Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sleeping Gear -

Here's the first part of my Traveling Gear posts that'll be appearing sporadically in the next week or two.

Most of the sleeping options available today will give you a sleeping bag, pillow, and a pad that'll pack smaller than most older sleeping bags alone. These are just a few examples of quality gear that's on the market today, but compare the details and see what'll be best for your budget and bike's set-up.

For a better decision on your part, I recommend going to a local gear store to actually see/test out these items. Talk to someone who isn't gonna bullshit you, I would find the manager or ask who would be best for the questions you'll have on these products. Most stores have employees who specify in certain areas or have a lot of experience with this gear. Have the employee pack and un-pack them to get a feel for the products as they will be used on, and off of the bike. Climb in the bag, lay on the pad, and throw them together packed up to get an idea of the amount of space they'll take up. It also doesn't hurt to do a little research before heading over to the store - gives you a head start on what suits your needs and doesn't make you feel like a dunce when they're explaining the little details.

First up is pillows:
Mont Bell UltraLight Inflatable - $30, and it'll fit in your pocket

Cocoon Hyperlite Inflatable- $28, 2.4oz and it'll fit in a yogurt container. Pretty damn small and available at REI

If you don't feel like spending money, I've used my sleeping bag stuff-sack filled with extra clothing - works pretty well.

Next, Sleeping Pads:

MontBell 3/4 Length Self-Inflating Pad - $70, packs small, saves about half the space a foam pad takes up.

ALPS Mountaineering Dual Foam Pad - $34, rolls up larger, but is lightweight and cheaper in price. Available at REI.

Thermarest ZeoAir Pad - $130, most expensive, but also more compact and comfortable than almost any other pad in the industry.

Photo to show you the ZeoAir's packing size.

Pad thickness, packing size, and length are some details to consider when looking at these.

If comfort isn't an issue, anything underneath you at night will keep you warmer in chilly situations(off of the cold ground). I don't take a pad with me on trips, but on a long bike journey a pad can make a world of a difference in comfort after a long, hard day on the road.

Finally, Sleeping Bags:

Mont Bell 40 Degree Super Spiral Synthetic Bag - $125, these bags have a patented Super-Stretch design(making them the best in the industry if you ask me). With this design, the inside and outside of the bag stretches so the bag fits like a glove in any sleeping position. The design also allows the bag to collapse on you as you are in it - eliminating dead space inside. So elastic, you can sit indian style in this thing. Packing size - 6.3" x 12.5"

Mountain Hardwear 45 Degree Ultralamina Synthetic Bag - $185, from a good manufacturer and packs down smaller than most bags in the industry. Packing size - 6" x 8".

Marmot 45 Degree Axiom Synthetic Bag - $150, from a good company, average price, and packs down similar to others listed here. Packing size - 6" x 16"

REI 45 Degree Lumen Synthetic Bag - $125, cheap and easy, but this one packs down a little bigger than the rest. Packing size - 7.5" x 15"

Sleeping bag details include weight(overall), fill weight(amount of fill inside of the bag), baffle set up(how the fill is separated inside of the bag), stitching construction(boxed-not stitched all of the way thru the bag, or full stitch-leaving a "bald spot" all along the seams), denier(thickness of the bag's nylon material), water repellency, max user height, shoulder girth, knee girth, temperature rating, packing size, mummy or box style, right/left zip, etc. In addition, with most bags, you can connect left and right zip bags together if you're with a lady-friend.

Like I said before, when you're on the road riding through different weather conditions, Synthetic-Filled Sleeping Bags are your best bet. Down is a lot harder to take care of in moist climates(you run the risk of spending money on it, then destroying it if it gets wet) - Synthetic retains it's warming abilities when wet, dries quickly, and doesn't get ruined when damp.

And again, always keep your bag hanging in a dry place, out of sunlight when you aren't on the road...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Denver Show and Swap - this weekend

National Western Complex, at I-70 and Brighton Blvd. - Denver, Colorado.

Saturday, January 29th, 9a.m. - 7p.m.
Sunday, January 30th, 10a.m. - 5p.m.

$15 for one day, $20 for both(CASH ONLY).

Bike show, swap, beer/food, bands, Miller Lite girls, and dirty bikers - what more could you ask for?

Largest of it's kind in the Rocky Mountain Region...
For more info:

- ArenaCross Racing at the Denver Colosseum(next to the Swap) as well. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
For Arenacross info and tix:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Old Days -

With quite a bit of attention given to my previous post on motorcycle gear, here are some photos from back in the day(courtesy of Vyvyan Ross). Just a glimpse of how much space the old stuff use to take up. Even taking off for a trip with the bare minimum buried the back-end of your bike, and sometimes front.

