That was just the situation we faced a few months ago when we tested the Kawasaki ZX-14 and the Suzuki Hayabusa in a two-day high-speed hijink. We thought it sounded like a job for Aerostich, so we contacted our friends at the Rider WearHouse, selected some stuff based on our own bulging, greedy eyeballs and their careful recommendations, and the following plethora of items is what we got. We hope you enjoy reading about this gear as much as we enjoyed using it, even though that probably isn't going to happen. But we can hope.
Ortlieb Dry Saddlebags Aerostich.com Direct Retail price: $167.00
If you think the Germans know a thing or two about building motorcycles, wait until you see what they can do with motorcycle luggage. Okay, maybe that statement will generate too much anticipatory excitement; but if you're in the market for waterproof soft luggage you'll still be happy to know that Ortlieb Outdoor Equipment makes a product worthy of consideration. Simple in design and use, Ortlieb's waterproof saddlebags make it easy to keep whatever you stuff in them high and dry. Lacking zippers, snaps or any conventional closure system, the opening of the bags fold or roll down onto themselves (several times depending how full they are) and use a strap and clip to complete the closure to create an impenetrable seal against weather. Helping keep the worst of the weather out is the waterproof material that the bags are constructed from. With little details in the packaging or Ortlieb's website, our best guess is that the entirety of the interior and about two thirds of the exterior is covered in some type of vinyl coating.
Just as simple as the strap and clip closure system is the mounting system. Consisting of nothing other than more straps, clips and two large and robust Velcro pieces, the saddlebags can be attached to most bikes in a heartbeat. But before you set out to conquer the worst that the weather can dish out, you might opt to install the two "polypropylene stiffener panels" to give some shape to the bags. Installation requires a Phillips screwdriver (which you'll supply) and the funny little grabber thingy (included from Ortlieb) to secure the panels. It only took us about 15 minutes. The surface of each bag that faces the precious finish of your bike's bodywork is covered by a durable foam pad. With dimensions of 15"x10"x8", the bags provided plenty of room for a two day trip for one person. As a final touch two, unobtrusive reflective pieces of tape reside on each end of the bag for safety.
Although material, construction and design of the Ortlieb waterproof saddlebags are of high quality, they may be better suited to some bikes than others. As can be the case with many sport or sport-oriented bikes, the tail section bodywork typically isn't conducive to having anything attached to it other than the smooth, tanned gams of a lovely lady. Such is the case with the ZX-14 that we slung the Ortliebs over. Inevitably, we opted to secure the two large Velcro straps that connect the bags under the saddle rather than over it to help prevent the constant shifting of the bags from side to side. Unless you expect to meticulously measure the weight of the contents of each bag so as to be precisely matched, we didn't immediately see a way to prevent one bag from dominating the other and thereby edging ever closer to the hot surface of the bike's dual exhaust cans. Ortlieb recommends at least 10 centimeters of clearance between the bags and the surface of the exhaust, but we'd say that's a bit too close for comfort. Unless the bags were cinched so closely together by the large straps as to give the visual effect of being a pair of bat wings, we found it very difficult to keep one bag or the other from creeping closer to the exhaust.
In fact, one bag did get close enough to melt the interior stiffener panels, causing it to deform in one small area. Although the bag's contents weren't damaged, we suspect that this could be a problem for some users. So be mindful of this should you choose to install them on a bike with an exhaust that is relatively close to the bodywork.
On a good note, the bags never interfered with turn signal operation and ultimately got the job done even though we never had the chance to test their waterproof abilities.
We suspect that these bags may be better suited to a bike with a more conventional rear seat, like a KLR or something with a similar inclination to venture off the beaten path and into harm's way.
