockTex™ at the shoulders, elbows, and ribs
  • Zipper secured removable waterproof liner
  • Removable spine pad with pocket for optional C.E. spine armor
  • Available in 13 different sizes and 10 different colors
Features:

  • 500 denier nylon main body material, with 1680 denier nylon abrasion zones
  • CE certified Sas-Tec armor with molded hook and loop at elbows for perfect adjustability
  • Removable full sleeve AirGuard® waterproof / windproof liner
  • Available in sizes SM-XXXL and in 3 different colors

Textile Jackets
If you’re not in an area where it’s like riding on the surface of the sun and melting your tires in the first 10 minutes of being on the road, you might not need quite as much ventilation as a mesh jacket. Sure you’re still riding in temps below the century mark, but you know for certain that as soon as the sun start to drop, things can get chilly real quick. If you live anywhere coastal I’m sure you get what we’re talking about. This is where textile jackets come into play. These lightweight jackets offer a great amount of protection and comfort but don’t provide as much flow and ventilation as mesh jackets so they’re perfect for riders who aren’t in such an extreme climate. Many of these jackets will also feature CE approved armor and waterproof liners to offer protection in various elements while keeping you comfortable while it’s warm.
Check out some of our best sellers below!

1. Speed and Strength Hammer Down Jacket: Speed and Strength is known for producing quality riding gear at an affordable price and the Hammer Down Jacket is just that. The chassis of the jacket features an AR500 super stretch-fit frame and removable Vault ™ CE approved armor in the shoulders, elbows and spine. The Hammer Down also has a Molded Strong Arm™ Sleeve Adjuster and Lockdown™ Waist Adjuster for a super adjustable fit and maximum comfort. Microfiber lined cuffs prevent chaffing in high rub areas and the integrated belt loops allow you to connect the jacket to pants so the jacket doesn’t ride up when you need its coverage the most.

One of our best selling jackets by far is the Alpinestars T-GP Pro Air for its numerous features and affordable price.

2. Alpinestars T-GP Pro Air Motorcycle Jacket: Probably the most recognized name in motorcycle gear, Alpinestars knows what it takes to make a great product for 2-wheeled enthusiasts. The T-GP Pro Air is constructed with a durable advanced poly-fabric main shell with extensive mesh paneling and performance stretch inserts for a premium fit. The jacket also features removable and adjustable lightweight CE certified Bio Air elbow and shoulder protectors, removable interior thermal liner for those chilly summer nights and Alpinestars’ Dynamic Friction Shield (DFS) on each shoulder for maximum abrasion resistance and protection. For a jacket that

3. Rev’It Vertex Air Jacket: A longtime leader in quality motorcycle gear, Rev’It created a great warm weather jacket at a decent price point. Aside from its sporty look, the Vertex Air sports Rev’Its SEESMART™ CE-Level 1 protection and is ready to accept their SEESOFT™ CE-Level 2 back protector insert. The jacket also sports a race fit cut so you won’t be fighting the material of the jacket when you’re in your natural riding position and if you feel the need for additional cooling, the jacket readily accepts Rev’Its Challenger Cooling Vest.

Good Better Best
Speed and Strength Hammer Down Motorcycle Jacket
Alpinestars T-GP Pro Air Motorcycle Jacket
REV'IT! Vertex Air Jacket

Speed and Strength Hammer Down Motorcycle Jacket

Alpinestars T-GP Pro Air Motorcycle Jacket

REV’IT! Vertex Air Jacket

Features:

  • AR500 Super Stretch Fit Frame
  • Removable Vault™ CE approved armor in elbows, shoulders and spine protector
  • SpeedZip™ controlled ventilation
  • Available in sizes Sm-XXXL in 6 different colors
Features:

  • Removable interior thermal liner jacket
  • Removable and adjustable lightweight CE certified Bio Air elbow and shoulder protectors
  • Alpinestars’ Dynamic Friction Shield (DFS) external protectors on the shoulders
  • Available sizes SM-XXXXL and in 3 different colors
Features:

  • SEESMART™ CE-level 1 protection
  • Prepared for Challenger cooling vest insert
  • Outer Shell: polyester dull 600D; 3D mesh
  • Available in sizes SM-XXL and in 4 different colors

Leather Jackets
When it comes to the ultimate in protective gear material, you can’t beat leather. Sure it’s a little stiffer than textiles and is most definitely heavier, but when it comes to protecting your skin from asphalt in a crash, there is no better material to have covering your skin. Stiff and heavy don’t usually translate in to free flowing and cool summer jackets but you might be surprised at how well perforated leather can actually cool you on a ride. These jackets will definitely be priced higher than any mesh or textile jacket on our list but given the material it shouldn’t be any surprise. We’ve pulled three of our best sellers for you to check out, so we hope you like them as much as our customers.

1. Icon Sanctuary Motorcycle Jacket: Icon went for the best of both worlds with the Sanctuary jacket. By using different thicknesses of Brazilian leather in all the primary impact zones and multiple panels of unit fused mesh, it is more of a hybrid jacket. The cut of the Sanctuary jacket is designed for the rider to feel comfortable in the attack position so you won’t be fighting the stiffer leather material while you’re riding. An additional feature that is a huge plus is the fact that Icon includes D30® impact protection in the shoulders, elbows and back. Great comfort, features and at a price you just can’t beat!

Taking a combination of both leather and mesh, the Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0 Hybrid Motorcycle Jacket provides superior protection in potential impact areas while offering great ventilation in the various mesh panels.

2. Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0 Hybrid Motorcycle Jacket: Just like the Icon Sanctuary, Joe Rocket made their hybrid jacket a mix of 1.2mm leather, FreeAir™ poly/mesh and RockTex™ for maximum protection and airflow for comfort. Just like the Phoenix 5.0, the Reactor 3.0 has their 6-point SureFit™ custom adjustment system and removable windproof liner. This is definitely one of our best-selling jackets and comes highly recommended. Just checkout two reviews from customers.

“Fast becoming my go to summer coat, just enough breathability and still has great protection. Thought the XL would fit, it didn’t. The return and replacement for my XXL was simple and quick. Great coat, great experience, great company.”
F6B Cool, BikeBandit.com Customer

Very happy with this jacket very comfortable mesh n leather in contact areas,form fitting attack jacket take into account if you have big arms like me. it’s somewhat tight in armpit areas, otherwise must have for summer.”
Juice Jackson, BikeBandit.com Customer

3. Alpinestars GP-R Perforated Leather Jacket: if you want the best of the best, look no further than the Alpinestars GP-R Perforated Leather Jacket. This 1.3mm thick leather jacket has strategically placed perforated panels for maximum air flow to keep you cool on hot days. To ensure you’re protected in the event of a fall/slide, the jacket comes with CE approved removable internal shoulder and elbow protectors as well as chest and back compartments with PE padding. Of course you can always upgrade the back protection with Alpinestars’ Level 2 CE certified Nucleon back protector. This jacket is crazy loaded with features, but the price tag also reflects those so be prepared for the sticker shock, but know you’re getting what you pay for.

Good Better Best
Icon Sanctuary Motorcycle Jacket
Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0 Hybrid Motorcycle Jacket
Alpinestars GP-R Perforated Leather Jackett

Icon Sanctuary Motorcycle Jacket

Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0 Hybrid Motorcycle Jacket

Alpinestars GP-R Perforated Leather Jacket

Features:

  • 1.2-1.4mm Brazilian leather in all primary impact zones
  • Articulated flex zones in the shoulders and elbows
  • Equipped with a full complement of D3O® armor
  • Available in sizes Sm-XXXXXL in 5 different colors
Features:

  • Combined 1.2mm leather, FreeAir™ poly/mesh & RockTex 660™ outer shell
  • C.E. approved armor at the shoulders and elbows
  • Removable windproof liner
  • Available sizes M-XXXL in 2 different colors
Features:

  •  Premium 1.3 leather, multi-panel construction
  • CE approved removable internal shoulder and elbow protectors
  • Chest and back pad compartments with PE padding
  • Available in sizes 40-64 in 2 color options

There you have it! From mesh to full leather, we’ve given you plenty of choices to keep you safe and cool all summer long regardless of where you ride. Do you own any of these jackets? Be sure to leave a comment and give us your opinion on them, or if you’re considering the purchase of one from our selection let us know which and why. Till then, stay safe!

 

Riders Choice: Top 10 Mods for the Honda CBR600RR

The top recommended upgrades from actual CBR600RR owners complete with customer reviews

So you just picked yourself up a new or new-to-you CBR 600RR and you love it. Like many things though, there is always room for improvement whether it be in performance, looks or both. From exhaust systems to sprocket kits, there are endless things that you can do to enhance your performance, handling and looks. Some come with a high price tag, while some are extremely cheap and affordable and can potentially save you a lot of money in the long run.

We decided to do some of the legwork for you by scouring the internet to see what Honda CBR 600RR owners were suggesting. From Facebook to forums, we came up with a ton of suggestions and pulled what seem to be the most popular amongst owners. We’re pretty confident that we hit the nail on the head with this top ten selection, so take a glance and let us know what you think!.

1. Tires: You’ve got a million choices when it comes to tires and what kinds of riding you’re doing. If you purchased your motorcycle to commute, then it’s pretty obvious that you’ll want something that will give you lots of miles and great handling characteristics in various weather conditions. One of our more popular tires for customers looking for those properties is the Metzeler Roadtec Z6 as you can see from a customer review below.

“Great tire got 9000 miles on the last one I hope I get the same on this one Great price from bike bandit fast service will get another one when this one wears out”
John C. – BikeBandit.com customer

CBR600RR Top 10
The Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ is a tried and true tire that’s built for performance and Made In The USA.

Maybe you’re not a commuter and you’re looking to burn up the canyon roads or hitting a track day to see just how small you can make the chicken strips on your tires after a day of riding. Mileage is of marginal concern to you and you need confidence that when you dive into a corner that the motorcycle is going to stay under you and the rubber is planted to the pavement. If this sounds like you, then the Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ is a great choice to install for the performance, but don’t take our word for it.

“The Q3+ has loads of grip on the sides; I’m feeling quite confident on the track on these. Warms up quickly, and has exceptional wear characteristics – usually last me for 2 track days and a bunch of street riding”
Olaf P. – BikeBandit.com customer

CBR600RR Top 10
They might not look like much but when you have them installed on your motorcycle they can save you hundreds of dollars if not more in damage if you happen to go down.

