Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

August 14, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

In our Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – The Basics, we gave you some ideas as to what you need to start camping on a motorcycle. However, we only scratched the surface. Like with riding gear, you really only need a few things to get started, but once you’re hooked, a whole world of gear options becomes open to you. Now, you don’t need all of this stuff to have fun out in the mountains on your bike, but they all serve an important purpose. With a little thought, you can pack your bike with gear that makes your camping experience even more fun.

When shopping for camping gear, most people think of the big chains, like REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, or similar outlets. However, these places are directed towards backpacking or car camping, and while you can find gear that applies to motorcycling, you have to figure out what will work on your own. If you want to shop from a vendor that has a motorcycle-centric approach to camping, you should visit the Aerostich website (yeah, that Aerostich, the home of the Roadcrafter riding suit). Here, you’ll find a wide array of camping accessories that have been pre-selected for use on motorcycles.


I tend to carry freeze-dried backpacking food when I moto-camp. It packs easily, and it tastes pretty good considering the packet you’re eating will stay fresh until roughly 2048 if you don’t break the seal. Some even come with self-heating packets that boil the food packet once you add water. Still, if you get into camping at all, you’ll eventually need a stove. Even if you don’t need to boil water for dehydrated meals, it’s much easier to heat a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew on a stove than on a campfire.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

This GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove is as basic as it gets. It packs small and uses commonly available gas canisters as its base. (Get yours from REI for $20.95.)

Today, you basically have two choices when it comes to stoves, those that use butane/propane canisters and those that use white gas. When it comes to convenience, it’s hard to beat the canisters. They’re small and easily available. Also, you can buy a basic canister stove for as little as $20. In my experience, however, they tend to run out of fuel at the wrong time. So, I carry an extra canister. With white gas stoves, you can actually look into the can to see how much fuel is left, which is why I prefer them.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

If you’re looking for a compact camp stove that will work forever and burn practically anything, the Svea 123 is the stove for you. My single-owner Svea 123 has been going strong for over 45 years and has only needed a gasket replaced. Lighting it is a ritual that I have come to love. (Available from Aerostich for $117.)

Pots, pans, and espresso makers

Even if you’re just boiling water, you need a pot. So, why not get a set of pots and pans that nest inside each other for easy packing? In my motorcycle travels, I’ve prepared countless meals on my beat-up old pots and pans. Now, you can get a similar set for less than $30 – and they have insulated handles so you don’t burn your fingers taking the pan off the stove!

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

This Stainless Solo Cook Kit only costs $27, and it contains two pots, a frying pan (to be honest, I always use my frying pan as a plate or shallow bowl), and an 8 oz. plastic cup. They pack up into one convenient nylon pouch. If you want to do more than basic cooking, you can get a non-stick aluminum set of pots for $20 more. (Available from Aerostich.)

Then there are the little luxuries. My beloved camping espresso maker was originally purchased as a joke, but I had no idea how much I would love a good cup of coffee when traveling. It always has a space in my saddlebag for moto-camping.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

Oh, how I love espresso at dawn at my campsite. This little stainless steel gem only costs $39.95 and comes with a cup and a carrying case. I’m seriously considering replacing my beat up old aluminum one with this. (Available at REI.)

Water filtration

If you ever venture beyond campgrounds on your motorcycle adventures (and even in some campgrounds the water is not potable without treatment), you’ll need a way to purify your water. Yes, you can boil it, but then you have to wait for it to cool if you want to do anything other than cook with it. So, that leaves chemical treatments or filters.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

Although I’ve never used this specific treatment, I’ve used a variety of similar products over the years, and they work. Aquamira Water Treatment Drops treat drinking water using chlorine dioxide and does not leave a funny taste, like iodine tablets of old. (Available from Aerostich for $11.)

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

I’ve used an older First Need purifier for more than 20 years, and aside from an occasional filter replacement, it’s performed flawlessly. That said, pumping water through a filter for more than a canteen-full takes some time, leading me to search for a reliable alternative. (Available at Eastern Mountain Sports for $133.)

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

I purchased the Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System 4 liter system for our MO Adventure Tour and have been impressed with how quickly it filtered water. Each rider had a minimum of 2 L capacity in their hydration packs that we needed to fill, and that was before we started boiling water for dinner! If you’re traveling solo the 2 L version will be sufficient, but for groups, the 4 L setup is the bomb! (Available at REI for $119.95.)


For two nights, as we stood around the campfire with nowhere to sit, we MOrons lamented not bringing any chairs. We did have one hammock that proved to be very popular, but we still needed something to sit on near the fire since the picnic table was too far from the fire’s warmth.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

The Chair One is exactly what I needed on our adventure tour. Claimed to hold up to 320 lbs., the Chair One sits 20 inches off the ground and packs down into a 14 ×4 ×5-inch zippered stuff sack. (Available from Aerostich for $79.)

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

The ENO SingleNest Hammock is for those who take their post-ride lounging seriously. The hammock can hold up to 400 lbs. and packs down to just 3.5 x 4.5 inches when in the built-in stuff sack. (Available at REI, starting at $41.93.)


As electronics become more enmeshed in our lives, being able to charge them while traveling on the road is quite important. Similarly, having a light beyond the standard flashlight/headlamp you should carry in your camping kit will make cooking and eating much easier. Here are two products that I’ve found to be quite useful.

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

The Goal Zero Venture 30 Power Bank is a 7800 mAh lithium-ion battery that I reviewed here with its accompanying solar panel. While I rarely use the solar panel when riding (instead I use USB power from the bike), it has come in handy while hiking and backpacking. It is rugged and waterproof with a handy flashlight function. At night, I use the Venture 30 to recharge my iPhone and Apple Watch while I sleep and wake with plenty of charge left over for other devices. (Available from Goal Zero for $99.95.)

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

The Goal Zero Lite-A-Life Mini USB Light is perfect for hanging in a tent or over a picnic table as a space light. Putting out 110 lumens doesn’t sound like much, but works just fine for my purposes. Being a USB-powered device, it can be plugged in to any USB battery pack. Up to four Lite-A-Life Minis can be daisy-chained together. (Available from Goal Zero for $19.95.)

Motorcycle Camping Gear Buyer’s Guide – Beyond the Basics

See you out in the mountains!

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2018 Energica Eva Esse Esse 9 Review

August 6, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

2018 Energica Eva Esse Esse 9

Editor Score: 87.5%
Engine 18.5/20
Suspension/Handling 11.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 10/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score87.5/100

When you think of Italian motorcycles, you probably think of something sexily swoopy, a trellis frame, top-notch componentry, and a throaty V-Twin engine. The thought of an electric motor probably never enters your mind. However, Italian manufacturer Energica is doing its level best to change your thinking with its family of exotic electric motorcycles. From the Ego’s committed sportiness to the Eva’s street fighter stance (which was bolstered by having its motor output brought in line with that of the Ego for 2018), Energica’s motorcycles have always positioned themselves as premium electric performance motorcycles. When releasing the 2018 Energica Eva Esse Esse 9, the company created a premium electric roadster to round out its current model line.

2015 Energica Ego Second-Ride Review

2016 Energica Eva First Ride

2018 Energica Eva EsseEsse9 First Ride Review

Although this isn’t our first time riding the Esse Esse 9 (Kevin Duke had that honor back in February), is the first American publication to be given the opportunity to spend some time with the bike and put together a full review. We’ve had the bike for a couple of weeks and have been able to put it through its paces in a more thorough way than our previous short ride allowed. What we’ve learned is that the Esse Esse 9 is clearly cut from the same cloth as its siblings and, consequently, shares the same strengths and weaknesses.

The Energica Eva Esse Esse 9 (center) flanked by its siblings, the Ego (left) and Eva (right).

Family heritage

While the appearance and the riding positions of the Energica family appear quite different, the trio are all based on the same platform. In true Italian style, the frame is a trellis high-strength steel unit. That frame connects to the massive battery box and electric motor housing, using them as a stressed member. Out back, a cast aluminum swingarm is controlled by a Bitubo shock that is adjustable for rebound and preload. Front suspension duties are handled via a fully-adjustable Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork. Where the Ego and the Eva receive cast aluminum wheels and more sporting rubber, the Esse Esse 9 wears a set of OZ Racing spoked wheels shod with tubeless Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp 120/70 ZR17 and 180/55 ZR17 front and rear.

