2017 Ural Gear Up: Touring Seattle with a Sidehack

DCIM100GOPROG0042933.Forget everything you know about riding and focus on one thing: what it felt like to ride a motorcycle for the very first time. The world is zipping past you in a blur; meanwhile you’re trying to keep your eyes on the road, desperately scanning for the next obstacle while simultaneously trying to tame the machine with each of your appendages. I nearly forgot what that felt like, but after commuting through downtown Seattle astride a Russian rig, I have a renewed sense of appreciation for “first timers”. Take my word for it, riding a sidecar is an experience like no other.

Way back in February, I wrote about a late winter excursion down to the Bluegrass State. Beyond detailing my twisty adventure, that post was also part of my entry for the Rever #WinterBeDamned Challenge. As it turns out, based on my blog and social media effort, I was ultimately selected as the winner of the contest’s grand prize. For folks unfamiliar, the grand prize was round trip airfare to Seattle and an afternoon of riding a Ural sidecar accompanied by a Ural factory rider. Long time readers of the blog are already familiar with my affinity for the Ural. Beyond winning a “weekend vacation”, I was finally going to get the opportunity to ride a sidecar (or is that “drive”?), and see if it truly is the “365 day solution” that I think it is.

 

Ural Headquarters

Flying over Seattle MotoADVRTouching down in Seattle is was like 55° F and raining; seemed like stereotypical fall weather in the Pacific Northwest from what I’d heard. The next morning, Vice President of Operations, Jason Rae, picked me up from the hotel and gave me a short tour of the national headquarters in Redmond. Needless to say I had a lot of questions, and throughout the day I picked up a lot of history, not just about the bikes, but also about the company. Prior to my visit I was under the impression that the company was based in Russia and imported into the United States; in reality, IMZ-Ural is now owned in the U.S., while the motorcycle factory still operates in Siberia.Ural Lineup at Seattle HQ MotoADVR I had an inkling that the staff in Seattle was pretty small, in fact there are only about a dozen employees at the U.S. headquarters, steering the business worldwide. I also had no idea that Ural only builds about 1,400 units each year, with about half of those being sold in the U.S. annually. From the moment I shook hands with Jason and David George (head of Ural Sales and Product Support), my tour guides for the afternoon, I realized that Ural is like a family, and that family extends to its customers.

After the tour, and spending a few moments meeting the other folks around the office, David gave me a crash course on sidecar basics. I had a vague familiarity, considering my previous visits to the local Dayton dealer, Heindle Engineering, but it’s completely different when you’re moments away from getting the keys to a brand new Gear Up sidecar for the day. Ural Gear Up MotoADVRDavid pointed out what little effort it takes to pick up the chair, as he effortlessly lifted the sidecar into the air despite me sitting in the saddle. With the slightest lean over the hack, the weight shift is enough to force the chair back down, but it served as a good lesson for what I was about to experience. After a few more moments of getting acquainted with the controls and just as it started to rain, we headed out to the parking lot so I could practice my steering skills.

For folks unfamiliar, unlike a traditional motorcycle, sidecars steer more like a car; if you want to go right, you turn the front wheel to the right, and vice versa. Left-hand turns, while they still require a little leaning, are relatively simple as the sidecar wheel pushes against the centrifugal force of the turn, keeping the bike upright. Right-hand turns however are the tricky ones that tend to pick up the “tub”, or “fly the chair” as they say. DCIM100GOPROG0283764.The sidecar lifting off the ground wouldn’t in itself be such a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that the action of lifting the third-wheel instantaneously converts your “normal steering” sidecar rig into a “counter steering” motorcycle; abruptly forcing you to figure out which way to push the bars to avoid careening into oncoming traffic. Circling around parking lot islands, I rapidly became familiar with the feeling of the sidecar attempting to levitate, worsening with higher speeds or tighter corners. Accustomed to flogging road manners into Rosie the Scrambler while carving through the twisties, I’m no stranger to leaning off the seat, but take my word for it, you’ve not leaned off a motorcycle until you’ve hustled a sidecar through a few curves.

 

The 2017 Gear Up

Ural M70 MotoADVRUral offers several different trim levels for their sidecars, but their main staples are the M70, cT, and the Gear Up. The one-wheel drive M70 has throwback “Soviet era” styling and traditional telescopic front forks. The more “urban” cT, also equipped with one-wheel drive, has leading link front suspension and more modern styling, including a sidecar windshield. Lastly, what I consider to be Ural’s flagship motorcycle, the Gear Up; again with leading link suspension, but with selectable two wheel drive for inclement weather conditions and tailored for more “adventure” inspired buyers.

Ural Gear Up RF Rainier White MotoADVRWhile Ural has sold a traditional 2-wheeled model in the past, they currently focus on only 3-wheeled variants. Each model is powered by a 750 cc, air-cooled, flat-twin “Boxer”, with a 5-speed gearbox (4 speed plus reverse), and shaft drive. Each model also carries about 5 gallons of gas, with an estimated range of 150-185 miles, depending on “riding conditions”. Generally, a Ural weighs in around 700 pounds or so (dry), with a (recommended) cruising speed around 70 mph. Sidecar tonneau cover and power outlet are also standard on all 2017 models.

Ural Shovel MotoADVRThe Gear Up stands apart from the one-wheel drive variants with it selectable two-wheel drive and “Adventure” accessories. Beyond the extra “push”, the Gear Up comes with an additional “universal” 19 inch spare wheel; sidecar front bumper; LED sidecar fog lights; lockable gas tank “glovebox”; Jerry can; luggage rack; and my favorite “extra”, the folding entrenchment tool.

 

What’s new in 2017?

Ural Gear Up LF Rainier White MotoADVRI’ve been following Ural pretty closely since the big jump to EFI in 2014. Along with fuel injection, that year brought all-wheel disc brakes (did I say Brembo?), along with a hydraulic steering damper, among a myriad of other changes. Since then, Ural has made progressive upgrades to their models, including the universal spare wheel (see above), updated roller bearings for the crankshaft, and liquid paint in lieu of powder coating.

For 2017, Ural has replaced the tractor seat with a new “enduro” bench seat, upgraded to an electronic instrument cluster, relocated the parking brake to the handlebars, installed a reverse gear foot pedal in lieu of hand lever, and added a handlebar switch for the auxiliary light(s).

 

The Ride

Thumbing the starter and firing up a Ural for the first time, I noticed that it tends to “spin-up” a lot like a thumper; DCIM100GOPROG0083083.you hear the engine turn over a few times as it ticks up to idle. David asked me early on if I was familiar with vintage bikes, as the Ural boxer is somewhat similar in character; with straight cut gears, you need to operate the shift lever with authority and resolve. I concur, it does take a little extra “effort” to operate the gearbox, but in reality, it’s just like everything else, you get used to it, and eventually it’s just another facet of the experience. Interestingly enough, while the shifting experience is diametrically different than the buttery smooth “click” of the helical cut gears on my Triumph; despite its otherwise “agricultural” character, neutral seemed to be extremely easy to find on the Ural, something I seldom say about other bikes I’ve ridden.

Similar to its character, looking at the engine there’s no denying it’s reminiscent of a different era. However, that’s not a dig against Ural, the technology might be “old”, but it works, and that’s part of the allure to the brand.2014 Ural Gear Up MotoADVR Ural has been making big strides in recent years; making prudent changes to their components, while still being true to the brand. “Simplicity” is unquestionably the second biggest reason I’m interested in a Ural; two-wheel drive being the first. Overall there’s no denying that fit and finish has been improved year after year since 2014. I have often found Urals sold on showrooms next to Royal Enfield; by comparison, you’ll notice poor quality casting marks and welds on the Indian built Bullet, while the Ural doesn’t have such blemishes. The bike may have an “agricultural” feel, but the machine’s details are very much modern.