2. Frame Sliders: Remember when we said that some of these mods can not only be inexpensive, but may also possibly save you money in the long run? Well, frame sliders are exactly what we had in mind with that statement. This simple addition/mod may require that you cut a fairing for the install, but if you go down it may also protect that expensive bodywork and a slew of other hard parts that can add up to a costly repair bill.

3. Flush Mount Turn Signals: This upgrade/mod pulls double duty as well. Most riders recommended swapping out the stock stem-type turn signals for flush mounts simply because they looked much better and accomplished the same task. We did find other CBR600RR owners that suggested replacing them to potentially save the bodywork in the even that riders went down. They brought up a valid point that the stock turn signals stood a better chance of causing more damage because of the pressure they put on the fairings. We personally think that improving the looks of the bike was reason enough, but when you add that it also can save the stock bodywork how can you not want to do this mod.

CBR600RR Top 10
Rear fender eliminator kids are a simple and inexpensive way of customizing the rear end of your CBR600RR.

4. Fender Eliminator Kit: Ok. This one strictly falls under the cosmetic category unless you can come up with some long winded story on how these actually increase the performance (aside from weight savings) of it. If you can come up with a good enough story/reason to justify it, we’ll be sure to reward you. Back to business. The stock rear fender/license plate on most motorcycles are just gigantic plastic eyesores. If you’re taking our advice on the flush mount turn signals, then these should also be on your list because many of the rear fender/license plate mounts have the turn signals integrated. The aftermarket kits are much more pleasing to the eyes and are very affordable depending on which brand you go with.

5. Tank Pad / Grippers: Another cosmetic piece that pulls double duty is a tank pad / gripper. The primary function of these adhesive pieces is to protect your fuel tank paint from being scratched, but many of these pads also have a gripper material that allow you to get a better feel of the bike between your legs when you squeeze.

6. Brake Pads: Aside from tires, brake pads are one of the more critical maintenance replacement parts that you can get for your CBR 600RR. Just like tires, you have a huge selection of brands to choose from each with different pads for different riding styles and conditions. The brakes that come on most motorcycles today are great for the average street rider who might hit the occasional track day or likes to run the twisty roads, so when looking for replacements you’ll want one with similar qualities and usually longer lifespans. One of our most popular brake pads for an OE replacement are the EBC Sintered Double-H Brake Pads with 4.7 out of a possible 5 stars and over 400 reviews. They claim that there is no brake fade when using these pads in either hot or cold conditions, but don’t take our word for it. See what customers have to say for this themselves.

“These EBC brakes front and rear are legit there smooth stopping power no harsh grabbing unless you applying the pressure must have on a sport bike, I have a 06 GSXR 1000 so you know what I mean.”
Stanley I. – BikeBandit.com Customer

“Better than stock and less expensive plus, they last longer. What more could I want?”
James B. – BikeBandit.com Customer

Now for more aggressive riders, the above mentioned pads may not meet your requirements. Many riders who attend track days require a much higher level of performance. It’s for this reason that many companies offer race specific compounds that offer tremendous bite under braking conditions, but require the pads to be run under temperatures only found on the race track. These pads are race specific so the tradeoff for performance is going to be longevity since they’ll wear faster, which takes them out of the running for your average commuter. If you are riding primarily at the track and want to try out a new set of pads to improve your braking performance, you might want to give these Galfer Carbon Race Compound Brake Pads a shot.

7. Brake Lines: The average street rider / commuter may not ever feel the need to swap out their OE rubber lines for a set of steel braided brake lines. That is until they ride a motorcycle that has them installed. Sure you’ll see track riders replace them off the showroom floor but the track isn’t the only place where this mod can benefit riders. Even commuters can benefit from installing stainless lines because not only do they look cool, they provide a more positive feel in the pedal and lever by eliminating the expansion of the OE rubber hose. Galfer makes some of our most popular Steel Braided Brake Line Kits and here is what one of our customers had to say about them.

“I don’t know why bikes don’t come stock with steel braided lines. Put these on your bike now! You will instantly notice a substantial amount of difference in action. No more mushy feeling when pulling/pressing on the brakes. You don’t need to be a professional racer to have these lines. You won’t be disappointed. Plus you can customize if you want with different colors, cleans up the look. Super easy to install.”
Benattacked – BikeBandit.com Customer.

CBR600RR Top 10
Not only do air filters like BMC and K&N offer better air flow, but they are also serviceable so you never have to buy another filter again.

8. High Flow Air Filters: Now that we’ve covered how to increase your stopping power, it’s time to focus on making more power to go faster. I mean isn’t that what we’re really wanting to do? Now simply adding a high-flow air filter from a company like K&N or BMC isn’t going to give you whiplash after you install it, but when done in conjunction with the following items on the list and tuned properly you can gain a significant amount of HP. An added benefit of these style of filters is that you can service them yourself eliminating the need to purchase new filters on regular intervals. Now which is better? We couldn’t get a definitive answer from CBR600RR owners but ultimately feel you can’t go wrong with either of your options.

CBR600RR Top 10
The Two Brothers slip-on exhaust system provides a great increase in power and makes your motorcycle sound more like a motorcycle.

9. Exhaust Systems: This is where things can get expensive but it all really depends on how much performance you want to gain. The mufflers that come stock on most motorcycles are fairly restrictive and choke up the full potential of the engine. In some states, like California, there is nothing you can do unless you’re modifying a motorcycle that will be “competition use only.” In other states that aren’t so regulated, you can replace the muffler which not only give the exhaust a completely different sound but it gets rid of the restriction and allows your motor to breathe and start to create some serious power. We’ve got some great offerings from trusted brands like Yoshimura and Two Brothers racing if you want to go the simple route. Here’s a review from a customer who installed a Two Bros. Slip-on Muffler so you can read for yourself.

“This is for the slip-on (they didn’t make the full system for my bike) Okay so I had a 2004 cbr1000rr. Fully stock. 6k miles. She was my baby. She got stolen. So the only thing I could afford at this time was a cbr500r… Needless to say… It was like going from a Ferrari to a 1998 Ford Taurus. It’s a wuss bike… But I needed my fix. I got this exhaust because the stock exhaust on the 500 made it unbearable to drive. I was almost embarrassed to be seen and heard on this thing. HOWEVER, I installed this exhaust and I just… Turned the bike on….and I was like “whoa this thing sounds like a beast.” So I took it for a ride… And now I can say I love this bike lol. If you want to make your little scooter sounding machine sound like a gnarly rancor from Star Wars you should definitely buy this exhaust. Make sure to get a performance air filter and use a power commander. It doesn’t improve MUCH but you’ll be glad you spent a few extra bucks.”
Blake B. – BikeBandit.com Customer

Now if you’re looking for the maximum power gains through an exhaust modification, check out the complete systems we offer from Two Bros. These systems get rid of the heavy OE systems and replace them with stainless steel headers and many of these systems also eliminate catalytic converters that are now coming from the factory. Aside from saving weight, you might be wondering how these systems generate more power to justify the high price tag. These systems have gone through rigorous testing to change tubing length and size to create the perfect amount of flow and backpressure to ensure optimal power delivery. Sure they’re expensive, but when you want the most performance it’ll cost you in the long run

CBR600RR Top 10
If you’re upgrading your exhaust and intake setup, you’d better be adding a good fuel programmer.

10. Fuel Programmers: If you’ve made or are going to make any of the above exhaust or intake mods, it is HIGHLY recommended that you also purchase an EFI programming unit. Not doing so can drastically affect the performance of your motorcycle and even potentially cause damage to the internals of the engine by not delivering enough fuel causing it to run lean. These programmers typically piggyback off of your OEM ECU and allow you to alter your fuel delivery to maximize power. For best performance, we suggest leaving the adjustment to the pros who utilize exhaust analyzers to ensure you’re getting proper fuel delivery throughout the entire RPM range.
You can find some relatively inexpensive units like the Dynojet Power Commander FC where the adjustments are made through a series of dials built into the unit or popular options are the Dynojet Power Commander V or Bazzaz Z-FI Fuel Management System, where you can actually hook the components up to a laptop computer and get even more finely tuned fuel delivery. If you want to go balls-to-the-wall, Bazzaz offers their Z-Fi Engine Management controller that gives you the option of Traction Control if you didn’t have it before in addition Quick Shift technology for shifting under full power.

There you have it. 10 of the best recommended mods from actual Honda CBR600RR owners all around the globe. What do you think? Did we forget anything or did we hit the nail on the head? Have you made any of these modifications and have positive or even negative feedback on any of them? If some of these mods have your wheels spinning and you want to do them to your CBR, use this code (TOPMODS5) for 5% off your next order. Of course standard exclusions apply and the code is valid till 7/30/2018. Let us know what you’ve done or are going to do so we can share with the community of CBR rider/owners. Stay safe and enjoy the ride!

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Mystic Rhythms-The Tranquility of Motorcycle Road-Tripping

Recently while doing some much-needed yard work, a song came over my ear buds that took me back, on a ride down “Memory Lane” so to speak. The song, “Clocks” by Coldplay, caused me to pause and reflect on a moto-road trip I took with a childhood chum a couple of years back. Yes, I know, that song and that band aren’t the first ones that come to mind when thinking about motorcycle riding, but I remember that song playing in my head while riding a long, tranquil stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway on a road trip Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brookswith my friend Lyle. The tune and voice are almost hypnotic, and it was the perfect backdrop to the state of mind I was in, as we wound our way down that gently undulating road through south central Mississippi. I stood there in the middle of my yard, propped on my rake, eyes closed, riding that breathtaking stretch again in my mind, probably even swaying, not so much to the music as to the memory of the big Yamaha underneath me on that strip of blacktop. I was there again, in my head and in my heart. An acute case of wanderlust was once again welling up within me.

There is a state of mind, of spirit, that long miles and hours in the saddle can bring to a rider. A state of peace, tranquility, relaxation, yet complete focus, awareness and control that a rider settles into out on the open road. Psychologist and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposed the concept of “flow”, a mental state experienced when so totally immersed in an activity that a feeling of complete focus, engagement, and enjoyment is Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksachieved. I’ve heard it called “the zone”, “moto-nirvana”, “Zen” and “motorcycle heaven” among riders. Whatever the moniker, this state of being is something not experienced in many other aspects of life. A long trip in a four-wheeled “cage” can get tiresome, monotonous, even tedious, after hours and miles on the highway. Yet on a motorcycle, every moment, every mile, every sensation, can bring pure serenity, pure harmony. As the late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once penned about riding, “Let the road wind tie our hair in knots; let the speed and the freedom untangle our lives.” I know that feeling.