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All three Energicas have the same 11.7 kWh lithium-ion battery that is claimed to maintain up to 80% of capacity after 1200 charging cycles. What sets the trio apart from all other electric motorcycles currently available is its built-in charging system. Under the seat, an SAE J1772 plug allows the bike to be charged from 0-100% in 3.5 hours at any Level 2 charging station (a $2,295 option on a Zero). However, what really stands out when it comes to charging an Energica is its ability to be charged by a Level 3 DC Fast Charge – a method currently not offered on any other electric motorcycle. When hooked to a DC Fast Charger, an Energica will suck down electrons quick enough to reach an 85% charge from completely drained in a mere 20 minutes! While these chargers are less common than Level 2 chargers, more will appear as the electric vehicle infrastructure matures.

Those formidable aluminum structures inside the engine bay are the battery housing (right) and the motor (left).

When it comes to converting that stored electricity to forward motion, the Esse Esse 9 differs from its siblings. Where the Ego and (new for 2018) Eva both have 107 kW motors that produce a claimed 145 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, the Esse Esse gets an 80 kW motor for a claimed 109 hp and 133 lb-ft. We planned to visit the dyno during our loan, but Energica Italy wouldn’t allow it. So, we’ll have to rely on the carefully-calibrated MO Butt Dynos of myself and Road Test Editor, Troy Siahaan.

In action

By now, regular MO readers are familiar with the linear power delivery offered by electric motorcycles. Quite simply, unlike internal combustion engines (ICE), there is no building of power as the engine rpm increase. Rather, riders have the full measure of the motor’s output at their direct control. What is notable about the Esse Esse 9’s power delivery is how much finesse a rider can use in dialing in minute increments of acceleration.

The ability to minutely control the throttle on the Esse Esse 9 can’t be understated.

Troy sums it up thusly: ”Speaking of power delivery, one of the most impressive things about the SS9 is that you can dial in just the amount of throttle input you desire. If you ask for two degrees more, that’s what you get. If you back out two degrees, you can feel that, too. It’s remarkable, and underappreciated until you ride a motorcycle with less refined power application.”

Additionally, unlike with some ICE motorcycles, there is a very distinct portion of the grip movement that allows the rider to maintain neutral throttle – keeping a constant speed. On bikes with poorly tuned EFI, riders often only have acceleration or deceleration to choose from, but in street riding, this middle ground makes it possible to optimize chassis stability in a corner or series of corners.

The Esse Esse 9 has the smaller of the two motor configurations offered by Energica, yet I never felt hampered by the fact. Troy agrees, describing the bike as “blindingly fast.” Naturally, on a track in the aggressive riding position of the Ego, we’d love to twist the throttle to the stop, but on the street, with the 9’s bolt upright riding position, we never felt like anything was lacking when we decided to pull its tail.

The motor is oil-cooled to prevent the overheating issues some other electric motorcycles have encountered.

When it comes to the slowing properties of regenerative braking, the Energica has four levels: off, low, medium, and high. Depending on the type of road I was riding on, I tended to switch between low and medium regeneration. For example, when riding uphill in the mountains with gravity working in my favor when slowing down for a corner, low was sufficient to help me adjust my corner speed. While riding downhill or in tighter, twistier sections of road, medium was my setting of choice.

”Having four regen settings is cool,” opines Troy. ”I preferred the Low setting. The High setting wasn’t linear, and far too intrusive for my taste. In High, initially letting off the throttle would slow the bike down a degree, then once the bike slowed to a certain speed, it felt as if someone stomped on the rear brake and slowed you down some more. This made it hard to set up for a turn when you think you’ve set your corner speed, then the second burst of regen slows you even more.

About the weight

While the motor’s output did a good job of masking the Esse Esse 9’s 621-pound curb weight, the bike’s heft was clearly noticeable in both the braking and handling departments.

Premium components abound – from the Marzocchi fork to the OZ Racing wheels. The giant 330mm Brembo discs are necessary to haul the bike’s heft down from speed.

Like all Energicas, the Esse Esse 9 has a pair of 330mm discs squeezed by radial-mounted, four-piston Brembo M432 calipers. Although Troy and I chose different kinds of roads for our performance testing (I hit the swoopy Angeles Crest Highway and Troy rode in a tighter, twistier, point-and-shoot environment), we came to similar conclusions. First, the big discs and premium calipers were a must because of the mass that needed to be slowed. Second, the Esse Esse 9 tended to stand up under trail braking and preferred that corner speed be set early so that the throttle could be applied.

”The twin 330mm discs and Brembo calipers work especially hard to slow the motorcycle. Now I know that 621lbs is what it takes to make 330mm discs and Brembo calipers feel average in stopping power. What I found weird was that the SS9 feels like its weight is slightly biased towards the rear, so I was quite heavy on both front and rear brakes trying to slow her down.” Notes Troy, ”Since the bike tends to stand up when trail braking, I would drag the rear brake through a turn if I really had to shed some speed.”

Look closely at the Bitubo shock, and you’ll see that the rebound damping is turned all the way to slow. Still, it couldn’t prevent boinginess after the suspension was fully compressed over a G-out bump.

In most situations, the suspension was able to handle the bike’s weight. On single bumps – or even stutter bumps – the suspenders did a good job of keeping the chassis from becoming unsettled. However, hit a G-out compression-type bump at speed, and the Bitubo shock’s rebound circuit simply wasn’t able to handle the recoil from a fully compressed rear suspension. This was even with the rebound set to full slow. The Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork was better able to handle this kind of bump, which we attribute to the rearward weight bias of the bike.

And the range?

We’ve mentioned sport riding quite a bit in this review, and that makes sense for a bike that is marketed as a premium electric performance motorcycle. With electrics, however, it always comes down to range, and speed drains batteries. So, as with every electric motorcycle I test, I subjected it to a completely unfair ride from my house up the Angeles Crest Highway to Newcomb’s Ranch and back. Usually, I turn around when the battery of my test bike gets to 40% because I know that I can make it to the Level 2 charging station at the base of the mountain.

You’ll spend a lot of time on any electric motorcycle looking at the battery gauge (on the bottom in red).

However, this trip, I was having so much fun on the Esse Esse 9 that I blew past my self-imposed limit and rode all the way to Newcomb’s. Fortunately, they were willing to let me plug in to the wall outlet and charge the bike for the hour or so that I was eating and hanging around. By the time I was ready to leave, the charge had gone from 26% to 38%. So, I bombed down the mountain, comfortable in the knowledge that I’d make it to the charger. And I did. Only the charger was out of order. No worries, I still had 10% battery remaining, so I went to the next closest station. And it was broken, too. Sheesh. Now, I was on 9% with a predicted 13 miles of range. I was 15 miles from home.

At this point, I decided to attempt to make it all the way home by avoiding the battery-draining freeway and sticking to surface streets. Long, slooooow story short, I made it home with the last couple of miles in limp home mode, which limited my speed to an indicated 21mph. I arrived at my home Level 2 charging station with 0% battery indicated and dashes listed as my range. The final tally was 85.7 miles. Not bad for a Sunday morning’s sport ride on an electric motorcycle. For the rest of my rides, the Esse Esse 9 had plenty of range, though my longest daily ride was only 50 miles, which I think is typical of most riders.

When you’re down below 10% of battery remaining, you don’t want to arrive at a broken charging station.

(A quick note: Yes, the broken charging stations were a drag, but I’m not going to hold the state of the charging infrastructure against the motorcycle. You can decide if I’m being too forgiving, but I think not.)

Build quality

Since the Esse Esse 9 is a premium motorcycle, we have pretty high expectations for the fit-and-finish. For the most part, Energica has delivered. The front of the bike features a Marzocchi fork, Brembo brakes, and OZ Racing wheels. Where the two other Energica models have dual headlights, the Esse Esse 9’s round LED headlight looks the roadster part. The LED ring around the dual reflectors (for the high/low LEDs) stands out as the motorcycle approaches you on the road.

You won’t see this plug on any other motorcycle currently in production. The two prongs at the top are used for the DC Fast Charge – and it is fast!