In contrast to the somewhat old-fashioned gearbox, the throttle response was buttery smooth, with very linear power delivery. That smooth power delivery becomes critical when maneuvering the rig, but I’ll talk more about that in a minute. Unbeknownst to me prior to writing this, the Ural actually has a dry clutch. Somewhat of a rarity on most motorcycles these days, Ural 750 Engine MotoADVRI’ve heard several Ducati Hypermotards with dry clutches, along with custom Harleys with open primaries, but at no point throughout the entire day did I notice anything, sound or function, that indicated a dry clutch hidden inside the Russian mill. Trying to adjust to all the changes as once, I was initially worried I might be winding out the engine too far considering I didn’t have a tachometer. David reassured me that winding it out was good, “lugging” the engine was what I wanted to avoid (there’s also a rev limiter to keep you from getting too crazy). That seemed easy enough for me, as I would say that I consider that a “normal” practice for me, but I wanted to at least check considering I’d never experienced a bike like the Ural before.

With David convinced I was comfortable with leaning into the turns around the parking lot, we headed back to the office to pick up Jason and head out of the city in search of some backroads. Originally Jason had planned on an eastern route up through the mountains; unfortunately with fall weather it was actually snowing at elevation that morning so he decided it was best to stick with a ride on the far side of Puget Sound. Finally filtering into Seattle traffic, I was immediately surprised by the Ural’s gearing; slowing for traffic lights, without pulling in the clutch I could squeeze the brakes until nearly at a full stop before the engine even hinted that it might stall.DCIM100GOPROG0123196. Meanwhile, with a flat torque curve that pulls right out of the basement, pulling away from a stoplight pretty effortless; aside from a little dose of “sidecar physics”. Related to the previous comment about vintage bikes, this was my first (motorcycle) experience with a 4-speed transmission. First and second gear were impressively tall, David mentioned you could feasibly start the bike in second; I found myself typically cruising the service streets in second, and only clicking into third in the higher speed limits.

As we started to find our way onto secondary streets my attention shifted from avoiding traffic to noticing the character of the rig. ural-gear-up-twisties-motoadvrCruising down the roadway I began to notice the bike “do the worm” with bends in the road and changes in steering. Needless to say that’s a really odd feeling as you pull the bars to follow the curve in the road and then literally feel the tub “react” to the inputs. I didn’t understand this strange sensation at first, and then it occurred to me: the sidecar wheel is in a unique position, not in line with the other two, while there’s also an asymmetrical weight distribution, putting the center of gravity somewhere between the bike and the hack; a sidecar simply “moves” in a way like no other vehicle I’ve ridden in or on. As the day went on I noticed the sensation less and less as I began to acclimate with the “flow” of the bike.

I’ve read about the characteristics of sidecar “piloting” in quite a few other Ural reviews. Most writers mention that you feel the sidecar lag with acceleration and surge forward when under braking. Contrary to that statement, I actually found those acts to be relatively uneventful compared to what I’d expected; I found that it was only prevalent with poorly executed shifts; as long as I managed to shift smoothly, the ride was (generally) linear. With regard to braking,DCIM100GOPROG0073043. there’s no denying that the rig has a tendency to push left when exclusively using the front brake. The rear and sidecar brakes are actually linked with the right foot pedal; so inversely, when only using the “rear” brakes, the sidecar has a tendency to track to the right. Using a balanced application of both brakes, I found that the Gear Up slowed in a perfectly straight line. David reassured me that that’s how a properly set up sidecar should behave; there’s actually a rear brake “bias” that can be adjusted to fine-tune the braking if needed. On the other hand, what really surprised me was the amount of effort needed to “steer” the rig around the corners. It makes sense though, the weight difference of a sidecar versus a motorcycle, and all of that asymmetrical weight being hinged on the front wheel. This effort is compounded by the fact you are leaning into the turn, yet pulling on the bars. On a standard two-wheeled motorcycle you lean into the curve, and the act of doing so actually helps you push the bars, counter-steering the motorcycle into the desired direction. Extra effort aside, the entire act takes a bit of getting used to as you initially feel “crossed-up” trying to maneuver the machine.

Before we had left the parking lot David made a very conscious effort to remind me to be aware of the far right wheel position. DCIM100GOPROG0283740.He said they deal with more dents and dings on the sidecar fender than any other issue with their demo bikes; he mentioned that non-sidecar riders are unaccustomed to how wide the Ural really is and accidentally bump the hack into fixed objects around corners. Following Jason, I Initially found it easy to stay “left adjusted” in the lane as we worked our way out of the city. As we finally found ourselves on more of the twisty bits, I realized how habitual that “outside-inside-outside” motorcycle line through the curves is ingrained in your muscle memory. I did fortunately avoid dropping the sidecar wheel off the roadway for the entirety of the afternoon, but there were still a few times that needed to adjust my line and tell myself “no” when going around the bends; even more so in tight parking lots as it turns out.

Settling into a groove, I began enjoying the scenery and taking more mental notes about the Ural. The seating position is neutral, with your feet slightly forward and the bars easily within reach; it’s actually very similar to my Triumph. DCIM100GOPROG0283737.I admit, when you first mount the saddle, you think your toes will be mashed right up against the jugs, but after spending all day on the bike, that’s really not the case. I was impressed to find that the seat was indeed “all-day” comfortable; it seemed a bit “firm” after riding all afternoon, however having experienced some painful lessons from the Scrambler’s stock bench, I agree that starting out firm is a good thing. From some of David’s comments, I suspect that the new enduro seat will “form to the owner” with time and make it that much more comfortable. That extra space provided by the two-up bench was also welcome; when things got sporty I found myself hugging the tank and leaning off the seat, but when touring on the lazy roads it was convenient to scoot back on the seat, spread out, and relax.

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After a ferry ride across Puget Sound, we stopped for lunch in Port Gamble, where I parked the Gear Up in a spot pointing downhill. At 730 pounds, without gas or my own heft, the Ural is obviously not light for a 750; fortunately it comes with reverse. This probably doesn’t sound strange, as reverse is becoming more and more popular on the big baggers like the Gold Wing, and even the new BMW K1600 GTL. The Ural however is different, while many motorcycles utilize the starter motor to actuate a reverse function, Port Gamble General Store MotoaDVRthe Ural’s reverse gear is actually a part of the transmission, so you still use the clutch and throttle. From Neutral, there is a foot pedal you actuate for reverse gear, after that, look behind you, let out the clutch and give it a little gas; just a seamless as a backing out a car. Press the right foot lever back into neutral, and you’re ready to head out.

After a platter of fish ‘n chips and warming up a bit, we set back out to find a few more twisty roads. By that point I was feeling pretty comfortable with my sidecar piloting skills and looking forward to challenging myself with some tighter curves. Headed south toward Bainbridge Island, the sun finally came out and the roads dried off a bit. Pulling on the bars and leaning over the sidecar with a little extra effort, I hustled the Gear Up through the bends of the forest lined streets.DCIM100GOPROG0052968. Several times I noted the profuse amounts of pine needles and grass clippings covering the roadway in the shade, exposing only a pair of narrow wheel tracks where a few cars had recently passed through. At that moment I realized, this road would’ve been absolutely treacherous on a two-wheeled motorcycle, but the Ural was right at home; confidence inspiring by comparison.

From Bainbridge Island it was another ferry ride, this time right into the heart of Seattle. Ural Seattle Skyline MotoADVRAs the ferry “turned the corner” around a point, I could see the Seattle skyline emerge from behind a line of pine trees; I regret that a photo simply doesn’t do it justice. Pulling into port with the sun shining, we passed a number of motorcyclists waiting to get across the sound as the weather was breaking and the work day was ending. Merging into the city I was suddenly reminded of Cincinnati; while Amazon and Microsoft call Seattle home, I still felt a blue-collar vibe downtown, but the pub district and side-by-side sports stadiums really framed that comparison for me.

Headed south toward I-90, we took the freeway east of the city to pick up a few more backroads before it was time to call it a day. DCIM100GOPROG0223448.I was honestly shocked by how easy it was to ride the Ural on the highway. Things that I had read made it sound like you would never want to take a Ural on the interstate, but I can assure you, that’s not the case with a modern Ural. DCIM100GOPROG0233524.No, you’re not going to set any speed records; yes, you need to have plans to pass people and be prepared to be relegated to the right two lanes at times. That said, I found the Ural to be surprisingly comfortable at speed, and at no point did I feel like the Siberian 750 was strung out. I will say that I can see an argument for a windscreen; longtime readers know that I really don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking, so I was reasonably comfortable despite the wind blast, but I can see the appeal for some folks.

