Why I Will Never Sell My First Motorcycle

Buying a motorcycle is a right of passage. If you build your own, its a calling.

Bought or built, that bike stays with you for life. It does not matter whether you open your garage door in 30 years and see the bike itself, or the memories that rush back when you think about the bike.

It will always be there.

Many bikes come and go, but everyone remembers their first.

Throughout my travels on two wheels, I have had the chance to chat with many other riders and a trend emerges when you start talking bikes. Most riders have owned more than one over the years.

Different colors. Different brands.Different shapes. Loved ones. Hated ones. Every bike has a story.

In my experience, the story that is always the most interesting starts with the question:

What was your first bike?

The answer usually results in deep thought, followed by deep emotion and personal stories. They are priceless. This is mine:

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The view never gets old

My first bike was purchased as a graduation present to myself. My friends rode. My roommate rode. I had always wanted a bike. I wanted to ride. I didn’t care about the financing, the payments or the insurance. I was out of school and working, I would make it work. And make it work I did.

While all my friends rode sport bikes, I wanted a cruiser. The unmatched noise and feeling of a V-Twin, as well as the size of a larger bike, was on my wishlist. I found the perfect combination in the Suzuki M90. I was able to fit comfortably on the bike and it had more than enough power to stay interesting.

I remember the day I picked up the bike. It was pissing raining and miserable but I was so excited and nervous. Is this really happening? I fired it up in the pouring rain and rode home with biggest grin, so big my face hurt afterwards. Even in the downpour, I must have rode around the neighborhood for hours. In the rain. Following a bus. It was one of the best days of my life.

It is interesting how your bike can tell the story of your adventures on two wheels. With every scratch, dent and scrape, it is brought back to life.

I remember dropping my bike, an embarrassing and gut wrenching experience for any rider. Pulling out of the driveway, I pulled my front brake a little to hard while going over some sand that the sump pump had pushed out earlier that morning. Even only going around 10 km/h, I must have slid 7 feet along the road. Embarrassing.

Through a riders life, many bikes may come and go. With them, the stories and adventures they endured together.

One thing is certain, I will be keeping my first bike for as long as I can ride, so hopefully, one day far in the future, someone will ask me:

What was your first bike?

My reply will be:

Your looking at it. Now let me tell you a story….

 

Back. Back Again.

COLD

(There is a sun in the picture but I am freezing)

Reading back through the past 3 posts in my blog, over a period of almost 3 years, I can’t help but laugh.

2014 was filled with endless planned weekends and a busy work schedule that gave me almost no time to ride.

2015 was filled with pain and heartache after seriously breaking my leg and losing a beloved family member.

But those years are behind me. And 2016 has been amazing so far. Lets keep the ball rolling shall we.

Welcome to BCTailgunner Version 2016. New and improved.

In the following weeks and months I hope to be out exploring on the bike more than ever before. After a few years of not being able to ride much, I feel like I need to cram in a few years into 6 months. (I feel like I have said this before)

I have big plans. Very big plans.

Anyways, I hope to have an actual updated post floating around later this weekend and the goal is to post at least once per week. Rides, videos, pictures. Also remember to check the my twitter @BCTailgunner as there will be updates in real time.

Back In The Saddle Again

After dealing with real casts, air casts, an assortment of tensor bandages, numerous x-rays and a myriad of pain killers, the time has finally come to get back onto the bike. Hopefully, a bit earlier than was anticipated.

(Where the view is amazing and 8 chicken wings are $15.00 )

This week I was able to take the bike out for a ride to the Sun Peaks Ski Resort (a nice ride for any rider in the interior who wants to have lunch and a gorgeous view after 45km of great riding).

I missed this. Badly.

Even after 135km short kilometers, my back hurt and my foot ached, but it is all worth it. Being sedentary at home on the couch with my leg up for 2.5 months as really shown me the important of physical fitness when riding a motorcycle. It has also slapped me in the face and shown me that I am terribly out of shape and need to get back into a solid work out routine! The thoughts of riding across Canada a few seasons ago crossed my mind and I have realized my body would not have been able to take that trip in my current portly condition. (The seating position of my Suzuki M90 is not favorable for long rides and can wear you out fast).