- Pete Brissette
Chase Harper Sport Trek Tank Bag Aerostich.com Direct Product #1993 Retail price: $87.00
Just like a Swiss Army knife or a good multi-tool, a motorcyclist's best friend can come in the shape of tank bag. It keeps things right where you need them at all times, holding the essentials for a commute or a two-week trip. As a courier, I relied on my tank bag(s) all day long, and they needed to be ultra-durable, highly functional and simple all at the same time. I've had some name brand bags that certainly didn't live up to their name and I've had bags of lesser fame that I could still be using today (if I choose to), and they would perform like they did on the day I bought them. A good tank bag, in my humble opinion, is indispensable.
Chase Harper is a brand familiar to most cyclists, even if they've never owned or used one. That says something about a company's products. To put Chase Harper to the test, I selected their Sport Trek tank bag. It measures 9" x 12" x 4" and is 8" tall when fully expanded. The bag is made from 1000 Denier Cordura (another immediately familiar name to motorcyclists) and it can be mounted with standard straps or magnetically. It includes a rain fly and has a handle and extra strap for shoulder carrying when off the bike.
It's a rather simple bag in that it has few ancillary exterior pockets, save for one just below the main zipper, closest to the rider. It also has an internal mesh pocket and a handy draw string at the bottom of the main compartment that does a good job of cinching items down. The strap system consists of at least two primary straps: one that loops around the headstock area on the bike while the other strap faces the rider and gets secured somewhere under the seat to reach up and clip to the bag. You'll have to get creative with this strap that goes under the saddle when it comes time to find an anchor point. In order to keep from rubbing on or otherwise damaging your bike's finish, this same strap has a nice protective pad made from a dense, closed cell foam. Simply weave the strap through it and the paint is safe.
Another feature that I really admired was the material on the bottom of the bag, the surface that is actually in contact with the fuel tank. Although it is sewn to the tank bag at two points, it's relatively free from the rest of the bag. This presumably allows the bag to shift while not actually shifting on the tank itself; at least this was my experience. The bottom side of this material that contacts the gas tank is made from or covered with a soft, textured, grippy rubber material. It does an excellent job of staying put. Some other bags I've used in the past didn't do so well when it came time to sit still. Trust me, you don't want to be fiddling around with a tank bag to keep it centered while flying down the road or in traffic.
One final feature that I found superb was the map sleeve or cover. It's made from a fairly thick, clear, soft plastic and it functions like a Ziplock sandwich bag, except that it uses Velcro to open and close. But that's not the best part; it can be completely separated from the bag by, you guessed it, more Velcro. That's one well-thought out piece of planning as far as I'm concerned.
Ultimately all is not well with the Sport Trek, at least as far as ease of use is concerned. The bag is separated into two compartments. The bottom half has a large chunk of foam (made to the shape of the bag of course) stuffed inside of it, and my best guess is that it gives the bag some type of support structure while protecting your goods from bouncing on the tank. If you're so desperate for every usable square inch of space you can get, the foam is easily removed. The larger, upper compartment which is also the main stowage area collapses or expands to adjust to your needs. Unfortunately it has little shape or support when expanded beyond its fully collapsed position. And rather than use a hearty zipper to control expansion, the Sport Trek uses two large Velcro pieces on each side.
To expand the bag, you must unroll (for lack of a better term) the top edge of the bag to break it free from the Velcro. This, to my dismay, was also the only way to access the zipper to get into the main compartment. Another problem with this method is that all the material that isn't expanded bunches up inside and creates a cumbersome pile which you have to deal with when rooting around for your items. My main issue with this tank bag is that it fails miserably in the "ease-of-use" department. If you're the type of rider who needs a simple but well-built tank bag, the Sport Trek might be for you. But if you're someone who needs quick and constant access that isn't bothersome, you might look to a different bag.
The Chase Harper Sport Trek tank bag can be found at http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Chase-Harper-Sport-Trek-p-16399.html or in their catalog as item number 1993 for the standard mount or item number 1994 for the magnetic mount. The bag comes in black and retails for $87.00
- Pete Brissette
Page 2Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage Vest Aerostich.com Direct Product #1447 Retail price: $227.00
By the time you read the review of this electric vest, chances are that an item like this is going to be the furthest thing from you mid-summer heat-boiled brain. Or maybe you're an ultra-enthusiast who's always on the look out for products in preparation for those cold weather riding days that seem to come all too soon.