Vyvyan had boxes and boxes of these great photos. According to her, Phil loved to take pictures. She also said that it wasn't unordinary for Phil to hop on his bike at the drop of a dime and ride cross-country for any reason. He was a biker, through and through.

The whole time we were at Vyvyan's going through pictures, I kept thinking of looking at my parents old biker photos when I was younger. Pictures from the early 70's. It's the way it was and it's the way it should be now. There's been a surge in runs/camping out/traveling on bikes lately that has shown promise for that type of feel coming back to the motorcycle world. I'm not saying that it disappeared, but there seems to be more and more guys and girls with that gypsy-type feel in them as of late. It's an amazing lifestyle, which is why I try to get away and experience it whenever I can. Good gear and a well-tuned bike go hand in hand if you enjoy experiencing things on two-wheels.

With that, I'm gonna follow up on the traveling motorcycle gear post with gear reviews in the coming week. I'll break the posts down according to different items I take on trips, as well as similar products in the outdoor gear industry for you to check out.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Traveling Motorcycle Gear

After talking with Rich the past few weeks about my new chop set-up and the differences in gear to save space, as well as seeing a gear post on the El Diablo Run blog, I'm throwing in my two-cents. Some of this may seem obvious to someone with knowledge of modern equipment and gear, but for those of you who haven't really thought it through or are new to traveling on a motorcycle, I've worked for four years at a reputable outdoor gear provider - hopefully, I can give you some useful information for this coming riding season.

Even now-a-days, I see guys riding with over-weight, bulky gear. Vintage gear might look nostalgic, but there's a lot of great products out there 1/4 the size and weight. Sure, some of the fabrics feel too thin and unreliable, but honestly, fabrics and design today make up for the heavy gear of the past. Stretch materials, wicking fabrics, stronger nylons, better synthetic fillers, and breathable waterproof fabrics/treatments are just a few of the innovations in the outdoor gear world. Like computers, every year companies are coming out with superior designs/materials - it's hard to keep up with all of it. There are products out there now that'll last you mile after mile, save you space on an already minimal chopper, and not weigh-down parts on your bike. They may cost you, but with the proper care, will last trip after trip, after trip. Less is more.

Don't believe if you buy a cheap tent, sleeping bag, etc. at Wally World, that you're making a smart decision. First of all, you're feeding the beast shopping there. Secondly, you'll realize why your gear was so cheap when it fails you at the worst time possible. I knew a guy who bought a tent there, really cheap and looked reliable enough, only to tear apart on him 5 miles into a 10 mile round-trip mountain hike. Like tools, buy cheap and there's a good chance it won't last.

It's also important to keep your shit as clean as possible. I know, riding on long bike trips doesn't make this easy, but the dirtier your gear gets, the less effective it is and the more susceptible it is too failing you. Also, washing gear can take a toll on it's durability and effectiveness - so the less the better. Make sure to find the correct way to wash it as well before actually doing it. There are a lot of different materials out there that you can trash buy using the wrong substances/procedures - consult the company that manufactured it and you'll be fine. Cover your gear up with dry bags(completely waterproof) or even heavier garbage bags(which is what I use) at all times - weather hits you when you least expect it. When you eventually stop after riding in a storm, you're gonna want something warm/dry to throw on. Being wet is miserable and can be dangerous in some situations. Clean out tents after using them and hang them to dry completely before packing them up. Dirt and twigs can tear on the material if it's packed up without cleaning off the tent floor. In addition, a tent packed wet can get pretty nasty after awhile. When sleeping, make the conditions so you won't sweat too much. Sweat can build up moisture and mold in your bag that you don't wanna have to smell every time you crawl in it for the night. When at home, hang your sleeping bag in your closet, keeping it unpacked and out of sunlight. And finally, know the effectiveness of your gear - if you are sleeping in a 50 degree bag, a tent around you and a sleeping pad beneath you will add considerable warmth to your sleeping experience. Tents to keep the elements off of you and a sleeping pad to keep you off of the cold ground can add an additional 5-10 degrees of warmth. Putting your leather jacket over your sleeping bag and wearing clothes to bed also add up in chilly situations. These may seem obvious, but it's mainly to think these things through when choosing the correct gear. You don't need a 20 degree sleeping bag/bivy sack if you have a four, or even three-season tent around you and a pad below you while you camp out in the Mojave in the middle of summer. Use logic and know the limits of each piece of gear you take, as well as the climate you're riding through.