Behind the headlight, a TFT display does a nice job of relaying all the pertinent information to the rider. The tubular handlebar mounts to a CNC-machined triple clamp and riser, while the bar’s bend puts the rider in a perfectly upright riding position. The switchgear is easy to manipulate, and the ride/regen modes are adjustable on the fly. The shapely stepped seat is covered with dark brown leather. Below the seat is more machined aluminum, this time it’s anodized blue. Even the footpeg mounts are machined. Suffice as to say that the bike looks sweet!

The only fly in the premium ointment is the plastic-covered “tank.” For some reason, when the rider shifts around on the seat, the plastic panels rub against each other in a cheap-sounding creaky way. That’s really just a nit-pick, though.

As always, it’s about the ride

The Esse Esse 9’s riding position is quite upright, relaxed, and comfortable. The rider is in an ideal position for dealing with traffic in urban situations. When the cornering gets more aggressive, simply lean into the bar and use the width to lever the 9 into the turn. The Esse Esse 9, thanks to the bar, can be flicked onto its side, but it really prefers to be bent into corners. The same goes for the braking. While the Brembos offer the feel to trail brake into corners, the bike fights it a bit by standing up, leaving the rider with two choices: get the braking done (and hence get back on the throttle) early or drag the rear brake into the corner. Using one of these techniques, the Esse Esse 9 will gladly change lines mid-corner.

The acceleration, as noted above, is extremely tractable and exceedingly fun, requiring tons of self-control to keep out of throw-me-in-jail territory – just because of the addicting G-forces. When viewed at speed from the saddle, the Energica Esse Esse 9 achieves its goal of being a premium quality Italian roadster – in a class of one (or three if you include its Energica siblings). Is it worth its $24,940 MSRP? Only you can decide, but the reality is that the motorcycle is an exclusive item and out of reach for many riders (your humble MO staff, included). So, when looking at the bike logically, the Esse Esse 9 is an electric performance motorcycle for well-heeled riders. Although it requires the same compromises of every electric bike concerning range and charging infrastructure, its performance chops and DC Fast Charging capability set it apart from the rest of the electron-fueled pack. Riders who fit the Energica’s market segment who are looking for a roadster should find themselves quite happy with the Esse Esse 9.

2018 Energica Eva Esse Esse 9
+ Highs

  • Acceleration!
  • Precise throttle control
  • DC Fast Charging
– Sighs

  • Shock can get overwhelmed by bike’s heft
  • We’ll always want more range
  • Plastic-on-plastic rubbing on “tank” doesn’t reflect the premium build and price

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8 Reasons Adventure Riding Is Better Than Just Touring

August 2, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Few other images of motorcycling have captured the psyche of riders and non-riders alike as much as that of a resolute motorcyclist hitting the open road for parts unknown. For Americans, it appeals to the lore of the rugged individuals that conquered the American West. Touring on a motorcycle is about as good as it gets – no matter what type of machinery you ride. Spending days out of the cities on remote rural highways is something every motorcyclist has dreamed about.

While any motorcycle – from a 30-year-old Honda C90 to a one-month-old Gold Wing Tour – can be used for touring, adventure touring aficionados will tell you that their mounts offer the most versatile touring possibilities out there. As with the SUV craze, the popularity of adventure touring motorcycles is heavily influenced by their image of toughness. The advertising that surrounds these machines (obviously) plays to this image. Let’s be honest, though, an embarrassingly large percentage of adventure bikes will never turn a wheel off pavement in anything other than a roadside cafe’s gravel parking lot. Clearly, it is our MOronic duty to see if we can spread the word about adventure touring.

So, here’s a completely biased list of reasons why adventure touring is better than just plain old touring. Or maybe we should change the title of this article to 8 Reasons Why You Should Consider Taking Your Adventure Touring Bike Off-Road.

8. Cool gear and bike accessories

Adventure Touring

Photo courtesy of Twisted Throttle.

You know the appearance of invincibility that adventure bikes convey is a huge selling point for the machines, but have you looked at the accessories? How cool is a metal bash-plate bolted to the bottom of your engine? It says you mean business. Then add a set of aluminum panniers for the full world-traveler look. Don’t forget the auxiliary lights for keeping the trail visible at night.

Now, let’s consider the riding gear. Nothing screams badassed, conquer the world motorcyclist like a well-worn adventure suit. Now, you’ll have to buy it new and work the patina in over thousands of miles, but think how cool you’ll look when you’re finished!

7. Scenery without clutter

Adventure Touring dirt road

Yeah, mountain roads are great. So are national parks or even remote desert highways. Unfortunately, they all usually share one of these: power lines, road signs, fences, and/or litter. Get out on fire roads or, even better, some single-track into the wilds of your state, and sooner or later, the traces of civilization fall away and you’re left with just the forest or desert or lake country that you’re riding in. After the sun sets, look up in the sky to see the universe without light pollution of the urban sprawl.

6. Solitude

Adventure Touring

One of the problems of getting away from it all in places that are easy to reach is that you have to deal with all the other people who are simultaneously getting away from it all at the same place. With a little careful planning – and perhaps some tips from experienced adventure riders – you can travel a whole day without seeing another soul who isn’t part of your riding group.

5. Camping without campgrounds

Adventure Touring

© Sergey Nemirovsky Shutterstock

While this could be part of the previous item, there’s something about setting up camp in a place that no-one else has ever pitched a tent before. If you’re the type of person who likes to drink a little whiskey and whoop it up after a day’s ride, you won’t be disturbing anyone, or if you prefer an evening of quiet contemplation and conversation with a couple close friends, you won’t be disturbed by the drunken yahoos at the next campsite. 

4. Silence

Adventure Touring

© Sergey Nemirovsky Shutterstock

Instead of squabbles between siblings or music that you would never choose to listen to wafting from the adjacent campsites, you can sit and listen to the bug-song, the breeze through the trees, or just the crackle of your fire. Yes, we love the sound of your motorcycles when we’re riding them, but once they’re parked for the day, we know how to enjoy the silence of a mountain meadow.

3. Self-sufficiency

Adventure Touring trailside repairs

When you have a mishap on a rural highway, if you wait long enough, someone will likely come along and be able to help you. When you have a mechanical or a mishap in the Middle of Nowhere, you’ll have to deal with it yourself. So, if you get stuck in mud or sand or sh*t creek, you’ll need your own resourcefulness. For many adventure riders, that’s part of the attraction.

2. Camaraderie

Adventure Touring

Shared experiences have a way of bringing people together. If those experiences are challenging in nature, the effect seems to be stronger. Helping each other get over personal obstacles on an adventure ride is the stuff of long-lasting stories. 

1. You don’t have to stop when the road does!

Adventure Touring

The best part of adventure riding happens the moment the tires leave the pavement. You, your bike, and your gear are going where 98% of the other touring riders never venture. Revel in the exclusivity! It only gets better the more you do it. Yes, the bikes are big and heavy and only moto-gods can actually ride them the way they do in commercials, but you don’t need to be drifting over sand dunes in Africa to enjoy the hell out of an adventure bike. Chugging along over rocks, across sand, and through streams is tons of fun. So, go out and get dirty!

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MO Tested: Reax Gloves, Jacket, And Jeans

July 27, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Every now and then a new riding gear manufacturer enters the competitive motorcycle apparel market. Some grow while others wither and fade away. What typically separates the rising newcomer from the soon-to-be also-rans is usually quickly apparent in the form of missing necessary features or comfort issues when riding. Motorcycle gear places a high emphasis on function, and often, that function also dictates the styling. What if you’re looking for function with a less flashy style? Reax Motorcycle Gear may be what you’ve been looking for.

Developed by Comoto, the parent company of RevZilla and Cycle Gear, Reax appears to have benefitted from that lineage. After a couple months riding with a selection of Reax gear, if I had to sum up my experience with the products, my impression would be that it is well thought out, practical riding gear. In my time with the Jackson Sport Leather Jacket, the 215 Denim Riding Jeans, and the Castor Sport Leather Gloves, the items have, with one small exception, performed like products from a much more established brand.

Jackson Sport Leather Jacket – $429

Reax Jackson Sport Leather Jacket

Editor Score: 84.0%
Aesthetics 9.0/10
Protection 7.5/10
Value 8.5/10
Comfort/Fit 8.75/10
Quality/Design 9.0/10
Weight 8.5/10
Options/Selection 8.0/10
Innovation 7.5/10
Weather Suitability 8.5/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 8.75/10
Overall Score84/100

Motorcyclists love their black leather jackets, and the Reax Jackson Sport Leather Jacket combines sportiness with a subtle style. Constructed in Vietnam from 1.2-1.4mm oiled buffalo leather, the Jackson offers the abrasion protection riders need. The reinforced double layers on the elbows – along with Superfabric inserts – cover SAS-TEC CE Level 2 armor, while the shoulders contain similar CE-protection in addition to padding.