Whatever the case, if you've always wondered if they're worth the investment, just ask someone who has used one. They'll tell you the same thing that it took me over 12 years to learn: They're worth it! I used one during most of the cold weather months (I realize this is a relative concept here in L.A.) with an Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage Vest zipped under just about any riding jacket or suit I had, and rare was the ride when I didn't have it on, so long as the temperatures required it.
Adding the element of air as an additional insulator, the AirVantage uses an internal inflatable bladder to help snug up the fit, and thereby improving (hopefully) on the efficiency of the vest to keep you warm. The bladder is filled by unzipping a little pocket in the chest area and pulling out a fill tube that operates similarly to those found on many inflatable balls, kiddie pools and the like. Yet it one-ups those by using a check valve, so in the event you need to add a puff to your huff to get the job done, the vest won't leak all that precious carbon dioxide that you coughed up in order to stay warm. Simply take a big breath and blow. A lung full is all it ever took for me to fully inflate the bladder, and let me tell you, I'm no Olympic swimmer.
To deflate the vest for whatever reason, just press on the red, triangulated object in the center of the fill tube and the vest will expel whatever you breathed into it. Keep in mind you do run the risk of having people think you're inhaling for your own intoxicating reasons rather than exhaling to fill something. Aside from that potential reputation-ruining visual, the bladder inflates quickly and easily.
If you're fashion conscious, you'll like the benefit of having a reversible vest. The outer material (or what I call outer) is a soft, fleece-like fabric and the only color available is green. The inner of the vest is a simple nylon/polyester.
When it comes time to fuel the fire, so to speak, you merely plug in one of the various connector types (which you'll need to purchase) to the SAE connector-end inside the jacket. The vest comes up to full operating temperature in the neighborhood of three to five minutes based upon my experiences. The AirVantage strikes a good balance between warm enough and too hot.
Though the Kanestu AirVantage is made from quality materials with excellent craftsmanship, it could use a couple of revisions. The biggest and most significant change that could be made is to the connector in the jacket. It needs to be far more accessible than it currently is. Even though the connector has its own little zippered pocket it is unfortunately recessed too far into the vest and too close to the lining to make a quick and easy connection. This difficulty can be amplified when you're trying to wrestle the cord to its mate while wearing an outer layer, such as, say an Aerostich suit.
Something else that I'd like to see added would be at least one exterior pocket. The only thing similar is the rather large zippered pouch that's found on the nylon side of the vest. If nothing else it can be used to stash your connection cord. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the air bladder is to help create a close fit and improve the heating. Indeed, the vest does fit snugly once inflated. It's almost like instantly adding an extra ten pounds to your girth. When you wear the vest under your outer layer (hopefully this is a forgone conclusion), expect to have the sensation of a more restricted range of movement, unless of course you purposely up-size your outer garments in anticipation of this altered fit. In my case, when the vest was inflated, the resulting snugness caused the vest to be mostly deflated by the end of a 30 mile ride.
The use of a space filled with air between two different layers of material is nothing new in the arena of keeping things warm. Unfortunately for the Kanetsu AirVantage this concept may be mostly "hot air."
Aside from this deflating aspect of the vest, the heating element works very well and is transparent in feel. It's as if it's just a plain jacket.
That's far more than I can say about other vests or jackets that I've worn, with their heating elements resembling a twisted-up wire coat hanger wrapped around my back.