DCIM100GOPROG0283694.Somewhere around Fall City we found a good long set of twisty backroads. Littered with quaint cottages, pine trees, and a spattering of fall color, the bends along Issaquah-Fall City Road were the best of the whole trip. DCIM100GOPROG0283874.I had finally started to feel confident with my skill at keeping the chair on the ground while hustling through the curves and I was begging for more; right about that time, we were descending on Redmond to hang it up for the day. Pulling back into the shop I had a million questions and was still trying to digest everything that had happened in such a short period of time.

 

 

The Pacific Northwest

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Seattle is a gorgeous city; riding a Ural in the Pacific Northwest really makes the experience that much better. Beyond the Ural staff, folks in Seattle were very outgoing and extremely friendly; much different than what I have experienced in Chicago, San Diego, and even parts of Ohio for that matter. You can watch movies about the Pacific Northwest, but there’s nothing like seeing it in person; everything is green, from the pine trees to the moss growing on the jersey barriers, it’s very much alive. DCIM100GOPROG0073052.They don’t call it the Emerald City for nothing. My time in the city was unfortunately way too short, I was hoping to catch a good view of the mountains, but weather wasn’t exactly cooperating; what I did see was already outstanding, I can only imagine the views at elevation. I told Jason and David before I left, now that I’ve seen Washington State, it’s going to be very difficult to keep me from returning.

 

 

I want a Ural Gear Up

Ural Gear Up overhead MotoADVRSidecars are icons from a different era, I find it ironic that my initial interest in a sidecar was predominantly to avoid the mundane “comfort” of the modern automobile, and the hustle and bustle of city life; fitting I suppose as the Ural is a “time machine” in many ways. Initially I saw it as a means to an end; a utilitarian machine that lets me ride a motorcycle year-round despite Midwestern winters, while also having the ability to load it up with groceries, or to pick up a friend and go see a movie. My obsession with ditching the car for a “simpler life” never seemed that “deep” until I looked at it in that light.

Ural Gear Up Ferry MotoADVRI regret that I didn’t get an opportunity to test the two-wheel drive. David gave me a short tutorial on how it works when we were parked at the office. He explained the importance of only using two-wheel drive in inclement conditions, as one wheel will always need to be in a “slip” condition. See, the Ural doesn’t have a differential like most four-wheel drive cars; so when you throw the Gear Up into two-wheel drive, the sidecar wheel is locked in step with the main drive wheel. That may not sound like an issue at first, but ultimately that second drive wheel will overpower the steering on dry pavement; when both “rear” wheels are pushing the rig and you go to turn, the Ural just keeps going straight.

That aside, the Gear Up does indeed seem to be the utilitarian machine I hoped it would be. I’ve heard people describe the Ural as antiquated, slow, and even unreliable; but after what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t use those words to describe the Ural. Ural Gear Up Ferry 3 MotoADVRYes, the engine is small in comparison to its weight; but it is simple, and easy to maintain. The Ural mill runs on conventional 20W50 motor oil (5W40 for colder climates), and I’m told an experienced Ural owner can do a valve adjustment in a matter of minutes (there are perks to exposed heads). Yes, service intervals are short (just over 3,000 miles), however this is a 700 pound pushrod machine, running straight cut gears, conventional oil, and can haul around the weight a Gold Wing, including passenger. The bike comes with a fuel can, a shovel, mud flaps, and has over a twenty-one gallon trunk; not to mention the extra space in the tub without the passenger, and the empty pillion seat.Ural Gear Up Trunk MotoADVR Did I mention this is a 750? Urals are shipped with a tool kit that can handle 99.9% of the maintenance you do on the bike, along with a service manual that has actual photos of the before mentioned routine maintenance; neither of which can I find in any other brand’s dealership that I’m aware of. Look, in the end, the Ural is the motorcycle equivalent of a tractor, and it attracts a completely different kind of rider; it’s not about speed and modern amenities, it’s about the experience. David told me they have a motto, “Adventure Together” and “Adventure Daily”; that motto is unquestionably the spirit of the bike, and there’s no doubt that spirit is instilled in its owners. DCIM100GOPROG0283870.Having a Ural means you can go almost anywhere, sent on your journey with the tools to combat whatever obstacles you may encounter; assuming you’re the intrepid type to venture off the beaten path. The best part is, you get to share the journey with someone beside you, be it your spouse, your best friend, or even your four-legged family members. If packing up your life and wandering into the great unknown, with low technology and no deadlines, sounds like your kind of adventure, than a Ural might be for you.

I’ve heard others say it, once you’ve spent a day on a Ural, there’s something about it that simply grows on you. It’s not a performance machine,Ural Gear Up Exo-AT950 MotoADVR it’s not drenched in techno-wiz-bangery, it is simplicity at its finest, and it’s an unsuspectingly good time. Longtime readers of the blog already know, I’ve been attracted to the Ural for its utility, but I was also undeniably caught off guard by its charm. With the character of the engine, and the way it “moves” when you ride, the bike is “alive” in a way I’ve never experienced before. The bike not only grabs the attention of the rider, but also the public. What people say is true, you can’t ride a Ural anywhere without people stopping to talk to you. Ural Tank Badge MotoADVRI always makes jokes about “The Triumph Effect”, as grey-beards see my Scrambler at the gas station and stop to tell me about their old 650 Bonneville; the “Ural Delay Factor” is even more prevalent. It’s no longer just motorcyclists that stop you, it’s every passerby you can imagine, soccer moms and all; everyone is fascinated by sidecars. And they should be, it’s unquestionably the most fun I’ve ever had at 35 miles an hour.

 

Now there’s only one question, can the Gear Up handle eastern Kentucky adventure trails?

 

 

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VUZ LED Reflective Safety Vest: Be Seen

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The first weekend in November came and went, and Daylight Savings Time went along with it; and now the dark times are upon us… This is that time of the year that I’m commuting to work in the dark, only to leave work and ride home in the dark. The longer I ride, the more I’ve made it a point to “be seen” as much as possible, hoping that will keep inattentive drivers from pulling out in front of me or running me over while I’m sitting at a red light. A few weeks ago I stumbled across VUZ Moto on Instagram (pronounced “Voose”); turns out they make a Hi-Viz vest including LED lights that may help me in that endeavor so I sent them a message. I’ve been testing the VUZ Reflective Safety Vest for around two months now and I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen.

 

First Impressions

Out of the box the vest material is very light in the hand and the reflective panels are some of the most substantial I’ve seen. VUZ Vest MotoADVRThe vest has really wide reflective panels across the chest with accent panels along the shoulders. The rear of the vest has matching back and shoulder stripes along with two sizeable vertical panels that should be very visible from the flanks. Attaching the controller cable is really self-explanatory and the battery already had a little bit of a charge out of the box. I was immediately struck by how bright the LEDs were; the 6 front LEDs are an unbelievable bright white, while the back has an additional 4 LEDs in red. Per the instruction sheet, the LED controller has five settings, front-only, rear-only, front and rear, strobe, and off. Standing in my kitchen testing out the lights, I figured the strobe setting might be a little over the top during a night ride, but I’ll touch more on that in a minute. The vest dons easily, with lateral “stretch” material that helps cinch the vest over your motorcycle jacket. The front zipper is a little small when compared to a motorcycle jacket main zipper, but it operates smoothly and you can still find it with a gloved hand. I had to put the vest on a few times to realize there is also an exterior zipper pocket available on the lower right side. The inside pocket is really only meant for the LED controller, but the exterior pocket is large enough to store your cell phone.

 

Road Testing

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Unlike some of the competitor’s heavier construction, the VUZ vest doesn’t set out to offer additional crash protection, so much as to grab people’s attention. The material is actually 50D Waterproof Polyester along with an inner mesh liner; it’s thin and very light weight, and is intended to be form fitting to reduce drag. Initially I was a little concerned about the vest trapping heat in, but on an 80°F afternoon, I was pretty impressed with how well it breathed; it’s actually quite comfortable in mesh gear on a hot day, although I suspect you’ll want to make sure you keep rolling on the hottest summer days.