The leather on the front torso, upper arms, and on either side of the back is perforated to flow cooling air to the rider’s body. Arm and shoulder stretch inserts help keep the cut of the jacket slim without restricting movement when in a riding position.

The articulated sleeves feature zippered closures and neoprene comfort panels for a snug fit that is perfect for fitting under gauntlet gloves. The soft neoprene rims the entire circumference of the collar, preventing neck irritation during long hours in the saddle.

One of our favorite features of the Jackson is the waterproof chest pocket.

The exterior also includes two zipping hand-warmer pockets – one of which has a snapping key ring holder. The waist is adjustable via a pair of hook-and-loop fasteners. Finally, the upper chest, elbows, and back all have retro-reflective patches for nighttime conspicuity.

Comfort features include soft neoprene around the collar and on the outer edge of the sleeves. Precurved arms and stretch panels keep the Jackson from binding in the riding position.

The Jackson’s interior is equally well thought out. The liner is moisture-wicking fabric that draws sweat away from the rider, promoting cooling on hot days. The inner chest pocket is waterproof, giving riders a safe place to store a phone when caught in an unexpected shower. The two other interior pockets can hold small essentials. Additionally, two snapping, elastic belt loops keep the jacket from climbing up on the pilot’s back when in a sporty riding position. The only omission in the Jackson is the lack of a back protector in the pocket specifically designed for one. (The $30 Sedici Aria-Pro Back Protector fits perfectly, though.) A jacket in this price range should include a CE Level 2 back protector. This oversight is the only obvious miscalculation in an otherwise solid jacket.

The Jackson Sport Leather Jacket is available in black only in sizes S-3XL for $429 and can be bought directly from Cycle Gear here.

215 Denim Riding Jeans – $199

Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans

Editor Score: 82.0%
Aesthetics 9.0/10
Protection 7.5/10
Value 8.0/10
Comfort/Fit 9.0/10
Quality/Design 8.5/10
Weight 8.5/10
Options/Selection 8.0/10
Innovation 7.0/10
Weather Suitability 8.0/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 8.5/10
Overall Score82/100

What can we say? Motorcyclists are like most people; they like wearing jeans. So, creating riding apparel that looks and (mostly) feels like jeans when off of the bike is a big deal. The Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans are classically-styled, straight leg, 5-pocket jeans, and that’s what they look like, too. Where some manufacturers design technical riding gear made out of denim that doesn’t look like street clothes, Reax has crafted the 215s in such a way that only the slight break in the fabric as it flows over the removable (optional) Rokker D3O Knee Armor ($30) betrays their true function, protecting a rider’s legs.

The Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans are made in Portugal and constructed out of 11.5 oz 100% cotton denim, which is why they mostly feel like your regular jeans. However, underneath the denim, in all the abrasion zones, a layer of aramid twill will keep the rough surface of pavement away from your skin long after the denim has given up. For increased durability, the key seams are also triple stitched. During hot weather, the aramid layers do not breathe as well as plain denim, so they are a little warmer but not unpleasantly so.

The 215s are only available with a 32-inch inseam, so riders with longer requirements are out of luck. Shorter riders can have the legs hemmed or roll them up, which reveals reflective fabric on the inner cuff. Alternatively, you can simply leave the legs alone, as the pants will naturally ride up once you’re moving. The waist sizing ranges from 28-42 inches, and the fit is similar to Levis zippered regular jeans.

The 215 Denim Riding Jeans can be bought directly from Cycle Gear here.

Castor Sport Leather Gloves – $89

Reax Castor Sport Leather Gloves

Editor Score: 83.0%
Aesthetics 8.5/10
Protection 8.5/10
Value 9.0/10
Comfort/Fit 7.5/10
Quality/Design 8.5/10
Weight 8.5/10
Options/Selection 8.5/10
Innovation 8.0/10
Weather Suitability 8.0/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 8.0/10
Overall Score83/100

The Castor Sport Leather Gloves are cleanly designed short sporty gloves. Constructed out of 0.8-0.9mm cowhide on the the back and tough goat leather on the palm, the Castor also features a high density flexible insert right where your palm would touch down in a tumble. Similarly, the outer edge of the pinky receives an additional layer of leather and padding. The backs of the fingers are protected by thermoplastic rubber while the knuckles benefit from leather-wrapped hard armor. The short wrist closure is secured with a hook-and-loop fastener. In a nice perk, the thumb and forefinger are also touch-screen enabled.

The Indonesian-made Castor is available in sizes S-3XL. However, if the pair I tested is representative of the line, sizing runs a little small. Typically, I wear a large glove, and the Castor was initially a bit snug. (Using a leather relaxer to saturate the hide before a couple of rides resolved the issue.) If your hands are between sizes, I’d suggest going up to the larger size.

From multiple layers of leather to a flexible insert on the heel of the palm, the Castory gloves have the protection you need for everyday riding.

The Castor Sport Leather Gloves are a good-looking daily use glove that I have been wearing regularly for a couple months. They are available in black, black/gray, black/white, and white/black/red color combinations.

Buy the Castor Sport Leather Gloves directly from Cycle Gear here.

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Packing A Motorcycle For A Tour

July 14, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

The day of your departure is approaching, so it’s time to stop planning and start packing for your motorcycle tour. Hopefully, your planning has been thorough, and you’ve gathered all of the gear you’re planning on taking on your tour. Now, hopefully, a few days before you’re scheduled to leave, you should take a moment to pack all the gear on your bike. This is the moment that, like all of us who have taken trips via motorcycle, you discover you have too much stuff! Fear not, that’s what this initial packing effort is all about.

How To Plan For A Motorcycle Tour

What To Pack For A Motorcycle Tour

When it comes to packing a motorcycle, you want to get the heaviest items in your kit as close as possible to the Load Triangle (LT), which is defined as the triangle created by the two axles and the top of the rider’s head. Another way of looking at this is that you’re trying to get the weight as close to the bike’s center-of-gravity (CG) as possible. So, low and towards the center is best. That way the additional weight will have the least effect on your motorcycle’s handling.

packing a motorcycle

You’ll immediately notice that the heaviest things on a motorcycle, the rider and the engine, are central to the Load Triangle. Try to pack all your heaviest gear as close to the LT as possible.


Be they OEM hard bags or soft ones you threw over the saddle, if you look at them relative to the LT, you’ll see that the leading edge is closest. So, put your heaviest items there. Things like your toolkit or camp stove are good choices. Also, you’ll want to balance the side-to-side load as much as possible. This not only keeps the load from affecting handling, but also helps softer, throw over the seat saddlebags ride more evenly on the motorcycle.

packing a motorcycle

Since there typically isn’t the same room on a sportbike for saddlebags as on other classes of motorcycles, you’ll be forced to pack less. The tail bag (top) helps, though.

Since a motorcycle leans to the left when on its side stand, put the things that you expect to access more frequently (like spare gloves or water) in the right saddlebag. You’ll have an easier time looking into a bag that’s tilted skyward. Also, on side-opening hard bags, your gear will be less prone to falling out when you open the bag. Owners of bikes with hard bags should seriously consider buying the OEM bag liners for their bike. That way, once you arrive at your night’s lodging, your gear can be easily carried into the hotel.

One easy hack for getting more clothing into your saddlebags is to pack small groups into zip-locking plastic bags. You zip them most of the way, compress the garments to force out the extra air, and close the bag. Instant space savings! This technique also helps to make sure your clothes stay dry if your soft bags leak or your hard bags are so overstuffed that they don’t seal properly.

packing a motorcycle

The trunk on a touring bike provides easy access to things that you may need to access frequently. Just don’t fill it up with your heaviest gear.