One additional but very important caveat is that of ensuring you get the proper size. I typically take a medium in just about all of my shirts, jackets, etc. My AirVantage is a large and is none too big, so consider ordering up a size. One recommendation I can confidently make is that you purchase the QuiConnect 2 Switch Coil Cord Kit. The cord is plenty long and the neat on/off switch lights up red and is big enough to be easily operated with cumbersome winter riding gloves. If you're a weather pansy like me, you may consider the zip on sleeves that are available for an additional $50.00.
So, if you're in the market for a piece of electric clothing, whether it'll be your first or one of many, don't just "blow" by the Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage Vest.
The AirVantage can be found as item #1447 at http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Kanetsu-AirVantage-Vest-p-17188. html and it retails for $227.00. The QuiConnect 2 Switch Coil Cord Kit is item #172 and sells for $40.00. The zip off sleeves are item #1458 and they have a retail cost of $50.00.
- Pete Brissette
Chase Harper Eurosport Tank Bag
Aerostich.com Direct Product #957
Chase Harper Website: Model 1501 Retail price: $157.00
Aerostich's catalog lists plenty of tank bags, and a tank bag is an essential bit of touring equipment. As our little band's photographer/web layout-er/swiss army knife guy, I need a tankbag that is easy to access, has lots of features, and can keep expensive and delicate equipment warm, dry and safe. Rider's WearHouse lists the Chase Harper equipment prominently, as it's a well-designed, well-made, high-quality product line.
The Eurosport Model 1501 that I received seemed promising when I got it. We knew we would need at least one tankbag compatible with a non-metallic tank: the Eurosport uses Chase Harper's exclusive "QuickClip" dual mounting system. In addition to the fancy clip-based mounting system that uses a tank pad, the bag has a strap/handle combination that is a nice addition, although it's sewn in and not removable.
What this pack does have is terrific capacity. It also has great build quality and sneaky pockets.... I expected good things to come from this bag on our ride.
As for strapping her on.... I know, I said "strapping" he he he... Anyway, installation was a snap. Of the three methods listed on the instruction sheets, only two were applicable as there were no magnets in the base pad. That left me with their three and four-point methods. The four-point set-up would not work on our long-term Ducati test bike because of the design of the tank - too thick. The 3-point option was the way to go and the "dogbone" cushion design does a nice job of keeping the straps from directly riding around the painted frontal curves of the tank.
In actual use, I found it needed longer zipper pulls; when fully opening the compartments, the zipper heads get tucked far back into the overlapping folds of Cordura, and are a little tough to pick out. It's probably impossible with riding gloves on. However, the tank bag did everything as promised, protecting all my stuff and staying securely on the bike despite all the high-speed antics the other MO boys put me and the Ducati through.
Pacsafe Tail Bag
Aerostich.com Direct Pacsafe Tailbag, item #9133, $227
Aerostich.com Direct LidSafe #9122 Retail price: $227.00
There's only one brand of after-market luggage out there fit for the Fonz, the PacSafe line of anti-theft motorcycle gear. With all the technical equipment I carry running the magazine, its a huge PITA worrying about leaving my cameras, laptops, and Tamagotchi collection sitting out there on the bike for some would-be dick-head to come along and steal while I stop for a ninety-nine cent dinner at the AM/PM. PacSafe has created a line of tank bags, tail packs and backpacks that are created using what they call eXomesh material - a fully waterproof 900 denier high density polyester & nylon layering, sandwiching a laminated stainless-steel wire mesh to prevent someone from slashing open the bag while it's locked to your bike's frame. The eXomesh construction is wrapped up with a synching top and thicker securing cable you then feed thru your bike and back into the pack's lid.
The flagship bag is their TailSafe product, which touts a huge 2440 cu. inch main compartment and is big enough to hold a full face helmet, a few layers of clothing and a laptop computer.
I tend to pack my entire LowePro Nova camera bag inside it for off-bike toting of camera supplies at the races. Removing the entire pack takes seconds with the included three point straps and shoulder strap. If you don't wanna haul it around the pits, you can keep your Bratz Doll collection safely tucked away on the bike while at the races and safely store your hat in the LidSafe slash-proof bag, more below. Solid brass padlocks are included.
