Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 Road Trip Wrap Up

As a follow up to my first motorcycle road trip, I thought about a "what worked and what didn't" type post. I used everything I brought with the exception of first-aid and spare parts.

Camping gear: Most of the camping gear that I brought was pretty much tried and true stuff that I have been using for a while so no real issues with any of it. The MSR multi-fuel stove isn't quite as convenient as my older MSR G/K version as it lacks the built in flint lighter but it packs much smaller. I think I will pick up a smaller fuel bottle for moto-camping trips as there is a readily available fuel source. It may be time to retire my 35 year old Camp 7 down sleeping bag or maybe I could try washing it again. The down was clumping leaving cold spots. I had one nice, stainless steel tent stake and three aluminum ones. I need to find more stainless steel pegs as the aluminum ones tended to bend.

Riding gear: It was a hassle to bring two sets of riding gear but I'm not sure what a better option would be given the broad temperature range. As I mentioned before in an earlier post, the Tourmaster one-piece rain suit was completely waterproof but a real pain to put on or take off since they wouldn't fit over my boots. My boots are just leather work boots so that may be contributing to the problem. Motorcyle specific boots may be better as they wouldn't have the lace hooks or heavy lugged sole which seemed to catch on the inner liner of the rain suit. Since the soles are starting to crack, it may be time to replace them anyway. There is no provision for using a heated liner with the rain suit as there is no path for the power cables through the suit. This was only an issue on the first day when it was cold and rained for most of the day. No complaints at all with the "on sale" mesh gear I had picked up a couple of years ago. The rain over gloves my son and his wife gave me just before leaving worked great.

Helmet: I was glad that I had picked up the mirrored visor as it significantly reduced the temperature inside the helmet. The HJC Symax-II helmet is very noisy and ventilation is almost non-existant. Even with earplugs there is a lot of wind noise. And I have the wrong shape head for it as the chin bar touches my chin. It is now five years old and probably will be replaced sometime soon.

Tires: I am somewhat disappointed with the life of the Heidenau K60 rear tire as it lasted only about 4K miles. It may have been the air pressure as I was following the BMW recommended pressures. In Oregon, I picked up a Shinko 10 SR 712 and ran it at a much higher pressure. It now has 4K miles and looks like it still has a lot of miles left. The new tire worked great on pavement but add in a little bit of loose stuff and it is horrible. But then again it's not what it was designed for. I will probably pick up another K60 sometime and try running it at higher pressure.

Bike: Oil consumption for the entire trip was one cup. I need to replace the rear brake pads due to grease contamination. At certain speeds (not normally encountered in Alaska) there is a slight wobble in the steering. Four times during the trip, there was a weird vibration from the engine, kind of like it was missing. This has been a recurrent problem over the years but it never lasted long enough to figure out what it was. Some sort of throttle lock would have been nice to have. Overall, the brakes on this 29 year old bike are pretty pathetic and the additional load from luggage didn't help. I think just about everything on the road, including busses and tractor trailer rigs have a shorter stopping distance. Overall gas mileage for the trip was only 40.9 mpg, not very good. A stress crack in one of the plastic luggage cases from a latch rivet developed in the middle of the trip. Maybe I was overstuffing them. One of the two rear shocks couldn't be adjusted for preload and it looks like it's leaking oil.

Electronic Gadgets: This was one of the rare times when I went on a trip without a laptop. Just an iPad. It was only an issue one time when I needed to download a log file from a linux server in Barrow and send it via email. I ended up using remote-connect software on the iPad to connect back to my laptop in my office to get it taken care of. Kind of a hassle. In Washington, I signed up for one month of access to Verizon on the iPad and that generally worked well when I was in the lower 48. It was usually as fast if not faster than the hotel wireless. Most, but not all, of the campgrounds and hotels offered wireless Internet access.

