Review: Racer High Speed Gloves

otmpix.com

I ride over 2,000 track miles every season. That means I spend a lot of time wearing road race gloves. I need high-performance gloves that are comfortable as well as protective.
Racer’s High Speed Glove is a premium CE certified, professional-level glove for road racers and serious track day riders. Racer says this is their best selling glove.
The glove is made of cowhide with TPU hard protectors on the knuckles and there is an egg-sized protector on the outside of the wrist. The knuckles are covered with rugged SuperFabric®.  There is a wide gauntlet closure and narrow wrist closure using Velcro.
From the Knox website.

The High Speed’s palms are made from kangaroo skin with a leather grip patch and two Knox® SPS palm sliders (SPS stands for “Scaphoid Protection System”). As you can guess by the name, these sliders are designed to prevent scaphoid injuries by allowing your hand to slide rather than grab the pavement and stretch or compress the wrist.
The pinkie and ring fingers are joined with a piece of leather to prevent what Racer calls “finger roll”. I’m not sure what that is, but I imagine connecting your two smallest fingers together makes a single sturdier digit.  My Heroic gloves have the same feature.
The gloves are comfortable to wear, taking exactly zero minutes to break in. The fingers are a bit stiff, but nothing concerning. The leather is perforated and vented at the gauntlet and a little bit along the fingers. Airflow seems adequate, since I never felt that my hands got particularly hot during the hottest days on track.
Gripes? I wish the gauntlet were 1/2″ longer so it better covers the sleeves of my leathers. Also, I would like some more protection on the back of my hand, just above the wrist. My Heroic SP-R Pro gloves have a simple rigid panel that seems to be a good idea. Maybe the High Speed glove could be a bit more protective in a few places, but I bet these would do a fine job keeping my paws in one piece in a crash.
Likes? I like a lot. I like the hard Knox scaphoid sliders and the slider on the outside of the wrist. I also like the fit and comfort. The Kangaroo hide is very soft, but protective. These gloves are comfortable enough to be used on the street.
You can get the High Speed in either Black or White/Black for $280.00. That sound expensive? Well, it’s the going rate for really good gloves. Besides, your hands are damn well worth it.

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How to Not Suck at Motorcycle Maintenance

chain-copy
My daughter cleaning and lubing a chain.

Motorcycling is much more than simply owning a two-wheeler. It also means learning to ride well enough to be safe and having the ability to maintain your motorcycle so that the machine you straddle is in top-notch condition.
This is not a trivial requirement. Stories abound of hapless riders falling victim to incidents caused by ill-maintained motorcycles. Failure to lubricate, air-up, tighten or replace certain parts can lead to painful and expensive mishaps that could have been avoided with a bit of preventive maintenance.
New riders can easily become discouraged once they realize that it is time and cost-prohibitive to bring their motorcycle to their local repair shop or dealer to perform frequent chores. It just makes sense to learn how to lube and adjust your chain, change your oil and perform small adjustments that need attention from time to time. It also makes sense to have the ability to bolt on accessories.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to learn how to be self-sufficient. And once you start getting your hands dirty you’ll find a deeper connection with your motorcycle (and with riding).
Once you adopt these basic principals, the next step is to find your owner’s manual and buy a bike-specific repair manual so you can know what is involved with a particular project. Some jobs are better left to the pros, but a surprising number of tasks are very doable by an adventurous owner.
Below is a basic list of tips I put together that will help get you started.
Note: This article contains links from Bike Bandit. I usually turn down these sponsored post offers, but I said yes because I have been using them for years as my go-to source for OEM (original equipment) parts and other goodies. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. Really.

1. Lefty Loosey

When my daughter was old enough to hold a wrench, I made sure to include her in some basic maintenance chores. She resisted at the time, but she now thanks me. She is not afraid to tackle maintenance chores partly because I exposed her to what it feels like to simply turn wrenches and screwdrivers on various fasteners and components. The first thing she needed to learn is the law of “lefty loosey, righty tighty”. If a nut or bolt won’t seem to budge, first confirm that you’re turning it the right way. Believe me, this happens all the time with newbies.

2. Use the Right Tools

There is a difference between a #2 and #3 Phillips screw driver. Asking a #2 to loosen a tight #3 screw may work out, but don’t be surprised if you then have to deal with a bunged screw head. Having a set of extractors, vice-grips and taps might save the day. Maybe. Get a comprehensive set of metric (or SAE for you American bike owners) sockets and wrenches so you avoid using adjustable wrenches and pliers, which often make your job downright miserable.