I remember finding myself in this state while on another road trip, with my friend Mike. We were heading west out of Amarillo, Texas on Route 66/I-40, making for Tucumcari, New Mexico by nightfall. We practically had the interstate to ourselves, chasing the sun toward the western horizon. As we descended off the high plains of panhandle Texas, toward the desert mesas of New Mexico, the setting sun was splashing a kaleidoscope of color Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksacross the skies. Behind us, as darkness crept over the canopy above, a nearly full moon was rising behind our right shoulders. With Mike riding lead, his silhouette framed by the sinking sun, I fell into that state, almost like a trance. I rode, I sang, I prayed, and I found a stillness, a centering, came over me. It was a mystical, mythical peace, with the setting sun in my face, the wind blowing by my ears, my hands gripping the handlebars, the big Yamaha pulsing out a rhythm beneath me. Several years have now passed, yet I remember those moments, and many others on that trip, like they were yesterday.

On still another trip, one I took with my father, we rode the fabled Blue Ridge Parkway for several days. Weaving and rolling across this ribbon of blacktop heaven in the Smokies, the beauty of the mountains, coupled with the gentle tempo of the road around scenic vistas and through tunnels, I Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksfound myself in that state as well, feeling the rhythm of the ride, the bike, the fellowship with my father, and the breath-taking surroundings. I especially remember the morning we were up early enough to witness that spectacular moment when the morning cloud cover suddenly floats up, from below the Parkway to above it. Riding through that was nothing short of spiritual, almost divine to me. Being a Christian, I find an intimacy of fellowship with my Creator in those moments, which is hard to duplicate in other settings and activities.

Many people wonder and question why we ride. Do we crave adventure? Did we never grow up? Do we have a death wish? Often we who ride will simply Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksgive the answer, “the freedom.” And yet, when I find myself in that perfect riding state, that “mystic rhythm” if I may borrow from rock legends Rush, simply saying that I ride because of the freedom doesn’t even come close to capturing it. I’m addicted to that state like a drug. I am easily reminded of those moments, and so many others, so often in my everyday life. I find myself reflecting on them, discussing them with friends who know that place as well, and yearning for the next time I can saddle up, hit the road, and search for it again. I guess that’s why I ride.

Roll, roll me away,
I’m gonna roll me away tonight.
Gotta keep rollin’, gotta keep ridin’,
Keep searching ‘till I find what’s right…
-Bob Seger, “Roll Me Away”

Rob

Rob Brooks asserts “motorcycles are in my blood, in my DNA.” He even claims to have seen them under a microscope. This has not been independently verified. What is verified is Rob’s love of motorcycles, whether riding, writing, or wrenching on them. Rob has traversed America on two wheels, but calls north Georgia home, along with his wife, two daughters, and menagerie of pets. He has published a book, entitled “Road Dirt: The Musings & Ramblings of a Biker Preacher,” available on Amazon Books and Amazon Kindle.
Find Rob at www.road-dirt.blogspot.com

Exploring AZ’s Backcountry Discovery Route

I have been racing and riding motorcycles for 46 years and am one of those who was twisting the throttle right out of the womb. Anything that has 2 wheels has always captured my attention and I haven’t stopped since. This passion lead into what would become my career in the Powersports Industry for the last 30 years and still going strong.

Over the years I have raced and explored all the tracks, trails, and deserts that are spread throughout California and Baja. Unfortunately because of population growth and the overwhelming construction in such a desired area, many of us riders have been forced to go elsewhere or resort to street legal dual sport and adventure bikes that will allow us to ride the few trails that still exist in the landscape of Southern California.

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My KTM 1190R gives me the best of both worlds. I have plenty of power for the street with amazing off-road ability.

Dual Sports and Adventure bikes aren’t such a bad thing these days with modern technology and manufactures building works of art to explore the nooks and crannies of the earth. It has definitely sparked my interest and is why I own a KTM1190R adventure for the long distance journeys and a Husky 501 for the local trails. To me the adventure bike is an all in one package allowing one to leave right out of their garage, self-sustained with all the supplies and electronics needed to conquer just about any terrain and journey desired, including the ability to camp right off your bike.

A few of my good riding buddies have also recently purchased KTM1090r Adventure Bikes to add to their collection of off-road machines, so I have really been into exploring the outskirts of the San Diego area knowing I have others to help with hunting down the few trails that still exist due to the rapid growth of our demographics.

Recently, those friends and I were out exploring off road routes in the backyard of our home town San Diego. When we stopped for a break, our good friend Tommy said I’m doing the AzBDR (Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route) at the end of May before it gets too hot, so who’s in? Of course both Fred and I didn’t even hesitate to say, we’re both in.

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If you’ve never used or heard of Backcountry Discovery Routes, you need to check them out. They’ll soon have routes covering 12 states and provide a ton of information when you want to go off-the-grid like we intended to.

Other than routing out my own routes and organizing Adventure rides right out of the dealer to different destinations, I have yet to go on a route that was already organized through an organization like Backcountry Discovery Routes. After researching the material with my friends for the Arizona BDR, I quickly became excited for the thought of exploring new terrain and sites in a state so nearby our home quarters.

Even though it was the end of May, the southern part of Arizona at the border of Mexico where the BDR route starts, can experience scorching hot weather and would be very undesirable on a 2 wheel machine without having AC, so we decided to start just out of Tucson Arizona connecting into the BDR right at the base of Pioneer Pass heading north to Utah. Lucky for us the day we headed out of California to our first destination ended up being overcast through the Arizona deserts, keeping the heat down below the 100’s.

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Here are our 5-Star luxury accommodations for the trip. Lightweight tents, dehydrated food, good friends and the wilderness to enjoy.

Our plan was to get in the higher sections of the back country of Arizona so we wouldn’t experience the raging heat of the deserts. Though the Backcountry Discovery route is laid out in a way where food, gas and water can be found each day, we still prepared as though we would never see a hotel or any food during our ride across the Arizona landscape. Ensuring we had an adequate supply of dehydrated food and all the gear to camp anywhere we ended up for the evening, there was still the concern of having enough water each day due to the current fire restrictions that have been put in place throughout the majority of the forest that spreads across the entire northern region of Arizona. Many of the camp areas had bathroom facilities and sometimes dumpsters to dispose of trash, but no water or campfires. Despite these restrictions, and not being able to warm up next to a campfire, we still made due and enjoyed the outdoor camping only experiencing weather in the 30’s one of the evening’s and something that can’t be avoided when traveling at such elevations. Thankfully we all had tents, sleeping bags, & mats that capable of handling such conditions. Once we made it to Pioneer Pass we stayed in 4000-7500 Ft elevation for the remainder of our trip experiencing anywhere from 40-78 degree temps. Pioneer Pass leads into the Tonto National forest and Pinal Mountain range. These mountains were originally discovered by the Spanish and Mexican miners in the early 1800’s and rumors had spread from the Apache Indians that Gold exist throughout these mountain ranges. The miners were never successful in mining this area because of the suppression from the Apache Indians controlling the area in large numbers but eventually several U.S. miners and the U.S. Army went in and took control of the area to mine. These missions to find the Gold were unsuccessful in the beginning and is how the City Globe was formed, leaving behind a few straggling miners to stake their claim.

After our campout the first night, we packed up and headed down the other side of the pass into the town Globe, where we enjoyed a nice breakfast at a local café before heading north on the BDR. The old part of this town is left with all the old buildings that were established many years ago and gives the feel as though you rode right into an old western movie just waiting for a gunfight to go down. The Fire Station in town had an old Fire Engine from the 50’s that is still in use and looks like it rolled right off the showroom floor.

Heading out of Globe we soon clicked into the off road portion of the BDR heading for a town called Young for fuel and water. There are alternate routes along the BDR that are rated expert for Adventure Bikes, so we made sure to route ourselves on as many we could access as possible. Some of those sections started right out of Globe and the terrain to conquer was littered with boulders and 90 degree switch backs up and down the mountain ranges heading towards Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

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A loose strap was the cause of our first mechanical issue for the trip. While it took time to remedy the issue, it would cause us a bigger headache if left untouched.

To get around the lake we had to cross over the Salt River which feeds into the Lake. From here the next stop would be Young for fuel and water. We continued on enjoying the challenging ride of the scenic landscape with Rock Mountains, cliff formations, small stream crossings and pine forest scattered throughout the region. Once we arrived to Young we experienced our first mechanical issue. Tommy’s saddle bag strap got wound up in his rear wheel hub and sprocket during our ride in. We were forced to remove the rear wheel to clear it out otherwise we would’ve experienced bearing problems and that’s something you don’t want to happen in the vast desolate area we were in.

As we continued on out of Young riding more of the rocky expert terrain with Tommy leading, Fred at the tail end, and myself hanging out mid pack, we got plagued with our first flat of the trip. I became accustomed to checking my rear view mirror looking for Fred’s headlight making sure he was there, as we traveled long distances at a time without stopping or taking any breaks. I noticed I had not seen his headlight in a while because I was in the zone of riding and combing the landscape. I slowed down to a stop to check in the mirror and still no headlight.

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Flats Suck… When you have to ride through square edged rock sections like we did, it was bound to happen but at least we were prepared with the right tools.

I quickly realized something happened because Fred never drops off the pace unless something does happen. Because of the terrain we were just riding I thought he might have taken a spill, because of the square edged rocks everywhere. I finally back tracked to find that he had gotten a flat in his front tire. He took a nail or something as such right through the knobby of his tubeless set up. We tried to plug it with no success because it was right through the knobby, so we had to install a spare 21” tube in his tire in order to continue on. Tommy and Fred’s 1090’s do not come equipped with a center stand, so Tommy brought along a tool called the “Snap Jack”. It was a little tricky at first, but unbeknown to us we would soon become experts with this crafty little tool.

Once we repaired the flat we continued on to the mountains nearby Payson also known as the Coconino National Mountains where we hoped to connect a ridge trail called the 300 trail. Once we got to the ridge portion of the trail we noticed that the gate to cross through was closed due to fire restrictions. We were so tempted to go around the gate and continue on our route, but the area was highly populated with Forrest Rangers so we didn’t dare try, even though we knew we weren’t camping or making any campfires along the way to Winona.