One thing I do on long trips is take older underwear, then throw them out as I go after they get dirty. If not, you can wash them out in a hotel bathroom or even a creek, then leave them hanging all night to dry for the next day - same goes for socks or any other quick drying(thinner) gear.

Sizing is something you have to take into consideration for each item as well. With rain gear, I size up. Once the rain starts falling, so does the temperature. Obviously, multiple layers under a leather jacket takes up a lot of bulk. Today, most rain gear manufacturers put draw-strings everywhere. Get a bigger size and tighten up. If you do decide to buy good wicking synthetic or wool base-layers(which kick ass by the way - roll up really small, keep you warm, and dry really quick when wet), make sure not to have them sticking out of your rain gear anywhere(example - cuffs of your shirt hanging out the bottom of your rain jacket sleeve). If the cuff of your shirt gets wet, the moisture will slowly wick its way up your arm making your whole sleeve damp. My boots have holes in them, yeah, I should get a new pair but I love the ones I've got. My brother and I rode back to Wisconsin for the S&S 50th Anniversary and hit a big storm right before Iowa. Since then, I've never left on a trip without boot covers. They look about as stupid as they sound, but boots are pretty damn hard to dry out after they're soaked with water - not to mention how your feet feel like they're gonna freeze off.

Anyone who has ridden with me will tell you that I probably take less gear on trips than anyone they know. Rain gear, tools, and extra gas take up the majority of my limited space. What I wear is what I take for clothing on most trips, with a thin hoodie rolled up and an extra set of underwear/socks in case they get wet and I don't have time to dry them out. Seems like it's been forever since I've hit a big storm, having missed a lot of rain almost all of last season - I was pretty lucky. I did hit a few, waited some out and rode through a couple. In all, last season was pretty damn good to me. Every time I take a trip without hitting rain, I wonder why I even took rain gear with - but I'm reminded every time I get caught in a storm.

It's important to know your bike set-up before buying gear. What do you have to strap gear onto, how much space can you use on the back, is it feasible to tie anything on the front(risers, bars,headlight, tubes/trees...) or even your tank? Having a hood on a bike is nice because it gives added support so the weight of your gear strapped on top won't cock-eye or loosen up your headlight. Basically, where is the most reliable places to strap your gear down onto without it falling off, fucking your bike up, or tearing into your open primary/rear chain?

Know this, there are a lot of uses for each item you take on a long trip. Leather jackets can be used to cover your sleeping bag for extra warmth, hoodies can be used as pillows or half sleeping pads, tarps can be used to cover your gear - on, as well as off of the road - and bungees can be used for keeping tarps secure over your head at night, as well as strings to hang wet gear on. Keep this in mind when coming up with a list for trips, get your shit together or bought, figure out the best way to secure it on your bike, and keep it all together when you're at home so you won't have to search for anything before rides. This makes things a lot less frustrating and gets you on the road quicker.

As far as extra gas tanks go, I use three 33oz. MSR camping stove canisters. They do the job, are available at any outdoor store, and they're cheap - just don't fill them up too much. Three of these will give you an added 3/4 of a gallon to get you to the next gas-up on long stretches. I got a bag just big enough to put them all in, with loops on each side so I could strap it to my sissy bar.

If you don't want to mess up your paint and have no choice but to use the surface for gear, there a few things I've used in the past that work well. The one I use most is tool box liner. My dad put me onto it and has used this stuff for years - it works great and you can get it at a local hardware store(comes in rolls). You get so much of this stuff in one cheap roll, you could use a new piece on every trip for the rest of your life if you wanted. I use three layers on-top of each other for extra padding(have used the same three the past two years). I cut it to my fender's dimensions and notched it so it would slip under my sissy bar and it has lasted. But, it can get pushed down and/or wear out if your gear isn't securely fastened on-top of it... or fall off, chewing into your chain while you rip down the highway(happened on my way out of Denver heading for Austin this past Oct., was the first time it had ever come loose after years and years of using the stuff). Another trick that Jeff Wright told me, is using black electrical tape on paint - it won't ruin your paint and acts as a protective coating.

If you want to use a pair of throw-over saddlebags for needed space, use the padding or tape under it for protection. Also, making brackets to keep them off of your rotor/sprocket is pretty easy to do using tools that most guys have at home. Make sure to pack your gear so that the weight is somewhat evenly distributed also. Having one side overloaded more than the other will have an affect on the handling of your motorcycle. The more you take, the more awkward it'll sit when packed up

When it comes to straps, bungees work pretty damn good. Use a couple different length bungees with an extra just in case and your gear shouldn't move. I also use strong, thick nylon webbing straps with a metal jaw on one end. I don't like using the plastic ended straps because they're plastic, eventually, it's gonna break.