Considering it’s now very much fall, the temperatures have been falling and I’ve spent a lot more time wearing the vest over my new Icon DKR Jacket. Despite the fact the vest is a little oversized, it fits over the DKR jacket nicely as it’s a bit more bulky than my old Rainier jacket. More impressively, the material doesn’t fill up with air, flap in the wind at high speeds, nor does it take up extra room in my mirrors, something I can’t say for my rain suit most days. That said, with the expandable lateral material, you’ll want to follow the size chart and order a vest that fits a little closer to your size (I have an XL, I probably need a size smaller).

Initially I figured I would only use the red LED lights on the back of the vest when riding, just to ensure that drivers see me sitting idle in traffic. It wasn’t long before I found myself riding in the cold rain that I recognized the value of the front lights.DCIM142GOPRO Commuting around the city I figured it was a good idea to turn on the front LED lights in addition to the rear in order to attract more attention to myself in the hustle and bustle of rainy stop and go traffic. Per my previous comments, I was reluctant to engage the strobe setting at night, assuming the flash and reflection off the bike would get irritating, if not distracting while riding. That might be true on a clear day, but on my way home from the office last week the skies opened up. The temperature was somewhere in the 40’s and it seemed like everyone headed home at rush-hour had completely forgot what it was like to drive in the rain. As folks started to get “dodgey” I flipped the VUZ Vest LEDs to full strobe and merged onto the highway. Considering the bright “sheen” on all of the wet surfaces, I really didn’t notice the pulsing reflection of the strobe lights. Just moments after engaging the strobes, I noticed a car up ahead of me start to pull into my lane; just that instant I could see that they recognized the crazy Christmas lights headed right for them and dove back into their lane and refused to move until I passed by. “Bright lights save lives” apparently.

 

Closing Thoughts

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I recognize that Hi-Viz gear is not for everyone, but the first word out of someone’s mouth right after they pull out in front of a motorcycle is: “I never saw them”, I’m of the mindset that it’s worth the extra effort to be seen, especially if you want to survive this somewhat dangerous hobby. Needless to say I’m a big fan of rally orange and Hi-Viz yellow, but when the sun goes down, these big reflective panels are exactly what I’m looking for; the LED lights are an added bonus.

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I’ve spoken with Ryan from VUZ Moto several times in recent days; as of this moment standard black with reflective panels is the only model available, but VUZ will consider adopting other Hi-Viz colors if there is sufficient customer pressure. Personally I think they can get a leg up on the competition by adding a little modern twist on the old “construction worker” thing that you usually find in retail motorcycle stores.

VUZ Vest Front MotoADVRThe Reflective Safety Vest will run you about $70 (delivered; free shipping to the lower 48 states) and comes in sizes Medium through XL, ranging chest sizes from 45 to 48 inches (measured over the jacket). $70 might seem expensive at first glance, but looking at the other safety vests on the market, they tend to run $50 or more, most of which are bulky Mil-spec vests that don’t offer additional LED lighting. Along with the safety vest, southern California based VUZ Moto also carries a number of other motorcycle accessories from luggage to motorcycle covers; more information at www.vuzmoto.com.

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Triumph Scrambler Adventures: Day Trip to the DBBB

About two weeks ago I was suffering from some serious bluegrass withdrawal. Hurricane Irma had managed to put a pretty significant damper on most of my plans for the Triumph Dragon Raid; that combined with things being nuts at the office, I felt well overdue for a trip down to the Gorge.

Being October, the days are unquestionably getting shorter; that however, also marks the beginning of hunting season. What does that have to do with riding? As it turns out, the double-track sections of Hatton Ridge Road, that my buddy Rick and I hit last November are only open during hunting season. After consulting the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) website, I figured we might have a shot at hitting an adjacent forest service road just as it was opening for the season.

 

June Bug Road

Triumph Scrambler DBBB Cliffline MotoADVRAbout a mile and a half south from the head of Hatton Ridge Road is a set of gates for DBNF service roads #167 and #168. I found these roads from satellite views on Google Earth last fall when I was looking for additional trails to link together with Hatton Ridge and Spas Creek. Upon arriving in Frenchburg, back again, my buddy Rick and I wound up Indian Creek road in the hopes of finding open gates, even though we were technically a day early. As luck would have it, the east gate (#167) was actually open; I knew from the trail reports I’d found that this was the shorter of the two trails, but I was going to take what I could get.

Red River Gorge Trees on Rock MotoADVRThe double-track was sparsely maintained. It looked like the forest service had recently dumped loose soil into all of the potholes in attempt to even out the road surface a little. Hoof prints in the before mentioned loose soil did however offer us early warning that we could potentially have an equestrian encounter on the trail at some point. Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky, despite my run-ins with Amish buggies in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky, I’ve done well not to run into folks on horseback out on the trail.

Our adventure was a little short lived as we happened upon a significantly large tree that had recently fallen and was blocking the trail a little over a mile in. It appeared that an ad-hoc bridle trail had been forged around, but considering that I had three sections of the DBBB planned, I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle scrambling up the a poorly forged path only to get stuck, or worse.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Hollow Road

Pumpkin Hollow Mudpoint MotoADVRHeaded west back down Indian Creek road we turned south onto Pumpkin Hollow Road. I had elected to skip over Spas Creek Road with all of the recent rainfall, combined with the fact we still had a four-hour haul back home after all the “adventuring”. Not far into “The hollow”, we arrived at the steep elevation climb where I found myself stuck in both ruts back in April. The recent rains had turned that formerly rocky dirt into well-defined jeep ruts in the Kentucky clay. Fortunately, with the Karoo 3 on the back, Rosie’s quite the tractor, low seat height to boot, from there it was just a Scramble to the top.

Scorpion Exo-AT950 Mud MotoADVRAfter wrestling two pigs through the mud, it was time for a couple photos and sandwich. The front end of Pumpkin Hollow is unquestionably the hardest, and a completely different animal than my last encounter. I admit, paddling through the muck, I feel like the Scrambler stood up to the challenge more “gracefully” than the last go-round, albeit slower. The south slope back into the gorge however is a completely different story, once over the steep accent, it’s mostly downhill along the creek bed until you find pavement again near Slade.

 

 

Chop Chestnut Road

Triumph Scrambler Tiger800 Chop Chestnut Steps MotoADVRCrossing over Kentucky Highway 11, we headed south onto Cow Creek Road through the quarry (Natural Bridge Stone Company). As you near the quarry office, Cow Creek meets Chop Chestnut Road at a sharp right turn, hidden from view at a distance. After a long run up a well maintained gravel hill and past the cemetery, you pass several boulders blocking the old service road and finally onto rugged double track. Last time up on the ridgeline the sand hidden beneath the pine needles had a tendency to sneak up on me. This time around all that rain actually paid off, the front end didn’t get soft and “push” like it did back in April. On the other hand, the puddles proved to be some of the foulest grey water I’ve ever encountered. The “funk” baking on the pipes is a smell I won’t soon forget.

 

Fixer-Leeco Road

Again, considering this was a “down and back” day trip from Dayton, I elected to skip the still (partially) disputed Mountain Springs Road. I still want to tackle that section, but considering folks have mentioned various obstacles placed across the trail for thwart off-roaders, I’d just assume circumvent the fuss and spare myself the time of repairing a roadside flat. That decision led us down KY-1639 and 1036 to Fixer-Leeco Road.

Fixer-Leeco, and subsequently Fixer and Cave Fork Road, were very similar to my last experience. While the preceding two trail sections had evolved with weather and use, Fixer and Fixer-Leeco were resurfaced with fresh gravel in several spots, and were surprisingly dry considering the deep ruts we had just traversed on Pumpkin Hollow. What I found most surprising was the creek crossing from Fixer over to Cave Fork Road; back in April that was probably the deepest creek crossing I had done to date. Instead we found the water to be considerably low; I suspect as a result of a newly formed sandbar. Not sure if that was an effort made by county maintenance or just the patterns of Mother Nature.