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When in Winslow, AZ this photo is a must.

We had to reroute and go east and around through the town Winslow, AZ having to slab it most of the way. We stopped in Winslow and took our picture at the infamous corner of the street. Being pressed for time before sunset, we decided to head towards Winona, fuel up and head into the town of Flagstaff. Once we arrived in Flagstaff we found a sports bar and grill to have a nice meal and a beer settling with camping on the outskirts of Flagstaff since dark was nearing. After dinner we headed towards a campground we had picked out browsing the net. When we arrived the gate was shut and the campgrounds were closed due to fire restrictions once again. It was too late to decide on anything else so we went around the gate and camped in one of the remote sites for the night. We woke up early to get out, so we wouldn’t have to deal with any fines or harassment as we only needed a place to sleep for the night.

Gate or no gate, we going to set up camp for the night. We packed up and hit the road early enough the next day that nobody would know any different.

After having breakfast in Flagstaff, we studied the tracks that continue on for the rest of our journey in an attempt to decide on a route for the day. We came up with the idea to back track on the west side of the route that we should have taken into Winona the day before, but ended up being unpassable due to the locked gate. We were unsure if we could reconnect on the other side of where that gate was locked out of Payson, but we took the chance anyway hoping to get back on expert trail. We passed along Rogers Lake in an attempt to reconnect and stopped at a view point that overlooked the lower lake and the upper area that no longer had water in it. There was a local woman at the stop that had told us she used to swim in that lake 20 years ago and was pointing to an area that was dry. This was when I truly realized how bad the drought is in Arizona. I know many might think Arizona is just desert, but I can say it is far from that especially in the northern area. The pine forests are endless and the wildlife is abundant. During our travels we saw Coyotes the size of wolves and herds of elk crossing our pathway numerous times along the way.

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If you thought AZ was nothing but brown desert, you couldn’t be more wrong. We went through some beautiful pine forests with amazing views.

When we left the view point we immediately found the road and trail that connects the route we were looking for, and the gate was open. Off we went riding into Winona again, but on the BDR trail this time. We stopped to fuel up once we arrived and huddled up again to decide what the rest of our route would be before settling down to camp. We decided the South Rim of The Grand Canyon would be our target for the day. Even if we didn’t make it to the Canyon we knew we could disperse camp in the vast forest that lines the rim of the Canyon knowing we were behind schedule due to a flat.
The first section on our way out of Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon took us through an area riddled with crater and volcanic mountains. This mountain range is known as the San Francisco Peaks where 600 volcanoes have been identified in a 2000 mile radius. One of these crater volcanoes called the Sunset Crater Volcano was one of the obstacles we had to navigate around to continue on. We stopped at the view point for this Volcano at the base looking up to the black and brown mountain crater top. The entire areas ground cover were these small black rocks and black sand that is the remanence of weathered lava and ash from these volcanoes erupting many years ago. The consistency was like a loose rock type of sand that made it really challenging on an Adventure bike with no way to ride it perfectly because it was almost like riding in deep sand. Even though it was super challenging, I quite enjoyed the scenery around us and in awe as to how all the plants and trees could grow so abundantly in lava and ash, but I guess the nutrients it possesses could be the key to why it does.

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I never would have guessed that AZ could look so beautiful. When you get a chance you should explore it too.

Continuing on through all of the volcanic area we soon found ourselves surrounded by pine forest again and the feeling as though we were climbing even though the terrain appeared flat around us. Indeed we were climbing, because we found a remote campground that was nearing the rim of the Grand Canyon and when I looked down at my GPS it was just over 7500ft elevation. Not knowing we were so close to the rim and the convenience of stores and restaurants to cater to our needs, we decided to ask other campers around us if they knew where we could get water. This is when we realized how close it was and decided to make the trek there to resupply, eat a meal, and resort to the State Campgrounds on the South Rim of the Canyon. When we came out of the forest dirt road to the paved road that circles around the South Rim we finally got our first glance of the Grand Canyon. I’m sure many have said “I can’t describe it in words,” well this is very true and to me almost looked fake or surreal because it is so massive and so hard to process with the human eye. So many colors, the endless gap across, and the fact the forest lead right up the edge was just unbelievable. It almost looked like one of the outdoor scenes displayed in the many rides at Disneyland, except I knew this was the real deal.

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If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, be sure to add it to your bucket list. It truly is an awe inspiring sight.

In an attempt to get a spot at the State Campgrounds we quickly got denied forgetting it was the Memorial Day weekend. No big deal because we were able to supply back up with water, snacks, & beer, then headed back to the dispersed campground we had found a few miles back. Once we settled into this campground our buddy Tommy decided to roll out the “shower in a bag” for our first shower in days. We used our Jetboils to heat up water to add to cooler water to make the perfect temperature. I had become so accustomed to being grungy, that I didn’t realize how nice this tree shower would be, but can say it made for a nice evening around our makeshift campfire. Tommy had a red neck cloth that we used to cover over a portable lantern I had and set it right in the middle of the fire pit giving the feel we were sitting around a campfire without the heat. It sounds funny, but let me tell you, it was quite enjoyable sitting around this makeshift campfire and sipping our beers we brought with us from the Canyon Store.
The next morning we packed up and headed out for our next gas stop and then on down into the Canyon, across the Colorado river, up to the North rim on the other side and then residing at the State Campground for the night that was the border for Utah & Arizona.

Here is what is left of a Kiva, that Southwest Native American Indian Tribes would use for spiritual ceremonies and rituals.

To see and learn about the different tribes and ruins that had once spread throughout this land was spectacular, the Apache, Pueblo, Navajo, & Havasupai are among those many different types of Indians we learned about. We got to experience the area, traditions, and ways in which they lived, including many who still do live the way their ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Navigating the South Rim was another one of those incredible moments in witnessing the massive canyons that lead around and down to the Colorado River bridge crossing. So many fingers of canyons to navigate around, that it was almost like going through a maze without being able to tell where there would be a dead end at the canyons edge. Some of these viewpoints would be hard to access by 4 wheel drive so it was nice to be on bikes and see many sites few ever get to see.

We came across this canyon that had an aqua blue river flowing at the bottom. Later I learned that this is called the Havasu Creek and leads into what is known as Havasu Falls occupied by the Havasupai Indian. This water reflects a crystal clear blue green color because of the limestone and calcium deposits that line the beds of the river leading 50 miles into the falls. This was definitely a highlight for me because I have never seen anything like this in my life. While going along the rims of the canyon we encountered some very rocky areas with square jagged edge rocks imbedded into the trail and soil making it hard to avoid. This is when we experienced our second flat, now on Tommy’s 1090R because he plowed one of those jagged edge rocks causing a gouge on one of his side walls of his front tire. Back out came the “Snap Jack” and my 21” spare tube because Tommy only brought an 18” even though I told him to bring a 21” because it can be used in the rear or front if you’re only going to carry one tube. Live and learn, but this also gave me a little bit of a concern because we were miles from any help and using our last tube we had amongst us. Everyone had only packed air compressors and plugs, but none of us had remembered to bring patches. We had to install my only spare tube in Tommy’s front wheel because the sidewall had too big of a gouge and couldn’t be repaired by a plug.

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No that’s not a swimming pool at the bottom of the canyon. That is the famous Havasu Creek that leads to Havasu Falls. The minerals in the ground give the running river that amazing color.

Finally back on the trail we soon came out on the 89 Highway so we could cross over the Colorado River and head for our final destination of the trip for overnight camping at the State Line of Utah/Az. After stopping to fuel up and take pictures at the Colorado bridge crossing we encountered a tourist group of older people that had just stepped off a bus to take pictures as well. One of the gentlemen came up to us out of curiosity and asked us what our journey was all about on our motorcycles. As we were telling him our story he asked if we flew out there and rented the motorcycles were on. I held back from being rude, but was thinking in my head “Do we look like guys who would fly out here and rent bikes?” especially with our grungy gear and our beards we had developed from the start of our trip, how would someone think that? Sorry to say, but people who don’t ride motorcycles just don’t get it and could never understand what us riders experience when we do.

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This bridge over the Colorado River was an indicator that we were reaching the end of the trail and it was time to make our way back to civilization and then home. What a trip it has been!

After fueling and watering back up, we set off to our final destination. On our way we came across an area called Marble Canyon that had old ruins that still existed at the base of the cliffs. We pulled in to check it out and as we did here comes Fred with a frown on his face that could be recognized behind his helmet. I looked down to notice he had gotten another flat in his front tire. We had no tubes or patches so what were we going to do, plus we didn’t even know the severity of the blowout and if it could even be repaired? Nearing dark we contemplated whether we would just camp there or try to repair the flat somehow and move on.

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Another flat but this time all of our spare tubes were being used. Fortunately enough we were able to bum a patch off a tire repair guy we found on the side of the road. Fingers crossed to hold air.

Deciding to try and repair it, we sent Tommy off to the gas station where we last filled up, because we hadn’t gone that far yet before getting the flat. On his way back he ran into a repair truck repairing a flat on a truck and trailer. Tommy asked him for a tube and he said he didn’t have a tube, but he might have a patch, so he dug down in his tool box to find one patch to offer us. By the time Tommy had got back, Fred and I already had the tire and tube out. Lucky for us it was just a pin hole, but it took us 3 attempts to get the patch to finally hold. Even though it was almost dark we decided to journey on to the campgrounds at the State Line.

Continuing on the BDR route led us into dirt trails to the campgrounds so we were all pleased to know we all had aftermarket lights that would light up the trail like day. It was actually really fun to ride at night since we hadn’t experienced that yet on our trip. When we arrived at the campground there was a sigh of relief in finally getting there and lucky for us we occupied the last campsite left. It had an awning with a cement floor. The weather was so nice outside that we set up our mats and sleeping bags sleeping under the stars and full moon for the night. Every night of our journey displayed a full moon providing us Mother Nature’s flashlight allowing us to see whenever the sun went down, never having any other light that would typically shine from cities nearby.

The end of our trip had neared and it was time to pack up and make the trek back home heading through the southern part of Utah to the 15 Freeway, and on home to California through the middle of Vegas. We got a small glimpses of Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion. Wow! What a site from a distance, we all felt like continuing on the BDR through the state of Utah, but we had run out of time and had to head back to the real world.