The TailSafe has a nice big top pocket too, but it's a tight fit once the bag is closed. I often use it for excess and off bike stuff, like a second set of gloves for changing weather or my hat to spare the viewing public my helmet hair when I dip in for a pint of ice cream at the local marble slab; baby loves her PB&J ice cream! On the sidewalls are a pair of smaller pockets good for carrying a wheel lock and the shoulder strap for carrying the bag off the bike plus some other small crap you don't want in your pocket while enjoying the ride.
With a tough rubberized bottom, any wetness from the road spray will not seep thru to the Bratz inside, and it'll last forever; it's durable on and off the bike. Plus, the bag has aluminum shaping rods similar to those found in your internal-frame backpack, to keep the shape of the bag from flopping around in the twisties when it's not completely full.
But I wouldn't suggest using it on painted cowlings or tail covers as I like my paint to be new for a long time. It's just best for the passenger pad or your bike's tail rack. [Gabe wanted to interject that when this bag is fully Fonzie-loaded, it has a tendency to come loose; he thinks it could use a more secure mounting system.]
On the days you're stuffing the TailSafe with clothing, tools, and whatnot and do not have a place to store your helmet while not riding, OutPac Deisgns has also created a matching security bag to safely lock your helmet as well. Using a similar interwoven wire mesh of the big bag and a cable to connect to the bike, the LidSafe is tape sealed and waterproof on the outside and lined w/ the same soft stuff your helmet came in when you bought it (not the cardboard box) and the LidSafe comes its own carrying case, to carry the carry case in while its being carried around town in your TailSafe pack... say that seven times fast! This product also comes with a set of padlocks and of course you need not the other products or even a motorcycle to use this bag. Locking your helmet to a fence or nearby building helps you keep the helmet in the event someone picks up the entire motorcycle to steal those precious beanie babies inside the TailSafe.
PacSafe is good stuff and I highly recommend it if you plan to move your toy collectibles thru a bad neighborhood.... or plan on traveling anywhere with something you would not want stolen. At press time, "WifeSafe" was still in development.
Page 3Bel Radar Detector
Aerostich.com Retail price: N/A
In a perfect world, we would hire Jim from Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" to shoot Highway Patrolmen with tranquilizer darts so they can be marked and tagged, leading to a better understanding of their hunting and migratory patterns. I can just imagine the Patrolman, eyes glazing over behind his Foster Grants as he staggers and falls in the dust by the side of the road, and then Jim attaching a radio collar before dragging him back to his patrol car, propping him behind the wheel and setting a box of Krispy Kremes within reach.
Unfortunately, it is against the law to tranquilize law enforcement officials in a majority of US states. However, using a radar detector is legal in most jurisdictions, so we can have at least one weapon in the cat-and-mouse game we play with those appointed to protect us from ourselves. Andy Goldfine recommended the Bel Express radar detector.
After we strapped it securely to a mount and had Pete figure out how it worked, the Bel did what a radar detector is supposed to do. The warning lamps light up and the alarm sounds when the unit detects whatever radar band it is that the California Highway Patrol and local police use; we had several instances in the last few hundred miles of our Rocket Tour when the alarm sounded and sure enough, the familiar outline of a black-and-white came into view soon after. It seems to me that most police just kind of have their radar guns on all the time, making a radar detector a practical and useful thing to have. However, even the best radar detectors will pick up will pick up random signals that will give them false readings, but like one of those guys with a metal detector on the beach, you will learn to ignore false readings, making even a basic detector like the Bel a useful tool.
Of course, one problem motorcyclists will have using a detector is the problem of seeing small LEDs in bright sunlight or of hearing the warning buzzer at the kinds of speeds that require the use of a detector in the first place. Our unit was mounted on a most excellent platform that bolts onto the brake lever perch with existing bolts that Aerostich offers and was therefore very close to our field of view at all times while riding the Hayabusa it was mounted on, which made the lights and buzzer more noticeable than one might think.