3. Stubborn Nuts

Speaking of tough nuts…Many people struggle because they don’t know how much force is needed to loosen a stubborn nut, screw or bolt. The right amount of oomph needed to get a fastener undone becomes a “sense”. I can usually feel when a bolt is about to strip (damage threads) or break (sh*t). This comes from experience. But, don’t be deterred. As long as you have the right sized tool (no adjustable wrenches, please) and follow the law of “lefty loosey, righty tighty”  then go for it. Just be sure to maintain pressure where the tool meets the fastener so it doesn’t slip on the screw, nut or bolt head.
If it still won’t budge, give it a squirt of Liquid Wrench and let it sit a bit, or apply heat for really stubborn fasteners. If it still won’t give, then clamp on a pair of vice-grips and give it a go. If you are still having trouble, you’re going to need help from someone who can extract the boogered fastener. Or keep at it yourself. Expect to use swear words not heard since your college days. @#%&@* It will eventually come out. Have faith.

4. Understand How Things Work

You will be a more daring and successful mechanic if you learn how a motorcycle’s brake, drive, electrical, and control systems work. It will make more sense why the manual says to remove the whatchamajigger if you know its relationship within the system. You will also be better able to diagnose problems if you know that the thingamajig drives the whatsahoozit.
There are lots of online articles to help with this, and to walk you through specific jobs. You can also take a look at the series of videos from the MC Garage that cover many of the basic maintenance tasks faced by us motorcycle riders. If you plan on doing more complex tasks like valve adjustments, you’d be smart to learn how the engine works, but it’s not necessary for most maintenance chores.

5. Have a Reliable Source for Motorcycle Parts

Let’s say you learned that you need to replace your chain and sprockets, air filter or clutch cable. You can go to your local dealer to buy parts, or you can choose to shop online without leaving your living room. I am a big supporter of my local dealers, but I sometimes feel like they are little more than middlemen between me and the parts distributor. However, if you’re new to this whole motorcycle fixing thing, a knowledgable dealer can offer advice and guidance not easily accessed from online retailers.
Also, delivery can be shorter if I ordered parts online myself and had them delivered directly to my door.
bikebandit-logo Bike Bandit has delivered prompt service time and again. Even if I end up buying from my dealer, I regularly use their online parts microfiche to learn about the project and make sure all the right parts are ordered. Their search function gets me to the correct page quickly. They also have a “My Garage” list to quickly find parts that fit the bikes I own.

Accessories

While I am ordering maintenance parts I usually end up shopping for other goodies like motorcycle accessories or motorcycle gear. Much of my accessory shopping is done at Twisted Throttle, but I always seem to have some “Bandit Bucks” to spend, so I end up adding something to my order. Besides, Bike Bandit has gear and accessories that Twisted doesn’t carry. I find Bike Bandit easy to work with and their selection is very good. Check them out at www.bikebandit.com.


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Adventure Accessories for the Triumph Tiger 800

Mitas-bike-2The arrival of the newest addition to the RITZ garage is a Phantom Black 2016 Tiger 800 XRx. The Tiger has proven to be a true all-arounder. I have toured on it, done a track day, conquered Deal’s Gap and navigated some pretty gnarly roads and single track on the Tiger.
See my LONG-TERM review of the Tiger 800 XRx
I bolted on some accessories (“farkles” to you ADV guys) to help increase the Tiger’s versatility. My friends at Twisted Throttle took care of getting me all the best accessories I needed. They have some of the best Adventure bike accessories. Here is what I installed.

Bike Protection

SW-MOTECH Crash Bars
SW-MOTECH Crash Bars

SW-MOTECH Crash Bars
SW Motech is a German company specializing in top-shelf bike protection. Their crash bars are seriously beefy compared with others I’ve seen, including the Triumph branded bars. The trade off is weight. The SW bars add some pounds to the bike, with much of it held high where the upper loop is located at tank level.
The advantage of the high loop is the protection offered to the fuel tank. But, realistically, a low bar that protects just the engine is a fine option, partly because if the tank makes contact with the ground, it is the plastic side panels that get nailed, and those are only about $60.00 to replace. An good engine guard alternative are the R&G Engine Guards.
Another problem I found with the high SW bars is vibration. It seems as though the setup acts a bit like a tuning fork. Although I noticed the vibes on my first ride with them installed, I no longer notice it at all so this should not be a deal breaker. If you want maximum protection, the SW-M bars are the way to go.
Skid Plate/Sump Guard
SW-MOTECH Skid Plate/Sump Guard

SW-Motech Skid Plate (Sump Guard)
The Tiger comes with a decent plastic skid plate, but it is not beefy enough for the type of abuse the bottom of the engine and frame will be exposed to so I ordered the SW-Motech skid plate. It mounts easily and covers much more of the vulnerable underparts not protected by the OEM plate, including the oil filter, lower exhaust canister and frame rails. It’s quite satisfying to hear the sound of rocks pinging off it’s surface. Money well spent.
R&G Radiator Guard
Putting a hole in a radiator from an errant stone  will end your day real fast and is an expensive repair so I installed the R&G rad guard. R&G makes a heavier duty stainless steel guard, but I went with the lightweight aluminum unit. It installs easily and looks great.
I need a Hugger
R&G Hugger

R&G Rear Hugger
A Hugger is a rear fender that mounts close to the rear tire to help keep your rear shock clean. The R&G hugger bolted on perfectly and gives a custom look to the Tiger’s rear end.
Pyramid Fenda Extenda
The Fenda Extenda mounts to the bottom of the front fender to help keep crap from flying onto the front of your engine and radiator. It requires some drilling, but is easy enough to install.