Junk in the trunk

People on big touring rigs with spacious trunks and cruiser riders who have big packs lashed to their sissy bar, need to avoid the temptation of putting heavy stuff in them. Look at the photo of the LT above relative to the bike’s trunk. Placing excess weight there can lighten the load on the front tire and potentially affect handling. The trunk is a great place for extra layers when you’re riding. Suppose you start off in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and you’re heading to points south, make sure you have room to store your warmer riding gear when it’s time to cool off. Also, if your trunk is stuffed with gear, you won’t be able to lock your helmet(s) away while you’re off the bike.

packing a motorcycle

Tank bags come in many sizes from the extra-large variety shown here to ones that are small enough to carry just a couple essentials. They are exceedingly handy.

Tank bag

Either you’re a tank bag person or you’re not. Often times, whether you favor tank bags depends on what type of bike you ride. Still, we’ve seen cruisers and full-dress tourers proudly wearing a tank bag. It seems that, back in the day of paper maps instead of smartphones or GPS units, tank bags were more popular because they provided a handy place to keep your map open. If you don’t like tank bags, you can always try a tail bag which offers many of the conveniences of its tank-mounted cousin.

You’d think that, because of its location within the Load Triangle, you could put lots of heavy stuff in a tank bag. Well, you’d be partially right. However, put too much weight there, and your bike will begin to feel top heavy. So, be reasonable. 

Tank bags are great places to put things that you need to access frequently. Consequently, we place gloves, sunscreen, bottles of water, and snacks there. Additionally, if your bike has some auxiliary power, you can run wires to your tank bag and make sure you keep your phone or other electronics charged. Very convenient. 

packing a motorcycle

This is an example of how to lash things to the back of a bike. Lashed to the back are a thermarest pad, a sleeping bag, a tent, a tripod, and (the only heavy thing) a camera bag carrying lots of batteries.

Lash it on the back

Motorcyclists everywhere should hail the inventor of the bungie net. There is quite simply no more versatile tool for strapping oddly shaped objects or combinations of objects to the back of a motorcycle. However, with that convenience and flexibility nets tend to lack some of the sheer strength of other methods of keeping items on your motorcycle. Look at seasoned travelers, and you’ll see they usually have a couple of bungie cords playing a supporting role to the net. Follow their example and you’ll avoid losing gear on the road – or worse – having it dangle down into your rear wheel, possibly bringing your fun to an abrupt stop.

The best items (other than a passenger) to place on the back of your motorcycle are usually large, but fairly light things like a tent or sleeping bag. If you didn’t plan carefully, you may end up with your warmer riding gear strapped back there when you peel off the layers. 

packing a motorcycle

Look past the excessive amount of camera gear necessary for a multi-bike shootout and you’ll see well-developed packing techniques. The ground cloth is cinched down on the tent, the sleeping bag is as compressed as possible, and the clothes are compressed in zip-locking bags. It’s all ready to go back on the bike.

Making the cut

As you test pack your bike in anticipation for a tour, you will inevitably find yourself trying to carry too much stuff. Now is the time to sort out what is truly necessary. Cut down what you’re carrying and repack your bike. Try placing different things in different places to see if this helps you include more gear. In the end, you’ll arrive at what you think is a happy compromise for your trip.  Now, you’re ready to hit the road. 

While you’re out enjoying long-distance motorcycling, you’re sure to bump up against one of the universal truths of travel: There’s always something that you forgot and something that you carried that you absolutely didn’t need. Make a note and remember for the next trip.

packing a motorcycle

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MO Tested: Sena 30K Communicator

July 12, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

I love helmet communicators. Using them has changed the way I ride. In fact, when testing new helmets, one of the first things I do (once I become familiar with the noise levels in the helmet) is install a communicator. I ride so many places where I use turn-by-turn directions that I can’t imagine going back to the bad old days of taping directions on the gas tank. Until Sena released the 30K, the company’s 20S/20S EVO units were my go-to communicators. So, you can imagine my excitement when it came time to test the 30K which takes all the features of the 20S and adds the new, easy-to-use mesh communication technology to the mix. 

Sena 20S Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System Review

MO Tested: Sena 20S EVO Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System Review

MO Tested: Shoei Neotec II Helmet + Sena SRL Communicator Review

Sena began with the 30K by, quite literally, not reinventing the wheel. First, the form factor of the 30K – with its large scroll wheel – will be instantly familiar to 20S users. The 30K also utilizes the same mounting hardware so that riders who upgrade to the 30K can simply slip the new module into place and riders with multiple helmets can switch the unit between helmets with the push of a button (if they purchase extra mounts). 

Sena 30K main unit

The form factor is a slightly more angular version of the 20S EVO with the only difference being the antenna and additional button (under the antenna) for the mesh communication.

But I’m burying the lede here. The big news about the 30K is the inclusion of mesh technology. This new connection method makes it easy to link up communicators with two or more riders. Previously, the riders had to pair their Bluetooth connections and then join a group conversation in a daisy chain. If a person in the middle of the chain dropped out, so did every other rider in the group that was behind that person in the chain. 

Mesh communication is different, and Sena’s implementation has two modes, public and private, which, aside from the obvious differences implied in their names, essentially work the same way. As riders move into and out of the group communication, they are seamlessly added and removed from the mesh. When in Public Mode, any rider within mesh range with a Sena 30K will automatically connect and be able to join in the conversation. In Private Mode, you can connect up to 16 riders into the mesh. Also, riders with Bluetooth communicators can connect to the mesh by maintaining a Bluetooth intercom connection with a member of the mesh. 

Sena 30K graphic

This diagram shows how a private mesh can extend the range through sharing its signal with among its members.

Sena claims up to a 1.0-mile range with Public Mode and a 1.2-mile range in Private Mode. Additionally, Sena claims that the private mesh can be extended up to 5.0 miles by jumping across multiple mesh participants. Since we only had two units, we were not able to test the length of a multi-party Private Mesh. We did, however, test the range between two units and found it to be well short of the claimed range. In both meshes, our usable range was a maximum of one-half mile. Oddly, the Bluetooth range with an older Sena SMH10 was about 10% further than the mesh mode. To make matters worse, this was in direct line-of-sight conditions that should provide optimal range. This was not on mountain roads where the topography could shorten the range. We can report that the Bluetooth bridge mode was easy to set up and did an effective job of linking the SMH10 to the 30K mesh network. The last criticism against the Sena mesh is that it kills the battery of the units much quicker than the old Bluetooth system. In my months of testing the 30K, I was never able to get a full day’s ride using mesh communication out of a charge, requiring that I carry a battery for a quick charge at lunch. 

Unfortunately, the bad news about the 30K doesn’t end there. The electronic whine that I mentioned in my Sena 20S EVO review is present when wearing headphones with the 30K, too. Additionally, the 30K has some volume issues where, after taking a call or receiving directions from Siri, the music occasionally returns quite loudly. When I attempt to adjust the volume, it drops to almost zero, requiring that I turn it up to the level I previously had it set. This is really annoying and distracts the rider’s attention from the road – particularly when wearing headphones, as the volume is shockingly loud. I have not been able to predictably cause this issue to occur, but it does involve playing music and having another audio function temporarily interrupt the sound. 

Sena 30K mounting bracket

Since the 30K uses the same mount as the 20S and 20S EVO, existing Sena users can upgrade their systems without changing installation kits. Owners of multiple helmets can order extra mounts separately. The button on the base of the bracket controls Ambience Mode.

One audio feature that I absolutely couldn’t live without on the Sena 20S/20S EVO/30K is Ambience, which turns on an external microphone and allows me to hear what is going on around me. This makes gas station conversations much easier, and I wish all communicators had this feature. Just remember to turn it off before you start riding, or you’ll quickly learn how noisy it is outside of your helmet. 

As with the Cardo System PackTalk Bold, Sena also utilizes voice commands. In fact, Sena’s list of commands is much longer than those utilized by Cardo. Sena uses a call and respond approach. You begin by saying, “Hello Sena,” and the 30K responds with, “Say a command.” Then you give the command. While this eliminates any confusion as to whether the unit is ready to receive a command, it does add an extra step to the process. I found the 30K’s voice command (which is also available in the 20 S EVO) to work quite well around town; however, at highway speed, the system worked about 60% of the time – at best. Since the buttons and dial are so easy to operate manually, I usually avoided the frustration and just adjusted settings manually.