However, using an earplug speaker or other helmet-mounted warning device would be the way to go for a committed law-breaker serious about using one of these. Aerostich sells several solutions we have yet to test, such as a helmet-mounted LED that flashes right in your eye when the detector picks up a signal, or a junction box that allows you to wire your iPod, GPS unit, radar detector or even (has it really come to this?) your cell phone into your helmet speakers or earphones.
We understand this isn't a scientific test of different radar detectors. In fact, we know about as much about using radar as we do about electric fondue pots. However, it's a testament to the device's simplicity and functionality that we could strap it on and get some use out of it. It may have even saved us from a ticket going through a small town's speed trap; the device started chirping and beeping a full minute before we saw a CHP cruiser with a car pulled over to the shoulder, the CHiP busily writing his khaki-clad heart out on his ticket pad while a dejected motorist looked on. The Bel kept chirping away like R2-D2; the rear-facing radar gun must be on all the time.
Even if some police use an instant-on gun (which no detector can protect you from), we suspect most fuzz leave theirs on all the time. So even if some diligent LEOs use instant-on, a good radar detector will reduce, if not eliminate, your chances of getting a radar ticket, which is the most common form of evidence-gathering our police use.
Aerostich no longer carries this model Bel detector, but they have a wide selection of other units and accessories on their website and in their entertaining catalog.
Garmin 376C GPS
Aerostich.com Direct Product #6256 Retail price: $999.00
Where are we, anyway? A very time-consuming portion of my military training was land navigation; we seemed to always be studying maps, laminating maps, reading maps, marking up maps or pointing our lensatic compasses at distant landmarks.
Some of us were very good at it, but for me, every contour line looked alike and I could never remember if you subtract grid north from true north or the other way around, and I would sort of wander around until I saw something familiar. Let's just say it's a good thing I wasn't an Air Force bombardier.
Then, around 1990 we got this immense backpack-sized thing that would tell you where you were to 10-meter accuracy. I almost sobbed with relief, even though we only had one or two per platoon. The thought of each individual soldier or Marine having such a device, that could fit into a pocket, was pure fantasy.
Now, just 15 or so years later, we can indeed have such a device in our pockets. You don't even have to sign your life away to Uncle Sam to do it. In fact, as long as you're a pushy motorcycle journalist, you can call Rider WearHouse and ask for a portable GPS unit, and Andy Goldfine being such a generous and trusting fellow, will send you an incredibly versatile unit, the Garmin 376C, which must be the Ducati 999R of GPS devices.
The Garmin 376C is primarily designed for boaters, but it can be used for any mobile application, including aircraft, automobiles and yes, motorcycles.
Its fantastically water resistant--Garmin claims it can be immersed in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes -- and has a couple of other features that would make it of interest to motorcyclists.
I love me some satellite radio, it is true. In fact, at this point I would not go on a ride of more than four hours without my satellite radio receiver. Those of us under 40 are too ADD-addled and post-modern to stew in our own troubled thoughts for too long, and the new generation of earplug and helmet speakers (see below) sound great, blasting you with crystal-clear digital sound at virtually any speed.
The 376C is set up for XM radio, which currently has over 170 digital channels of all kinds of audio entertainment, including news, traffic, weather, sports, know-nothing idiot blowhard political commentary (from both sides) as well as comedy and music. The music channels offer something for everybody. There's classic rock for the GPTB, world music and coffee-house alternative for the tree-huggers, brain-damaging gangster rap for Mr. AllCaps, and just about everything in between. Much of it is commercial-free, too. It costs $12.95 a month for the service--cheap compared to cable--and since the 376C can go from your car to your boat to your plane, you'll soon forget about listening to the free radio you've endured up until now.