Luggage

Side carriers and crash bars
Side carriers and crash bars

SW-Motech Hard Bag Sidecarriers
I already owned a set of DrySpec D20 drybag saddlebags and wasn’t planning to buy hard cases until I realized that the soft saddlebags needed to be supported by a side carrier to avoid drooping under the rear fender and seat. I went ahead and bought the SW-Motech side carriers for use with the D20s but then decided to go for some side cases after all (see below). These carriers are awesome. They quickly release from the bike with just a twist of 4 Zeus fasteners. And the quality is top-notch. They carry all brands of side cases with the proper adapter kit.
The Givi E-22 side cases look good and are narrow and light.

Givi E-22 Side Cases
There are a lot of side cases to choose from, including the Trax Boxes and cases from Givi and other manufacturers. But, I chose the most lightweight and inexpensive hard case option; the Givi E-22. The 22 is an updated version of the basic E-20 that has been around for years. The new shape looks great and it is just big enough for my needs. Their small size means that the width of the bike when they are installed is fairly narrow.
The cases open at the top so my contents don’t go spilling onto the pavement when I open them. At the low price of less than $250.00 for the SET, you don’t get premium construction, but they have held together just fine and I expect them to perform well for many seasons. FYI, I mount mine backwards from what is intended because I like the way the rearward slop looks on the Tiger.
Bags Connection City tank bag with Quick release ring.
Bags Connection City tank bag with Quick release ring.

Bags-Connection City Tank Bag
The BC tank bags are pricey, but are also well made and highly functional. The quick-connect tank ring is really easy to use and is totally secure. I ride the roughest roads with the small City bag and it has never flown the coop. For Tiger 800 riders, you want to mount the top ring as far back as possible on the bag so it doesn’t interfere with your man (or woman) junk when standing, especially on uphill climbs.
You can opt for the electrified tank ring version that gets power inside the bag just by mounting it to the special tank ring. I chose the non-e setup and feed a Euro plug-to-SAE cord a SAE-to-Cigarette socket through the front cord port to get power from the Triumph power socket to the tank bag. I charge my phone, Interphone Bluetooth Comms and whatever else needs juicing up during a ride.
tiger-steelrack
The SW-MOTECH Steel rack mounts over the stock luggage plate.

SW-Motech Topcase Steel Rack
I already had a Coocase topcase from my last bike, but I needed a way to mount it to the Tiger. I could have drilled the OEM luggage plate and rigged up the Coocase to it, but I decided to do it right by buying a SW-M Steel rack. The rack is super-strong and mounts over the plastic Triumph plate for a rugged mounting solution. You can opt for the slightly lighter Alu-Rack, but I like the look of the Steel rack and the lower price.
BDry Spec Drybag saddle bags with SW-MOTECH side carriers and City tank Bag.
Dry Spec drybag saddle bags with SW-MOTECH side carriers and City tank Bag. The Coocase top box is mounted to a SW-MOTECH Steel Rack.

DrySpec Saddlebags & DrySpec Duffle
A lot of ADV riders opt for Hard Cases, like the SW-MOTECH Trax Boxes or the GIVI Trekker Cases. I went with more street-oriented Givi E-22 Side Cases for road and touring. But for real off-road trips, I opt for soft side luggage for two reasons. One, the DrySpec Saddlebags will not get damaged in a fall, and two there is no risk of getting a leg crushed underneath the boxes in a fall or having my calf come in contact with the front of a box when I have to dab my foot while in motion.
The DrySpec Saddlebags & DrySpec Duffle are both totally immersible and sturdy enough to over-pack. They are small, but that just forces me to pack light. The integrated mounting straps are really secure and easy to install.
Tool Tube
Tool Tube

Tool Tube
The space between the side carrier and the right side of the Tiger is occupied by the exhaust, but there is lots of space on the left side for something. That something I chose was a Tool Tube. I put extra tools, a small can of chain lube and a few other items in their for safe keeping.

Comfort

MRA Spoiler Blade and GPS Mount.
MRA Spoiler Blade and GPS Mount.

