Saturday 18 June 2016

Inspiring People

I meet two mazing men last night at the start of the 95 mile West Highland Way race, American ultra runner Hal Koerner and Chris Moon a double ampute and motivational speaker. Both men exude such energy, kindness and joy for what they do, and approach great challenges with love and humility that should be a marker for all of us. Inspiring people.

Image result for chris-moon

Thursday 9 June 2016

Gen3 Spot GPS rescue and tracking system

yes - Very pleased as I have been invited to become a "SPOT Ambassador" for the new Gen3 Spot GPS rescue and tracking system. 

So whilst this is a great headline, what does it mean. The Spot system over the last few years has seen steady improvement and now with the Gen3 the system seems to have reached maturity.

A Spot: is a GPS tracker which allows third parties to follow your routes, receive updates on your positions, even if you are out of phone reception (especially useful), send for help in the event of a breakdown to friends and family and most importantly alerts fast response rescue services in the event of a critical need/accident triggering rescue services.

Firstly the system provides almost real time tracking and recording of your travels and routes, Importantly in the event of an accident if you're unable to send a help message it records your last position so you can still be found even if you are down and out.

On a recent trip off-road enduro riding in the wilds of Sardinia, we were often many kilometers from potential road help and when doing something as risky as riding motorcycles in remote places the risks are obvious and ever present. having the Spot in the bladder pack is a great comfort.

I used the message and "I am ok" buttons every day sending Google Maps positions to friends and family who are on the preassigned list. 

With solo trips planned the Spot gives partners and myself  the huge sense of comfort provided by a PLB with the added features which make this a great basic comms tool as well.

Highly recommended and is now an essential part of the packed bags.

(PS my partner who is a great trail runner recently carried it on a solo run around Ben Nevis and Carn Dearg arete, a mix of scrambling and exposed running. I am glad she took it as it gave me the sense of comfort I wish when the boots are on the other foot) 


Tuesday 31 May 2016

Belstaff Brooklands Jacket - Belstaff Pure Motorcycle

There is no doubt that when the custom motorcycle scene started to grow from a few back street, garage builders and cult magazines over the last couple of years, some saw the interest from larger brands and companies in the Modern Custom or Modern Classic scene and their apparent appropriation of it, with some cynicism.

Was the "scene going to be spoilt" by big business commodifying, what is essentially a movement driven by passion, the craft and care of a few committed individuals.  

If the latest BSMC ( Bike Shed Motorcycle Club) Bike Shed Show at Tobacco Dock London is anything to go by, then the investment by the bigger companies has only served to strengthen the movement.

How then when a scene grows can it retain its credibility, when rapid expansion so often heralds the death of a trend. Punk, it is said was killed almost as soon as it plugged itself into Top of the Pops and became mainstream, but the New Custom movement seems to grow from strength to strength despite or because of the interest from the bigger boys.

To survive in a trend or movement it all comes down to credibility. In the New Custom movement which sees its roots based firmly in the British Cafe Racer Scene of the 1950 and 60's, heritage counts for more than niche trendiness.

Belstaff founded in 1924, has this credibility in spades. from its earliest inception, Belstaff and Biking became synonymous with British racing and motorcycle adventuring. It could be argued that only Triumph and Norton, albeit with some timeline breaks, have a similar thread which can be traced back to the very beginnings of the sport of motorcycling. Paying homage to the Brooklands Race Circuit which opened in 1907,  the Brooklands Blouson from the Belstaff Pure Motorcycle collection is a very beautiful, fully armoured (with D3O) solid and stylish riding Jacket in this vein.

This credibility must also be matched by two other distinct features,
1) is it fit for purpose ?
2) is it made with craft, love and a design esthetic which displays that essential but intangible quality style. ?

Dragging in style/fashion icons and using them as lovely but costly clothes pegs, especially when working within a code that is so fiercely tribal, can also be a major faux pas, instantly destroying a brand's links with the core. But to his credit David Beckham beautifully straddles both worlds, that of motorcycling, and he is a true enthusiast and that of a major trend setter and fashion icon. His connection with Belstaff can only be seen as something positive and complimentary.

