Blogs » Motorcycle Blog: Beyond the Ride
A local motorcycle enthusiast's look at motorcycles, motorcycle gear and anything that goes into enjoying a ride — including where you can find the stuff in our area.


Posts categorized "Reviews"
Posted: September 4th, 2012

Sport Touring bikes are probably the best all-around bikes out there.  A Sport Tourer is designed to handle well, move quickly, over long distance comfort and typically storage.  Their agility makes them at home around town and their power and handling make them great long-range options.  Speaking of options, there are a legion of them to choose from when it comes to Sport Tourers too, and most of them fall in at a different part of the word – from “Sport” to “Touring”.

Take for example this  2011 Kawasaki Concours 14  graciously provided by Joe Askins and the gang over at OffRoad Express…  It is definitely more on the Sport side of the equation if you ask me.  Breathtaking power, superb handling and tight ergonomics make for a bike equally at home at the track as the blacktop.  Sure it has great big saddlebags for storage, and an electronically adjustable fairing – but it’s got a set of cojones that rival those on a dedicated Sport Bike.  Standard ABS, superb traction control and excellent linked braking make the bike feel extremely safe and secure, instilling confidence to the rider.  I love ABS on this type of bike, although I do wish that Kawasaki had allowed the rider to completely shut if off given the right situation.  On the other hand, it’s terrific that those linked brakes come in two modes, so that you can choose how much control you want over what wheel brakes when.

The bike also has excellent heated grips, a very readable display screen and as I mentioned excellent ergonomics.  At first I complained about the location of the controls for the grips – they are on a dial mounted off to the side.  Granted you have to hunt for the dial if you want to change on the fly, but they work so well that you will soon get used to it and set things up in advance.  The display screen is clear and readable as well, delivering the information you need at an easy glance.  As far as the ergos go, I felt like I could ride this thing all day and still be able to enjoy myself once I got to my destination.

The only thing I have to warn you about (he says with a grin) is the power.  This bike really is a monster.  When you twist the throttle it GOES.  Period.  Whatever gear you are in is the right gear, but a little down shift and you’ll feel like you just got shot out of a cannon.  With many other bikes this kind of power can be a challenge, but the Concours does everything it can to keep you right in the zone, and comfy cozy regardless of speed.

I would strongly suggest testing one of these out if you are looking for a great all-around bike – you can form your own opinion at Off-Road Express West on Peach just South of 90.  Greg took care of me and he was a terrific guy – very informative about the bike and willing to talk about all of my options.

Good luck and ride safe,



Posted in: Motorcycles, Reviews
Posted: August 15th, 2012

Last week we talked about certain upgrades I made to my Fat Bob, specifically air intakes, Dynojet’s Power Vision and a touched a little bit on my exhaust of choice.  The exhaust that I chose for my bike was actually one that you, the reader, chose for me earlier this year in a poll – the Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 1.  

This exhaust combines really sharp looks with the significant performance boost brought on by most 2 into 1′s.  I looked initially at getting a 2 into 2 but the anticipated power gain of about 5 HP and 4 TQ over stock left me a little dry.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see the 2-1 Big Radius pulls in about 10-12 more HP and 10-12 more Torque over stock – just what I needed at the time, lol.  Retailing for $719.95 it’s actually a pretty fair price, considering that it is a full exhaust system and gives you access to V&H’s incredible Tech Support.

If you really need to go with a traditional 2-2 exhaust you can always choose Vance and HinesBig Shots Staggered“.  They look terrific as an old-school 2-2 but have this power chamber that gives them almost as much power as a 2-1.  My buddy actually report an 8HP gain and about 7 lbs of torque over stock.  I’m not sure what air cleaner he went with or the dyno he used but by the seat of the pants it felt about as good as my Fat Bob, with much more traditional sound.  At $624.95 these are even less expensive than the Big Radius 2-1, and a really strong alternative given the combo of looks and power.

I’m a big fan of Vance and Hines, primarily because of the fit,  finish and performance but also because of their pricing and availability.  Just about anyone in town can hook you up with their products, although I know for a fact that you can get them at Precision Bikeworks where you can also have the whole set-up dyno-tuned too.