MRA X-creen Sport Clamp-on Air Spoiler
I get a ton of questions about the spoiler blade I have mounted on the Tiger’s stock windscreen. A lot of people have replaced the stocker screen with MRA or Givi screens, but I like the look of the stock screen, and with the addition of the adjustable MRA X-creen spolier blade, I am perfectly happy with the way it manages wind. I wrote a complete review of the MRA X-Creen earlier when I first mounted one on my Sprint RS. A great option.
roxROX Bar Risers
Standing is a big part of off-road riding. The stock bar mounts were okay, but the reach when standing was a bit far and I was also hoping to find a better bar position that alleviated the cramp I get in my upper back. The ROX risers are nicely made and offer a wide range of adjustability with two points of rotational movement. Now, I can stand naturally when riding off road, but the back cramp is still there. I just can’t seem to find a position that helps this problem. I will continue to work with the ROX risers to find that solution.

Electronics

RAM Mounts and X-Grip Phone Holder
RAM Mounts and arms reliably hold my GoPro, iPhone and GPS. There are so many options that it forces you to get creative about where to mount the RAM ball and then which RAM arms to use for your particular needs.
The X-Grip has proven to be a secure and easy mount for my iPhone 5 and 6, even when riding single-track trails on my KLX. Just be sure to use the RAM Tether on rough terrain.

GPS Holder with RAM ball.
GPS Holder with RAM ball.

SW-Motech GPS Mount
This Mount positions your GPS (or other device) right smack dab in the middle of the windscreen, just above the instruments using custom bracket and a RAM ball and arm. It’s a perfect solution to prevent having a GPS cluttering your handlebars. It is high quality and mounts easily.
Tank Bag Power
Click the title link to see various electrified tank bag options. I mentioned the tank bag system I have that uses a Euro plug-to-SAE cord a SAE-to-Cigarette socket to power the tank bag. Either option is a good one. Having power in your tank bag is a necessity in today’s e-world.

Tires

tiger-mitas-oem
Mitas 50/50 tire on top. Metzeler 90/10 tire on bottom.

Mitas E-07
I wrote a complete review of the Mitas E-07 50/50 tires. In a nutshell, these tires are great and will allow you to go places you never thought you would. For the Tiger Roadie, order the 110 front tire to avoid the ridiculous oversteer. Order the standard (not Dakar) version for the 800.
Mitas Terra Force
I have not mounted these 90/10 dual sport tires yet, so keep an eye out next year for a full review.
 


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Product Review: Mitas E-07 Dakar Dual Sport Tires

Mitas-bikeMy 2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx has proven its awesomeness, both on the street and off-road. To gain even more confidence in rough terrain, I swapped the stock Metzeler Tourance Next (90% road/10% off-road) tires for a set of Mitas E-07 Dakar Dual Sport/Adventure bike 50/50 buns.
Mitas (pronounced Me-tass, think “Meet us”) has been around for a while as a maker of agricultural tires, but also manufactures vintage, moped, scooter, flat track, speedway, street and off-road motorcycle tires and is now becoming one of the go-to tires for Adventure (ADV) bikes.
Since I have not tried the most well-known players on the ADV/DS tire spectrum, I cannot make a direct comparison. So, the review is of my impressions of this tire only.
Disclosure: Even though I bought the first “Dakar” set from Twisted Throttle, MotoRace/Mitas generously supplied me with the second “Standard” set so I was using the correct tire for my weight and bike. See more about the different versions below.

The OEM Tire

The Metzeler Tourance Next tires did okay on the track.
The Metzeler Tourance Next tires did okay on the track. www.owenstrackdayphotos.com

On the street, the Metzeler Tourances were fine, but felt numb. This became even more apparent during a track day where the Tourance tires could not communicate well enough to instill much confidence. Grip was good though; I managed to corner hard enough to mangle both of the Tiger’s footpeg feelers.

Why the Tire Swap?

The Metzelers were also fine for the easy packed and semi-packed graded roads, but the lack of feedback made me wonder whether I was about to push the front tire right out from under the bike on gravely surfaces like I did on the Multistrada last year.
Another reason for the swap to more off-road worthy tires was for an intermediate-level ADV course I was taking with Jimmy Lewis at the Dirt Daze rally in Lake George.
After talking with knowledgeable ADV friends, I decided on the Mitas E-07 50/50s. Reviews suggest that they would provide good mileage, fine road handling and wet weather traction, as well as really good off-road capabilities.
standThe aggressive tread suggests that they will climb anything I plan to tackle, but I wondered just how good they’ll be on the street. I had them mounted just before I was to take a 1500 mile trip to North Carolina, so I was about to find out.

