Jan 31, 2017

Product Review: Giant Loop Kiger Tank Bag

All Rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day


One of the most hostile reviews I've ever written and had published was of my frustrating experience with my Wolfman Enduro Bag. As much as I've hated that damn thing, I didn't find a suitable replacement for a V-Strom tank bag until Giant Loop came out with the Kiger. To sum up this review in one sentance, everything I had come to dislike about the Wolfman bag is a non-issue on the Kiger.

First, even with the rain cover, the Wolfman (and practically every other enduro-style tank bag) isn't particularly water-resistant. The first day I installed my Kiger I taught a Basic Rider Course at Century College where, about two hours from the end of the range-portion of the course, we were hit with a gully-washer. I had my V-Strom covered, but I had to pull the cover because the wind was so strong the bike was rocking hard enough I thought it might topple off of the centerstand. I hadn't double-protected my stuff with the Kiger's optional dry bag and the storm hit so quickly I didn't have time to latch one of the bag's buckles. 40mph-plus winds blew the rain parallel to the ground for a half-hour, blowing over half of our motorcycles, flooding the drains, and drenching everyone and everything; except the stuff inside of my Kiger tank bag. At least three inches of rain fell in that short cloudburst and none of it, not one drop, made it into my tank bag. First test, passed.


The Kiger and my V-Strom on an urban "adventure" during the Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl.

The next big issue I had with the Wolfman Enduro was stability. The Wolfman bag's "laminated foam sides" quickly turned to saggy pillows that took up space in the bag while providing ziltch for support. Initially, the Wolfman Enduro bag was the only substantial-sized bag I could find that was narrow enough to stay out of my way when steering, but when the foam sides failed so went the steering clearance. The Kiger's zipperless-clamshell design and materials make the bag almost rigid. The zipper-less, clamshell lid defines the top portion of the bag's structure and the foam-reinforced 22-ounce vinyl-coated polyester foundation holds the overall shape. The 4-point security system keeps it all exactly where I want it. The zipper attachment to the harness makes the bag easy to swing aside for a gas fill and the whole thing (except the harness) comes off easily so you take the bag with you. The Kiger is a 9 liter bag--rear 9.5″ tall, front 6″ tall, 8″ wide, 12″ long--which is large enough for a bike cover, gloves, boot covers, some tools, with space left over for stuff in the interior mesh pocket.

I'm still unclear on how this works, but it does. The clear vinyl map pocket is touchscreen-friendly; even when I'm wearing my Aerostich Deerskin gauntlets. This is a big deal, since I'm cheap and my Garmin GPS is a long ways from waterproof. There is a water-tight route for a power cord (USB on mine) into the map pocket, so running out of juice can be avoided.

Everything I wanted for this bit of travel storage was provided by Giant Loop's Kiger. It's a great bag and one that I fully expect to outlive my V-Strom and end up on whatever my next bike turns out to be. As always, the best place to buy Giant Loop products is directly from the company's website: https://giantloopmoto.com/.

Jan 28, 2017

The Dominoes Are Falling?

Erik-EBR-1900RXOnly a short while after Polaris announced the Victory Motorcycles are goners, Eric Buell Racing gives up, again. In their January 28 press release, the company said, “The company, which is the sequel to Buell Motorcycle Co. that Harley-Davidson Inc. owned for more than a decade before dropping the brand in 2009, says it will begin a wind down of production operations next week.” And “This difficult decision was based primarily on EBR facing significant headwinds with signing new dealers, which is key to sales and growth for a new company. In addition, EBR has had limited production in 2016 and 2017 that was under goal. The combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Well, nuts. That is about it for US production of anything resembling a world class competition motorcycle.

Losing the Travel Thing

All my life, “getting away” has been a theme. I grew up in western Kansas and anyone with any sense at all wants to escape that hell hole as fast as possible. I got started with a lifetime of “camping” there when I snuck out Saturday nights with a canteen and a blanket or a Cub Scout’s sleeping bag to hide in the basement ruins of a Catholic college that had been wiped out by a tornado. If I made it out unseen, I could get out of 2-4 hours of Methodist sermons and Midwestern religious hymn-howling. My motivation for making my great escape was pretty great and getting away has been a theme of my life since.