On our way through Vegas we ran into heat in the 100’s that was only bearable if we kept moving. Once we got right into Las Vegas rolling down the 15, Fred’s patch on his tube decided to let go due to the heat. Luckily this happened right as we rolled into Vegas otherwise I’m not sure what we would’ve done being stranded in the middle of the desert in 100 degree temperatures and nothing to repair a flat. We found a small motorcycle repair shop in the old town of Vegas. They were able to repair the flat, but they didn’t have a 21” tube in stock. What motorcycle repair shop doesn’t have a 21” tube? The most common size tube on the planet for a motorcycle.

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What kind of motorcycle shop doesn’t stock a 21″ tube??? I was baffled myself. Either way we were able to pick one up at another location and get back on the road.

I had to go to a Cycle Gear to buy the tube and bring it back to the small shop to repair. By this time Fred and the crew already had the wheel off and ready to receive the tube. We got it wrapped up and back on the road in no time and stopped at a gas station to top off before heading home. When both Tommy and I pulled in the gas station we pulled in opposite sides from each other. I stepped off my bike opened my fuel cap and the geyser of gas spouted out of the top like somebody had just turned on the fire hydrant. I immediately slammed my cap closed and locked it, just as I did this, I looked over at Tommy sitting on his bike, and watched him have the same thing happen. He finally closed his cap and stopped his geyser. Luckily we were able to clean up and prevent ourselves from exploding. Apparently the heat and very little fuel used since the last stop created our tanks to become pressurized. How nothing happened still boggles me to this day, especially being in that kind of heat and the blazing hot motors of our bikes.

Finally we continued our journey successfully making it home without anything else happening that would hold us back. Every time I do these trips I know why they call our bikes Adventure Bikes, because it’s always been an adventure for me, and one I always like look back on with no regrets and the feeling of satisfaction in making it to the end and being able to explore sites many never will see.

The three of us were such a team and enjoyed each other’s company so much that our next trip is the Utah BDR that we will also conquer before years end. I’m sure the trips will continue to line up for us and look forward to what the future has to hold. “It’s Time to Ride”

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: How To Stay Safe On 2-Wheels

We motorcyclists come in all shapes and sizes. We have different tastes in bikes. We have different ideas on gear. Some ride 50 miles a month, others ride 50 miles a day. Some like to relax and cruise while others seek the adrenaline that comes from getting their knee down. Despite all of these differences there is one thing we all have in common. We’ve all had someone lecture us on how dangerous motorcycles are. You know what I’m talking about. When people find out that you ride they feel like it is their duty (even if they are complete strangers!) to explain to you that their aunt/brother/cousin/nephew works in the emergency room of City Hospital and they see 47 motorcyclists a day come through looking like they were hit with the fog that turns people inside out. Motorcycles are donor-cycles! How could you possibly ride?

I think these folks are out of line for meddling, but there is some truth to what they are saying. According to a recent study motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all motor vehicle related fatalities, which is up from only 5.7% in 1994. You may think 14% doesn’t sound like much but we are “significantly overrepresented as a proportion of all traffic deaths.” Additionally, per miles driven motorcyclists have a fatality rate that is 28 times higher than passenger cars. In other words, we do take on some additional risk by choosing to ride a motorcycle.

I don’t think this is news to anyone reading this. I’ve considered the risks of motorcycling. You have too. And yet we still ride. Why is that? Because while riding a motorcycle is risky, there are ways to mitigate that risk. Let me share what has worked for me. I should stop here and mention that I’m not an expert. But like a certain insurance company, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. I have been riding for almost 25 years. I am on my bike almost every day, rain or shine, freezing or hot. It’s my life.

Let’s start by talking about risk (or gambling if you will) vs. insurance. There’s a classic Simpsons episode where a hurricane blows through Springfield and the only house that gets destroyed is the town’s famous God botherer, Ned Flanders’. When asked if the house was insured the response is “Neddy doesn’t believe in insurance. He considers it a form of gambling.” That’s funny but not quite true. When we gamble we take on risk that didn’t previously exist. When we buy insurance, we seek to mitigate risk. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. An example might help. I found this brilliant comparison from, not surprisingly, an insurance website:

When we enter into a gambling [or risky] engagement… we create risk of loss that did not previously exist. In other words, there was no risk of losing money to gambling until we bought the lottery ticket or put the money in the slot machine.

staying safe on two wheels - Ben Johnson
From doing their makeup to “checking a quick email,” distracted drivers are out there, both male and female. For this reason, motorcyclist need to be extra careful on the road. Photo: MedicalDaily.com

Conversely, the risk of financial loss from other causes already exist whether we purchase insurance or not. For example, my home faces the same risk of being burned down by a fire whether I buy homeowners insurance or not. If I do not have homeowners insurance, I am faced with the possibility of having to pay completely out of my pocket to rebuild my home in the event of a fire.

Relating this back to motorcycling, it is a given we are going to ride. We are taking on the risk, therefore what are we going to do to offset that risk?
Last week I had to do some work on my motorcycle and the upshot was I would be without a bike for a week. Normally I’d rather jog home from my own vasectomy than commute to work in a car, but it gave me an opportunity to see how the other half travel. I had forgotten how distracting it can be to drive a car. In addition to trying to watch the road you have to worry about your A/C being just right, the texts or calls coming to your phone, making sure your tunes are playing, drinking your coffee and eating your breakfast burrito, and scrolling through the news. In addition, I’ve seen people putting on makeup, loading DVDs for their kids to watch something in the back of the minivan, taking a FaceTime call, reading a book, watching TV from a cell phone mounted on the windshield (seriously!) It is like DRIVING has become a distraction to everything else we are trying to do.

Ben Johnson
As safe as this looks, many riders see it as a huge danger zone. It’s not uncommon for careless drivers to jump into the HOV lane with little to no notice.

So the first form of insurance we can buy as motorcyclists is to understand that every rolling box on the road is most likely filled with someone who isn’t paying 100% attention to the act of driving. This should influence our style of riding. For example, when I’m heading to work I use the HOV lane, but I hug the very left of the lane. I’m practically on the yellow line. Why? Because I’ve noticed that when traffic starts slowing in the fast lane people have a tendency to think, “Forget this noise. I’m going to jump in the carpool lane.” And since traffic has stopped in front of them they can’t make a gradual merge into the HOV lane. They have to swing it wide. But since I am already way to the left I can simply go around these surprises.

Ben Johnson
Flying debris on the highway is no laughing matter. You need to be on the lookout for the oddest things.

What else? It’s a bad idea to tailgate. Aside from the obvious problem of someone stopping short, I’ve noticed that tailgating can hinder your ability to see debris in the road. A car will roll right over something that will cause you big problems. I hit a 2×4 once that I didn’t see coming because I was riding too close behind a car. Avoid riding behind trucks if you can. No offense truck people, but I don’t know what you’ve got in your bed that could come flying out at any moment. I once saw one of those large brown Rubbermaid garbage cans rise up out of the back of a truck, float for a second, and then waft out onto the freeway and tumble erratically across four lanes of traffic. Heck, my brother lost a full size PING PONG TABLE on the freeway and he claims it was tied down securely. Landscaping trailers are another hazard. Ever been behind one of those things and you get so many leaves and sticks in your face you feel like this? Go around these guys if you can.

The second type of insurance we can get is gear, and I’m not strictly talking gear for safety reasons. Gear helps you stay focused on your ride. I’m not gonna high horse it and claim I’m an ATGATT guy. I’m not. But at some point in my career I realized riding was much more enjoyable when I dressed up. Starting at the bottom, get some nice, sturdy, closed-toed shoes to wear. Ever ridden in flip-flops? It’s insanely nerve wracking. I’ve taken some rocks off the top of my feet that surely would have drawn blood had I been in flip-flops. Pants are helpful too. This is a true story: I was riding in shorts and I had a bee fly up them and sting me on the upper thigh. Talk about distracting. I also once had a bee in my helmet, but that’s another story…

ben Johnson
If you’ve never been caught in a Microburst, be glad. These weather events can be extremely violent causing high winds and lots of water to fall from the sky in a short period of time.

Next, wear a jacket. I know, I know, summer is coming and it’s nice to go out for a ride in your short sleeves. Living in Phoenix, I understand that temptation. But I’ve not a nice mesh jacket that is almost as cool as going sans sleeves but I get the added benefit of protection. I remember doing a ride in southern Utah once in the middle of July. My dad and brother and I had just taken the ferry across Lake Powell and were headed across highway 276 into the middle of the desert. It was 105 degrees on the deck and we were fried. Out of nowhere a summer microburst hit us. It felt incredible and the after-rain smell was amazing. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had on a motorcycle. For my brother, however, it was one of the worst. Why? Because while my dad and I were wearing jackets he was wearing just a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. He said it felt like he was being shot with thousands of BBs. So jackets help.

Gloves are another item that I haven’t always believed in. I used to ride with my bare hands because I hated the bulkiness of gloves. But it only takes one rock off your knuckles at 80 MPH to make you a believer. I’ve found some great gloves that are pretty thin on the palms but have some nice padding and protection built in on the tops of the hands. They are even vented a little to help with the heat.

I know this can be a controversial subject, but can we talk about helmets? I personally wear a full face helmet and I can’t imagine going without one. Some folks like the ¾ face helmets. Some wear the ½ helmets, and others can’t be bothered to wear anything. If you live in a state that has loose helmet laws you can do whatever you want, but wearing a nice fitting helmet is one of the best ways to cut out distractions while riding. It wraps you in a nice cocoon of protection. You don’t feel like someone has a leaf blower pointed at your face. You can relax and focus your attention on the ride.

Finally, I’d like to talk about an item that offers nothing in the way of physical protection but absolutely helps me stay focused while I’m riding: earplugs. If you’ve never tried ear plugs I highly recommend them. You can pick some up at your nearest pharmacy for about the price of a candy bar. Roll some up and put them in your ears and go for a 30 minute ride one way. Then take them out and ride back home and marvel at the difference. Using earplugs has taken a lot of the strain out of my rides. It honestly relaxes me and allows me to focus.

As I mentioned above, I’m not an expert on motorcycle safety. I just happen to ride a lot and I wanted to share a few things that have worked for me over the years. I would love to hear what has worked for all of you.