Pavement Performance

The wandering feel of a knobbie-type tire on pavement takes some getting used to. I ride my KLX 250 on the street at a sporting pace with full knobbies, so I am comfortable with how an off-road tire feels when cornering on the road. Despite the usual weird sense that the tires are about to slip out from under you (they won’t), the E-07s provide plenty of grip on both dry and wet pavement.
I did 1400 miles through VA and NC, including a run of Deal’s Gap and the Cherolhala and had a blast. That was with the bike being loaded with camping gear. No, the E-07s aren’t as sure-footed as a road tire and I wouldn’t do a track day on them, but they were absolutely fine as a street tire.
Whine and Vibes
One thing you will notice when riding with these tires on pavement is the high-pitched whine and the added vibration caused by the aggressive tread. I like a quiet tire, so this was a compromise I was going to have to tolerate in order to enjoy the more capable off-road qualities. It turns out I got used to it pretty quickly.
Oversteer
However, it took me longer to acclimate to the abrupt turn-in and oversteer. To keep the bike from dropping too quickly and too far into a lean, I had to countersteer on the outside handlebar. Mike, a student of mine, also commented on the quick steering characteristics after he mounted E-07s on his Super Tenere.
This quick-turning behavior is to be expected from an off-road tire where nimble maneuvering is a priority over stability. There is always a compromise.
The remedy is to mount a wider front tire: I inadvertently ordered a 110 front tire from Motorace instead of the stock 100 size tire. This proved to be a very good thing as the wider front tire took care of the annoying oversteering problem. So, Tiger XR owners, order the 110 front!
Stiff Ride
If you mount dual sport tires, whether they are 90/10 or 50/50, you will have to endure a stiffer  ride compared to a street-only tire like the Dunlop Road Smart. The carcass has to be stiff to handle rocky and rough terrain you’re likely to encounter. Again, compromises must be made.

Riding Off-Road

Mitas-bike-2My first off-road excursion with the E-07s was, um, interesting. Here I had a set of very aggressive tractor-like tires, yet the Tiger’s traction control kicked in almost as soon as I tried accelerating up the first gravel hill. Okay, I had forgotten to switch to “Off-Road” mode, so the TC was on full “nanny”. But, still. The 90/10 Metzelers would have at least allowed me to make it up the hill. Switching to the correct mode helped, but the TC was still going nuts.
I now realize that the Tiger’s TC electronics must have needed to re-calibrate itself for the new tires. I never had that problem again.
I can tell you with great confidence that these tires rock off-road! The Mitas tires give me so much more confidence that I now tackle some pretty gnarly terrain that I never thought I’d experience on the Tiger. This is good…and bad. Bad because it would be easy to go places that the tires can handle, but that the bike may not. Easy there, Tiger.
In New England, most of our ADV-type riding consists of packed dirt, lose gravel, rocky outcroppings and mud. We don’t have a lot of sand, so your results may vary in those conditions.

Pressures

I experimented with tire pressures to try and help soften the rough pavement ride from the stiff Dakar carcass. I also wanted to find a pressure that will balance road wear and off-road grip without needing to air-down for dirt and then air-up later for pavement. The stiffer Dakar tire did well when set at mid-to-high twenty pounds of pressure. I expected the tire to wear faster, but the ride was better and off-road traction was great.

Wear

wearWith all this awesome off-road grip, you’d expect the Mitas E-07s to wear quickly on the street. Well, you’d be wrong. I hear that the Conti TKC-80s only last about 3,000 miles. In contrast, I put 4,500 miles on the Dakar set and there was at least another 2,000 miles left when I decided to change the rear. See photos.
I changed the rear before it was completely worn because the flattened profile became annoying enough that I made the swap to a new rear. I would have been happy enough riding these things down to the wear bars, but I had a new rear in the garage, so made the swap early.
When new, the E-07 has a stabilizing bridge that wears down flush to the center strip in about 1500-2000 miles. The 150 section Heidenau also has a center strip, but it is much wider than the Mitas, making the Heidenau not as good for climbing once the center lugs wear flat to the bridge bars. In contrast, the Mitas has great centerline grip throughout its whole life.
Note that the wear bars are NOT at the center of the tire. The wear bars are the deeper bars that are off center (see photo).
Update: The rear tire now has 6,500 miles and still has meat left on it for another 1500 miles, I bet. The front tire is at the wear bars at about 7,000 miles and the blocks have worn unevenly and cupped. That’s at 28 pounds front and rear.

Dakar versus Standard Versions

When I bought the first set of tires I did not know the difference between the Dakar and the Standard model. The Dakar version has an additional belt to add more durability and stiffness, which makes sense for heavier riders on big(ger) ADV bikes, like the R1200GS who mount hard luggage and load their bikes to the hilt. That’s not me.
The “Standard” version makes more sense for a lightweight rider on a Tiger 800. That said, there is an argument for mounting the stiffer tire on bikes with cast (as opposed to spoked) wheels to protect them from getting damaged over sharp rocks.
NOTE: Twisted Throttle has only the “Dakar” version of the E-07 in stock as of this writing, but I’m sure they will get you the “Standard” version if you ask.

Buy These Tires…If You Can Really Use Them.