For most of my adult life, my “career” was a collection of low-to-moderate income, high-pressure repair or engineering jobs with a fair amount of middle and upper management thrown in to extract any fun my job might have provided. Managing most people is about as entertaining as herding chickens and managing management is even more painful and unrewarding. Add to that a house full of girls and women, two daughters and a wife, and I regularly needed to “get away.” For a couple of decades my getaways were off-road motorcycle racing and backpacking into remote areas.

CaliforniaMoveFor the move to California in 1983, running from the Reagan recession that pretty much wiped out non-military/industrial jobs in the Midwest, I bought my first street bike since I “borrowed” my brother’s Harley Sprint in 1963 and stripped it down for flattracking. The trip to California in late March of that spring was my first adventure tour, since I rode through 400 miles of sleet, snow, and ice storms to get to southwestern Texas where the winter weather finally let up. It was an adventure, for sure. I probably shouldn’t have survived that trip, since I knew practically nothing about safely riding a motorcycle on pavement. My CX500 was poorly setup, marginally ridden, and completely inappropriate for the places I forced it to go. That ride and that motorcycle started a whole chain of events in my motorcycle life, though. I didn’t really think of myself as a “motorcyclist” before that first 2,000+ mile long late-winter/early-spring slog.

At least 250,000 miles later, I’m beginning to lose that identity. This past summer, I rode my V-Strom to Colorado and back. For the first time in all of the years I’ve been touring, I did absolutely no prep work on the bike before I left. I didn’t even do a needed oil change. I have no excuse. I was looking forward to the trip, I think. I knew how long the trip would be. I’d done a fair amount of work on the bike the previous year and, then, barely rode it at all. So, I had some false sense of security that somewhere, sometime I’d already done the prep, but I knew better. I just didn’t come up with the motivation to crawl around the bike doing the things that needed doing. The end result was a fairly high-tension trip with the only real fun moments coming off of the bike when I was hanging out with a friend at various Colorado hot springs.

There was no “escape” in that trip. I had lots of work to do at home, none of which I dreaded or needed escape from. I’ve been everywhere I went on that ride and there was almost no adventure to the trip, except for the tire failure in Nebraska and that wasn’t particularly entertaining. I even avoided a short dirt road section in Colorado, opting for pavement to preserve my too-many-miles chain and sprockets, while my friend took the high and unpaved road. I skipped Pike’s Peak on the way back, something I never imagined I’d do. Other than doing long miles on the interstates, my ride to and from Colorado was totally atypical for me. It didn’t really qualify as an adventure and I didn’t at any time feel obligated to turn it into one. Honestly, most of the time I just looked forward to it being over and being back home working on my projects.

I suppose Trump should be inspiring some motivation to get away, but even he and his band of merry Brownshirts are not doing it for me. For the last three years, I have been talking to a company that specializes in South American motorcycle tours.I sort of had Peru on my bucket list, but even that just seems like more hassle than fun these days. I think might have lost the travel thing.

Jan 18, 2017

Things that Make Me Puke

If you were ever confused about how lame cruisers are, this ought to put the nails in the coffin for you. Nope. I haven't read it. It just appeared on my local library's "New Fiction Book" page and I had to chase down a jpg of the front cover just for you folks. 

This combines two things I despise more than almost anything else in literature: romance and western bullshit. "After years spent trying to remember her past, Mojo Sheepshanks just wants to put it behind her. She’s finally got the life she always wanted—sisters she loves, a career that keeps her on her toes and Tucker Darroch, the handsome cop who’s stuck by her against all odds. But for the people around her, moving on is hard to do. Tucker can’t seem to let go of his past, while Mojo’s sister Greer is being blackmailed for secrets in hers. And Mojo’s stuck in the middle again."

Is there anything about that story description that makes you want to read the book? If there is, 'splain it to me Ricky.

On the other hand, if you are interested in figuring out what makes your brain do really dumb shit, I can not recommend Michael Lewis' The Undoing Project strongly enough. I'll be thinking about the things I learned in this book for years. Some of the choices I've made as a motorcyclist, buying motorcycles, not buying motorcycles, and on an everyday basis are all up for review now. As always, Michael Lewis has kicked my ass.

