Motorcycle Touring Essentials | Long-Range Comfort & Style
In our recent 2014 BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive Touring Test – Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, we focused on the bike. Here we will take an informal look and review of the kit that helped to make the ride more comfortable, interesting and safer.
During 2,300 miles, we experienced temperatures ranging from 48 to 108 (F), and much of the time we were in the high end of the range. On one leg of the trip we descended to the coast and experienced a 48-degree drop in 25 miles.
Following is the list of essential gear that kept me riding safely without issues.
Macna Dry Cooling Vest – $169.99
We were all wearing cooling vests at the time the cold temps set in, so you might be able to picture us stopped along the way, striping off the vests, closing vents, adding layers and freezing.
Up until then I was wearing Macna’s Dry Cooling Vest and not only did it do a great job at lowering the perceived temperature but it works by adding water through a port and doesn’t require that it be dunked.
Buddies Alex and Zaid wore the dunk-type vests which feel and are wet and not optimal under these conditions. Two tips with any cooling vest are that you wear a polypropylene shirt underneath (cotton absorbs too much water) and a mesh jacket, or a vented jacket that allows good airflow. Without the movement of air around the vest the magic can’t happen.
With venting in mind, my Vanson Cobra Mk. 2, that flows air through front-opening curtains, ram-air sleeves and rear zipped vents, was acceptable but not good at circulating air when the thermometer exceeded 95 (F).
This is a well-made garment – the best quality leather and built for a lifetime – and Vanson has been making classic jackets and more for decades. For three seasons, it can’t be beat with its different venting options.
Mesh would have been better in the heat, but I didn’t have room for two jackets and chose leather over textile for this ride. I’m going to start looking for the perfect touring jacket, but I rate this Vanson as excellent.
On the subject of apparel, BMW’s popular City 2 pants had been a good choice for me in the past; including many years of travel with the original City model. I chose this pant because its comfort range fit our anticipated weather.
The BMW City 2 Pant has no vents, but the fabric isn’t windproof. I knew we wouldn’t get any rain, although I did carry my rain suit. They are constructed mostly of rugged cotton with some polyester and lined in mesh with hip and knee/shin armor.
The City 2 pants have zippers down the outside of the lower legs and two slash and two cargo pockets, all zippered. They do not have any vents, but the fabric breathes enough and is also heavy enough that I’ve worn them from the upper 40s to well over 110 degrees, and they’ve served me well. BMW, please offer them in black.
Dainese TR-Course Air Boots – $299.95
I chose Dainese’s TR-Course Out Air boots for their venting, flexibility and stiff-soled protection. Basically, they are race boots, and I’ve worn them at the track.
But due to their on-track comfort, they were my choice for the trip. In black with a small white stripe, they blended in nicely with my subdued attire – and I had no regrets.
They have a zipper that runs up the back, with a tongue that extends to allow for probably the easiest entry of any race boot I’ve worn. They use Dainese’s D-Axial ankle system and offer a secure feeling in a very light and pliable boot.
Also from Dainese were my MIG gloves, which are short summer, race-style gloves. They are made from cowhide with synthetic suede reinforced palms.
They have polyurethane inserts over the knuckles and inserts on the thumb and little finger.
With adjustable wrists and pre-curved fingers, the Dainese MIG gloves make for all day comfort, providing great comfort and fit. I only wore the heavy gloves I brought on one cold morning.
Capping off my list of apparel is Schuberth’s much-acclaimed C3 Pro modular helmet, with the built-in-the-collar SRC-System Bluetooth headset.
Like the K 1600 GTL Exclusive, this helmet really has no flaws. To get into the myriad features would take a review of its own so check our review from 2013.
This Schuberth lid is comfortable, the liner material is soft and it deals well with the copious amount of perspiration that flowed during the trip. The venting system offers a few different combinations and it is stable at high speeds even with the BMW’s windshield in its lowest position.
I figure that we averaged seven hours a day riding over 8 days. How does your helmet feel after 56 hours?
My only complaint is with the Cardo-sourced Bluetooth headset. Before the ride we did everything possible to insure the reliable operation of our headsets. We all completed an easy reset of each system to erase any old pairings and make sure the units operated well. We updated our firmware to the latest version and paired with our smartphones and one another.
This worked, but getting in and out of intercom mode, especially getting the third guy on, was intermittent and required some amount of voodoo to make it work. I’d be talking to Zaid, and then Alex would pop in and the system would drop me.
I’d try and try to get back in repeatedly with negative results. Then, I’d wait a few minutes and it would work. If I made or took a phone call or switched over to music, I would have trouble getting back into the intercom conversation. Sometimes the music wouldn’t play, and I’d have to reboot the headset.
In fairness, I’ve tried eight headsets from different manufacturers over the last 18 months. They each differ dramatically as to how they work and what they can do. All have their strong points and none have been without idiosyncrasies. Some make you press and hold a button for three or more seconds (way too long) while other systems respond to a quick press.
When asked by friends for recommendations on what to buy I usually tell them to look around and find the feature set that’s most attractive for their uses. I have found no clear winner in the Bluetooth headset department and am a bit shy about making a blanket recommendation. Most work well enough for day-to-day use for phone and music.
As an aside, my message to Bluetooth manufacturers, for some time, has been to get around a table and create a standard to which manufacturers adhere. Think USB. Once they do this, and I think it’s inevitable, buyers won’t have to worry about intercom interoperability between brands and perhaps they can iron out the odd behaviors.
Now, some manufacturers advertise inter-brand intercom compatibility but to make it happen one of the two users will lose their smartphone pairing (no phone or music for you) as this scheme requires the use of their, usually, only one channel of HFP (hands free profile). This is not optimal.
The Drift Ghost-S camera was a nice unit to take on the trip. It has all the capability of any of the leading action cameras with one advantage – the lens can swivel about 270 degrees so no matter what angle you place the mount, the lens can be rotated so the image is level. The included remote control makes it easy to start and stop the camera, and also allows you to take still shots while the camera is recording.
With a 64 gb SDXC card I had over 12 hours of recording time at full HD 30 fps. The only complaint was that battery life is only 2-3 hours. I had three batteries with me so that wasn’t a real problem. Next time I’ll run a USB cable to the camera from the power port and never worry about battery life. Good stuff and I can’t wait to edit the videos and see what we got.
I have a love/hate relationship with earplugs. The foam kind just won’t insert fully, no matter how I try, and I don’t enjoy having the molded kind stuck in my ears.
The solution for me is the NoNoise hearing protectors (Motorsport model) exclusively from Twisted Throttle. Their cone-shaped insert with a small handle made it easy to insert and the unique engineering with a ceramic core and tiny hole inside made them comfortable and effective.
It’s the little things that count on a long ride. You probably have your own list of essentials, and we’d love for you to share them below.
For my next trip on the GTL I’m going to ask Raphael B. where he got his 12-volt espresso machine. I’m not joking.
All prices MSRP.