 

From the last western trail on the DBBB it was time to head back north in a race against waning daylight. The dark clouds had already started to move in as we traversed the Fixer Road creek line, and the skies finally opened up as we got north of Owingsville. I’ve got big hopes of finishing the last three sections of the DBBB before year’s end, but time is running out, rapidly…

 

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2017 Triumph Street Scrambler Review: Rivaling its Predecessor

It goes without saying I’m a member of a handful of Scrambler related social media groups (among other ADV circles). A couple weeks ago I caught a thread from a guy looking to establish the differences between Triumph’s new Street Scrambler 900 and the outgoing 865 cc Scrambler. Needless to say, I shared the same interest in understanding the differences between the two models, but not only the stat sheet, but also the “character” that differentiates them from one another. Triumph Street Scrambler Joes Cycle Shop MotoADVRTo settle this issue, I stopped in to Joe’s Cycle Shop in Dayton to have a closer look at the new Street Scrambler. While I did get a once over of the Street Scrambler back in January, it’s always nice to have a knowledgeable dealer on hand to answer more direct questions about the bike (i.e. can you show me how the removable pillion seat works?). But why stop there? A few legal documents and I was all set to take the new steed for a ride; who better to compare the new bike against its precursor than an entrenched Scrambler-phile like myself?

 

Ergos and Instruments

Triumph Street Scrambler Instruments MotoADVRThrowing a leg over the Street Scrambler, I first thumbed through the settings on the instrument cluster to get familiar with what I was looking at, considering that I am coming from the old “dual clock” configuration from the 865 Scrambler. Beyond the typical clock, odometer, and trip odometer, the new Street Scrambler has a digital tach, fuel range and efficiency info, along with ABS and Traction control settings. I took a moment to adjust the mirrors to a position that was actually useful, taking note of the fact that they are placed wider and slightly lower than the outgoing model; I often heard complaints about the outgoing Bonneville’s “ugly” mirror stalks, it appears that Hinkley was listening. Triumph Street Scrambler Dashboard MotoADVRNormally I would say I “thumbed the starter” , but in 2017 the new Triumph switchgear has a new 3-position “Off”, “Run”, and “Start” 3-way switch, similar to the FZ-07 I rode last year. The Street Scrambler fires to life without protest; owners of the preceding generation of Triumph twins could likely offer extended commentary on cranking up a first gen Scrambler. The 865 mill is notoriously cold blooded, forcing owners to pull the “Fuel Enrichment” knob (that everyone thinks is a “choke”) to ensure a robust start on cold mornings. The morning of this test ride was no exception, albeit I have made a couple “emissions modifications”, the old Scrambler is still a bit lethargic until she warms up.

DCIM100GOPROG0041659.

Settling into the saddle, the new seat seems exceptionally comfortable. I like how the seat is sloped forward so you can easily reach the ground at a stop or tuck in tight and hug the tank through the twisties; on the other hand, pushing back in the saddle the seat is higher and wider for cruising, again, somewhat reminiscent of the FZ-07. It usually took about an hour of riding on the previous Scrambler’s stock seat before you decided you’d suffered enough punishment; unfortunately, a short 20 minute test ride of Triumph’s new furniture won’t be sufficient to call this seat a winner. That said, I admit that I have been told by a fellow Scrambler-phile and Street Scrambler owner, it is, in fact, one of the most comfortable stock seats available.

Out on the road, I kept getting the impression the bike is just…“smaller” than the preceding model. Without a doubt, the seat height is an inch lower, but I also felt much more “on” and even slightly “over” the Street Scrambler, while just “on” the 865 Scrambler, if that makes any sense. I admit, with the new Mustang seat installed on Rosie, it’s actually very difficult to tell the difference in seating position between the two bikes; my aftermarket risers being the only thing that really stands out to me. Triumph Street Scrambler FRThe new rendition of high pipes, in their gorgeous stainless steel, are tucked into the bike much tighter than the outgoing model, making it much more comfortable for the rider. It was in the upper 50’s when took the Street Scrambler for a spin, taking my 865 Scrambler along the identical route immediately afterward; I found it difficult to really notice the exhaust heat from either, but I suspect the temperature is better managed with the new Street Scrambler heat shields. The wind blast on the highway feels perhaps a shade stronger than the outgoing 865, but frankly both are in desperate need of a fly screen if you plan on spending extended time on the highway.

 

Engine/Transmission

Pulling out of the parking lot, the throttle response on the new Street Scrambler was absolute butter; a substantial adjustment from the 865 mill. Throttle response of the outgoing Bonnevilles was usually described as “snatchy” at low speeds. DCIM100GOPROG0101877.Many owners went to great lengths to smooth out the low speed fueling; removing the Secondary Air Injection (SAI), air box, O2 sensors, opening the exhaust, and remapping the ECU in the pursuit of smoother power delivery at low revs. Back to the Street Scrambler, from closed to about 15% open, the throttle is silky smooth, and the engine docile; once over 15% open, you start to feel the wallop of low end torque that Triumph is advertising about this new “High Torque” 900 power plant. I will also offer, I took the Street Twin for a spin a few weeks back, noticing the same trait, but per the stat sheet, the Street Twin doesn’t deliver the same thrust until perhaps 25% open throttle, so the Street Scrambler’s torque is pushing you back in the seat much sooner; much more hooligan than the outgoing Scrambler. Beyond the refined throttle response, the clutch pull on the Street Scrambler incredibly light. While I didn’t actually notice until getting back on my own Scrambler to go home, the Street Scrambler’s clutch pull is so light, it makes the outgoing model’s clutch feel like a Harley by comparison; the bullet points about the torque-assist clutch on the stat sheet should not be understated.

Winding through the gears, I admit I agree with other reviews, the new 900’s first couple gears are incredibly tall. You could feasibly run 2nd gear from 5-60 MPH with little fuss. Triumph Street Scrambler Left MotoADVROn the flipside, there’s no doubt that longtime Bonnie owners will welcome the re-tuned 5th gear on the highway. I can’t tell you how many threads I’ve read about adding teeth to the front sprocket to lower the revs for touring. I’ll admit, while riding the Saddlesore 1000 a few months ago, I was somewhat concerned about running the engine at 65% capacity for 18 consecutive hours. That said, the 900 doesn’t have quite the same grunt of the 865 mill while cruising on the expressway; while I might drop a gear to pass someone on the old Scrambler, I might need to drop two on the Street Scrambler to receive similar pull from the new engine. That aside, I found the new gearbox to be as light and  smooth as I have come to expect from any of the previous Bonnevilles I’ve ridden in the past.

I have to say, the new exhaust note is excellent, even in stock form; I’m especially anxious to hear this new mill “uncorked” (despite being partial to my own exhaust “modifications”). Triumph Street Scrambler RR MotoADVRConsidering the stringent emissions standards, manufacturers have a really tall order when it comes to stock exhaust these days. In this case, Triumph did a great job of adding tone while still meeting the requirements. It’s also worth mentioning that the engine “beat” seems to sing in harmony with the exhaust note, while the old 865 valve train ran like a sewing machine in contrast to its mostly muted exhaust. The new stainless pipes (which I much prefer over chrome), also offer a much different sound than the outgoing model. Per comments I’ve seen on Instagram, the 865 models had a more “classic” British feel (270 crank aside) while the new bike is more modern; that “feel” bleeds over into the new sound as well.

 

Chassis, Brakes, & Suspension

Hustling along the two lane, the Street Scrambler is much more nimble than its predecessor, at all speeds; it simply feels “planted” when dancing through the twisties. Scooting around the backroads I was impressed by how well the new suspension really soaks up the bumps. While I admit, I was really hoping for more “Scrambler” in this new “Street Scrambler”, Triumph has done a fine job refining the quality of the ride. If you recall, new rear shocks were extremely high on my to-do list when I brought my Scrambler home last year, and just to beef up the suspension further, fork springs shortly thereafter. Triumph was obviously listening to long-time Bonneville owners as these new suspenders are much more pleasant out of the box.