Vance and Hines also make pipes for more than just Harleys, I would definitely check them out.

Ride safe,


Posted: August 7th, 2012

What I loved about my Fat Bob is that being a Harley the world is my oyster when it comes to customization.  I mean seriously, there are like a million different manufacturers, even small one-off places.  For example there’s Horsepower, Inc – where they make their own custom performance upgrades including a terrific air cleaner system.  I compared this against the stock air cleaner, a Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle Air Cleaner and the Vance and Hines VO2 NakedAir Intake, with a decorative cover that just reeked of quality.

They all had a significant improvement in power and responsiveness over stock, but I was happy to see that the Home Team did really well – it tied with the Vance and Hines for best horsepower improvement, and totally crushed the competition when it came to torque where the Horsepower V2 came in at a whopping 96 lbs compared to 93 for the Vance and Hines and 90 for the Harley.  Just to be fair, the Harley unit tested here was the entry level one and the Horsepower unit the priciest by quite a bit.  If you’re on a little bit of a budget, but want to get great bang for your buck the Vance and Hines comes in at $139.95 for the intake and you can re-use your cover.  Their rather splendid looking cover  comes in at just $50 and really does a good job of making the bike stand out.  If you’re like me and are itching to squeeze every ounce of performance you can out of your bike without having to shell out the really big bucks that an engine upgrade costs then I really do recommend the Horsepower unit.  They actually have two versions, so you can save a little if you go with their more basic one.

Did I go with the Horespower unit?

Well no I didn’t actually – but that’s because I’m in love with those forward facing bad-a$$ air intakes, like the Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather.  It’s a little pricey at $299 but the good thing is that it performs very well.  On a different Dyno than the other intakes, it came in second with 95 lbs of torque and first in horsepower.  I kept it on there for looks though – I just think it’s awesome looking.  But the fact that it’s near the top in terms of power certainly doesn’t hurt.

Forgetting about dyno sheets for a minute and talking about real world feedback all three intakes really make a heck of a difference.  I didn’t get to ride the Fat Bob with the Horsepower Intake but I rode a friend’s Street Bob and it felt really strong – as did the Heavy Breather that I did ride on my own bike.  The basic Harley air cleaner kit and the Vance and Hines kit both felt good, and again the Vance and Hines gets my cote for bang for the buck.  There were quite a few more upgrades done – we’ll talk about those in the next few weeks, but what really brought everything together was adding in a Power Vision by Dynojet and having Eric at Horsepower custom Dyno-Tune it.  I’ve used Eric and the team before on several bikes but this time he really outdid himself.  The difference was amazing and the bike ran cooler, smoother and more efficiently than before.

I chose the Power Vision over their Power Commander V for a couple of reasons.  First off the new Power Vision seems to be a lot more powerful than the PCV.  If I were to do the tune myself, which the PCV certainly makes easy, I’d probably go with that one.  Since I had the bike dyno tuned though I figured I’d go all out and get the Power Vision, which competes very well with Harley Davidson’s Super Tuner.  Whether you have a simple pipe, fuel manager and intake deal or you crack the motor open and get really busy a good dyno tune really gets things going.  The other key component I added in was Dynojet’s Autotune module.  This incredible product let’s me basically take Eric on the road with me wherever I go.  What I mean is that it learns from my riding style, environmental changes, etc, and auto-corrects the program.  Even better, if I add (or remove) any equipment it will learn from that too and get my map just right.  Dynojet states that you don’t even need to have a professional tuner work on your bike, but as far as I’m concerned the best starting point is working with a pro like Eric and letting the Autotune go from there.

Horsepower, Inc. is one of two (that I know about) Dynos in the area, with the other being at Precision Bikeworks.  I haven’t given them a chance yet as far as Dyno work goes, but I’ve heard good things. Either way dialing your bike in properly is a smart move and you’ll thank me for it if you do.

Next time we’ll talk about the exhaust upgrade and what an amazing improvement over stock it was in terms of both power and sound.  You guys voted for it – the Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 1.