Mitas-ZThe Mitas E-07 looks tough as nails, rides well on both wet and dry pavement and does really, really well off-road. I didn’t think I’d like them as much as I do. I say, go for it!
But, before you decide to buy these or any 50/50 tire, be realistic about whether you really need this level of off-road capability. Sure, they look cool, but if your riding is 95% road, then the 90/10 tires will likely suit your needs just fine and be more pavement-riding friendly.
TT_Homepage_logo
Buy your Dakar versions tires from Twisted Throttle and help support this blog. They also have quality luggage & racks, riding gear, electronics, auxiliary lighting, bike protection, and much more. Happy shopping!


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Product Review: TCX X-Desert Boot

TCX-X-Desert-1After riding in a pair of vintage Fox off-road boots for several years, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Enter the TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex boots.
The X-Desert name suggests a hard-core boot intended for super-rugged adventures far from home. In reality, the X-Desert is a kinder, gentler boot for less daunting conditions. As a matter of fact, TCX categorizes the X-Desert as a Touring/Adventure boot that is found under the “Touring Line” section of their website. And this makes sense. Even though the X-Desert looks burly it is made for street riders who want the look and near protection of a full off-road boot, but with the comfort of a touring boot.
And this is why I chose them. While I ride hard in gnarly conditions, I’m tend to mostly ride on fire roads and intermediate-level trails. Also, it’s not unusual that I need to stand and walk for a period of time, which makes these boots a good fit for me.
Speaking of fit, I wear a size 9.5 or 10 street shoe and the TCX 44 fits great. My feet are on the narrow side so their “normal” width is a bit too roomy, but not a problem.
To achieve this level of comfort, TCX foregos the ski-boot stiffness found in true off-road boots for a flexible carcass and sole. The X-Desert is indeed a lot more flexible and less protective than a fully dedicated off-road boot, like the Pro 2.1. The X-Desert toe box is rigid, but the middle part of the boot is not, so a well-placed rock or stick will hurt.
Dual-sport-HomeI’ve worn these boots in a wide range of conditions, including a two-day MotoMark1 Overland Confidence Course in and around the Great Smoky Mountains. I give them high marks for comfort and looks (when clean) and they were great for both paved and dirt riding. While there, I tested the waterproof claim by standing in a small pond up to my ankles for a few minutes and my socks remained dry.
The only criticism I have is that the flexible sole does not offer the support needed when standing on gnarled footpegs for long periods of time. A traditionally stiff off-road boot provides a rigid sole that spreads the load across the whole foot. But, that’s a small trade-off for being able to walk like a normal person.
I’ll be using these boots for ice riding in a few weeks. I expect the Gore-Tex to keep my feet dry and comfortable and the lighter weight should allow my legs to withstand hours of leg-out riding.
The X-Desert’s durability has so far been good, with all fasteners and buckles holding up fine. Time will tell whether the plastic receivers for the aluminum buckles will withstand the rigors of use, but so far, so good.
The X-Desert are a great touring companion and are a perfect choice for the ADV rider who has no intention of jumping their 600-pound GS over boulders or fallen trees. If you do plan on tackling more advanced conditions, you will want to consider a boot with more protection (and stiffness).
Recommended!


From the Revzilla product page:
TCX-X-Desert-boxFeatures:

  • Full grain leather with GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane
  • PU ankle protection with carbon look insert
  • PU gearshift pad
  • PU shin guard
  • Suede heat and wear protection on inside calves
  • Reinforced PU heel
  • 3 adjustable aluminum buckles
  • Anatomical and replaceable footbed
  • New Enduro sole with specific profile for maximum grip

This is NOT a paid post, but I am writing this review to thank Randy and Dave from Velocity Sports Group for hooking me up with these boots.
Velocity logo


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Product Review: Leatt STX-RR Neck Brace

Ken_Leatt_STX-RR-croppedI’ve had several people ask about the Leatt STX-RR brace that I wear on the racetrack. Well, here is my review.

Here's the illustration Leatt publishes on their website arguing for the use.
Here’s the illustration Leatt publishes on their website arguing for its use.

Should You Wear a Neck Brace?

I decided to invest in a Leatt STX-RR neck brace after a recent medical scare prompted me to do all I can to protect my neck from trauma. But, is the Leatt STX-RR neck brace a worthwhile investment for you?
A neck brace is not a piece of equipment that many motorcycle riders consider. However, it’s common to see motocross and off-road racers wearing neck braces. Do they know something we street riders and roadracers don’t?
While many people claim that there is not enough evidence saying they are effective, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from off-road racers that neck braces work. That said, there are stories around of broken collarbones that may have been the result of contact with the brace. Even if these stories have some truth, I’ll take a broken collarbone over a broken neck anytime.
Another reason few road riders wear a neck brace is that they are expensive (See below).

The Carbon Leatt STX-RR
The Carbon Leatt STX-RR

The Leatt prevents hyper-extension and hyperflexion in a crash.
Click the photo to see an animation showing how the Leatt prevents hyper-extension and hyperflexion.