 
That said, I cannot deny that the Street Scrambler has a shade of front end dive under braking, more so than the outgoing Scrambler in stock form.DCIM100GOPROG0031412. I suspect that, in the interest of commuter comfort, the front forks are a bit under-sprung, at least for my taste, as I very much prefer “spirited” riding. I did, however, feel that the front end damping was about dead on. However on the back end of the bike, per my comments about the stock 865 shocks, the new Street Scrambler rear suspenders are outstanding in stock form. I bumped up the preload to about the middle setting, and had no complaints. Considering the new tires, I didn’t push the bike exceptionally hard, but I cannot deny that the bike held the line well in the curves, absolutely not a task the outgoing model would have accomplished as confidently at similar speeds. Ultimately I felt that the old Scrambler’s shocks were undersprung and underdamped, which led to wallowing in the corners, and an otherwise harsh ride; whereas the Street Scrambler rear suspenders were pretty faultless at mid pre-load.

I found the brakes on the new Street Scrambler difficult to judge. There’s no question that 865 brakes are nothing to write home about (and worse), but I guess I can say that the new brakes are… adequate. I was unable to find the front-end feel to be exceptional over the outgoing model, and I admit I was a bit miffed by the front end dive, so it was difficult to comment about the overall bite, especially considering that the tires were a bit waxy as they were “brand-spanking-new”. I did, however, test the ABS; considering I’d never had the opportunity to test a bike with ABS in the past. I’ve been told that the first time someone feels the ABS engage on a bike it’s pretty scary. I will comment that I was impressed as it seemed relatively un-intrusive, at least initially. I was able to “lock” the real wheel, at least momentarily, however I suspect that had a lot more to do with the new tires than it did the brakes.

 

Fit and Finish

Fit and finish of the new Street Scrambler is unquestionably better than the preceding Bonneville line; Triumph Street Scrambler Red Silver Tank MotoADVRTriumph spent a lot of time minding the details on the new modern twins. There is still a lot of plastic (which is actually lighter), but details are much finer, from the suede leather seat, refined headlight ears in lieu of the hideous stamped variety, chain adjusters that don’t look like something out of an erector set, a scattering of tasteful branding, and finally the placement of covers and fasteners.

Beyond the overall “look”, there are few specific items of note from an air-cooled Scrambler owner. The revised indicators are a massive improvement; while I can’t speak to their ruggedness, they are much more aesthetically pleasing, “tighter” to the frame of the bike, and simply mounted to the front forks. Black rims are standard from the get go; Triumph sold the T100 and Scrambler with chrome rims for nearly a decade, it’s nice to see an “off-road” bike with subdued parts, even if it is just a styling exercise. Triumph Street Scrambler LFS MotoADVRTriumph also brought the 7-inch headlight over from the Street Twin to the new Scrambler; certainly a welcome edition after my own personal experience with the anemic 5-inch headlight on the old model. Like the other new Bonneville twins, seat removal is also keyed, in lieu of the previous hex-key debacle; certainly my friends from Red River Scramble would have appreciated that feature a few weeks ago.

Triumph Street Scrambler Seat Removed MotoADVRAs I mentioned in my “First Impressions”, Scrambler owners will be happy to see that the passenger pegs and pillion seat are removable, and the luggage rack is even included; although some tools are required to make the switch (a hex-key is under the left side cover, so I’m told). I should also mention that I think most folks will appreciate the steeper kickstand; the preceding Scrambler tends to lean over excessively on the side stand, the Street Scrambler is “normal” by comparison. Per my comments back in February, the rear fender is no longer the monstrosity of its predecessor. Triumph Street Scrambler Pillion Seat Removed MotoADVRWhich will work just fine on dry pavement, however I’m curious if the new Street Scrambler will leave a trail of mud up the rider’s back on rainy days, something Rosie does so effortlessly, despite the unsightly “skirt”. Lastly, I’m ecstatic about the new exhaust heat shield configuration. While I’m not totally sold on the two-tone arrangement, it’s nice to have a shield that is far enough forward to prevent me from melting yet another set of motorcycle pants.

 

Contrast Commentary of an Obstinate Scrambler Owner

One look at the Street Scrambler, and it’s a better Scrambler in every way; “adventure” sized black spoked wheels, high pipes, serrated pegs, switchable ABS and traction control… and plastic skid plate. Triumph Scrambler Train Trestle Graffiti MotoADVRCombined with price, that’s probably my most objective complaint about the new bike. Dual clocks, black rims, and aluminum skid plate were all stock on the 2016 Scrammy. At $10,700, even when adjusted for inflation, that’s still an extra grand for the Street Scrambler; seems like a metal skid plate could be gimmie from the parts department. I guess on the bright side, maybe the aftermarket will figure out how to stuff a tool roll in that space in the frame where the Street Twin catalytic converter used to go.

Triumph Scrambler Gas Pumps MotoADVRThe new bike is lighter, but did that come at the cost of additional fuel? The Street Scrambler shares the Street Twin’s 3.2 gallon tank, while my antiquated Scrambler has 4.2 gallons. Agreed, with the new gearing, the range is about same (if not a hair better), but could it have been more? Given, I’m not about to complain about less weight, I just wish the bike was pushing more than 150 miles on a tank.

I can see some folks scoffing at liquid cooling. I admit, I like the convenience of air cooling, but considering how long motorcycles have been sold with liquid cooling, I think that’s a non-issue. That combined with the fact that the new 900 power plant is Single-Overhead-Cam, that has pushed the service intervals out to 10,000 miles. That’s a pretty significant savings from my perspective; it would save me almost two oil changes a year at this point.

Ultimately, the biggest difference between 865 and 900 Scrambler is power delivery; as you can see from the stat sheet, over-square versus under-square, these two engines couldn’t be more different.DCIM100GOPROG0142054. Way down in the basement, the new 900 mill has a massive torque burst that’s exhilarating; I could blast away from stop lights, grinning ear-to-ear, roll-off, and do it all over again. That said, hustling on the highway at higher speeds, the new water-cooled mill struggles to excite; meanwhile, the 865 air-cooled predecessor has torque pretty much everywhere and it’s in the heart of its power band even at interstate speeds. Triumph Street Scrambler LF MotoADVRLike most discussions regarding motorcycles, it is unquestionably a matter of taste and utility; the 865 mill is cranky when cold, “snatchy” off-idle, yet begs flogged and banged off the rev-limiter; meanwhile, the new 900 power plant acts gracefully in traffic but still entices you to hoon around the roadways; begging you to pour on the torque as you burst out of the corners or dump the clutch when the light turns green.

 

The Verdict

In a word, “Refined”; from details to throttle response, the entire bike has been polished into a much more modern riding machine.

 

Triumph Street Scrambler vs Scrambler MotoADVRThe Street Scrambler frame geometry is far superior to the outgoing model. Steering on the 865 Scrambler was crisp and flick-able at low speeds, reasonable, but sometimes lethargic between 40-55, and “skittish” if not worse (think tank slappper) above 75 mph while the Street Scrambler is absolutely solid just about everywhere. Suspension is pretty much a wash. I will go as far to say that the new suspension is absolutely on par with this bike’s target audience; the new Street Scrambler has impeccable road manners and unabashedly roams over the urban landscape. That said, if you’re an aggressive canyon carver, you’ll probably want to spend a few bucks and drop a set of stiffer springs in the front end. Triumph Scrambler Grass MotoADVRThe air-cooled Scrambler was never innocent by any means, but the front end was a hair more firm, on the back end however, the story was the complete opposite. The preceding Scrambler shocks were rubbish, sadly better than those on the Speedmaster, but that doesn’t say much; The Street Scrambler’s stock units are quite agreeable, the bike didn’t wallow in the curves and didn’t punish my spine when I hit imperfections in the road; in all likelihood I would need to drag them down a few gravel roads to really offer any criticism. I could re-iterate my lengthy commentary on fit and finish, but it goes without saying, the bike is simply more “tidy” than its predecessor, and most of the longtime owner gripes (save the brake reservoir) have been addressed.