The great things about all of the products I mention here today is that they are super easy to find locally.  Our sponsor, Precision Bikeworks/Triumph of Erie can get them, as well as many other places around town.

In the meantime be well and ride safe,



Posted: June 8th, 2012

Road Trip!

So this Memorial Day weekend I took my kids out to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.  What an amazing time we had – thanks to Fast Lane that is.  Sure it cost extra, but we were able to ride just everything we wanted multiple times.  It was so hot and so packed that if we had to deal with normal lines it probably would have been a much different weekend.

Anyway to make the trip even more entertaining I’d decided to ride there and back – and the guys at Precision Bikeworks Triumph of Erie hooked me up with a 2012 Triumph Thunderbird Storm with Anti-lock Brakes to demo.  It wasn’t just any old Storm either – this one was the beneficiary of Triumph’s Short Muffler Kit, high-performance air cleaner and download to make it all communicate the right way.  Rich was nice enough to also think about my comfort a bit, and added a Longhaul Touring Dual Touring.

I was super excited about getting an extended ride on what’s been so many people’s Bike of the Year two years running.  The fun started as soon as I arrived at the dealership.  Rich was ready with a small stack of paperwork for me to sign, and then we went out to go over the bike.  It was parked next to my Fat Bob – they looked like twins actually.  Both had the dual headlights, the flatblack paint, not too much chrome and an aggressive stance.  There are lot’s more to talk about so let’s take a look.


Appearance is kind-of subjective, no?  In my opinion the Storm looks awesome.  I love the sinister look of it, minimal chrome, etc.  The dual headlights look really awesome too – they set it apart on the road from just about every other bike (almost!).  Everything on it was of very high quality as well, from the paint to the black wheels.  They also included guides for the cables, to minimize clutter, and added cool touches like the Storm logo on the primary cover.  Comparing the T-bird to my Fat Bob, my kids were split on looks, with my son preferring the Storm by far, and my daughter liking the Storm quite a bit better.  For me it’s at tie, but that’s only after I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into customizing my Harley.  Stock vs. Stock I think the big, black Triumph has a slight edge.


Since the test bike is brand new, we couldn’t dyno it to get to actual numbers, but luckily there are plenty of sources online that have already done this.  A stock Storm comes in at about 86HP and 102 Torque at the rear wheel – the addition of the pipes, air cleaner and download can only help.  The Storm has outstanding power through the entire rpm range; very smooth and linear, just like my old Speed Triple.  Compared to my Harley it had a little less low-end and a ton more mid and high.  Mind you my Fat Bob has about $3,000 worth of upgrades and costs about $2K more to start so in my mind the Storm is a bargain.  The upgrades they did to it for the ride are just about the only upgrades I think the bike needs, performance-wise – the only thing I would do differently is go with a more aggressive exhaust.  There aren’t too many of after-market exhausts around just yet, but I was able to find a couple of good options.  Easy would be the D&D slip on but I think I would actually go with the Hog Slayer by British Customs .  It’s a full exhaust that looks great, increases performance and sound, and saves 13 pounds to boot.  Given that most racers equate 7 pounds to 1 HP that’s almost a 2 HP gain on top of whatever the actual pipe does.  Plus if you’re riding any non-Harley cruiser can you really go wrong buying a pipe called a Hog Slayer, lol?


Wow!  What a nimble bike.  It turned very well at low speeds and handled so smoothly at high speeds that in inspired a lot of confidence.  The bike was very stable and went where you wanted it to go when you wanted to do it.  Every time I talk about it I start to say sport-bike handling and stop myself; obviously it’s not a sport-bike but compared to most cruisers it handled like one.  I have to say that my Fat Bob handles well too, with its chubby front tire and great balance, but even this great handling Harley loses the handling battle to the Storm.


Here is where the Storm really impressed.  Brakes were very strong and linear with a nice, easy pull.  They really inspired a feeling of control out there, especially when combined with the outstanding handling we already discussed.  Since the weather was beautiful I didn’t get a chance to test our the ABS, but I never felt any flutter at all, regardless of how aggressively I was braking.  This is definitely the best braking cruiser I’ve ever ridden.