Top 10 Moto Camping Essentials

MUST HAVE items for your next moto adventure

It seems like just yesterday that I got my MC license. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been involved in powersports most of my life, usually on 4-wheels, and always threw a leg over a dirtbike when the opportunity presented itself, but street riding never really piqued my interest till I started working here. Getting my license presented a whole new world of adventure in my eyes though. I loved the thought of packing what I could on the newly acquired 2016 Yamaha Super Tènèrè SE and just hit the open road till I found the perfect camping spot in the mountains or along the beach. The ST provided the perfect platform for me since ADV bikes can be taken off-road when you’re tired of dealing with fast-paced hectic city streets.

I had the machine dialed in, but what to put on/in it for a great moto-camping experience?

I knew what I wanted to do with this bike so I started making my list of things necessary to go off-the-grid so to speak. The obvious choice was to protect the machine first, so I made a few calls to AltRider and was sent out a set of their Crash Bars, Skid Plate and other protection items to ensure I wouldn’t be stranded on the trail. I also installed a set of Yamaha Hard Cases and Top Case to securely hold all of my gear and equipment for any of my adventures.

Now comes the tricky part. I’ve been camping all of my life…. But usually out of a trailer or the bed of my truck. This whole moto-camping thing poses a whole new challenge because space is drastically limited compared to what I’m used to. Considering that I want the ability to ride dirt trails, I also need to be conscious of the additional weight that I’d be lugging around so the bike wasn’t obscenely heavy and sluggish to maneuver. Sure I could take my chances and guess what I absolutely need to carry with me, but why not turn to an expert who lives and breathes this whole ADV lifestyle?

As the Senior Editor for XLADV.com, Eric Hall was a great resource to turn to for the best moto-camping gear choices.

This is where I turned to the Senior Editor for XLADV.com, Eric Hall. I friended and followed him for a while on Facebook and can tell you that he’s got a passion for Adventure Bikes and where they can take him. Eric also has plenty of moto-camping experience under his belt so he would be a perfect resource to answer all of my questions about what my must-have items should be and why. Scroll down to see which items Eric recommends for every moto-camping enthusiast and why. You just might find yourself re-evaluating your gear selection and possibly upgrading.

It’s light, easy to setup, provides great shelter and packs up tight… it’s the Nemo Galaxi 2-Man Tent.

1. Nemo Galaxi 2-Man Tent: Unless you’re an extreme minimalist, the Galaxi 2-man backpacking tent is the perfect shelter when you’re done riding for the day and want to get a good night of sleep. This 3-season tent weighs just over 6-pounds, takes up minimal space when packet (19”x8”) and is simple for someone to set up alone. If you’re camping in great weather you can pull the rain fly back or remove it completely to stargaze at night through the mesh canopy, or encapsulate yourself if the temps are too low. The 2-man size means that there is plenty of space for you and your gear inside and it comes with everything you need from stakes, repair kit and footprint to protect the underside of the tent from rips, tears or anything else you might have to set-up on.

While the Redverz tent definitely costs more, it’s also the only tent that provides you with a garage for your motorcycle and gear in one compact lightweight package.

**Upgrade alternative: If you really want to go all out on shelter for you and your bike, you can get a Redverz Motorcycle Tent. Some people say “If you’re cold, they’re cold,” the Redverz Motorcycle Tents let you shelter your steed from the elements with the built in garage that you can completely close. You get all of the benefits of a quality 3-season tent with the added feature of a portable garage built in one with a slightly higher pricetag.

 

This mummy style sleeping back won’t cook you to death, but it will keep you warm and comfortable when it’s cold outside.

2. Nemo RIFF Men’s Down Sleeping Bag: Since we’re trying to save space and weight, having to pack multiple blankets is not an option. The Riff Down Sleeping Bag is available in temperature ratings down to 30° and 15°, weigh just over 2-pounds take minimal space when compressed into the supplied stuff sack. Full length double slider #5 YKK zippers make it easy to get in and out of and the construction has a ton of features to ensure you’re comfortable all night long.

There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep on uneven ground or having a rock jab you in the back. That is why Eric recommends the Nemo Astro Sleeping Pad.

3. Nemo Astro Sleeping Pad: You can have the best sleeping bag and tent combination that money can buy, but if you don’t have a good sleeping pad to keep you off the ground you’re not going to be comfortable. The Nemo Astro is available either insulated or non-insulated and in a standard or long/wide model for us larger bodied campers. At 3.5-inches thick, it provides a comfortable sleeping base with its lateral baffle design and is simple to inflate/deflate to your liking with the micro-adjust valve. Like the tent and sleeping bag, it compresses tight for minimal storage space on your moto.

The Fillo Backpacking Pillow is almost as good as your pillow at home but packs up much tighter so you’ve got plenty of space for other essential camping gear.

4. Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow: You can’t get a good night of sleep without a comfortable place to rest your head. That is where this Nemo Fillo pillow comes into the picture. The thick luxury foam is the perfect resting place for your head that inflates within a matter of seconds and isn’t much smaller than a pillow you’d use at home. Once you’re awake and ready to get packed up, it stows away in its own integrated stuff sack again with minimal space requirement.

Whether you’re boiling water for a cup of coffee or your next dehydrated meal, the Fire-Maple Personal Cooking System gets the job done without contributing to organizations that try to shut down access to public lands.

5. Fire-Maple FMX-X3 Personal Cooking System: After a long day on the road or off of it, you need to refuel your body and the FMX-X3 is a great compact cooking system from a company that doesn’t contribute to organizations that try to close down riding areas like some of its competitors. The kit works with most butane/propane mixed fuel canisters and comes with an insulated aluminum pot with integrated plastic-coated stainless handle, multi-purpose pot-holder for use with other pots and pans and fuel canister tripod. You store all parts of the stove in the pot for secure storage when traveling and minimal space requirement.

The Trailmaster Adventure Gear Trailside Grill is great for grilling when you’re tired of having to add water to everything you eat.

6. Trailmaster Adventure Gear Trailside Grill: Let’s face it…. There’s only so much dehydrated food you can tolerate on a trip and the Trailmaster Adventure Grill gives you the opportunity to get a great cut of bovine from a nearby butcher and sear some flesh at the end of a hard day on the road. The grill is made from 22ga. Stainless steel, weighs less than 6-pounds and assembles quick and easy. Aside from being a killer grill, you can also use it for fire containment to keep warm and make S’mores for dessert.

the Silipint Silicone Pint glass is good for coffee in the morning or your favorite beer in the evening without the worry of ending up with shattered glass in your pannier

7. Silipint 16oz Pint Glass: These unbreakable silicone pint glass is perfect to hold your afterhour’s beverage so you can relax for the night. Hot or cold, it will hold it all! Added bonus is that it also provides TP storage while packed away in your panniers!

8. Quality Headlamp: There’s no one headlamp that I recommend over another, but just get one that is bright and easy enough for you to use when you’ve got a late arrival at camp. Prices on these can range anywhere from $20 – $200+ so do a little research and see what would work best for you.

Kick out your feet and relax in comfort with the lightweight Helinox Zero Camp Chair.

9. Helinox Chair Zero Camp Chair: After a long day in the saddle, the last place you want to sit is on a rock, log or hard ground. The Chair Zero keeps you comfortably off the ground, provides support in all the right areas, is lightweight (510-grams) and super compact for easy storage when not in use.

The Gerber Hand Axe is the perfect for all your hammering or chopping (not food) needs.

10. Gerber Combo Axe II: From pounding in stakes for your tent to chopping up wood for kindling, the Gerber Hand Axe is an absolute must have in my panniers when I’m going off-the-grid. It has an overall length of just over 15-inches so you can get a good swing to break wood, and weighs in at only 26-ounces! An added bonus to this is that it comes with a small tree saw stored inside the handle.

Now armed with the knowledge of the must-have items for ADV Moto Camping, it’s time to go shopping and get geared up for some great adventures since this has given me even more drive to get out and explore the country on two wheels. If you’ve ever wanted to give the ADV moto-camping thing a shot and are up for an adventure, you might want to check out and participate in XLADV.com’s 7th Annual “High Sierra” event. You’ll get to experience riding in the High Sierra with great hosts at and event to benefit Motorrad Angels. The event is limited to 80 riders so the trails won’t get heavily impacted and it’s a more personal event where people can get to know each other to help the community grow.

What do you think of this list? Do you agree? Maybe you’ve got suggestions to include? Feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. This way we can help others in our riding community who might have questions or even make a part 2!

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Klim Latitude Pant and Jacket Review

Our bodies were not meant for motorcycling. Straddling an engine and catapulting ourselves across time and space can result in exposure to extreme cold and heat. Sometimes, even bolting ourselves and our bikes back together with a bit of metal. We need the best protection we can get when exposed on a motorcycle for days, weeks or even months at a time.

Enter Klim, experts at engineering an armored second skin for sled-heads, dirt and ADV riders. They know a thing or two about protecting us from the elements and have put their graduate degree at the school of hard knocks into something for sport-touring and touring riders: the Klim Latitude.

I welcomed the Klim Latitude as an addition to my gear stash, since I will admit to anyone that I am a bit of a gear junkie. My garage has racks of skis and my closet is full of motorcycle gear to meet the ever changing weather conditions here in the pacific northwest. To earn its spot in my closet though, I did a comprehensive breakdown including a 4 day, 1600 mile test ride to the Klim offices in Rigby, Idaho to meet with Klim’s Brand Training Manager, Dustin Pancheri.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The Latitude jacket and pant fit my 6’2” frame perfectly. Here, I am wearing the jacket in a large and the pants in a 34 tall.

The Latitude jacket and pant main body are made from 2-layer Gore-Tex. In case you haven’t heard, Gore-Tex is the best stuff on the planet for keeping you warm and dry when Mother Nature wants to rain on your parade. I have a Gore-Tex jacket for ski patrol and can give you countless stories about how that material has made the difference between working comfortably in a hostile environment or suffering a miserable shivering existence.

To have Gore-Tex in a motorcycle jacket and pant, where chilly and wet weather can dull your reaction time, just might make the difference between a narrow escape versus picking yourself up from the ditch.

If you have been cold and miserable on a bike, you know what I am talking about.

Klim uses Gore-Tex in their snowmobile gear as well, so they are experts at waterproof construction practices. In fact, in my visit to the factory, I saw the apparatus they use to test the waterproofness of their gear. It is a pressure tester.