How the Leatt STX-RR Works

The RR brace rests on the shoulders and features two scapular wings in the back that straddle the aero hump on my racing leather suits. There is also a hinged sternum support wing at the front that allows me to tuck behind the windscreen.
During a crash, the brace prevents the head from snapping forward, back and sideways to a point where neck injury can occur. It is essentially a table surface that the bottom rim of the helmet contacts during a crash. When the helmet contacts the brace, the energy from the head and helmet is redirected to the shoulders, upper back and chest to protect the cervical spine.

More About the Leatt STX-RR

The STX-RR is the racing version of he STX Road model. The road model can be used on the racetrack, but the RR has a few features that make it a better choice for track riding.
The STX-RR is made from superlight carbon fiber and weighs only about one and a half pounds, compared to the less expensive and heavier fiberglass STX Road model . The RR version also differs from the STX Road model by utilizing a solid fixed ring setup with two emergency releases, which requires the rider to slip the brace over the head. The street STX Road features a locking hinge design that allows the rider to fit it by clamping it around the neck.
The RR uses a lighter, simpler spacer fitting system compared to the street version, which comes with several different sized inserts to customize fit. Both models come with optional straps for securing the brace in place. I used the straps for several track days, but it takes more time to attach them. Besides, I feel confident that the brace will stay in place without the straps.
However, the most significant difference between the RR and the Road versions is that the RR model has a lower profile, which means that it is farther away from the base of the helmet. This reduces effectiveness somewhat compared to the Road version, but the lower profile, in conjunction with the hinged front wing, allows the rider to move more freely when going from hanging off in corners to tucking fully behind a windscreen on the straights.

Maybe MM93 should consider a Leatt brace?
Maybe MM93 should consider a Leatt brace?

Fitment

Fitting the brace properly requires adjustment of the swiveling scapular wings, which are marked for precise degree adjustment, as well as removal or placement of front, rear and side spacer pads. Measuring the distance from the bottom of the helmet to the top of the brace is important for the brace to be most protective and comfortable.
After a session on the racetrack, I determined that the brace was sitting too close to my helmet, preventing me from turning my head fully in certain corners. Removing the shoulder spacer pads solved the problem. The combination of light weight and proper fitment means I can ride without noticing that I even have the brace on.
Amazon labels the RR as being size Large/XL. But, it appears that here is only that single size. Leatt says the one size fits riders from approx. 140 to 225 pounds. That is the size I wear and I am 15 pounds and 5′ 10″.

Living with the Leatt

I’ve used the Leatt for most of the track day and racing season. People often ask me whether the brace restricts my head movement. I ride a Triumph Street Triple R as my track day bike. The upright position of the Striple means I have little issue with restricted movement. Only in very tight corners do I feel the brace make contact with my helmet. However, when I ride a supersport motorcycle, I find the brace to be more restrictive. But, I suspect that with further fiddling with the adjustments, it can work on nearly any bike.
The one thing you need to consider when investing in any protective gear is that it won’t work unless you actually use it. Putting the brace on is very simple, but there were several times when I  forgot to slip the brace over my head before strapping on my helmet. Once I realized that I forgot the brace I had to take my helmet off, put the brace on and replace the helmet again. Grrrr.

The Leatt STX-RR
The Leatt STX-RR box

Co$t

The Leatt STX RR retails for $549.00, which is $150.00 more than the STX Road, but the lightweight carbon construction and articulating sternum section make the RR a better choice for track day riders and roadracers.
So, you have to determine for yourself whether a neck brace is worth the cost and inconvenience. Knowing that the neck is vulnerable to all sorts of loads that can lead to lifelong injury or death, I think it’s worth considering.
Have you crashed while wearing a neck brace? If so, how did it work?
Buy the Leatt STX-RR or STX-Road by clicking on the links below and help support this website.

 


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Product Review: MRA X-creen Add-on Spoiler Blade

Featured-Product-Photo-MRAI get a lot of questions about which products I use, so I’m adding a new blog category where I can share some product reviews. Many of the products I am writing about are ones I actually use and can recommend. If I have reservations about a product, rest assured I will tell you.

First, a Word About Twisted Throttle

Many of the products are available through Twisted Throttle. This is because I have a special relationship with the company, so I get an nice discount (No, I can’t get YOU that discount, yeesh). Understand that I don’t use crappy products, even if they are discounted! Thankfully Twisted Throttle sells some of the best, highest quality motorcycle products around. 
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Product Review: MRA X-creen Add-on Spoiler Blade

The MRA X-creen (yep, it’s spelled without an “s”) is a spoiler blade that either clamps or bolts onto your existing windscreen. I bought the MRA for additional wind protection on my Sprint RS street bike, but soon figured out that it works great clamped to the flyscreen of my Triumph Street Triple track bike. I can adjust it upward for colder days and when my neck gets tired from windblast. I can also move it downward for maximum airflow on warm days.