There is no doubt as more and more companies seek to cash in, or be associated with the movement a few key brands will retain their credibility whilst growing with the scene as it develops. Belstaff and Triumph are showing how it should be done. Invest in quality, produce beautiful products, innovate within the spirit of their original connections to the sport(s) and excite by making clothes and bikes that scream, use me.

A classic blouson cut with shorter length to the hip, this black biker jacket a sporty and signature moto feel. In black handwaxed leather with a 1-1.1mm thickness, a zip-out quilted liner offers optional extra on-body warmth. Removable arm and shoulder protection meets European CE safety standards for motorcycle protection.
• Removable protective inserts on shoulders & elbows, & pocket for additional back protector
• Safety standards of protective inserts: European directive 89/686/CEE & CE Technical Standard EN 1621-1:201
• Zip-in removable quilted body liner
• Zip fastening with poppered cover & waist buckle
• Corduroy-lined stand collar with tab fastening
• 2 storm-proof patch pockets, 2 zip pockets & 1 internal pocket
• Corduroy-lined cuffs with adjustable popper fastening
• Underarm metal air vents
• Quilted reinforcements on shoulders & elbows
• Logo patch to left sleeve
• Produced in Europe
Style# 41020003L81N0337-AntiqueBlack

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Sugru Rubber Glue

One of the main issues with any off road trip is breaking stuff with flying rocks, branches and crashes.  Whilst a handy roll of duct tape is great for road/trail side repairs, for a more permanent solution I have discovered Sugru

It is a moldable rubber glue. It come is various colours in condom sized sealed packets in various multi packs options and colours. This amazing material from the UK, sets hard in about 12 hours if it is warm and gives a finish like a hard rubber. During the curing process it sometimes, if load bearing, needs support, but when it sets, gives a solid flexible (to a degree) rubberized seal and strong hold.

I have used the stuff to fix snapped indicators, create a smooth finish to an accidently snapped clutch lever and to protect wear points on my brake lines as they run over the aftermarket fairing. 

Yes black would have been less visible, but I have used the coloured Sugru to demo its uses. It is very versatile and highly recommended.  Packets of it now are permanently in my tool roll. 

Britannia Composites the 690 Lynx Fairing Review - A year on.

Like any review when a product is new, it is almost not worth reading until you have used it in anger. So 14 months on how is the Lynx Fairing, fairing?

It is a big decision to start cutting off the original light on the KTM 690R and bolting on a larger after-market piece, but as I wanted to use the 690 as a travelling "dual sport" which would see small tracks, 4x4 track and the occasional Italian motorway, I wanted more wind protection, better lights and increase the visibility of the machine on the road.

Firstly the lights are amazing, the daylight headlight is effective bright and a good colour, the full beam LED is quite incredible, it has a huge reach,  absolutely no need for any other lights, total overkill for road riding but amazing off road.

There is a little perceived flicker caused by the normal knobby tire vibration and the suspension setup which I am told can look like it's flashing, but for me anything that makes car drivers a little more aware of you, is good.

Wind protection is good and although the adjustable screen system is simple and good, I find the best position up to 120KMph is actually in the lowest setting, the bike is more stable and wind buffeting is better (less). In the higher positions I find a bit more buffeting and more wind noise. This might be due to the screen material flexing a little at high speeds and the screen design, which slides up and towards the rider and my helmet combo but after a bit of experimenting, now I leave it locked low.

It may be a nice varient if a Lynx was made as a high solid tower, but that may add too much weight.

I have just recently used Sugru moldable rubber glue on a couple of spots where the cables run through the fairing dash board, to reduce wear and vibration and this has eliminated an annoying buzz which appears at certain revs. Also I have  just recently mounted a Garmin Montana 680t and although a little tight for space, the dashboard is solid and easy to cut and drill as you add pieces to the dash.