You read that right. They put the fabric beneath a ring similar to the wooden hoops my mom once used for needlepoint. That ring then presses the fabric onto a plate with holes drilled for the flow of pressurized water. Then, as the fabric is held down with the ring onto the pressure plate, water is forced up through the holes in the plate. You can then look down onto the fabric and see if bubbles form. If you are wearing the Latitude jacket and pant in an environment where water pressure is that severe, then you are so far underwater that your biggest worry should be fishing your motorcycle out from the Mariana Trench. Then explaining to your insurance company how it got there.

If the fabric can withstand that kind of water pressure, then 50 caliber raindrops are a laugh.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The reflectivity of the Latitude jacket and pant really stand out. There is plenty of stretch in the shoulders for a comfortable reach to the bars.

To take their total protection to an even higher level, Klim lined the elbows and forearms of the jacket with goat leather. They also lined inside of the thighs and knees with goat leather where they contact the bike along with a small trim of goat leather on the shoulders and the knees beneath the heavy duty 840D Cordura. In my conversations with Dustin, he reported that Klim studies how many stitches per inch they can put into the leather to get maximum seam integrity to resist tearing without putting so many holes in the leather that it rips upon contact with terra extra-firma like some sort of leather tear away coupon. That my friends, is attention to detail.

And Klim thinks of every detail. According to Dustin, the dye they use for their fabric is engineered to resist fade, so that black jacket will still be black years from now, not a sun faded grey. The zippers on the pants and jacket have rubberized pulls so they are easy to grab with a gloved hand, even when wet. The 3M Scotchlite reflective panels are positioned strategically along major anatomical joints on your frame (collarbone, arm, forearm, shoulder blade, thigh and calf) to make you look like a humanoid form when it reflects headlights, instead of a mail truck or sign post. There is even a vertical zipper along the sides of the belly in case your ride entails you eating a burrito the size of a sleeping bag.

There are two roomy chest pockets on the front and I found that, when devoid of contents, they make excellent chest vents. These two external pockets on each chest combined with the two hand warmer pockets give plenty storage space for touring.

There is also a emergency medical ID pocket on the left forearm with the star symbol (*) to tell first responders where to find your medical information should they need it. If you fill out a form online, Klim mails you your personal I.D. card for free. Nice touch.

Then, behind that pocket is a secret flap (maybe not so secret now since I am telling everybody) that is designed to hide a credit card or stash of cash. But I think that its best use is storage for an extra key for your bike. If you have ever lost the key to your bike, or have it amputated off in your saddlebag then you know how life saving this hidden pocket could be.

As to not over-engineer the basics, there are simple Velcro adjusters on the wrist and adjustment straps on the forearms, ribs and back of the knee to make sure that your armor does not rotate upon impact. I think Klim got the collar height just right, not tall enough to rub up against your Adam’s apple and chafe, but tall enough to eschew Mother Nature’s attempts to ruin your good time. Also, the collar adjusts with a cinch strap, offset to the left so it can be reached with your clutch hand. More attention to detail.

When you open up the inside of the jacket you see what seems to be pretty standard fare at first: four zippered pockets, two on each side.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The inside of the jacket is comfortable and has plenty of travel oriented storage.

Look closer.

The left chest pocket has a cutout for your headphones. I cannot ride without my music, so a jacket not having a Napoleon pocket is a deal breaker for me.

Then, if you remove the back pad, there is another small, passport sized pocket behind it. With all of this storage, you could play hide and seek with this jacket. It is clearly designed for travel.

The pants have two glove sized hand warmer pockets with an additional zippered thigh pocket on the left hand side.

What surprised me is the coziness of the liners on the jacket and pants. They are as soft as your oldest, comfiest pair of gym shorts your wife keeps begging you to throw away; they are that comfortable. Klim understands this so they gave the liners a Polygiene Odor Control additive which means that after a couple of days or weeks on the road, the garments won’t smell like that old pair of gym shorts your wife is begging you to throw away.

So it is clear that the Latitude will keep you warm, happy and comfortable no matter what your riding conditions. Which makes you wonder how well it performs when temperatures start to climb.

The answer is: fantastic.

This is one of the benefits of having a Gore-Tex shell. The exterior is waterproof and guaranteed to keep you dry, which means that all vents go directly to the body, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Many manufacturers do not have waterproof shells, so they either have a non-removable liner behind the main fabric or include a separate, detachable liner to stop rain before it gets to your skin.

The disadvantage of these two solutions is that the vents are either blocked by the non-removable liner or you have a detachable, garbage bag quality liner that you have to stop and attach to your jacket beneath a freeway under pass while your riding buddies ride by, honking and waving at you in their Klim Latitude. Or if you are me, you forget to pack the stupid liner. Or you just lose it completely.

Also, with either of these waterproofing techniques, the jacket gets completely, soaking, wet. The jacket absorbs water and you now have a wet, heavy jacket to wear for hours on end. You might be dry (maybe) but your jacket is a sloppy mess. This perfectly describes both my current ADV jacket and touring outfit. After a downpour, I gain an additional 10 pounds of retained water, like a soaking wet sleeping bag, and about as comfortable. Couple this with no venting directly to the body and you can see that Klim has the best solution: make the shell waterproof, with water resistant zippers and you can then vent directly to the body.

And boy, does it vent well. There are two vents on the forearms that push air up and over your arms, around your shoulders and down the vertical exhaust vents in the lower back. For fun, I would engage my throttle lock and stick both my arms out to my side like Rose riding on the bow of the Titanic. These forearm flaps then deployed fully and caught serious wind which was not only great for cooling, but made enough wind drag it allowed me to steer the bike with the throttle lock on. Put my right arm out to steer right, left arm out to steer left, both arms out dropped my speed by a couple mph. These are the games you play with idle time while doing hundreds of miles a day through Montana.

There are also two vertical shoulder vents positioned high enough so air can reach them past your windscreen. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the two chest pockets (should they be devoid of contents) can be opened and used as additional vents.

However, my favorite venting feature is the double hold back collar. Each side of the collar can be retained open with simple elastic loops and a hook mounted near your collar bone, unlike most manufacturers that have only one side of a collar to open for venting. The holders are so simple and bulletproof I could hook them back while riding. Why isn’t everyone using this design?

Open up both sides of the collar, unzip the main zipper and you feel like you are wearing a hardcore mesh jacket. I controlled the venting by pinning both collars back and then pulling the main zipper up to my neck for a tad bit of air, or unzipping all the way down for the full on parachute effect. With the zip all the way down and all vents open, I felt like a B-52 deploying full flaps while coming in for a landing. It’s as close as you can come to wearing just a t-shirt.

The pants have not only two huge thigh vents but also exhaust vents on the back of the leg on your hamstring. Again, why isn’t everyone doing this? Open both of them up for the M.C. Hammer pants look and let the good air flow.

Even with all of the time and effort spent on these features, Klim didn’t skimp on the armor, putting D30 armor in the knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and the back. D30 is amazing stuff. This orange goo (yes, they actually call it that) feels like silly putty when you play with it, but when it meets impact, it hardens instantly to dissipate that kinetic energy through the material.

Scientists call it a non-Newtonian fluid. I call it amazing.

It’s so pliable you never notice it’s there. But when the orange goo is called into action, it meets or exceeds CE Level 1 protection. By the way, kudos to Klim for including a real back protector with their gear. Why do other manufacturers just include a throwaway foam placeholder in the back, forcing you to choose between spending more money for real back protection or just take your chances?

To test the armor, I grabbed a hammer. Not just any hammer, a long handle, 28oz framing hammer. That way, no one would claim that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I put my hand beneath the back pad and bravely gave a healthy swing. There is no doubt in my mind that with lesser armor I would have had broken metacarpals for days, but the D30 just stiffened up, absorbed the energy of the impact and returned to its normal, malleable self.

Then I did it again.

And a third time for filming purposes.

Then I high fived my cameraman Kevin Rimes with my impacted hand. Not something I could have done with any other armor.

Then he said that we didn’t get audio and we had to repeat the filming all over again.

Kevin. You are fired.

More hammer blows.

But a note: at freezing temps, the armor does stiffen. More on that later. Which brings us to the road test.

And my chosen destination? The Klim offices in Rigby, Idaho, of course.
I left Wenatchee under blue skies and cool temps in the high 50’s, made an overnight stop in Clarkston, headed over Lolo Pass to Missoula then down to my overnight camp near Rigby. In the true spirit of fully testing the Latitude jacket and pant, I only took off the gear to sleep. It came off as I got in my sleeping bag and I put it on as I crawled out.

Of course, the fact that it was 32 degrees in Rigby when I woke up may have had something to do with that. As I rolled out of my sleeping bag to put on the jacket and pants lying next to me in my tent, I discovered I had accidentally laid the jacket face up over the top my helmet. It was then that I learned that D30 armor does get very stiff when the temperature reaches freezing. In my case, the D30 back pad had slightly frozen into a convex curve. This stretched the jacket fabric enough making it difficult to put on. When I did wrestle the jacket on, I looked like a turtle with its shell put on upside down. However, a few minutes of body heat softened the pad up enough so that it returned to its happy, limber self. Not everyone will live in this gear in freezing temps, so this might only apply to me. This is the testing I do in the name of gear review for you.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
Old bike. Cold bike. The picture is perfectly focused, the dash is frosted over. A heated liner is the perfect mate to the Latitude in these temps. Get one!

Way above my pay grade.

Later that morning, I had the privilege of spending the better part of a day with Dustin Pancheri,and got a great tour of Klim HQ. This is what I uncovered.

Dustin is the kind of person who after a brief introduction, makes you feel like you are chatting with an old riding buddy: stories get exchanged, laughter, knowing smiles. He is so passionate about the sport, the outdoors, the Klim family and his own family that you get the sense that he eats, sleeps and breathes the gear head life. Even he admitted that sometimes he will be at home, have an idea and say “Oh my gosh, I just had an idea. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Passionate.

But it’s not just Dustin. Everyone at Klim that I met embodied that passion. Sales people, marketing managers, warehouse workers, upper management, all shook my hand, said they were glad to meet me and then would apologize for the popcorn butter on their hands. They were all happy to stop and say hello, share a smile and a laugh. Even when contacting Klim headquarters to set up this interview, a real person answered the phone.

Yes, an actual human being. Not a endlessly irritating “press 1 if you want sales, press 2 if you are facing north, press 3 if you have no frickin’ clue what you want, press star if you hate phone menus”. I was so surprised to talk to an actual person at their home offices that when they answered I froze and completely forgot I spoke English.