Sena 30K speaker

The original location of the speaker was in the pocket where the spacer pad now is. The difference in sound quality made by such a seemingly small change of location can’t be understated.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a section in this review concerning the importance of speaker placement within the helmet. After my positive experience with the Sena SRL in a Shoei Neotec II helmet (where the speaker pocket in the helmet exactly matches the location of my ears), I realized that speaker placements that vary be even as little as a half an inch can have a dramatic influence on sound volume and quality. So, I experimented on moving the 30K’s speakers out of the pockets built into the helmet to get them as close as possible to my ear canals. To achieve this location, I had to place the spacers that are included in the installation kit into the speaker pocket to provide a level mounting surface. I ended up with my speakers only halfway over the lower portion of the speaker pocket. The improvement in sound quality now allows me to use earplugs when I ride and still be able to clearly hear GPS directions, music, and phone calls. When touring, I’ll still keep using my noise isolating earphones, but that’s more of a personal preference than a requirement. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with speaker location to get the best sound. 

Sena 30K microphone

Speaking of good sound, Sena’s noise-canceling microphone works as well as with any other Sena product I’ve tested. In a word, great.

As an avid user of helmet communicators, the Sena 20S form factor (of which the 30K is a variant) has been my preferred system for several years. So, it saddens me to say that the Sena 30K, while offering significant new technology in the form of mesh communication, does not feel like a more advanced unit. Mesh communication dramatically shortens battery life to the point that the 30K can’t last a full day’s ride, and in my experience, the range is no better than Bluetooth. Then there is the whine for headphone users and the intermittent volume fluctuations. Hopefully, the battery and audio issues that I encountered can be addressed in a firmware update, but until then, I can’t recommend the Sena 30K – unless your riding group has already adopted the 30K as its communication system.

To learn more about the Sena 30K – and buy directly from the manufacturer – visit the company website.

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2018 Yamaha Star Eluder: Five Things You Need To Know

July 11, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

In our almost six months with the 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder in the collective MO garages, we’ve learned a lot about the bike. In that time with the Eluder, we’ve only grown more fond of it as the numbers click by on the odometer. The quibbles are few: a first gear that is surprisingly short and a rear cylinder/exhaust that puts out too much heat on the left side. So, in case you’ve missed our previous coverage of the Eluder, here are five things you need to know.

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1. That engine!

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

The Eluder’s 1,854cc air-cooled 48° V-Twin is an all new design created specifically for Yamaha’s Transcontinental Touring line, which includes both the Star Eluder and the Star Venture. To keep things silky smooth, the engine features two counterbalancers and composite motor mounts – and the effects are noticeable from the saddle. Top it off with ride-by-wire throttle controls, and you also get cruise control and ride modes to make your travels easier and more fun. The Eluder’s dual exhausts were tuned with assistance from Yamaha’s music division, and the result is a pitch-perfect 105.8 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm, which is right were the engine is turning in sixth gear at 75 mph.

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder Review – First Ride

2. Storage capacity

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

Split between the two saddlebags and the front storage compartments, the Eluder has 18.8 gallons of space available for your gear. The two saddlebags hold 9 gallons each and are completely weatherproof. Purchase the accessory bag liners, and you’re ready to move from road to hotel room with ease. Up front, three small storage compartments handle your little necessities, and the one to the right of the instrumentation has a USB charging port and an AUX audio input.

3. Adjustable ventilation

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

In cool weather we want to trap some of the air-cooled engine’s heat in the cockpit, but when it’s hot, we want to flow cooler air in. The Eluder’s lower fairing has a hand-operated vent to do just that. While the vent doesn’t mitigate all of the engine’s heat – particularly on the left side – it makes a noticeable difference when opened in warm weather or closed on cool, damp days.

4. Infotainment system

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

Long-distance travelers need access to lots of information, and the Eluder’s infotainment system delivers with a 7-inch screen located close to the rider’s line of sight on the dash. While the screen’s size makes it easy to acquire the info you need at a glance, the reach to the touch screen is too long to be practical on a regular basis. Fortunately, Yamaha provided a handy button array on the left grip to make all of the system’s functions available with just your thumb. Aside from GPS navigation and a ton of data about the trip, the infotainment system features your choice of Pandora, SiriusXM, USB, AUX input, AM/FM radio, and CB radio. You can listen to your tunes via the fairing’s built-in speakers or through a wired helmet audio connection.

5. Size matters!

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

The Eluder is a large, heavy bagger. Don’t believe us? Push it around a parking lot. Still, once moving, the bike’s balance gives it a poise that one wouldn’t expect from an 874-pound machine. Despite that girth, the Eluder handles quite well, with responsive steering and ground clearance that compares favorably to other bikes in the bagger class. The suspension does its job the way you’d want it to: swallowing road irregularities with suppleness while still controlling chassis pitch when the pavement gets ripply. Only under braking do you really feel the weight of the bike. Fortunately, the binders are more than capable of handling their job.

The Eluder is visually large, too. Opinions have been split on the massive-looking fairing, and one look will tell you exactly where you stand on the issue. With a 67.6-inch wheelbase, the Eluder is a long bike, a fact that translates into stability out on the road and when battling winds.

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MO Tested: Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

July 6, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Helmet communication systems have moved beyond the upstart phase of their existence, and now the major manufacturers (primarily Cardo Systems and Sena) are working on ever-increasing refinement. Case in point is the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold. The company’s Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC) system has been around for a couple years and has grown quite popular with its increased flexibility compared to Bluetooth group communications. To this improved group chatting, the PackTalk Bold takes the company’s top-of-the-line communicator and adds next-generation voice control, allowing riders to keep their hands on the motorcycle’s grips where they belong instead of manipulating the controls of a helmet-mounted communicator. 


Mounting the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold to your helmet is straightforward. Two mounting options are provided with the kit to give the flexibility to install the PackTalk to just about any helmet. Our test subject, a Bell SRT-M, couldn’t accommodate the spring clip that slips between the helmet shell and the protective liner because of the cables used to actuate the internal visor. So, I used the adhesive mount for the Bold. Since I wasn’t happy with how the wires prevented the helmet’s neck roll from seating securely, I poked a small hole in the padding and ran the wires directly through it. 

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

Although most riders will probably use the spring clip mount for the PackTalk Bold, it interfered with the cables for this helmet’s internal visor. So, the adhesive mount worked in a pinch. Note how I ran the wires through the neck roll for a more tidy installation.

Mounting the speakers was easy since the helmet had built-in cutouts to accommodate them, but I ended up using the additional padding included in the kit to move the speakers closer to my ears. The boom microphone required for the modular helmet fit nicely – even with the limited space under the helmet’s chin strap. All told, after 20 minutes, the PackTalk Bold was completely installed – though I did wait overnight before taking it for a ride because I wanted to make sure the adhesive mount had cured completely.

One nice feature about the Cardo Systems’ installation is that the speakers are connected by a 1/8-inch plug identical to those used in headphones. If you’re the type of person who likes to ride with earphones, the PackTalk Bold will allow it.


Pairing the PackTalk Bold to my iPhone took seconds, and I was immediately able to make phone calls and listen to music (or turn-by-turn directions). My initial impressions were quite positive and only grew the more I used the system.

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

Fortunately, the voice control works so well because, with the exception of the rolling volume control, I found the buttons on the Cardo hard to feel with gloved fingers.

When it comes to ease of use, the big new feature of the PackTalk Bold is the natural voice control over the unit. As with the smart speakers that are popping up in kitchens and family rooms across the nation, the PackTalk Bold is always listening for a trigger phrase. In this case, one simply says, “Hey, Cardo” followed by a pause and then one of the pre-programmed commands. Unlike home smart speakers, Cardo doesn’t rely on remote servers to process your request, so the response is nearly instantaneous. However, the trade-off is that you must use the exact phrasing that the PackTalk expects to hear.

Here’s the complete list of what the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold understands. For the most part, they are what one would naturally say.

In my time using the PackTalk Bold, I’ve been quite impressed with its accuracy – once I’d memorized the language that is required to achieve the desired function. In my initial use of the PackTalk, my success rate was roughly 80% of my requests, but as I adapted to the idiosyncrasies of the system, my accuracy has improved to well over 90% of my requests. When a command fails, it is usually because I did not include a long enough pause between the “Hey, Cardo” and the command. To that end, I wish there were an audio cue that says the system is ready for a command. The integration with Apple’s Siri is spot on – though the wait from the “Hey, Siri” command to the actual availability of Siri is a few seconds as the PackTalk communicates with the iPhone. I would expect a similar experience for Android phones.