Between the black dash and the white lighting forward facing panel, at the upper screws, I have damped the interface with a strip of inner tube, this takes the stress out of the system and helps reduce any vibration. It may seem a little hickey, but it is a simple and a logical farkle. There additionally is a small gap between the two fairing parts near the triple clamp and I have taped in another rubber gusset(s) make from inner tube so it protects the electrics from mud, dust and road rain. Amazingly even after riding in the heaviest rain,  mud, dust and dirt the inner tube which is held in with numberplate double sided tape and duct tape the fix still holds firm.

I have the early 2015 Lynx and have ridden 6000km with it on the machine and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

Lighting on and off road
Wind protection
Presence and visibility
Easy to drill and mount thorough the dashboard
Good looks
Great service from Britannia

Easy to over tighten the mounts and crack the surface
Some vibrations (Sugru and inner tube helps)

#KTM #KTM690 #adventurebike #dualsport

Monday 23 May 2016

Garmin Montana 680T Review

Exploring in the French Alps

One of the great joys of a winter is plotting or planning your spring and summer trips and expeditions. If however you are trying to navigate a set of complex routes and tracks it can also be one of the most time consuming and frustrating processes.

Over the years I have used various GPS devices including the Garmin Zumo 660 which is designed for motorcycle road use. Whilst the old Zumo was great for getting from a-to-b on roads, as soon as you ventured off the tarmac, it was basically redundant. Additionally iPhone streamed maps, either using Apple/Google or Motion GPX programs, whilst cheap, have severe limitations especially when things go wrong and mobile service drops.

The Montana directly mounted onto a Lynx fairing on a KTM690

Step in the Garmin Montana 680T. For a few years the more adventurous globetrotting motorcyclists have been using Montana variants, the 680T is the latest, best and clearest of the Garmin "handhelds" .

When sourcing the new Montana, Garmin themselves were quite keen to direct me towards the new Zumo range but for my requirements, they just don't cut it off-raod. Whilst the Zumo's sometimes do have some trails and track features on the basic mapping programs and the ability to add routes, tracks from Basecamp it's complex and very hard to make sense of a landscape without a set of contours and features found on recreational maps, which have landscape and contoured features.

If you are inclined to wanting to head into the back-country the Montana 680T has proven itself to be amazingly useful and accurate, even when using the European recreational standard map which does lack some of the fine detail an OS or similar would have.

Often for my trips I am plotting trails or finding routes on Google earth, then creating a KMZ file from Google Earth and then via Basecamp trying to get them into a GPS. With the 680T this has proven to be remarkably easy. Plot the trail in Google Earth, drag it into Basecap and then drop it straight into the Montana. No need to modify the format, navigate horrible menus and search complex folders in the device when you are in the field.

Everything appears in the Montana's Track manager menu which by way of a nifty screen setting can sit on the opening screen of the 680T.  Navigating a track is simply a matter of then following the trail/line though the landscape using the Recreational Map of Europe V4. For walking and trail running and MTB use when you are moving quite slowly you can zoom into accuracy down to a 50m screen view. For Enduro use 50m passses quucikly so I prefered the 80m and 120m screen view.

Whilst the RecMApV4 lacked some of the trails it's easy whilst on a track to swipe over a landscape to find features which help place you in the landscape. For really detailed work you can also download into the GPS, using the BridsEye feature a satellite image of the area.  For a big trip the "real" images do take up a lot of memory so are not so practical, but for a 20-50mile complex trail or a mountain navigational exercise, this is really useful. Switching between a satellite image and the RecMaps is done through the "map information" icon/menu which once again can be added to your home or startup page.

For successful mixed navigation on the Motorcycle (in Europe) you really need to use two map sources

CN Europe NT 2016 (or USA)
and the
Recreational Map of Europe V4

The CN (City Navigator) is the road navigational program/map which you need to get from home to the trailheads and the RecV4 maps to then follow your imported Tracks. Tracks do show up in the CN road map so you can Pin mark the start of an imported track and navigate to the start of a Track/Trail and then switch to the RecV4 when you head into the wild. It is a shame that the two systems don't overlay, but it's best to think of them as two different programs which don't overlay. The imported "tracks" do however remain visible on both map/operating systems, a useful and highly necessary feature.

