Thursday, June 20, 2013

Luggage review

Unless you ride a fully-loaded bagger you will from time to time face the problem of carrying all the stuff you need whether for a 2-day weekend or a longer trip. Of course there’s always the Easy Rider mode of travel with a rolled-up blanket strapped to the handlebars and a old duffle bag tied to the sissy bar but most of us want something more substantial to carry and protect our worldly possessions.
That’s why I’ve been looking at luggage specifically designed for use on a motorcycle.
The first thing I discovered is motorcycle luggage can be very expensive indeed! The second thing was there’s so much choice out there it’s hard to decide, and no one offers week-long test drives to help you choose where best to spend your hard-earned cash. So when Viking Bags offered up a Viking Phat Sissy Bar Bag in return for a review I jumped at the chance.
When I opened the box my first reaction was that the bag seems bigger than the catalogue photos would lead you to believe. It seems to be very well constructed and comes with a rain cover and several straps, including a shoulder strap, a set of backpack straps, and 4 tie-down straps for attachment to the bike. (After experiencing lost straps and broken clips on other equipment a couple of spare tie-down straps would be a nice addition to the package.)
But first things first. How much will it carry?
I put together what I would normally pack for a week on the road (or longer,  assuming a laundromat visit at least once a week). I don’t do camping any more and rely on roadside hotels/motels for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep so I obviously didn’t include all the equipment that is necessary to be completely self-sufficient.
Here’s what I packed into the bag.

As you can see there is still space for some rain gear and all the Harley-Davidson tee-shirts you’ll be buying at every stop en route. The side pouches would easily hold your toiletries, a few incidentals, a small camera, a couple of cigars, and even a mickey or two of your favourite tipple. Or you could stuff them full of socks and underwear, leaving more main storage room for larger items.  (Major caveat: if you are travelling with your significant other all bets are off. Her stuff will more than fill the bag, you will be wearing the same clothes you left home in for a week, and you'll be spending several hours at the laundromat wrapped in nothing but a towel as you wait for your jeans and tee-shirt to get clean. Best get her her own bike and luggage.)
Attaching the bag to the bike was straightforward using the straps provided with their quick-connect snap fasteners. I tried it on both my solo seat configuration as well as with the back rest/luggage rack combo. The back rest/luggage rack offered the most support for the bag but both options worked well and getting the bag on and off the bike took only a minute or two. If more capacity is required all the extra D-rings (there are 17 on the bag) would make it an easy matter to attach another small bag, or sleeping bag, on top. This is another place where extra straps would come in handy, but bungee cords would also serve.
Solo seat configuration.
Rear view
Mounted on luggage rack.
Mounted behind rider on 2-up seat.
Getting at the contents with the bag on the bike is generally good. Once it’s tied down access to the main compartment is through the front flap only so you should pack anything you might want to get at up front and centre. The side pockets are always accessible.
So what’s the bottom line? I like this bag. At 3045 cubic inches it has more than enough capacity for any solo trip. Its flexibility in terms of being able to use it in various configurations is also a plus. Only a long-term test will determine how well it stands up to days on the road, sand storms, and rain showers but I wouldn’t anticipate any issues with this bag and would feel confident taking it on a long trip.
Finally, the price is right. At $149.00 it’s one of the better values out there in my opinion. (An even better value at the current sale price.) And if Viking Bags were to include a couple of extra tie-down straps it would be a slam-dunk. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

You never know where you’ll come across a motorcycle

Back when I was just a kid in short pants one of my hobbies was stamp collecting. At the time Canada’s stamps were usually a monochromatic picture of the Queen overprinted with the word Canada and the denomination. Boring, especially to a 10-year-old. So I focused more on the stamps from lesser known countries that had interesting and colourful pictures of birds, animals, cars, and so on on their stamps. My collection never amounted to much and I stopped collecting after a few years. However I have always retained some interest in stamps and the images and ideas they represent.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Canada Post has issued two new stamps featuring a 1908 CCM and a 1914 Canadian-built Indian, the first in a series dedicated to Canadian motorcycle manufacturing and design.
I ordered some just to get a firsthand look and they are quite beautiful and unique.
Photo: Canada Post web site
Now I am temped to haul out my old stamp books and restart my collection, perhaps concentrating on stamps from around the world that feature motorcycles in some capacity. Or perhaps I should just accept that as a Schnapsidee (Sonja will know what that means), enjoy them for a while and then use them on the few pieces of snail mail I do send these days.
Regardless, I will definitely keep my eyes open for the next stamps in the series.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My lucky day!

It is said of men of a certain age that the memory is the second thing to go. While I will neither confirm nor deny the veracity of that statement I will use it as a suitable excuse for having forgotten all about entering the contest.
Some time ago Dennis Kirk ran a Tales From The Trails contest for the best riding story. I don’t normally enter contests but for some reason this one caught my attention, mainly because I had my ‘Tale From The Trail’ all ready to go. I submitted “The ladies’ is broken.” and promptly forgot all about it.
oe409831Until last week when I got an email from Dennis Kirk. It took me a while to make sense of it but once the cobwebs cleared and the synapses stared firing I (vaguely) remembered entering their contest a month or so ago. And it’s a good thing I did because I am now the official winner of their Tales From The Trails contest and am (or will soon be, whenever the postal service delivers) the proud owner of a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition.
I can’t wait to see the advances in this camera since my original Hero. And just in time for summer riding too!

Friday, June 7, 2013

GoPro panner road test

As with many things the best laid plans… etc., etc. So it was that my first prototype of the panning device for my GoPro was less than ideal. It turns out a wiring issue severely limited the life of the microprocessor effectively ‘frying’ it after 1/2 hour or so of pumping excess voltage through the device. A greenhorn mistake to be sure, but I never claimed to be an electronics wizard – quite the opposite. Chalk it up as a learning experience.

I got that sorted finally (which required waiting for a new processor to be shipped in) and with all the electronics working as expected I was able to take a short ride to try it out on the road.


I have noticed some increased vibration/camera shake so I need to address that somehow. The camera mounted directly to the main shaft of the motor seems to be holding up okay but I’m still a bit concerned about that. Otherwise the system is working as I’d hoped so I’ll play with it this summer and then next winter’s project will be a new and improved version 2 based on what I learn.

Now if it would just stop raining and warm up a bit…

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I wanted to just keep going….

It was one of those perfect mornings. We’d had some rain overnight which cooled things off a bit so the temperature was in the low 20’s (about 70 or so for you Fahrenheit folks out there). The remnants of the storm clouds were still present in the early morning sky so I couldn't describe it as a “cloudless day” but it was obviously clearing and there was no need to worry about getting a soaking – at least not for the next few hours. The roads were wet though and the front wheel threw up a bit of spray, dampening my jeans from the knees down. I don’t know why but I love that feeling; the coolness of the spray coming up seems to be in perfect counterbalance to the heat of the sun on the rest of the body. Refreshing would be the term I’d use to describe the sensation, mentally as well as physically.
I wasn’t going very far, just 20 kilometres to the golf course, but I was sorely tempted just to keep going, riding into the sun until it was directly overhead and then turning around and following it back towards home as it set. I felt great, the ponies wanted to be let out, and a 300+ kilometre ride would have been an ideal way to celebrate a perfect late spring day.
hBCC84195Sadly I had a date to keep with a tournament and had to turn in at the club. The way I played however tells me I should have followed my first instincts and ridden as far away, as fast as I could, and never looked back – at least until sundown.
Oh well, until the next time.