Overall, Cardo’s natural language commands are a huge benefit, particularly since I find the control buttons on the unit itself to be difficult to feel with gloved fingers. The buttons themselves are quite small. The rolling volume controller, however, is easy to manipulate and quite intuitive for fine-tuning the volume (although you can also use your voice). At a stop, when I need to mute my audio to talk to someone, the quick forward then back roll immediately does the trick – a very nice touch.

When it comes time to talk with your fellow riders, the PackTalk Bold utilizes Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC) which was designed to address the issues encountered with previous Bluetooth intercom systems. Essentially, the DMC creates a self-healing network that allows riders to rearrange their order within the group and even exit and re-enter without incident. Cardo Systems claims that DMC can manage up to 15 members over a range of 1 mile between individual users and over a combined range of 5 miles in a group ride. 

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

When using the DMC, you should make sure the antenna is in the up position. Interesting fact: The Cardo carries an IP67 waterproof rating for those who live in wet climates.

Since I only had two PackTalk Bold units, I couldn’t test them beyond how it works as a pair. However, with that said, the communication system was simple to use. One rider initiates the group (of any number) by pressing two buttons on the unit. All other riders who want to join the group must be within 10 feet of the leader when they press their intercom button. Easy-peasy.

After the initial pairing, the group will continue to connect to each other when they are in range. While I can’t attest to a mile range, I can say that the range covered me and my compatriot over a wide variety of distances (that rarely was more than a quarter mile) and around corners up in the mountains. The communication was clear, and we were able to talk at a conversational volume no matter the road speed. Not only is this kind of communication fun while riding, the lead rider can also warn others of hazards in the roadway. Once you go riding with a buddy and can talk about the ride, you’ll probably never want to go back to riding together but not being able to talk.

But what about battery life with the DMC which is claimed to suck the power much quicker than with Bluetooth? Well, the PackTalk Bold was able to make it through an entire day of riding with the DMC without needing to be recharged. (Something that the Sena 30K was not able to do with its mesh communication.) However, if you’re doing something silly like an Iron Butt, you can charge the PackTalk while using it as long as you have a power supply and a micro-USB cable. 

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

The Cardo Connect app is pretty basic, but it allows you to set up the device for stored phone numbers, radio stations, and intercom groups. The music feature is pretty much useless since you’ll probably select your tunes from your smart phone’s built-in music app.

If your buddy doesn’t have a Cardo System communicator, the pairing steps are a little more involved, but you can connect via Bluetooth for a two-way conversation or to bridge that person over into a DMC mesh. While I never had the chance to test the bridging function, the Bluetooth pairing is simple and produces communication on par with most Bluetooth systems. 

Audio quality

If you’ve read my previous helmet communicator reviews, you know that I typically ride with Etymotic mk5 Isolator Earphones which act both as my earplugs to protect my hearing from road noise and as my headphones. Well, with the PackTalk Bold, the 40mm speakers are capable of putting out enough distortion-free sound that I can wear my Etymotic ER* 20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs and still hear the Cardo perfectly – even at highway speeds. I am really growing fond of this new audio setup. (An aside: I also really like not having to deal with the headphone cables anymore.)

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

I’ve been impressed with the audio quality and the volume that the 40mm HD speakers produce.

Around town, when I’m not wearing earplugs, the audio quality is better than any helmet communicator I’ve previously tested with none of the whines I’ve recently experienced from recent Sena systems.  

On the phone

While I’ve had good experiences with the two-way DMC communications, folks on the other end of phone calls have told me my voice volume is a little lower than on other Bluetooth units I’ve tested. They say the noise reduction is good and allows for my words to come through clearly, but I’m just a little bit quieter.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold, and in the couple of months that I’ve been testing the unit, it has become my favorite helmet communicator. Note that I don’t take this claim lightly. It means that, since I own several helmets, I’ll need to get additional mounting kits for these helmets so that I can move the PackTalk head unit among them.

So, is the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold worth the $329.95 individual price or the $579.95 dual pack MSRP? If you’re a regular rider who finds the communication and media capabilities that this unit provides appealing, you really can’t go wrong. It’s even better if you get the dual system and use it with a friend. The only caveat I have about buying into this system is that if your riding group uses a competitor’s system (like Sena), you’ll probably want to go with what they have for maximum compatibility. However, as it stands now in the competition between Cardo Systems and Sena, I’d have to say that Cardo has the more polished mesh system based on my experience with the two. Now, we’ll have to see how this battle develops. 

Buy or learn more about the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold here. 

Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold

The Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold earns a coveted MO thumbs up.

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How To Clean Leather Motorcycle Gear

June 27, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Motorcyclists and leather go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Seriously. Ask any motorcyclist what it was like when they bought their first leather jacket, and you may see grown men cry as they reminisce about the new leather smell and how, over time, the jacket came to fit them like a second skin. Unfortunately, riding in your favorite gear subjects it to bug impacts, dirt, and even rain, which all take away its luster. However, quality leather can last a rider many riding seasons and maintain that optimal balance between broken in factory new – if a few care procedures are followed.

How To Clean Textile Motorcycle Gear

Spot Clean

leather cleaning

Although leather is tough, the finish is more delicate. So, rub gently.

Regular post-ride spot cleaning will prevent that colorful bug splat from becoming a permanent stain. The process is easy, too. Take a clean damp cloth, hold it over the dirt/bug/whatever, and let it soften a few seconds before you wipe it away. You may need to apply this technique a few times (each with a clean section of that soft cloth), but it will remove some remarkably messy impacts. If you do this frequently, you won’t need to do the major cleanings as often. When the time comes to do a more thorough cleaning, you should still begin with the spot clean.

Smells and Salt

Even with vented leathers, we’re going to sweat on hot days. That sweat can lead to two ills for our beloved leather gear. First, there’s the funk that can lurk on the liner material. Second, you can see sweat stains develop on places like the sleeves if you are a heavy sweater or ride in extremely hot conditions (like, say, at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway). These are both from the salt left behind by our perspiration. 

leather cleaning

De-funk your jacket’s liner with Anthony’s De-Salter. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re lucky, your leathers have a removable liner that can be washed. Otherwise, you’ll need to resort to chemical warfare. While many products exist, a large swath of riders counts on Anthony’s De-Salter. Anthony’s Leatherworks is a Southern California institution that has been repairing and restoring damaged leathers for years. The quality of their service has led them to handle warranty repairs for some major leather brands in the past. In recent years, they’ve marketed their own line of leather maintenance products that you’ll see in this article.

Spray Anthony’s De-Salter on the exterior salt stains on the leather and rub it into the leather with a clean rag. For funky interiors, you turn the gear inside out if you can and spray the De-Salter liberally onto the lining and rub it in with a rag. Now, you need to hang up the item and let it dry completely. 

Shampoo your leather?

Even after spot cleaning, it’s amazing how much dirt can be wiped off leather by Anthony’s Easy Cleaner.

Although we’ve heard stories of people washing their leathers by putting them on and taking a shower – complete with soap – we don’t recommend it. Instead, use a clean rag and a leather shampoo, like Anthony’s Easy Cleaner. Moisten the rag with Easy Cleaner and work it into any areas that have leftover spots/stains from the spot cleaning step. After that, apply it liberally to the exterior of the leather with the rag, switching to clean sections as the rag picks up dirt. Once you’re happy with the degree of cleaning, hang your gear up and let it dry completely.

Conditioning – pay it forward

Leather is skin, and like our skin, it looks better when it’s moisturized. Additionally, moist, supple leather will do a better job of protecting you in a crash than dried, cracked leather. Just wearing your gear out on the road speeds the drying process. Cleaning your leather, even with quality products like Anthony’s Easy Cleaner, also dries out the natural fibers within the leather. So, you need to replenish the oils that keep leather looking good.

leather cleaning

Spread the conditioner onto the leather with a clean sponge.

Anthony’s One-Step Conditioner has the natural oils your gear is thirsty for. All you need to do is spray over your gear and then rub it into the leather with a sponge. (I like to work on one section at a time.) If you’ve neglected your leather, you may see the conditioner immediately soak into the leather, and you can spray more onto the sponge and wipe again. Once you’ve worked the conditioner into the entire garment, let it dry completely.