  • Hydration pack was useless as I couldn't use it while riding.
  • Garmin 60CSx worked great though sometimes it would lose access to the maps on the micro-SD card. Maybe due to vibration.
  • The Milepost iPad app was completely worthless. Don't bother getting it. You need access to the Internet for the app to even start. I wish there was a way to give it negative stars in the app store.
  • The Blogsy iPad app worked fine for doing blog posts though it was annoying to have to occasionally go in and fix the html.
  • The waterproof iPad case was only used for storage rather than during use. It was too hard to read the screen plus you didn't have access to the dock port for charging or uploading pictures.
  • SPOT was a great addition. I think it added some peace of mind. The lithium AAA batteries lasted about three weeks with tracking turned on for 10 hours per day.
  • The top box was very convenient and a great addition.
  • I ended up using the half cover for the bike every single night even though I was originally planning on using it at hotels. While camping, it was a great place to store the riding gear. 
  • I should've brought the 18-55mm zoom instead of the 50mm f1.8 lens. More versatility.
Thank you Conchscooter for the reminder. I had a wonderful trip. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling on two wheels. I met wonderful people along the way, and didn't have any real problems with either the bike or other drivers. I must admit that the last part surprised me. I expected more rude or inattentive drivers in some of the more congested areas.


Roger said...

I enjoyed your write up very much Richard, and personally I have never heard good things about Heidnau body really uses them over here.

Great series of blogs though.

RichardM said...

Thank you!

The Heidenau K60 are about the only dual-shortish tires available in the weird rear tire size on my bike. So I'll give it another chance.

Conchscooter said...

Was the ride fun? The elderly bike seems to have had a blast.

Trobairitz said...

Great review Richard. It is nice to see what worked and what didn't. Great job on that long a journey on your older bike.

It is like a Timex - takes a licking and keeps on ticking......

Unknown said...


You are a much more seasoned traveller than most of us. I have reduced my stash of stuff but I still brought too much and had many items not used. Your idea of the half cover is great to cover your riding gear instead of it taking room in your tent.

Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

RichardM said...

You're right, I didn't say anything about that. I had a great time and was somewhat sad to see the end of the trip. And the elderly bike did seem to have a blast. During the trip, quite a few other riders made comments such as "you rode from Alaska on THAT!?"

RichardM said...

It was nice not to have any major problems with the bike along the way. And it starts and runs better now than when I left. Maybe all the high speed running cleaned things out a bit.

RichardM said...

I was thinking of what I forgot to bring and the only thing that came to mind was some sort of writing instrument. A couple of times I needed to write down mileage (for and couldn't find a pen. My iPhone battery was almost dead so I couldn't use the Notes app like I usually did...

Chris said...

Glad you had a fun and safe trip! I enjoyed looking at some of your trip pics. Made me remember mine.

My symax2 is loud. I only wear it to teach; the flipup is handy for that.
With the rainsuit, you can run heated gear. Just get the cable out and close the Velcro. Worked for me several times.

RichardM said...

I didn't do much research before buying the helmet.

I looked all over for a way to get the cord out of the rainsuit but then again, it was by the side of the road in the rain.

redlegsrides said...

Good Wrap Up Richard.

I too am thinking its time for a new helmet....


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

VStar Lady said...

Great summary Richard. You're ready for the next trip (have you started packing yet?) The East Coast is lovely you know - it's a wicked ride getting across the rest of the country too. Hope our paths cross again. (I'm now at T+3)

RichardM said...

I thought I remember reading that 5 years is about the expected lifetime.

RichardM said...

Currently, no plans for a next moto-trip. Trying to get back into the swing of things around here. One of these days I'll get to the other coast as I would like to see PEI, Labador and Newfoundland one of these days. Much of my travel has been work related and it has never brought me to that part of the continent.

David Masse said...

Richard, there's something deeply satisfying heading out on a bike with a bunch of gear that lets you be entirely self-reliant.

My one week experience this summer wasn't much of a test though. The weather was so good, I could have set out in a bathing suit and flip-flops with a toothbrush and toothpaste in a sandwich baggy and I would have been fine.

RichardM said...

I think I may have resolved the multiple gear plus separate rain gear issue. That alone will reduce the amount of gear I carry though with the addition of the sidecar, space may not be a significant issue.