All in all I really love this bike.  I really urge you guys to go down to Precision Bikeworks  and check out whichever Triumph style matches your own, but the Thunderbird in particular does it so well for so many.  You can set it up as a slick solo cruiser or hook up bags, boards and a windshield (and that comfy seat – thanks Rich!) and ride till across a state or two – it will do it all.  If was going to get my own I’d probably go with this insane swirled red Thunderbird they had on the floor, upgrade it with the Storm performance package which happens to be crazy cheap, some of those Hog Slayer pipes and headlights off the old Speed Triple – either way I want one.  Good luck and if you do try one out be sure to let me know.

Ride Safe

Posted in: Motorcycles, Reviews
Posted: May 18th, 2012

I’ve never really been one to listen to music on my bike.  Never really felt the need to talk to my buddies or listen to my passenger with the exception of a signal to stop.  Given all that I wasn’t too particularly excited about reviewing bike to bike communicators like the Cardo Scala Rider G4, Sena SMH10 and Chatterbox XBi.  I mean I can appreciate that they make things convenient, but beyond that I didn’t really need one.

You’re probably getting used to this by now but boy was I wrong.  Being able to listen to music is cool, but what really gets me is the ability to warn my riding mates about the road ahead (or just as good be warned) and the simple shared appreciation of a beautiful day.  I’m not saying we jabber back and forth but it made a 3 hour ride to Pittsburgh feel like 20 minutes.

The one I’m going to talk about today is the Cardo Scala G4.  The Powerset comes with everything you need for two set-ups.  The retail cost is $489.95 but you can get some great deals on it if you shop around.  Yeah I know the G9 is out, and it looks amazing with its ability to add up to 8 riders and a range of 1 mile, but the G4 is a brilliant piece of engineering all by itself, even if it pairs up with fewer communicators.   (Check out the Cardo video at the bottom of this post)

The G4 was extremely easy to set-up, and connected to my helmet very easily as well.  The sound quality was excellent and it even has a built-in FM transmitter.  I was able to listen to the radio as long as I wanted to and then switched over to my iPhone when I got sick of what was playing.  The G4 also connects to GPS (I want one!!!) and you can supposedly hear the directions over the speakers, which I’m sure you can since it delivered on everything else.

The most important feature, as I mentioned, is the intercom.  With the G4 you have the ability to pair up a few different ways.  For me the best would be 3 riders, but you can also do 2 riders and 2 passengers.  Good news is you can also set it up so that the passengers can just talk to each other, which is great if you just want to enjoy the ride a bit and let them do the planning.  They say the range is a mile – I got a little over a mile on a beautiful day and no interference, but somewhat less in the hills.  I think even half the range would be enough – if you get lost you can just pull over and switch to cell phone and find your buddies.  The sound quality was excellent as well – these things have come a VERY long way.  I remember the early ones that were functional but sounded like the NYC subway system.  Customer service is also excellent – they really stand by their product.  I had some questions during install and set-up and they were fast, helpful and genuinely concerned.

I definitely recommend this unit – you can order a set or two at the local Harley shop, ask for John since he already looked everything up to make sure.

Thanks for reading and ride safe.

Posted in: Other, Reviews
Posted: May 3rd, 2012

I’ve had owned five Harley Davidsons in my life to date:

  • 2003 Anniversary edition Sporty – silver and black and shook the heck out of my hands
  • 2006 V-Rod
  • 2007 Road King
  • 2008 Super Glide Custom
  • 2010 Fat Bob (my current bike)

In that time I’ve probably had 30 different jackets from amazing Dainese jackets to Belstaff to Vanson and beyond.

I love gear – I’ve said it before – so just like bikes I’ll buy one I love and sell it a while later to get a new love. In that time I’ve only had one Harley jacket. One. Now I don’t have anything against Harley jackets, but I’ve never really been one for huge logos, flames or skulls. I always admired them, but they just weren’t for me. I also like jackets with built-in armor for better protection.