As a hand held although a little on the large side when GeoCaching with the kids or navigation off a misty mountain top the Montana is super accurate, down to about 5m, unthinkable just a few years ago. I am still in the first month of using the Montana, but I have to say it saved our recent trip to Sardinia where there are so many overlapping track and 4x4 tracks without it we would have wasted hours searching for the correct track.

It like any tool is a little complex to start with but the menu is more intuitive than previous GPS's I have used and adding in coordinates which on some devices is super slow, the Montana is easy and a breath of fresh air, if in the past you have struggled fumbling through complex menus and multiple button pressings, the new Montana eliminates that pain, and is actually something you want to use actively rather than something complex and clunky which you only revert to as a last resort.

Brilliant interface between Basecamp/GoogleEarth/Montana
Accurate and easy to follow imported tracks
Good Menu and features
In field Nav good and amazing with Bridseye images
City Nav road maps and Recreation V4 maps work well and quickly
Good screen size (even for motorcycle use)
Lockable bike mount

City Nav and Rec V4 maps do not interact
Buttons sometimes don't work when wearing gloves

Remote Sardinian Trail

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Another Year on the 690.

At the start of each riding season especially if you live in a mountain town where the roads are snow, salt grit and ice bound for 4-6 months getting back on the Iron Horse can be a foreign thing. It also comes with questions about the bike. Another year another set of bike launches, the new Africa Twin, the SWM Adventure, another megalithic GS, and the credible CCM450 Adventure and a plethora Triumph Tigers and XC and serve to push you to re-evaluate your machine of choice.
For me I am on my 2014 KTM 690 Enduro R for the 2nd full season.  The only thing that comes close to the mix I wanted is the Husqvarna 701 but hey its 690 in Blue White and Yellow and without the large supply chain making aftermarket bits (this may come). The CCM of course would be ideal but for the 450cc engine.
I suppose you need to be honest about what sort of riding you will do and how and where you want to ride it. 15,000 British GS riders in the last 8 years bought into the rufty tufty round the world dream, complete with matching suits and plenty add-ons to add weight to your monster. Most will never see dirt, let alone a sand storm or a single track. So if you like the image, and your idea of an adventure is a French motorway to a GS meet near Nice, knock yourself out. However if you want rocks, rubble, dust and skinny trails, then The GS or any weighty machine is not for you.

Also be honest, do you need a 300mile range tank, are you really going to travel from Khartoum to Dar-es-Salaam and never pass a fuel station and if you ever do, then a couple Rotopax bolt fuel canisters or a fuel bladder will get you there. Fuel is heavy and unless mounted low seriously affects the handling of the bike.
Most “adventure bikes” are 200kg plus, add some luggage (even you manage to travel light) you will be close to 230kg, some may top 260kg.

Having been pinned under a GS800 with 2x15kg panniers made me rethink what the GS I was doing.
There are not many sub 180kg bikes and none off the peg that really fit the bill of what I wanted.
My criteria are
I need to drive to the trailhead and unlike the USA these distances can be long, often a day or two on the flat top. A small 250-450cc engine would seem just to be under a lot of pressure doing this day in, day out.
I stick to the A and B roads generally but it needs to sit at 110kmph/70mph and still be relatively comfortable and handle. Some wind protection would be nice and it should be able to carry some luggage.
14+ litres offering up to a 350k range means we can ride for two trail days and not panic about finding fuel.
It strikes me as odd that no-one makes a 600cc sub 180kg machine with a reasonable range and good suspension for the trails. But having just ridden 6 days on the best trails in Europe in Sardinia and meet no other riders, whilst on the nearby roads hundreds of BMW’s and Multi Stradas it maybe should be no surprise.

These ubiquitous hard panniers machines piloted by multi pocketed Cyberman, suggests to me what we are doing, whilst is a strong aspirational marketing image that is selling the machines to the masses, is actually pursued by only a few.

So if you want adjustable good suspension, the ability to ride road, some single track and trails, and feel as though you are riding not just surviving then few machines are as capable as the KTM 690 Enduro with its added bits.