Another motorcycle-useful feature, at least to maniacs like Andy who ride year-round in places like Minnesota, is the XM/WX Satellite weather feature. For another $29.95 a month, XM will beam detailed weather information to you, including wind speed, direction, hurricane tracking, storm systems; all the information TV weathermen get.
The unit comes pre-loaded with the base maps; major roads and highways. If you order the optional car kit, (and you should) you get a 12v adaptor with speaker, extra mounts and a CD with complete North America maps, which are detailed down to the individual house, practically. It contains names, locations and phone numbers of millions of points of interest throughout the USA and Canada; gas stations, restaurants, dry cleaners, parks, museums, just about every sort of non-residential address.
How easy the Garmin is to use depends on what you will use it for and how quickly you adapt to new technology. Like any GPS, it is safest to use when the motorcycle is not moving; there is a series of menus to navigate through not conducive to safety at highway (or any other) speeds. However, once you have set up the display the way you want -- and you can set the display to show all kinds of different information according to your needs an preferences, like altitude, direction, distance traveled, speed or 30 other things -- it's easy to read at a glance, with clear, contrasting LCD characters.
There's no touch-screen; instead you work a large multi-function button that works like a joystick. It's plenty large and flat enough to work with even winter gloves, but keep your eyes on the road, OK?
The weather function is a cool feature as well, and I would imagine it's indispensable for serious touring and Iron Butt riders. It's updated every five minutes and displays storm systems, cloud formations, weather fronts, temperatures; all the weather information you could ever want.
The XM radio function works well, too. It has ample power for headphones or helmet speakers and the volume control is not too hard to work (although for safety we recommend an external volume knob on your speaker connector). It's also easy to read the display to see the artist, song and other information. However, it is a bit much to try to change stations while riding, tempting though it is.
Overall, the 876 is an incredible hi-end GPS system that offers tremendous versatility to a motorcycle rider who also has a boat or aircraft. However, there are better motorcycle-specific systems out there (that offer MP3 capability and XM radio, too) that might be a better value if you don't need the extreme military-spec waterproofing and weather functions.
Probably the most important thing about using gadgetry is having a solid, dependable, secure mounting system. Aerositch sent us several different mounts; which mount you get will depend on the kind of device you are using and the type of bike you're riding.
Aerostich's customer service reps are pretty knowledgeable and happy to chat with you about what sort of system to use. We told them we would be using a radar detector and a GPS on a pair of large, fully-faired sportbikes.
The first mount we used - and easiest to use - was provided by Techmounts. Also available though Aerostich as the "Stemstand" (Part # 2293 and
2294) by Techmount. It uses o-rings and a spindle to place the mount in the steering stem nut hole that is found on many late-model Japanese sportbikes. Once you've jammed the spindle into the hole (I recommend licking the o-ring to lubricate it, heh, heh) the mount is multi-adjustable in three planes with an allen key and is very secure. The mounting plate is drilled for threaded wingnut bolt fasteners, but also comes with a large piece of double-stick Velcro to cushion and/or attach your gear to the mounts. The posts come in a wide variety of sizes [millimeters], be sure to order for your specific bike model and year. Aerostich offers 13 and 19mm products; the ZX14 takes a 16mm Techmount Stemstand.
We used a pair of zip-ties to attach the plastic GPS base to this mounting platform; it was firm and sturdy. [Zip-ties were necessary because the GPS is intended for Marine use, not motorcycling btw. - Fonzie] We were able to adjust the angle perfectly to avoid any interference from the bars, cables or fairings and the screen was in plain view without being a distraction. Thanks to the o-rings, there was little vibration transmitted to the device. Overall, the Stemmount worked very well; it was well-made, durable, easy to use, versatile, and held its settings through the whole trip. We would recommend a steering stem mount if your bike allows it. We've also been using these mounts for our onboard videos for the last few months, and while a small digital camera with video capabilities freaks out due to the micro-vibrations of the ZX6RR, a lipstick camera attached to a mini-dv camera works beautifully. Using the chrome dipped model attached to the Road King is also an option for those that believe it "Ain't the Tool" when playing chase. Check out the amazing selection of mounts at Techmounts.