When I got the V-Rod, I saw a jacket at the Harley dealer that really wasn’t anything like the jackets I saw at bike night or parades. It was all black with nary a flame shrouded logo, and had a very cool, subtle look to it. It was an FXRG, which stands for “Functional Xtreme Riding Gear,” and it certainly was all of that and more. It was heavy when you held it, but once you had it on it was just a very good jacket with armor, good wet weather performance, a great warmth liner and even a kidney belt.

I bought that thing for over six hundred bucks and it was the only jacket that I’ve owned for more than two seasons. I only got rid of it last year when I sold my Super Glide – to the lucky guy that bought the bike. I still miss it and have been thinking about getting another when I came across the Luminator 360.

Now some of you might be questioning my getting this jacket, what with the huge Harley Davidson logo across the front – so did I, actually. But the more I looked at it, the more it appealed to me. Sure it’s got a big logo but it’s actually kinda subtle since the logo is also black, with a little reflective outline. What’s even better is that unlike most Harley jackets it had – like my FXRG – armor and a kidney belt. OK, so it doesn’t have the awesome liner, but we live in Erie and by the time I usually need it we’ve got six inches of snow on the ground.

It’s also almost $200 cheaper than my old jacket, and feels to be about the same quality. It doesn’t have the FXRG lifetime warranty, but for the price I really consider it to be a bargain. And the feature that gives it its name – 3M Scotchlite reflective tape, piping and graphics — make this all black jacket really stand out at night. This is great for those of us that want to look all bad-ass but still be noticed by cars while we’re riding in the dark.

In my opinion this is one of the better jackets out there. It sells for $495 at the local Harley shop (less if you’re a HOG/Abate member) and gets you great quality leather, good armor, terrific design and all that reflective stuff to make you stand out.  The other great thing about buying at the local shop is the service – Harley Davidson of Erie really has stop-notch service at their parts, gear and service counters.  They go out of their way to really help you find what you need and stand behind their products.  They also have some really good sales from time to time – I just had cams installed and they credited 20% of the bill to a gift-card, which I then used to buy an LED tailight for my awesome Fat Bob/Fat Glide conversion that I’ll be talking about soon.

Anyway, check them out and enjoy the ride.

Posted in: Coats, Reviews
Posted: April 5th, 2012

I love gloves – I ALWAYS wear them while riding – even back when I was an idiot and would ride around in shorts, sneakers and no helmet I’d still have gloves on.

Maybe it’s from the motorcycle accident I had when I was 18 in Hawaii and decided it was okay to show off and ride like a moron – a moron in dress pants and dress shoes.  There was so much gravel and rash on my hands that I could swear I still feel them tingling to this day. Maybe I just love the fact that a decent pair of gloves usually seems to make the vibration a little easier to handle.  Either way, good gloves for me are a must, and the Icon Super Duty 2 fits the bill in both areas.

First off I really am digging the color – kind of like the color of work boots. It’s sorta cool in a different kind of way. You don’t have to get them tan though – they come in four other colors – black, blue, white and red. Being as I have about a dozen black gloves, the color switch is nice. But it’s not the only reason I pick these up to ride. For $60 (less if you can get them on sale at one of the local dealers) you get a well made glove that has a fair amount of protection and excellent ventilation.

They are made out of “Battlehide” goatskin (I’m not making that up) and concealed padding – no hard armor. I feel these have pretty decent protection and some impact resistance. These might not be the gloves if you are going to do some serious riding. But for going back and forth to work, or chilling out with a nice Sunday morning ride, these guys are a real good option.

Both Offroad Express and Chrome Addiction are listed on Icon’s website as dealers so give them a shout.

Ride safe

Posted in: Gloves, Reviews
Posted: December 16th, 2011

It’s been a little while since we’ve talked about helmets, but I’ve come across one that I really think merits some attention.

You may or may not be aware, but I’ve always been a little bit of a snob when it comes to helmets. I’ve always liked Arai and Shoei, Schuberth and Nolan, etc. To me, if it didn’t have an elite label I wouldn’t even consider it let alone actually wear it. Well, since I reviewed the Bell Star Carbon earlier this year I’ve realized that a lot of people have caught up to the big boys. Now the Bell happened to have a “big boy” price to go along with its general awesomeness, so I guess maybe it wasn’t exactly fair, but I felt the exact same way after I reviewed the $349 Bell RS-1 in August.