I also strap whatever I can to my belt without having my pants falling off every time I have to take a piss. Leatherman, camera, knife, even my rotor lock. It may look different, but hell if it isn't convenient when it comes to saving space everywhere else.

A leather pouch strapped to my front tubes is used as my tool pouch. A small hole has shown up on the bottom due to rubbing from my front tire hitting potholes, so I might need to relocate it or get a new one - in the meantime, duct tape has worked to seal that hole up just fine. One item in my tool set that I can't emphasize it's importance enough, is a headlamp. Breaking down or having to set up camp in the dark is a pain in the ass, a headlamp frees your hands up and gives you more than adequate lighting. Petzl and Black Diamond are two companies that make really nice LED headlamps. I have a Petzl without the huge battery pack on the back of the strap, more comfortable and less bulk - just three AAA batteries in the lamp and a strap to go around your head.

Do Not Buy Down Products. If they get wet, the down filler becomes clumpy and stays that way once it dries - leaving "bald spots" in the bag due to un-even filler distribution inside. Synthetic materials work best for sleeping bags or thin layering jackets. When wet, synthetic materials don't get ruined, retain most of their warming abilities, and dry pretty quickly. Synthetic materials pack down a little bit less than down products, but the little extra bulk goes a long way riding/camping in moist climates. Buy the correct sized compression sack for your sleeping bag and it'll squeeze it down to half its size - if not more. Compression sacks not only squeeze gear down, but most are waterproof as well.

With tents, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration, One man, two man? Vestibule to clear up space inside, keeping some gear outside of the tent at night? The denier or thickness of the nylon used to construct it, which adds weight and bulk, but also durability? Or maybe just a tarp to hang over your head at night? A couple things are for sure: get a reliable/proven brand, use a lightweight and small as possible tent without sacrificing durability, and two poles are always better than one when it comes to structural strength. There are smaller details with tents as far as how waterproof they are, ventilation issues, and the trustworthiness of a tent's rain fly that you also may want to consider. Nevertheless, buy a trusted brand and you'll be satisfied enough on every trip you take.

Buying this gear is an expensive under-taking, but the added savings of not having to get a hotel, having all of the necessary items with you for comfort at all times, and the camping experience make up for it in the long-run.

One more useful piece of information is this:
The last thing you need is a farmer coming out with a shotgun when you're sleeping on his land without permission, or having 5-0 pull up on you in the middle of the night because you're trespassing on private property. There are 155 National Forests and 20 National Grasslands in America, 193 million acres with no admission or fees. There are rules when camping on these lands, but a free place to bed-down for the night is hard to pass up. Plan your trip right and you could save a lot of doe. You pay to preserve it, use it - just don't leave a mess where ever you go...

Go to http://www.fs.fed.us for more info.

On a different note, for you football fans out there, Go Pack...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Too Fast To Live-

Saw this on another blog awhile ago, think it was Nostalgia on Wheels. Anyway, great song to tear down the road with - Brando's the man... Lee Marvin as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Video - Kung Fu DiCE Release Party

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 - Irish Rich and I were up burning the midnight oil working my chop over, front to back, getting it ready for the weekend trip out to Des Moines. Dice Magazine was throwing a release party at Kung Fu Tap and Taco and we needed a good reason to get out on the road for a 1,400 mile weekend bike trip after the long winter.

We rolled out of Denver Friday morning with temps in the 40's and the sight of your breath in the air. We made it as far as Lincoln, Nebraska when we decided to call it a day before we ran ourselves off of the road due to exhaustion. Three hours of sleep before a long haul cross-country on a motorcycle is something that can get you killed - we didn't feel like pushing our luck.

As we got closer to the Nebraska/Iowa border, I could smell moisture in the air - something I don't experience out in Colorado too often, which reminded me of back home in Wisconsin. There are scents given off by the lakes, streams, and vegetation in the midwest that you can't find in the mountains, coast, or deserts. It's the little things that are engrained in my memory of home that make it special when I get back. You cherish nice days back there much more than Colorado or California, where the sun shines all of the time. I sort of feel spoiled living where I do, but never regret having to learn to ride in the uncertain weather patterns of the Midwest.

We tore, must've been close to 100 mph, into Des Moines early Saturday afternoon and got settled in. Shortly after arriving, Rich was having a smoke outside and noticed a crack in my exhaust pipe. With Jeff Wright and the guys at the COC open house leaving the shop for the party at Kung Fu, I decided to wait to fix my problem.