Triumph Street Scrambler Restaurant MotoADVRThe same sentiment continues with regard to throttle response, engine character and exhaust note. Cruising around town, the Street Scrambler is composed and playful, without protest or hiccup like the old fuel injected air-cooled model. Meanwhile, the exhaust note is not overly muzzled and impressively, the engine hums in sync with its snore, not overly “mechanical” like its predecessor. The power delivery is vastly different from the outgoing power plant, but I suspect the copious amounts of low end torque will deliver a lot of “smiles per mile”, especially for the target audience of the bike.

In the end, it’s a more elegant Scrambler… with a hooligan streak.

 

Specifications

Triumph Street Scrambler vs Scrambler Stats MotoADVR

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The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride Cincinnati 2017: Ride Dapper

Devore DGR2017 42017 marks the fourth year I’ve attended the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR). What is the DGR you ask? Way back in 2012, Mark Hawwa started The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Sydney, Australia. According to the DGR Website, Hawwa was inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit. Mark suspected a themed ride could potentially reverse the often negative stereotype of men on motorcycles, meanwhile offering a networking opportunity for the retro-café racer-bobber-vintage motorcycle community. That first year they estimate that 11,000 riders attended the DGR in 64 cities around the globe; last year the number was up to 56,000 riders across 505 cities in 90 countries. In 2013 the event organizers adopted “a cause” for the event, choosing to support prostate cancer research; while in 2016 the DGR grew to support not only prostate cancer research and male suicide prevention through the Movember Foundation.

 

Distinguished Gentlemans Ride MotoADVRBut what is the DGR? Mostly an excuse to dress up and ride my motorcycle… In reality, and per my previous comments, the DGR is a fundraising event based on a motorcycle ride. The “spirit” of the event is to dress up in your finest attire, and ride your “classic” motorcycle around urban areas in the hopes of attracting attention to “the cause”; essentially men’s health. Through the DGR Website, attendees are encouraged to solicit for donations from their friends and family. No actual donations are collected on the day of the event, “The Ride” is essentially a celebration of the event, which typically draws the attention of bystanders who subsequently ask why we’re all dressed up (“y’all come from a wedding or something?”). That said, while fundraising is encouraged, there is actually no charge for attending the event.

 

DGR2014 MotoADVRIn 2014 I caught wind of the DGR through various Triumph social media outlets. As such, as September rolled around, I dressed up in my finest threads and headed down to the Cincinnati. Needless to say, I was still a very new rider in 2014 and the event had quite the draw in downtown Cincy. The entire concept of the DGR is a pretty radical departure from my typical ATGATT mentality, the thought of the 50 mile commute to one of Ohio’s most populated cities left me a bit concerned about my lack of protection considering my dress pants and spectator wingtips… Fortunately, the mass of riders in the downtown streets typically draws a lot of attention from drivers and bystanders. I will also say that in recent years the event coordinators have put stress on keeping the ride safe; shortening the route, keeping the speeds down, and in general working with volunteers to keep the group organized while still following traffic laws (something I cannot say for many motorcycle events of this scale).

 

Following my first year in Cincinnati, I joined some of my Triumph RAT Pack pals in Columbus for a couple years, but this year I decided I wanted to return to the Queen City. Devore DGR2017 1This year the group met up at the North Side Yacht Club for breakfast and coffee. After a safety briefing, and a thank you to all in attendance, we filed through downtown Cincinnati streets, past Union Terminal, and on to Fountain Square for a photo opportunity. I’ve been to Fountain Square a few times in the past, but it was a really cool opportunity to park my bike on the square and get photos with our “most dapper” group; considering the looks on the faces of the bystanders, there’s not doubt they were curious what was going on. From Fountain Square it was on down to the river and along US-52 over to Lunken Airport for another photo op. After gathering the crew on the airport steps for a big group shot, it was on Ault Park, and then over to Mad Tree brewing for lunch and a beer.

Distinguished Gentlefolk DGR2017 MotoADVRAdmittedly, the ride really isn’t very long, but with each break there is an opportunity to mingle with new people, talk about bikes, and generally expand your riding circle. While “The road is the destination” is generally my mantra, the DGR is the one time of year that I’m typically looking forward to the locations, photo ops, and  new acquaintances more so than the journey. If this short description strikes your fancy, I recommend you keep you lids peeled for next years ride in your local area; and if I have it my way, it might even be in Dayton next year…

Note: Big thanks to Bill DeVore letting me post some of his photos from this years event!

 

 

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Triumph Dragon Raid Bound

Triumph Scrambler Dragon Raid Bound MotoADVRIt’s that time of year again; my clothes are packed, the tool kit is ready, the bike is loaded, and I won’t sleep a wink tonight with all the excitement. This year will make my fourth year at the Triumph Dragon Raid; my annual fall vacation to Deal’s Gap, North Carolina. The past two years I’ve been doing my homework while tagging along with friends. Last year that resulted in a whole lot of ad-hoc hooliganism, and unfortunately a few repetitive rides (I think I hit the Skyway 3 times). In talking with friends, we wanted to have a “plan” this year, that way we could actually wake up and head out to ride after breakfast and forgo the usual “him-haw” session. While I full well expect Hurricane Irma to put a bit of a damper on my plans, this year I’ve laid out several routes nonetheless.

 

Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway: The Staple.

motoadvr_cherohalaskyway2It’s pretty much guaranteed I’m going to give The Dragon and the Skyway at least one run while I’m down that way. I admit, I still prefer North Carolina Route 28 to the Skyway, but it’s an easy loop to put together, and the pavement on the Skyway is new and at least “bedded in” this year (it was fresh and “oily” last year).
Skyway Loop GPX
Skyway Loop Rever Route

 

Wayah Road Loop

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I was introduced to Wayah Road two years ago on the Speedmaster, and it was somewhat of a hair-raising experience considering the steep downhill slopes with hairpin turns at the bottom, especially with the “spongy” front suspension on the Speedmaster. I had hopes of revisiting Wayah Road last year on the Scrambler, but it just never materialized; I have plans to make that happen this year if the rain holds off. The big bonus for the Wayah Road loop is of course another trip down “Moonshiner 28” (NC-28) from US-74 to Franklin, which I consider a “Must-Ride” if you’re staying at the Iron Horse.
Wayah Road Loop GPX
Wayah Loop Rever Route

 

“Gravel-Hala” Dual Sport Loop

Last year my buddy Tom suggested that I may want to tackle the “Gravel-Hala”, a gravel forest “fire road” that parallels the Cherohala Skyway. I admit, I have only heard a few rumors about the ride, but ultimately I figured it would be a decent “easy to intermediate” dual sport route for the Scrambler to tackle. The bonus would be to land a good photo of Bald River Falls on the west end of the loop near Tellico Plains. Worst case, if it’s a boring gravel road (yeah right… just ride faster), I still land Krambonz BBQ out of the deal.
Cherohala Dual Sport GPX
Cherohala Dual Sport Rever Route

 

Sassafras Mountain Loop

If the stars align and the weather holds, I have aspirations of riding into South Carolina this year. I get sick kicks out of “checking-off” new states that I’ve ridden in. At only 210 miles round trip from the Iron Horse, I can even nab that tallest point in the Palmetto State in the same day; while still hitting NC-107, NC-215, and even the Blue Ridge Parkway in the process. If things are going really well, I may even throw in some Bureau of Indian Affairs forest service roads on my way back to the lodge.
Sassafras Mountain GPX
Sassafras Mountain Rever Route

BIA Road Rever Route
BIA Road GPX

 

Brasstown Bald Loop

While I did accidentally venture into Georgia last year on NC-28, it was short lived. After a little research on South Carolina’s highest point, I was surprised to find that Georgia’s tallest point is also easily attainable on a 230 mile loop from the Iron Horse. A ride down to Brasstown Bald even means a trip across NC-28 and Wayah Road to boot.
Brasstown Bald Loop GPX
Brasstown Bald Rever Route 

 

The Kitchen Sink

DCIM114GOPRO

Despite my eagerness to sink a new set of knobbies into the soil, I can’t deny that I want to take another trip down Explorer Road; a road my buddy Tom affectionately refers to as “The road that tries to kill you.” Obviously I love NC-28, but NC-281 and US-276 are also some of the most challenging roads you’ll find around The Dragon. The longer I ride the more I find my preference shifting to “remote” and rural roads, Explorer Road is just that. Linking 281 to NC-215, and barely two lanes, Explorer Road coils and bends along the Appalachian mountainside like some of the most gnarly roads in the West Virginia; just watch out for those decreasing radius curves.
Kitchen Sink GPX
Kitchen Sink Rever Route

 


I think it’s safe to say, this is a pretty “Tall Order” considering the impending mess that Irma is likely to rain down on “The South” (never mind the unfortunate damage she’s going to do to Key West and the rest of Florida, my heart goes out to those folks!). That said, in the event things go sideways, I’m still hoping to get Rosie out on some of the trails; rain keeps the dust down right? Either way, I have these routes loaded up in Rever on my cell phone, and I’ve even put together a share folder on Google Drive for the GPX files so more of the attendees and load them onto their various GPS devices.