Don’t get me wrong – A Schuberth C3 is still an incredibly high-quality modular helmet. It offers technology, comfort, safety features and features that merit its $699 price tag. We will actually be doing a review of a Schuberth C3 to hear what all the fuss is about in the near future — but for right now we are going to look at another helmet trying to prove that a modest price does not mean a modest level of features and form.

I’m talking about the HJC RPS-10. The last HJC I reviewed, the IS-16, floored me in terms of bang for the buck. This helmet, HJC’s top of the line piece, tries to entice buyers away from the likes of Shoei, Arai and other high-end brands with beautiful graphics (like those on the limited edition Ben Spies model), top level safety (Snell 2010 and, of course, DOT approved) and a very nice level of comfort and stability. It’s also a pretty light helmet too, very comfortable for a long day around town or at the track.

Fit and finish: The RPS-10 is definitely a beautiful helmet, whether looking at a solid color or a helmet with graphics. The paint just looks good – it looks “quality” as my brother-in-law Guido likes to say. The finish is good too, if a hair below the top-tier helmets. If I was paying $600 I’d probably be annoyed, but if I was picking it up on sale at my local bike shop for a little over $300 I’d be pretty impressed. What I’m moaning about are maybe a few tiny unfinished bits of plastic here and there and stitching that could be a hair tighter, but I REALLY had to look to notice.

Venting: It’s kind of hard for me to give my honest opinion on how cool the helmet is, since it’s pretty cold out right now, but I can tell you that I definitely feel the air moving around with the vents open. The top seems to flow quite a bit of air, with the bottom flowing somewhat less. The venting has held up to fogging though you can use the pinlock system if you really need to make sure you get absolutely zero fog.

The fit of the helmet is sort of in the middle, maybe a little narrow but the padding is extremely comfortable. I’ve had a couple of buddies try it on too and it seems to fit fine on all of them, despite the fact that we each have pretty different heads.

I think that HJC has a real winner here. It might retail for $349, but I’ve seen some of the local guys taking ten or fifteen percent off, especially this time of the year. For under $300 you’ll get a good, solid helmet that does a lot of what the much more expensive helmets do but still have enough money left over for some cool boots or gloves.

Being an HJC you can get this all over the place. You can get HJC helmets at Crolli, Forest Park Honda, Off-Road Express and, if you are down in Meadville, Street Track and Trail has them. Finally, oddly enough, the Boot Box can get em.

Thanks and ride safe.

Posted in: Helmets, Reviews
Posted: November 21st, 2011

For those of you that might not remember, I purchased a Stratoliner S from a dealership in Philadelphia a few weeks back.  This is the story of how I got the bike home.

The day started with a 9:30 AM flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Pittsburgh has a pretty nice airport – some cool shops, better than usual airport food and, best of all, no line at security. With a helmet bag in one hand and what seemed like a week’s worth of gear in the other I was sure that I would get a bit of a hard time, but as I walked up the agent asked me what kind of bike I was picking up and where – cool.

We talked for a minute then I made my way through the scanners and onto the little train that takes you to the gates. I felt a little self-conscious standing there in my River Road Taos jacket and mis-matched touring boots, but it was kinda fun getting all that attention. Oh yeah, mis-matched boots…why? Well, I originally I wanted to bring along a pair of Rev’it Rival H2O boots and a pair of Sidi Stivali Way Rain boots for a comparison but my carry-on was getting so big that I just put on one of each. Frankly it was the best of both worlds, as I could really test them out at the exact same time in the same situation. Both boots were exceptionally comfortable and full of terrific features but I will actually talk about that in an upcoming post.

Anyway, I almost missed my plane window-shopping and had to run through the airport as they paged my name. I was that guy! As I got on the plane and made it to my seat I could feel all eyes upon me, as if I was to blame for anything that could go wrong in the next forty-eight hours. Even the flight attendants were giving me the fish-eye – one made a big deal about my bag despite the fact that there was no one in front of, next to or behind me.  But that all passed pretty quickly and I arrived in Philly a little bit later.