With the break that my leg sustained, it doesn’t appear that the actual act of riding or balancing the bike at a stop will cause any pain or discomfort. The one problematic thing I am noticing is that I have to be really cautious in the way I mount and dismount the motorcycle. The motion of rotating my body on my left leg could potentially cause problems if twisted the wrong way. This movement has become second nature and I will need to pay more attention as I ride the bike to and from work over the summer months.

(Not my actual tire, but what a leaking bead would look like when soapy)

Oh and also, after arriving home, I noticed my rear tire was losing approximately 3-5 PSI every 12 hours. I sprayed the tire down with a bottle of dish soap and water and discovered the tire had a slow leak around the left bead. Thankfully it wasn’t a puncture and Rivercity Cycle was able to re-seat the tire on the rim fairly quickly.

Things are starting to look up!.. Sorta.

Lighting Insurance Money On Fire

Well, it hasn’t exactly been the start to the riding season that I would have liked.

I have refrained from posting over the past few weeks as there have been a series of events that have really put a damper on the excitement of my riding season.

The main point being.. I broke my leg. Badly.

Welcome to my life for the next 2 months

Four weeks ago I picked up a new oil filter, a jug of oil and a brand new oil pan to prepare the bike for this years season. The bike was freshly insured and just waiting in the garage to be fired up.

After servicing the bike, the tires were aired up to pressure and inspected and I did a complete check around the bike to ensure everything survived winter storage. Finally, I jumped on the bike and took it for a quick spin around the neighborhood. The wait was over!

Sorta.

Three days later I preceded to break my leg playing in a hockey tournament after chasing a puck into the defensive zone on a called off icing.  Vertical fracture up the tibia. Good times…

That’s one month of insurance down the drain.

And making a killing!

So here we are, three weeks later, and I have only one more week before the cast comes off. I am contemplating how hard it would be to ride in an air boot. Only time will tell.

All I know is that I will be doing the best I can to cram six months of riding into a five month season.

Stay tuned.

 

Back in 2015

Well it has been a while. Over a year in fact.

2014 was a busy year for me, and a lot of my summer was pre-booked before it even started. This is not ideal for riding / exploring and it was a tough season last year because of the pre-commitments. This year will be different!

Weddings, Reunions, Work.. Life often gets in the way of our hobbies.

Negativity aside, I did manage to get a few decent rides in, the highlight being a 5 day adventure through the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island here in beautiful British Columbia. I will gather the pics and videos and try to post up some details from the adventure. It was a ride that was worthwhile for any motorcyclist coming into BC.

I was able to introduce a new rider into the hobby and he has taken it in stride. I was jealous of his adventures last year! Hopefully there will be a few posts as we dive down into Washington this summer.

This year I plan on picking up some new gear, working on the motorcycle and making some modifications that I have been sitting on for a while, and exploring a whole bunch more of western North America. Hopefully I can introduce a new cast of characters / riders as we keep two wheels down and our knees in the wind!

Anyways, just a quick update. Keep an eye out on Twitter, as well as the blog!

Oh Bluetooth, Can You Hear Me Now? – SENA SMH-10 Bluetooth Headset Review

When riding in a group of motorcycles, riders may have differing experience levels and riding abilities. One of the key aspects in enjoying a successful group ride is communication. Like in any relationship, communication is key.

Forget to turn off a turn signal?

Need to stop for fuel?

Your butt hurt?

Motorcyclists have many different tools at their disposal in order to communicate with each other. From hand signals to turn signals, riders usually find a way to get their point across to other motorists and riders.

With the ongoing development of Bluetooth headsets in the last couple years, riders have another very useful tool in their communicative toolbox. At the start of the riding season, I decided to dive into the headset market and picked up a pair of SENA SMH-10 headsets. I have been surprised… more than I thought I would be.

I ended up purchasing the SENA SMH-10 dual pack for snowmobiles. Even though it is labelled as a snowmobile headset, there is no difference (in form or function) between these sets and any other SENA SMH-10. The reason for choosing the snowmobile set was based on the fact that the pack included both the boom microphone and the wire microphone at a better cost than buying them separately.