When the garment is dry, you may notice a dull haze on the formerly glossy surface. You can bring back that luster by buffing the leather’s surface with a clean, soft cloth.

Leather Cleaners

All the products used in this how-to are from Anthony’s Leatherworks

That’s all you have to do to keep your leather riding gear looking – and smelling – good over the years that you wear it. If you want to learn more about the services that Anthony’s Leatherworks offers, visit the company’s website. There you can order all of the cleaners used in this article. The jacket shown in this article is the Rev’It Replica Jacket.

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New Rider: Ten Steps To Becoming A Motorcyclist

June 22, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

So, you’re thinking about becoming a motorcyclist. Welcome! Naturally, with a name like, you’d expect us to be pro motorcycle, but even more than that, we’ve devoted our lives to motorcycling. You might say that we are motorcycling evangelicals. We understand that the decision to move from moto-curious into the ranks of riders has many obstacles. From the jargon to the alphabet soup of model names, it can sound to the uninitiated like we are speaking a foreign language. If you’ve got friends who already ride, they can help initiate you to the fold. Unfortunately, many prospective riders don’t have that resource to call upon, which is why we wrote this guide.

1. What type of riding do you want to do?

Becoming A Motorcyclist

This step can be easy or really hard. It all depends on you. What kind of bikes attract you? Are cruisers your favorite, or are you more the adventure/dual-purpose type? Have the neo-retro bikes been turning your head? Or do sportbikes in all their plastic-wrapped coolness make you drool? Maybe you want a do-it-all standard motorcycle. It’s nice to have a kind of bike to help you focus your search for a first motorcycle as you learn to translate all the manufacturer and model names.

Fear not, if you can’t decide, you’ll get a better idea as you work your way through this list. When I started riding, several bikes of different categories attracted me, and my final decision was made by the size of the gas tank because I knew I would be doing an extended tour a couple months after my planned purchase. (You can read about it here.) 

Once you have a style (or styles) of bike you’re interested in, visit us here at and use your favorite search engine to learn what the models in that class of bikes are. Take notes of the ones that interest you.

2. Visit your local dealerships and/or motorcycle shops

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Photo by: Kekyalyaynen/

Riding motorcycles is as much about community as it is about riding. If you’re like us, once you start riding, you’ll find yourself talking to motorcyclists you meet – even if you’re not on your bike at the time. Good dealerships and shops build community as a part of their business plan. They understand that educating new/prospective riders will help bring more people into the sport and possibly gain them long-term customers.

The way to utilize dealerships is to visit the ones that sell the models that you’ve found in the previous step. Talk to the salespeople. Don’t be afraid to ask even the most basic questions. Also, listen to them. They’ll probably steer you away from buying your dream bike as your first one – or at least they should if you’re set on a liter-bike to start. Motorcycling is an activity with a fairly steep learning curve, and you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. This is where we’ll recommend that you buy a bike on the smaller end of the displacement spectrum. In recent years, the sub-500cc class of motorcycles has grown significantly. There’s something to be said about working your way up through displacement levels as your skills progress. 

After a while, you’ll probably have your list of prospective bikes whittled down to just two or three models. Don’t be afraid to consider used bikes. You can save a ton of money, but as a new rider, you may not know how to tell a good bike from a money pit. So, you could benefit from buying used from a dealer which would have, presumably, checked the bike over to certify its roadworthiness. You could also ask a dealership’s service department if they would be willing to check over a used bike (for a fee) before you purchased it.

3. Do your research on your possible purchases

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Photo by: Antonio Guillem/

Since I grew up in the print age, I still have the magazine reviews that lead me to buy my first motorcycle. Read everything you can about your potential motorcycle, not just here, but all over the internet. Even try forums dedicated to the bikes. Almost every well-populated forum has a member or two who love to help new riders. The other thing you will learn on forums that you won’t necessarily get from the online magazines is if there are any common problems with the bike you’re planning on buying. Reviews are good for learning how well a motorcycle works, but motojournalists usually only have the bikes for a short time before they need to return them to the manufacturers. The owners of the bikes know them inside and out with the intimacy that only comes from daily use.

10 Best Beginner Motorcycles’s Top 10 Beginner Bikes Of 2018 – Video

4. Find out licensing requirements

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Photo by: ALPA PROD/

Yes, you should get a motorcycle license. Unlicensed riders are overrepresented in crash data, so do it to decrease your odds of a mishap. Every state has slightly different rules for obtaining a motorcycle license. You can find out what your state requires by visiting the DMV website. Here, you’ll learn everything you need. You’ll also find out any motorcycle-specific laws that you should be aware of in your state. 

5. Attend a motorcycle safety course

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Let’s be clear, motorcycling is a dangerous sport. You can die doing it. With the stakes as high as they are, don’t you want to arm yourself with the basic riding skills and accident avoidance techniques before you’re out there running with the bulls? Since the class organizer supplies all of the training bikes, taking a motorcycle safety class is also a good way to actually do some riding before you make an expensive purchase. When I was a motorcycle safety instructor, about ten percent of my students decided that riding wasn’t for them after taking the class. 

To be honest, operating a motorcycle isn’t for everyone. At its most basic level, a rider has four appendages to operate five controls. While the increasing use of ABS brakes in new motorcycles has reduced some of the risk of panic stops, it takes years of riding to become fully proficient in all of the skills necessary to ride a motorcycle. This isn’t doom and gloom but rather a statement of fact. So, attending a motorcycle safety class and practicing the skills you learned will go a long way towards lessening your chance of crashing. 

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a good place to start looking for a class in your area. However, MSF-run courses are not offered in every state. For example, the California Motorcyclist Safety Program offers its own training program. If you can’t find a training program on the MSF’s site, we suggest either checking your state’s DVM website or use your favorite search engine.

6. Get your motorcycle license

Becoming A Motorcyclist


The good news about taking a motorcycle safety class is that in some states, successfully completing the course will waive the riding test requirement for your motorcycle endorsement. Also, some insurance companies give discounts to riders who can prove they’ve taken a safety class. If you still have to take the riding test, you will want to get your learner’s permit before you buy your motorcycle and then, once you’re familiar with your new bike, return to the DMV to take the riding test.

7. Buy riding gear

Becoming A Motorcyclist

While your gear purchase can happen at the same time that you buy your first motorcycle, enough people neglect to do this because they claim they don’t have the additional funds after laying money down on a bike. Let’s be honest here, you are at your highest risk for an accident in your first year of riding. (Remember, you’ve got a ton of skills to learn.) A minor tip-over without gear can get really expensive really quickly. For example, a little tumble at 35mph can go from a minor bruise-up to a much bigger deal if you’re not wearing gloves. The same goes for other gear, too.

Here are two guides for buying inexpensive-but-protective motorcycle gear:

10 Best Motorcycle Helmets Under $200

New Rider: What Motorcycle Gear Do You Need?

8. Buy your first motorcycle

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Photo by: Nestor Rizhniak/

Most people think they’ve become a motorcyclist when they buy their first motorcycle, and it is an important step. However, there’s more to becoming a motorcyclist than just owning a bike, but that’s just around the next corner. 

Right now, enjoy the moment of the motorcycle purchase. Savor that initial turn of the ignition key on your first motorcycle. It’ll never be the same way again. There’s nothing like the exquisite mixture of terror and excitement and pride and hope that washes over you as you ride home for the first time. 

Congratulations, you’ve truly begun your journey. 

9. Build your riding community

Becoming A Motorcyclist

Riding a motorcycle is fun. Riding motorcycles and hanging out and sharing stories with fellow enthusiasts is 10…no…100 times more fun. Go to your local bike night or find where the motorcyclists ride in your area. Not only is it a gas to hang out with fellow motorcyclists, but you also will learn more about riding and all the potential trips you can take (there are endless possibilities) by hanging out with more experienced riders.

10. Ride and then ride some more and keep riding and don’t stop

Becoming A Motorcyclist

If you’ve made it this far in this article, you’re already on your way to becoming a motorcyclist. All you need is miles in the saddle – time on your personal odometer. Remember to ride as much as you can to keep your skills fresh. Maintain your study of motorcycling technique. The initial learning curve for motorcycling is steep, but the payoffs are real. Also, riding can provide you with a lifetime of learning in addition to all the adventures you’ll have.

Go have fun, and keep the shiny side up.

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