We hit the party, meeting a lot of new friends from the great midwest, drank beer, ate tacos, talked bikes, watched an epic taco eating contest, and rocked out with Red Desert - a Minneapolis based Rock band who killed it onstage. Guys and girls from all over rode in to celebrate for the night. Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois folks came to get down for the all-day party. With all of this going on, we also got the chance to meet and talk with Tom Fugle, an experience I won't forget.

We headed back to Denver almost as fast as we had come, leaving the following morning, Denver-bound. With no time on our hands, I opted to rip my exhaust pipe off at the crack and work it over once I got back home. On our way out of Iowa, we stopped near a little town off of I-80 called Anita and ate at a place called the Happy Chef. The menu was great, the food was great. It was so good, we didn't know what to order on the menu. If you ever get near this town, stop, it doesn't look like a winner, but hell if it isn't some of the best road-food I've ever eaten.

We hit a big storm just West of Lincoln and rode through rain until we got to Karney, Nebraska for the night. At one stop, I was stripped down to my underwear in a convenience store bathroom drying out my boots and jeans(electric hand dryers - something I've become very familiar with). While we were warming up and drying our clothes, these fools with three baggers on a trailer pulled up - I felt like puking. They were amazed at what we were putting ourselves through, like motorcycles weren't meant to be ridden on long trips or in uncomfortable weather conditions. Upon hearing how far we were traveling, their minds were put at ease knowing we were only headed as far as Denver. According to them, they were headed a lot further than we were... Cheyenne. I don't know if these guys had ever looked at a map or are familiar with the Mountain West, but they only strengthened the appearance of their dumb, panzy asses.

We made it to our destination for the night and rolled into Denver the following day with no problem. Making new friends, partying down, and riding motorcycles - this trip was short and sweet.

If you're looking to relive this experience, pack up your bike, say goodbye to the ol' lady and/or boss and get to Des Moines June 11th, 2011. Once more, Dice is throwing another one of these shindigs at Kung Fu Tap and Taco and it should be as good, if not better, than the last.

Hope to be there myself....

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Courtesy of Vyvyan Ross -

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fonda's Finest -

For Pops and Dougie...

I'm curious if Fonda ever looks back on this and wonders what his dealer was REALLY giving him?

Fast-forward 45 years... Spring's on the way.

We're gonna get loaded.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Old Bull - Young Bull

Taking my time undressing her, still trying to figure out a concrete plan to go forward with. Have a lot of ideas, but like always, I'm back and forth on most of them. From the miles I've put on this bike, I've learned a lot about what it could use. All I know is, it looks good in my head and it's gonna be a pavement pounder this coming summer - trippin' all over the USA and possibly the Baja and/or Canada - there's really not enough time in the summer for all of the trips I wanna take this coming season.

Goodbye torn up bird-shooters... man I loved these pipes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cat and Mouse -

This video gives me the itch to rip a throttle through heavy traffic. Every time the cop gets close to this guy, he hauls off and leaves the cop playing catch-up. The vid is a little long, but around 1:30 and 2:10, it's more like - now you see me, now you don't. Don't try this at home, a highway would work much better...

I don't condone putting people or other motorists in harms way, but without a road-block or ghetto bird, this cop has got no chance...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pre New Year Bender

This is the fender and sissy bar Rich and I set up on a '99 soft-tail that we hard-tailed. We used a V-Twin 200 series Shovelhead hard-tail on it because the guy wanted to run a 180/55-18 rear tire and a 1 1/2" belt final drive. After knowing the frame was squared up, the customer figured we might as well mount up the fender and bend him a nice looking bar as well...

Extra bend to get around the pulley


Irish Rich

1/2 inch cold-rolled, 1/4 inch mounting plates, and 3/4 inch bungs

Nice little bend at the top, sitting about 14 inches off of the fender.

More frames in the background, waiting for the same treatment

Straight up, sits nice and flat

It may look easy, but it's a lot of tedious steps to make a nice sissy bar - one that looks good and is strong enough to tear down the highway, mile after vibrating mile, with gear or an ol' lady resting against it.

We're working on a '05 Twin Cam B-motor frame now and have frames coming in pretty regularly - with Led Sled, V-Twin and Fab Kevin hard-tail sections being used. We've done quite a few of these the past 6 months and can get it done in a pretty damn timely manner, with every detail taken into account - slugs, clean welds, gussets, accurate measurements, etc...

Strong and straight. Fun stuff-