Friday, November 29, 2013

Touratech Zega Pro Panniers and Dual Sport Riding Techniques DVD

Part of my effort to embark on more off-road adventures is to properly equip my bike. The other part is to increase my skills. My first step was to purchase Dual Sport Riding Techniques on DVD from my friends at Aerostich. This video packs a lot of information in a very compact format (30 minutes), so it requires watching several times. It begins with a series of drills teaching the rider how to maneuver their adventure bike at slow speed. This sounds far simpler than it is. After watching the video a few times, I headed out to a friend's house to practice.

The property I used is covered with grass and has several trees and small bumps that made an outstanding obstacle course. By putting weight on the outside peg and using my legs to support my body weight, I was able to take pressure off my throttle hand. This was important to maintain even speed in slow, tight turns. I quickly realized I can turn left much easier than I can turn right, so I focused on that skill by doing loops around and around trees in smaller radius circles.

Once I felt I had a handle on that, I began doing figure 8's as well as riding up a small slope, then making a tight turn at the top and going back down again. Graduating yet again, I moved to the other side of the property where I roamed around fir trees and a small orchard, over bumps and roots. It wasn't fast; the whole point was slow control. I challenged myself to making tighter turns, and was rewarded with being able to go anywhere I wanted through the trees.

By the time I got home, I was wiped out. I was no doubt tense because of the unfamiliarity of the process, and I'm sure I'll be able to relax more as I practice. But after just a 45 minute practice session, I could tell that my skills had noticeably improved. I look forward to more practice sessions in the near future.

My next step is to get wider foot pegs and install Heidenau K60 50/50 tires.

Special Note: After a quick email to Touratech USA's office in Seattle, they said I would not be able to keep my Givi top case once I installed my Touratech side racks. Fortunately, they were wrong. I had to remove the top rack in order to mount the side racks, but once they were in place, I was easily able to put the Givi top rack back on. This means I can have a hybrid luggage system mounted on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650. I like my Givi V46 top case and was very happy to keep it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Soon: Touratech and Heidenau

2014 will mark a change in my riding, an evolution if you will. Since getting my Suzuki GSX-R750 back in August of 2012, I am viewing my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 in a different light. I see it more as an adventure-tourer rather than a street bike. As noted in some previous posts, I've dabbled in off-road riding a few times in the past but never really got the hang of it. Maneuvering a 520 pound bike loaded down with gear along a loose gravel or muddy road is not easy. Some lunatics actually enjoy it.

But there's something to it. There is the sense of exploration, of being able to follow routes and roads that are less traveled. I've always had a sense of exploration in my life and in my younger days I used hiking and backpacking to fulfill that desire. Today, I carry my tent and sleeping bag on my bike instead of my back.

During this winter, I will be finishing the transformation of my V-Strom into a true adventure-tourer. It already has the skid plate and crash bars. I already have my tent (Hilleberg Namatj 3) and sleeping bag (Marmot Never Summer 0 degree down-filled mummy) and various other camping gear. The final steps will be switching from plastic Givi luggage to aluminum Zega Pro panniers from Touratech and 50/50 knobby tires from Heidenau.

I've already received my Zega Pro's. I placed the order on a Sunday afternoon and received side cases, rack, and accessories the following Tuesday. I chose the 31L / 38L Zega Pro panniers in anodized silver aluminum, and they are very sexy. It's hard to describe how an aluminum box can be so attractive until you see them in person. They are very well made, too. Expect a review of the installation process as well as another report once they're on the bike.

For tires, I'll be switching from 90/10 road tires like my long-mileage standbys, Metzeler Tourances, over to 50/50 knobby (but street-legal) Heidenau K60 "Scouts". They are also high-mileage tires but offer added grip in gravel, mud, etc.

Where am I going with all this? I have several trip ideas planned out, many of which are off-the-beaten-path routes in my home state of Oregon, while others are multi-week trips that approach 5,000 miles or more. Next spring, I plan to take an off-road riding course to jack up my skills. Gear is one thing, training and skills are perhaps even more important.

Stay tuned.