That same passion for people is probably why Klim offices are still in CEO Justin Summer’s hometown of Rigby, Idaho and not in a massive sprawling urban jungle of asphalt and glass.

After our tour I suggested to Dustin that he could use me as an excuse to get out of work and join me on a ride to lunch. He didn’t take a whole lot of convincing and suggested we ride to the nearby town of Victor. Dustin grabbed a brand new BMW R1200GS from the Klim offices. New as in it had 10 miles and he still needed to put the seat on. I know he was jealous of my 20 year old VFR with 75,000 miles on the clock.

Now, you would think that being a brand new bike with new tires would call for a gentle breaking in, and that Dustin would lead a casual cruise into Victor.

You would be wrong.

I am not a fast rider, but I am not slow either. Yes, I am on a VFR and have done a track day on it, but my bike is also as outdated as my iPhone 4 and it is fully loaded with 4 days’ worth of camping gear. I am using that as my excuse for getting completely smoked by Dustin. True, it was a road he was familiar with and laced with strategically placed apex potholes big enough to swallow unsuspecting children, and I was still shaking off the morning’s freezing temperatures. I am using that as my excuse for being thoroughly schooled by Dustin.

I think that is Klim in a nutshell. That same passion Dustin exhibits in his riding, Klim puts into their gear. You sense their DNA when you put it on. If it is built to withstand what their employees can put it though, then it is good enough for me.

I returned home the next day, having put 1600 miles in 4 days on the Latitude jacket and pant in temperatures ranging from 32 degrees (I used my heated liner) to 88, at speeds from road construction crawling to 110+ (actual figures shall remain secret to protect the guilty) and having done everything from walking the Klim facilities for hours and taking photos to setting up camp and cooking dinner, literally only taking the gear off to sleep, and putting it on immediately after waking up. Here is what I learned.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
More proof of torture testing. Those are bug strikes, and plenty of them. I will be shocked if Bike Bandit lets me test anything after treating gear this. About the only thing I didn’t do was crash test it. Don’t get any ideas…

The Klim Company is family, passionate about the outdoors and experts at making gear that withstands the abuse that adventurous people put it through. The Klim Latitude jacket and pant also pass the biggest test of gear: they disappear when you ride in it. In freezing temps you stay warm, in heat you stay cool, at speed nothing flaps around. It seals out the cold and in the heat vents almost as good as a full mesh jacket. After wearing it for 4 days non-stop (with only one shower day, for testing purposes of course) it still smelled like a jacket and not like a sweaty middle-school locker room after a wrestling match. The Polygiene Odor Control Technology at work.

Any product reflects the mind of its producer. The conscious of the creator is borne out in their creation. Their mind becomes matter. So, when you pick up a product, you are holding the philosophy and paradigm of its creator. The people at Klim are just plain badasses and it shows in all of their garments.

The Latitude jacket and pant wear like a well-engineered second skin that God would have given us if we were supposed to hurl ourselves through the atmosphere at stupid speeds with nothing between ourselves and the asphalt but two credit card sized contacts of rubber.

Given all of this functionality, quality and protection, I did something unheard of.

I gave away some of my gear.

Shocking, I know.

I like the Latitude jacket and pant so much that I, the gear junkie, kept the Klim Latitude jacket and pant for good and gave away my ADV jacket, my touring gear and even my rain suit. It replaces all of them. Some people will balk at the price of Klim gear but trust me, it is cheaper to buy quality the first time around, rather than stockpiling a bunch of gear to fill riding niches.

If you live in more temperate climates, this is the only piece of riding equipment you need and you should get the gray and high-vis version to stay a touch cooler. If you want that ADV style to go with your KTM Adventure, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger or other ADV bike, then the all gray will tell people you mean business. I ordered the black.

I did keep my track leathers as well as my hardcore mesh gear for those 100+ degree days. The Latitude has no pretensions about replacing either one of those. Other than that, this is what I automatically reach for when I go to my newly shrunken gear closet.

If you have any questions about the Klim Latitude jacket and pant, want pictures of specific features (check the unboxing video first) or any other inquiries, please don’t hesitate to leave a question. I am a rider just like you, and I know that buying a garment sight unseen has an element of faith. To help you make a better informed purchase, I am at your disposal for your questions. So take advantage. I might not be able to answer every question, but I can try.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
This is the moment when the rational part of your brain asks you why you are getting on a frozen motorcycle. I never have a good comeback for that one. Good thing I had quality gear.

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: An Oregon Experience

Traveling by motorcycle can be as much about the adventure as it is about the destination. One day of travel is one day of adventure and ten days can be ten adventures. At the end of a day of riding, when I think back about how different things could have turned out, sometimes I think reaching the destination took Divine intervention.

Our ten-day vacation, started when I picked up Donna, my better three quarters and navigator from work in Tukwila, Washington. We had headed east across Washington and into northern Idaho for a few days visiting with some of my family along the way.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
White Bird Hill is a motorcycle riders dream. Aside from being a little narrow, it offers plenty of curves and corners to keep riders on their toes.

From my sister’s place in Troy, Idaho we headed south on highway 95. I highly recommend stopping at the top of Spiral hill to look out over the Lewis Clark Valley before starting down the hill to east Lewiston. At the bottom of this twisted decent we head east up the Clearwater River for a few miles. We then turned south at Spalding and head up Lawyers Canyon between Spalding and Grangeville, checking out some of the tallest wood railroad trestles in America and across the Camus Prairie to Grangeville.
Still following 95 out of Grangeville, just for kicks we went down the old White Bird grade going south. I have biked up this old highway before, and that is a fantastic ride. This short piece of highway just north of White Bird drops approximately 3225 feet to the town of White Bird in just a few miles. The old White bird hill is a narrow strip of pavement with a serious of hair pin turns, that turned many a traveler’s knuckles white, and emptied many stomachs of its contents before the new road and bridge were built 40 plus years ago. The ride south of the small community of White Bird along the Salmon River is a motorcyclist dream. With good pavement and lots of big sweeping turns, but be careful, the man with the pretty Christmas lights on his car knows it is a good road to test your need for speed.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The building at the far end of the photo was a cafe 50 years ago

For a few extra miles of low traffic and good scenery don’t get back on the main road at the south end of town. Drive right on through you will stay on the old highway and along side the main fork of the Salmon River and right down main street of Riggins. Farther south in the middle of Cambridge, Idaho we make a hard right off of Highway 95 onto SR 71 which took us into the Snake River canyon and gave us access to the roads along the Snake river and a chance to visit all three dams on that section of the Idaho and Oregon border. We have ridden this before and have many memories of those rides. Highway 71 crosses the Snake River into Oregon just North of Brownlee Dam, and becomes Oregon state 86. If you watch the signs it is possible to go to Joseph and Enterprise Oregon on these back roads. This was the route we chose. Enterprise was our destination where we would find a bed for the night with the my in laws.

We were riding two up on the 1500 Vulcan classic, pulling a small cargo trailer we call Mammas Purse. I won’t go into how it got its name here. We had made it over the Lick Creek pass and had worked our way through the thick fir and tamarack forest on the narrow mountain road to where we were starting to see a few cattle ranches. Now a few things need to be said here. One, this is open range, which means cattle can run free and are often found alongside or even in the middle of the road. Two, if a cow is on one side of the road and she sees you coming, she will wait till the last moment and cross the road. Cows do not normally move fast when they are crossing the road.

My wife grew up on a cattle ranch in this area and we joke about cows doing this. So, when I spotted a small group of them grazing and doing whatever it is that cows do, I slowed down. I slowed down a lot. I had dropped to first gear, as one of the critters decided she would cross the road from right to left. My wife and I both laughed into our headsets, because without saying a word we knew that we were both thinking “she is going to cross the road” which is exactly what she started to do. Yup, she only started. Then she did something I had never had one do before, she turned to face us, put her head down and came straight at us, with that lumbering run only a cow can do. We were only 50 or 60 feet away when she started her charge. There was no way to turn the bike and trailer around on the narrow county road in time to prevent a head on cowllision. The road was not only narrow and shoulder less, but there was a drop off on both side of the road with the barrow pit full of brush and fir trees, not to mention more cows.

 

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The road a few miles from where we met the mad cow. This area was devastated by
a wild fire a few years previous.

Visions of bad things happening to Spooky, the name of the VN1500, and my body, flashed through my mind. She was closer now, maybe 20 feet and closing the gap. I was almost slow enough to put my feet on the ground now. Now the gap is 10 feet, I have my feet off the floor boards, dragging them on the ground and thinking, this is going to hurt. I’m not sure but I think my wife was in the fetal position on the pillion seat and was curled up behind me, thinking the critter would get her first. I did without even thinking about it, have my thumb tapping out some kind of Morris Code message on the Bad Boy horn. The message was being sent to the cow at over one hundred decibels. About five feet from my front fender bossy decided, if I could hurt her ears this much, what could I do to the rest of her. At that point she decided to finish crossing the road and went over the bank on the left side. I am pretty sure she had a calf in the brush someplace along the road and was just doing her mother cow thing. But it caused me to need a change of under wear and a long break at the next intersection.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The junction of mad cow road and Ship creek where we turned towards Joseph.

That intersection is where we turned left onto road 350 which is locally know as Little Sheep Creek Road to Joseph. This road is also a nice motorcycle road, again narrow and twisty until we reach the top of the Little Sheep Creek Hill. As soon as we clear the top of the hill the valley where Chief Joseph began his fateful trek to Montana lays itself out in front of us. Here the road is straighter and wider, but don’t get on it too much, the guys that drive the cars with the funny lights, get bored and love having you entertain them.

The road comes to an intersection at Main street in Joseph. This is where we turn right onto state road SR 82. From here it is only six miles to Enterprise.
The area around Joseph and Enterprise is nine thousand-foot mountains with green fir and tamarack forest wedged in between the top end of the timber line and the lush green Wallowa Valley below. In almost sixty years of visiting the valley, I have never seen the area above the tree line without at least a few patches of snow. We road through this area without stopping to do any looking around, as it is the area where my wife was born and raised and I had spent many years backpacking, fishing and camping, it is full of back roads. A person could spend a life time looking around this beautiful mountain valley.

We made it to Enterprise with no farther challenges and had a good night sleep before continuing on with our trip the next day.