We’ll see how things go, hopefully I’ll find some of you down that way this week, and to the rest of you, I’ll hit you up with photos and ride reports in a few days!

 

Dragon Raid GPX Share Folder

Triumph Dragon Raid Rever Group

 

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How to Clean a Motorcycle Chain: Routine Maintenance with the Snapjack

Way back in the early days of Moto Adventurer, I did a “How-to” piece on chain maintenance. Despite my preface, “This is how I do things, not necessarily the right way to do things”, I want to revisit this topic for a couple reasons. One, while my previous method still preserved chains for about 25,000 miles or more, I’ve learned a few things since then; and two, this whole process goes a lot faster now that I have a Tirox Snapjack.

Triumph Scrambler Chain Dirty MotoADVRWhile I admit that brake cleaner does a great job of removing the gunk from your chain, while avoiding the drippy mess; brake cleaner is actually really harsh on those ever so important O-rings. Since the last iteration of chain maintenance how-to advice, I stumbled across a little moto-myth-busting video, and have therefore adopted dedicated motorcycle chain cleaner for this job, and for a really nasty chain, good ol’ WD-40. While I’ve already covered a lot of the nitty-gritty details of cleaning the chain, I want to reiterate some of the highlights, but first I want to talk about making this job a lot faster with the Snapjack.

 

What’s a Snapjack you ask?

Think of it like a portable motorcycle lift that fits in your tailbag. Tirox SnapJack Chain Clean MotoADVRWay back in the days of Lola the Speedmaster, I was doing the whole “chase you bike around the driveway” maneuver as I cleaned a section of the chain, moved the bike, and then the “repeat as necessary” game until clean. That was a pain, made easier by my buddy’s paddock stand (“rear stand” if you will). While the paddock stand was super convenient for leaving the bike in one place and working over the entire chain at once, I still had to remove the exhaust to use the stand, along with carefully positioning the bike up on the stand without knocking it over. Enter the Snapjack. With the Snapjack, you can lock the front brake, position the Snapjack, and then prop the rear wheel just off the ground for chain or wheel maintenance.

 

What’s in the box?

Tirox SnapJack Box ContentsWhen the Snapjack arrived at the house a couple months ago, the box obviously included the Snapjack itself, along with a Velcro strap to lock the front brake in place, and couple rubber pads to place on the ground to give the serrated “foot” better grip on smooth surfaces. At less than two pounds, all of the before mentioned items cinch up in a branded carrying bag that easily packs away into a pocket in your tail-bag or backpack.

 

Who needs a SnapJack?

Tirox Snap Jack Package MotoADVRObviously I do… but so does anyone else that doesn’t have a center-stand or paddock stand, and anyone on a long road trip without a fixed center-stand. I will go even further to say that even if you have a paddock stand, which I do (currently on extended loan), the Snapjack is a lot less work, and it’s faster than fussing with the rear stand when you’re working alone. That said, the Snapjack isn’t necessarily meant for most cruisers. I assume this has something to do with weight and side-stand design, considering that the Snapjack relies on the side-stand to help hold up the bike while the rear wheel is lifted off the ground. However (according to their website), the Snapjack works fine on most sport and touring motorcycles.

 

So how does this thing work?

Tirox Snap Jack Tirox Lube Chain Cleaner MotoADVRA couple days back I decided I was overdue for the due diligence on the chain. The manual says every 500 miles, and I agree, that’s a good benchmark, “when it needs it” is probably the correct answer, but in this case, it was mostly that I knew it had been at least 500 miles and it’s not even a 20 minute job at this point. Getting started, I roll the bike to a nice sunny spot on the porch and lay out the Snapjack and accessories on the ground next to the right side of the bike. Brake Strap Installed MotoADVRThe next thing I do is to wrap the locking strap around the front brake lever,  holding it firm to the handlebar. With the front brake locked, I position the Snapjack on the right side of the swingarm, near the rear axle, using the two rubber pads to keep the Snapjack’s foot from slipping (and scarring up the concrete). Tirox Snap Jack Install MotoADVRIt takes a little “finesse” to get used to popping the Snapjack into the up position, meanwhile setting it in the correct position to lift the rear wheel off the ground just enough that that wheel spins freely. Fortunately, with several height adjustment settings, and a little practice, it’s pretty easy. Each bike is obviously different, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries.

 

This is probably a good time to mention that you need to trust your side-stand. When using the Snapjack, the bike is essentially resting on the front wheel, the side-stand, and the Snapjack. Tirox Snap Jack Installed MotoADVRIf you have a side-stand that is a little gun-shy about staying in the down, locked, position, you may want to “bungie” the side-stand to the frame or front fork to make sure it stays forward. Fortunately, the Scrambler leans way over on the kickstand, and it stays locked down pretty well, so much so it takes a little more of that “finesse” to raise the rear tire high enough to spin the wheel. I suspect that the other Bonnevilles and most sport bikes are quite easy, as the Scrambler side-stand is low enough to use off-road when the “parking” surfaces are less than level.
Chain Cleaner MotoADVRWith the rear wheel off the ground, I’m free to spray down a shop cloth with some chain cleaner and wipe the gunk off the chain. If it’s been a rainy week, or I have an excess amount of dirt and grime, I’ll resort to the trusty 360 degree chain brush (also a Tirox product as it turns out, had no idea until a few months ago). Per my previous comments about nitty-gritty, for the dirtiest chains, like after a long day of off-road riding, I find the best recourse is the liberal application of WD-40 and the chain brush, followed by a good rinse with the hose to really free up the dirt hiding between the rollers.


Once I have the chain cleaned up to my liking, I get the chain dried off well enough to apply a good lubricant (that usually means a quick ride around the block). Per my previous write-up, I really liked Maxima Chain Wax, up until I started riding off-road. After a few trips to Shawnee State Forest, it became obvious that chain wax did nothing but grab a hold of all the dirt and dust, neither of which was going to help prolong O-ring life. In recent days I’ve tried several other commercially available chain lubes. I admit, I was pretty happy with the Bel-Ray “Super Clean Chain Lube” for a while, Tirox Ultra Chain Lube MotoADVRbut I recently got my hands on Tirox “Ultra Chain Lube” and it’s rapidly winning me over. Thus far I’ve been impressed with the Ultra Chain Lube; as you can see from the photos, the chain is relatively clean, despite having not been cleaned for a couple weeks; anyone keeping up with @MotoADVR on Instagram will tell you, those are rain or shine miles. I’m still in the early stages of testing, as I still need to do a good hard day of off-road riding, so stay tuned for more details.

 
Tirox SnapJack Stored MotoADVRWith a fresh coat of lube on the chain, the hard work is done. A firm pull on the lower section of the Snapjack will put the rear wheel back on the ground, and then you can remove the brake locking strap. I use the strap to hold the rubber squares to the Snapjack, and hold the Snapjack closed so everything tucks neatly into the storage sleeve. From there the Snapjack resides in my cleaning “bucket” or my tail-bag depending on where I’m headed next.

 

If you want to give the Snapjack a shot, it’ll only set you back about $50; which is a pretty good deal when you start looking at the price of a center stand, a dedicated motorcycle jack, or a paddock stand. The Snapjack is available from a few different vendors and I recently found it on Revzilla. While you’re over there, checkout Lemmy’s video on chain maintenance, he really digs into the details in case I breezed over something specific you may have been looking for here.

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