Installation

Installation on the headsets was fairly straight forward. The two helmets that would be getting the headsets were my Bell Vortex and a Scorpion EXO-1100. To install the headset, the main bracket (base) is slipped between the liner and shell and then secured with 2 hex bolts.

Once the base is set in the proper position, one must install the speakers inside the helmet. Most helmets have recess within the helmet for a riders ears and the SENA speakers are placed easily within the space available. The kit also includes a velcro sticky, as well as velcro pillows, to allow a rider to get the speakers in the most comfortable position possible.

From here, all that was left to do was place the microphone at the front of the helmet. I opted to install the wired microphone as it had a lower profile and was not as noticeable as the bulkier boom microphone.

Overall, the installation on the Scorpion EXO-1100 was the cleaner install of the two as I was able to tuck the wiring completely within the liner of the helmet. As you can see, the wires still need to wrap around the outer portion of the Bell helmet. In the end, both installations have remained intact and have given us no problems.

Interface and Controls

Like the installation, using the SENA headsets is simple and straightforward. The headset has only one button (phone button) as well as a jog dial / button that can be rotated and pushed. With both headsets, there have been no problems working the headsets with motorcycle gloves. The jog dial rotates very smoothly and has a proper amount of feedback / friction when adjusting the volume or changing songs. The headset also has a blue / red LED on the side which gives an indication of the headset status (ie: looking for devices, indicating battery life, etc)

Pairing / Communications

The SMH-10 can be paired with multiple devices simultaneously (up to 4) making it easy to switch between the intercom, phone, music and whatever else a rider wants. I was able to connect my Android Galaxy S3, iPod, and SENA headset without any problems. That being said, the bluetooth receiver on the iPod is garbage and I have reverted to a wired stereo connection (SENA headset base has an Aux input).

The headset works on a priority based system, where the phone will override the intercom, the intercom will override the navigation / radar detector / misc which in turn overrides the music. This is very handy as when the conversation is complete, the music will continue playing once the other rider has hung up without having to hit any buttons.

Paired with my Android phone, the headset runs phenomenally well. As I traveled down the highway at 100km/h, I randomly called a few friends and made idle chit chat before telling them that I was on my motorcycle. The feedback I received was very positive and the audio was coming through loud and clear with no noticeable wind noise. Pressing the phone button would automatically initiate S-Voice and I could direct my phone as needed.

One thing to note is that the speakers on the SENA are very clear and the volume range is quite impressive. Each input volume is independent as well, so if you want your music at one volume, and your phone at another, a rider can set each individually. Although there is very little to no bass to be heard with the speakers, I was able to easily hear music / phone calls with ear plugs in at speed cruising down the highway… and that was not even at full volume.

Range / Battery Life / Durability

SENA claims that the battery life of the SMH-10 is approximately 12 hours talk time and a whopping 10 days of standby time. In order to test this out, we took the headsets on a weekend trip to Alberta through Highway 1.

Both headsets were on continuously for 12+ hours each day of the ride, alternating between the phone, intercom and music. I am surprised to say, even when encountering wind and rain along the way, the batteries lasted for the entire ride on both days. I was hoping to run them dead to get an idea of what the battery life was like but I will have to find that out another day.

As for the range, SENA claims the headsets are good for a range of up to 900 meters (980 yards). When researching the models, I was under the impression from other reviews that this distance would only be supported with a direct line of sight. Any corners / urban environment was supposed to limit the range significantly.

As we wound are way through the mountains, we steadily increased our distances in order to test out the range of the headsets. Although I can not give an exactly distance in meters, I was surprised at how far we were able to separate from each other before the headsets lost the connection. The other rider had to be a significant distance away, far outside what would constitute riding in a group type setting.

Overall

If I can describe the SENA SMH-10 headsets in one word: Impressive.

Without a doubt, I can say these are probably the best accessory I have purchased for riding in the past two years. With a price point of approximately $400.00 CAD for a pair, I have a feeling that I will probably to pick up an additional spare in case another rider wants to be connected on a ride.

After testing the headset in real world riding conditions, from all types of weather conditions and in mountainous to urban terrain, the SENA headset was everything it is advertised to be and more.