It was easy for the driver from Hannum’s Harley Davidson to find me – the ten year old SUV with Harley Logos all over would have been easy to spot too. The drive gave me a chance to learn more about the kid – he confessed he actually preferred Metrics to Harleys – and about a half-hour later it looked like we were going back to the airport.

“Umm, I was accidentally going to my house” the kid said.

Maybe I should of kept my mouth shut and not distracted him.  Not a big deal because a few minutes later we pulled into the really cool dealership. There was a sea of Harley out front, along with a really cool Ducati Multistrada that they were selling for a song. I was ushered in to see “JR” – the general manager – and he worked up my deal and pointed me to a good Cheese Steak place on the way home. (It wasn’t bad but I should have gone into town for one of the big-boys).

The guys at the dealership gave me a little good-natured ribbing at the bags of gear I was carrying, assuring me that the absolutely gorgeous weather would make my chaps, River Road Taos pants and jacket, First Gear Electric jacket liner and gloves, neck-gator, and emergency long-johns barely even an afterthought.

There were some really beautiful Harleys at the dealership, but when they rolled out that Black Cherry Stratoliner S I knew I had made the right decision. Chrome was everywhere, and it was also decked out for touring with leather-covered hard bags, a quick release windshield and a passenger back-rest with luggage rack.

I actually listened to the guys at the dealership and put all my gear except for my trusty Rev’it Summit H2O water-proof gloves, River Road Taos ¾ length touring jacket (replete with armor and warmth liner), and Bell Star Carbon helmet (with incredible transition lens of course!) into the saddle-bags, which were far more spacious than they looked. I didn’t linger once I was loaded up as I was eager for the road – and that cheese steak.

I’ve had a couple of cruisers – a 2007 Harley Davidson Road King Custom that I loved, a 2009 Super Glide Custom that I liked, and a BMW R1200C that wasn’t really mine but I liked to pretend it was for all the time it was in my garage. After those three bikes I was ready for some pretty understated performance out of the Strat, despite all I had read to that point.

Once again I was wrong; instead of making do with around 67 HP and 80 pounds of torque like my King (when it was stock!), the Strat was putting down just over 80HP and almost 110 pounds of torque. Don’t get all crazy now – at 800 pounds even those numbers don’t make the big Yamaha a drag specialist but it certainly was no slouch. Acceleration was brisk and smooth and available at just about any time. The bike had a stock exhaust but it was by far the best sounding stock exhaust I have EVER heard. It was menacing and deep and had just the right amount of bark when I hit the throttle, but when I rode past a State Trooper standing outside of her car, she just waved me by.

The weather at the start of the ride was beautiful. It was sunny, warm, clear – and 3 in the afternoon. Fast forward three hours on the turnpike and it was getting cold!

Sure my feet were toasty (Sidi a little warmer than Rev’it) and my head, hands and torso fine, but my legs were FREEZING, despite the long-johns. Remember one of the most important rules of riding – make sure your body is as well equipped for a trip as the bike.

It didn’t matter that the only things cold were my legs; that cold started to creep in everywhere else and really tried to lessen my enjoyment. I pulled over at a rest area threw on my chaps and long johns, and then promptly pulled over at the next rest area an hour later to do things the right way. This time I used the First Gear Heated Jacket Liner, First Gear Heated Gloves (the regular ones not the armored carbon ones), River Road Taos Pants, and my neck gator.

Wow! What a difference the right gear makes.

The Taos pants were extremely warm, with a removable full-length liner. These pants were comfortable too, with protective armor that, for me, was in exactly the right spots. I will say that you should probably buy a size larger than you normally would – same thing goes for the jacket. The jacket and pants together were really cool looking too, and did not give the appearance of costing $300 for both. They really were very well-made and it looked like a lot of attention was given to making sure that they had the right features, like CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows, foam armor pad in the back. The aforementioned liners, reflective piping, adjustable cuffs and pretty decent venting.