Another mount we were able to use was designed to bolt on to the brake lever or clutch mount. It comes with two different lengths of bolt (most of the late-model European and Japanese manufacturers use one or the other) to enable a quick and easy mounting process. After that, it's a matter of adjusting the bracket and mount platform to perfectly fit your needs. The mount also comes in two versions, one for Euro/Japanese bikes and one version for BMWs.
We used it for the radar detector. It was a little more difficult getting this to fit right, as you have to have the detector mounted back far enough to not hit the edge of the fairing, but not so close that it bumps your tankbag when you're turning the bars. We were able to get it right enough, most of the time, but it would still get knocked around and come a little loose sometimes.
Good solid solution to mounting gadgets off the center of the handlebars.
A third mount we used was the Slipstreamer Radar Mount (Aerostich part number 2296), which is designed for tubular handlebars. We were going to include a third bike in the Rocket Tour (we won't say what it was), but the OEM told us at the last minute we couldn't use it because the model year was different from the other bikes. That bike didn't have a conventional steering stem or brake lever mounts, so we hoped this mount would fit it. The product looks very well-built and versatile, but we were unable to test it.
There's our little review of a few different mounting systems. We at MO have mounted gizmos on tankbags, stem mounts, and t-shirts. Sean used to just tape his video camera onto the tank on top of a folded-up T-shirt to damp vibration, it actually worked very well - but was unsightly and wasn't easily adjustable. We now think a stem mount works best for our purposes and recommend that with all our thumbs.
- Gabe Ets-Hokin
E2c Earspeakers Aerostich.com Direct Product #3868 Retail price: $99.00
WARNING! DO NOT RIDE WITH EARPLUG SPEAKERS! IT IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS AND YOU WILL DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH!
OK, we've gotten the disclaimer out of the way. We're adults and we understand the twin pillars of living on the edge: assumption of risk and individual responsibility.
I like to use earplug speakers when I ride.
They blot out traffic noise, for sure, but so do earplugs and 100 MPH windblast. For that matter, so does having a 150 db sound system in your car with the windows rolled up (which is legal). They don't ban the deaf from driving, either, so why not enjoy your favorite audio entertainment while on two wheels? It's illegal in many states, but so is riding at 100 MPH, modifying your exhaust system or forwarding the text of this article to your non-subscribing friends. What's one more infraction (or in the case of copyright infringement, a Federal felony)?
My first pair of earspeakers were the Koss Earplug Speakers (also available at Aerostich, catalog number 3081), and I was amazed at how well they work. They come with different sizes of earplugs, or you can make your own from regular earplugs with scissors and a hot nail. They seal out outside noise and deliver sound quality way in excess of what you would expect from a $17 pair of headphones. Even at 120 MPH I could hear music and talk from my cheap-o Sirius satellite transmitter clearly. I was happy with my thrifty purchase.
That is, until Andy sent me a pair of Shure E2C Earspeakers (catalog number 3868, $99). These little gems come with a fitting kit with different sorts of foam and silicone plugs for a perfect fit, and are built with "studio-quality" internal components that are small enough for a very slim and comfortable fit.
The problem with most earplug speakers is that they are not designed for motorcycle use and stuck too far out of the ear, creating a fitment problem when worn with most full-face helmets. The Shures hide well in the ear and are comfortable for hours at a time while delivering sound quality so clear and loud it's like attending a Neil Diamond concert as Neil Diamond. I don't really understand that metaphor, even though I wrote it, but let's just say these things work very well.
In fact, rather than send these little guys back I will actually do something a moto-journalist is loath to do: pay for something. They are excellent speakers that will enhance any audio experience, motorcycle or not.
- Gabe Ets-Hokin
*Note: this is not a USCG-Approved flotation device.