For a system that offers so much with such little installation / set up, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a better way to communicate or even just listen to music during a road trip.

You Want Me to Bring What? – Luggage Solutions For The Motorcycle

One of the most common questions I get from people when I tell them I am going on a motorcycle ride / trip is:

What do you pack and how do you pack it?

In actuality, this is a very complex question. Undoubtedly, there are times when the phone rings and I am geared up and out the door rather quickly. Forget the tire kit, I am lucky to remember my insurance papers in those cases.

For the most part though, I like to pack a kit dependent on the length of the ride and how many days I will be away from home. An important factor in being comfortable on a motorcycle trip is to not over pack. Over packing can lead to an improper weight balance on the bike, or to rider fatigue / strained shoulders if a bag is too heavy.

In my case, I typically categorize a ride into one of three different types which allows for a few different luggage options:

  1. Short ride (under 400km) or Half Day
  2. Long ride (over 400km) or Full Day
  3. Multiple Day Ride

Short Ride (under 400km)

For short rides such as going to work each day or taking an afternoon to ride some of the local secondary highways, I pack light as I will not be venturing far from civilization.

Note: Every rider should purchase a BCAA Plus membership which covers motorcycles (the Basic membership does not) as well as a tow of up to 160km. Worthwhile peace of mind to have when out on the highway.

Under these circumstances, I will usually pack my Ogio Less Drag back pack with simple provisions such as water, snacks, ball cap and sun glasses, and camera equipment (GoPro, etc). All the things that are nice to have when stopping for fuel or taking in the sights of the interior. Bringing a backpack can also be important as it provides a rider with a way to store any unexpected items that they may come across on a ride.

Long Ride (over 400km)

For longer rides over 400km, where the ride consists of a loop and and a return home later in the evening, or when venturing a little bit farther away from civilization for a day or two, I prefer to be prudent and pack more of the “just in case” or JIC items. In order to bring along the important JIC items, I like to use a magnetic tank bag (Firstgear Onyx Expandable) in combination with my backpack.

The tank bag is secured to the tank of the motorcycle by a layer of magnets on the bottom of the bag. An important note is to always make sure the bottom of the bag is clean before putting it on the bike as any dirt / grime could scratch the paint on the bike. Although the tank bag is expandable (up to the point it could store an extra bike helmet if the need arises), I prefer to pack to the point of non-expansion as it leaves extra room if needed during the ride.

Some of the JIC items I like to include for longer rides are:

  • Small Air Compressor
  • Tire Patching Kit / Tire Slime
  • Ratchet w/ bike specific sockets / wrenches
  • 1 Roll – Electrical Tape
  • Rain / Cold Weather Liners and Gloves
  • Small LED Flashlight
  • Pair of Socks
  • USB Charging Cables

and most importantly,

  • 1 Roll – Toilet Paper (because you can’t wipe your ass with a tire kit)

Multiple Day Ride

For the multiple day rides where I may be riding out of province or south into the United States and will be needing a change of clothes and toiletries, I prefer to use a tail bag (Kuryakyn Grantour Bag) in combination with a tank bag.

Personally, I am not a fan of saddle bags as I prefer luggage that I can easily pull off the motorcycle at the end of the day and take into the hotel. Also, I wanted something that can be installed on the bike without having to mount any extra brackets, and I feel that extra hardware would take away from the clean look of the motorcycle.

(On the road again….)

This is not to say that saddle bags are not a viable option as they allow for a more permanent luggage solution and a rider can utilize hard cases that are waterproof and lockable (huge positive to saddlebags). One thing to keep in mind when packing a tail bag, or saddle bags, is to make sure the heavier items are stored in the lower portion of the bag (top heavy is bad) and to make sure the weight is evenly distributed throughout the bags from side to side. Also, remember to place the important items in an easy to reach part of the bag. There is nothing worse then having to unpack the entire bag on the side of the road just to get to one item at the bottom.

Summary

So next time you are planning out a motorcycle ride / trip, assess what you need to take  and try to find a luggage solution that works for you. Whether you are gone for the day, or the week, make sure to pack in such a way that you are comfortable and can access the important items when needed.

Remember not to over pack!