MRA X-creen TOUR clamp-on
MRA X-creen TOUR clamp-on

MRA X-creen SPORT clamp-on
MRA X-creen SPORT clamp-on

The X-creen comes in two sizes, the smaller Sport version and the taller and wider Tour version. The larger Tour model comes specifically with either clamps or bolt-on hardware. Both models are available in clear or smoke. I have the clear version for my Sprint RS and smoke for my Street Triple.


Installing the X-creen

Option 1: Clamp-on, Clamp-off

Assembling the adjustment mechanism to the spoiler blade is pretty easy. You have to first decide whether you want to use the clamps (this is what I use) or use the bolt-on hardware for a permanent installation. The clamp-on version allows you to move the blade from one bike to another. The clamp hardware is really nicely made and utilizes rubber inserts that will not scratch your windscreen (or paint in the case of my Street Triple’s flyscreen).
Assembling the clamps involves placing the pivoting locking mechanism in the ends of the adjustment arms. This takes only a few minutes.
No, the clamp-on version will not go flying off as soon as you hit highway speeds. As a matter of fact, I’ve done 130 mph (on the racetrack of course) and the blade stayed securely in place. See the video below for proof!
General Installation Instructions can be found HERE.

Option 2: Drill Baby, Drill!

If you choose to bolt the blade on permanently, you’ve got more work to do. Specifically, you’ll have to drill two holes in your existing windscreen. The kit comes with a template for locating the holes. If this makes you queasy, Twisted Throttle sells MRA replacement windscreens with the X-creen already bolted on for specific bikes. Even though replacement screens cost a bit more, some people may feel better having MRA do the drilling and installing at the factory.
Installation instructions for drilling can be found HERE.
If you decide later to use the X-creen on a different bike, but don’t want to drill any holes, you can convert a bolt-on screen to a clamp on screen using a special conversion hardware kit. Note that this is for the TOUR version only. The SPORT version comes with both clamp-on and bolt-on hardware.
Four videos on how to install the X-creen can be found on the Twisted Throttle Product Page.


How Does it Look?

The X-creen is unobtrusive, and dare I say, I think it’s even attractive, especially on the Sprint RS where it fits nicely on the stock screen and isn’t out of place on this sport touring bike.
On the Street Triple, it is a bit less graceful looking, but I think it looks as good or even better than many other windscreen options, including the Triumph factory flyscreen visor kit, which requires you to drill the flyscreen (Yuck), almost completely covers it over (why did I buy a flyscreen to begin with?), and doesn’t add very much wind protection. Oh, and it’s kinda spendy.
But, judge for yourself. Here are some photos of the MRA X-creen on a Ducati Multistrada, my Triumph Sprint RS, and my Triumph Street Triple R.

The X-creen mounted on a 2007 Ducati Multistrada. Model: Jeannine Condon
The X-creen mounted on a 2007 Ducati Multistrada.

The X-creen mounted on my Sprint RS
The X-creen mounted on my 2000 Sprint RS

The X-creen mounted on my Street Triple R track bike.
The X-creen mounted on my Street Triple R track bike.


Adjusting the X-creen

Adjusting the screen when it’s new requires some rough handling…sort of like when you replace face shields on Arai helmets: you feel like you’re going to break the ratcheting mechanism, but it’s okay…that’s just the way it is. Thankfully, after a bit of use, the mechanism loosens up and I can now adjust the screens while sitting on the bike (not while moving of course). All you do is turn the teardrop-shaped locks until they are pointed sideways and grab both sides of the screen and rotate into the position you want. The adjustability is almost infinite.

The X-creen in the upper position. (it can go higher, still)
The X-creen in the upper position.

The X-creen in the lower position.
The X-creen in the lower position.

The X-creen clamp-on mounts.
The X-creen clamp-on mounts.

A view from the saddle.
The X-creen from the saddle.

How Does It Work?

Once positioned, rotate the locks and the screen won’t move. Trust me! I’ve been using the X-creen on the racetrack all season and it doesn’t move even at 130mph! See the X-creen in action in the video below.

As far as wind noise goes, The Sport version seems to be perfect for the Sprint. I do notice a bit more wind noise with the blade set vertically, but simply tipping it back a bit makes any wind noise go away. I’ve never felt any buffeting, at all. The fact is that the X-creen is so easy to adjust and has almost infinite positions that if I ever had excessive noise or buffeting, I’d simply try a slightly different position. I love having that versatility.


So, there you have it. The MRA Sport X-creen is a great accessory that offers a tone of versatility to you touring, sport touring, adventure or sport bike. It retails for $114.99 from Twisted Throttle.
Let me know what your opinion is of this product. And ask me any questions you have about the X-creen by posting in the comment section below. I’ll reply so everyone can benefit.


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