Jan 9, 2017

Who’s Surprised?

Polaris dropped a big #2 on the cruiser market this week with their announcement that Victory is a has-been. “Polaris Industries Inc. (NYSE: PII) today announced it will immediately begin winding down its Victory Motorcycles brand and related operations. Polaris will assist dealers in liquidating existing inventories while continuing to supply parts for a period of 10 years, along with providing service and warranty coverage to Victory dealers and owners.”

Blowing a little smoke up their fans and vanishing customers’ asses, they followed that in the formal announcement with “Several factors influenced today’s announcement. Victory has struggled to establish the market share needed to succeed and be profitable. The competitive pressures of a challenging motorcycle market have increased the headwinds for the brand. Given the significant additional investments required for Victory to launch new global platforms that meet changing consumer preferences, and considering the strong performance and growth potential of Indian Motorcycle, the decision to more narrowly focus Polaris’ energy and investments became quite clear.” Don’t hold your breath for Indian to last long. Polaris has been hustling too little, too late, with almost no future market awareness for years. Me-too is not a business plan.
Their customers were buying a vintage image, now it’s a vintage product and brand. They ought to feel “special.”

Jan 5, 2017

Bikes I've Owned and Loved (a lot or a little): 1975-1980 Suzuki RM 125(s)


1976_RM125A_Aussales-1_1200Over the last 30 years I’ve tended to forget about the small collection of RM’s I owned, raced and rode, and maintained. Mostly, it has been because my “ownership” was often dubious. On my old Geezer with A Grudge webpage, I didn’t list my association with the RM125 at all. I simply forgot about the bike in context with anything other than being a racer’s mechanic for half a decade. Contrary to what you might have expected from me there was no ill-will involved. I didn’t hate the RM125, as I did the Kawasaki KLR600 or the Suzuki TL250. I just never thought of them as “mine.” Maybe they weren’t.

I was wrenching for a kid who worked for me at our day job and who was regularly in contention for the Nebraska 125 Expert (A) Class state championship. For about 3 years, we spent almost every weekend together; him racing A class 125 and me in B or Enduro class and working on his bikes. Mostly I raced my Rickman 125 because it was my regular ride and it was mine. Mike had a deal with a local Suzuki dealership for super cheap bikes and below dealer cost parts. He went through a lot of parts, including engines, frames, suspension bits, wheels, etc. In fact, I occasionally had enough spares to build a spare bike or two. A couple of those bikes ended up under me when I was a B Class rider. I’m not sure who, officially, owned them. I know I sold at least one of them when I cashed out of my off-road bikes in 1981.

My impression of the RM, especially after the Yamaha Monocross bikes showed up at local tracks, was that the bike was light, powerful, and grossly under-suspended and the frame was way too flexible to be stable. I still remember riding behind one of Yamaha’s guys at a moto in Genoa, NE watching the YZ track through the ruts and over the busted terrain almost like the track were paved while I was being slung from one side of the course to the other by every large and small obstacle because the RM’s frame and suspension practically worked against each other and me.

Also, unlike the YZ’s, Suzuki’s philosophy with the RM motor was that the engine parts should break in quickly rather than last a long time. I knew winning racers in Nebraska who went two seasons on a motor, piston, and rings. Our Suzukis needed new rings every 3 motos, new pistons every third ring replacements, and 2-4 cylinders every season. If money, time, or energy made us decide to put off a ring change, Mike would always lose power toward the end of that 4th race and either ride desperately to hang on to his position or not even have enough engine left to be able to ride desperately.

If it weren’t for most of the cost being someone else’s money, we’d have dumped the Suzukis after about 1976. None of the RM cost came out of my pocket. For a lot of that period, I was still selling Ossas out of my garage shop/dealership and if I could have afforded to race what I sold I would have. I loved the Ossa Phantom 125 and it kicked the RM’s ass every time Mike and I practiced with either one of us on the Phantom. I never took a Phantom to the track though and most of my customers were play racers and didn’t put the bikes to much of a test. So, I don’t really consider the RMs to be something I either owned or loved.