The best thing about this excellent combination is that you can get River Road locally, right at OffRoad Express East. The gator was a $5 special from last year’s Motorcycle show in Cleveland but really make a difference – extreme cold on your neck feels like an icy wire wrapped around your adam’s apple ready to slice your head right off.


Click the image to see the commercial starting Jason Alexander

All this was great but the star of the show was the First Gear heated jacket liner and heated gloves. The Gloves plug into the liner, and the liner plugs into the bike (unless you have a stock power outlet your bike will need some minor modding). You use a wireless heat-roller – dual or single – to regulate the temperatures and then forget about it till you get home. I turned them both up all the way – the gloves actually felt very neutral but the jacket liner was HOT! I liked it—I kinda felt a little bit like a McDLT – that burger from the 80′s that kept the hot meat on one side and the lettuce and tomato on the other: my favorite burger (sniff). I wish they’d bring that back instead of the McRib, although I do like that one too! Anyway,

I digress; my apologies…

The marketing guru from First Gear actually chided me a bit – I should have set the jacket to a lower temperature. It’s not about sweating, it’s about neutralizing the elements, but that warmth felt really good. I attribute the extreme comfort provided by all this weather-appropriate gear as the reason I was able to do the 400 miles in one shot, instead of spending the night somewhere in the middle.

It got a little hairy around Pittsburgh – I was getting tired – but Five Hour Energy and Snickers make a good combo. I got home around 1:00 in the morning and stayed up till 4:30 watching the Military Channel.

This trip may have been a little shorter and a little less extreme than my planned trip to Wisconsin would have been, but I’m glad as my gear would not have been appropriate. Even the River Road Taos pants would have needed a little help in the way of maybe a heated pants liner and socks had the weather been ten or twenty degrees colder.

First Gear is available at OffRoad Express West, over on Peach – and since both First Gear and River Road are both distributed through Tucker-Rocky you should be able to get them in quite a few more places too.  I’ve gotten Tucker-Rocky at Harley Davidson of Erie and I’m pretty sure I did at Street Track and Trail down in Meadville too.

Ride smart and ride safe…

Posted: October 14th, 2011

I’ve been putting off reviewing these shoes for a while now. I don’t really have a good reason for it; they kinda just scared me sitting there day after day. I think it’s probably the look; the black and white really stands out way more than I was comfortable with. I never thought they were ugly; I just didn’t think they were for me.

It’s kind of like sneakers: I love them all but I pick out the same kind I always do – basic black, maybe white with navy – something safe and more than a little boring. A few weeks ago I felt enough was enough, so I wore them to the place where one way or another I’d get the biggest reaction – a school play.

Ok, so I didn’t go there just to try on the shoe. One of my kids was in it, the other was there hanging out with his friends and it was a great opportunity to go for a sunset ride. I expected my son’s reaction to be a little mocking – kinda like when I threaten him that I’m going to wear his Abercrombie shirts or something like that — but instead both he and his friend Mike thought that the shoes were very cool.

I thought there was a double cross of some sort going on so I checked with some work friends in their early twenties and they too thought they were awesome. Now this doesn’t mean that I like them any more, but it does tell me that Dainese has it right with the look of these shoes. I can always get them in all black if I want.

So now that we’re past the look – how about the feel and function?

Dainese always makes a quality product and this time there is no exception at all. The shoe is extremely comfortable and offers quite a bit of protection. It’s a chore to put on, but that means it won’t come sliding off in a spill. There are no laces or buckles; instead you slip it on and then tighten it up with a drawstring system. This set-up feels extremely secure and is actually very comfortable.

Walking around was fine, if a bit stiff at first, but I am sure that will go away in time. Most importantly the shoes were very comfortable on the bike.

The Dynos also have quite a lot of protection – they have everything that a full racing boot has, they are just a lot shorter. In addition to a replaceable toe slider it has an armored casing surrounding the rear of the boot, a nylon toe box and shift pads. For the money these offer a significant level of protection, comfort and fashion.

Like other Dainese products, the Dynos are hard to find; I would suggest Cycle Gear in Pittsburgh or maybe

Posted in: Boots, Reviews

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