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Off-Road: Staying Safe on the Track and on the Trail


Going off-road is one of the most fun activities that can be had on a bike, whether it's at the motocross track or a long ride through the wilderness or desert. After all, that's half the point of the bike right? A bike is all about the lack of limitations, the flexibility to ride through any terrain, the freedom to go off the beaten path where 4 wheels can't take you.

We hate to be the one raining on your dirt-paved parade, but as always, fun only comes after safety. Trail or dirt riding is highly technical and then there's that added factor of unexpected obstacles (that?s all part of the fun!). When riding off road, you may find that you tip over more due to rough track surfaces and obstacles, but the good news is that the accidents tend to result in only minor injuries (as opposed to street riding collisions).

If you haven't already, take a read at our street riding safety tips. A lot of the same tips apply no matter what kind of riding you're doing. But going off-road does require a very different set of rules. In this post, we'll focus on safety tips for off-road riding.

Don't ride above your ability

Choose the correct bike: This is the first thing! Riding a bike that's too large (or too small) means you won't be able to control it as well. And that's especially important when going over uneven ground.

Off-road or dirt bikes also have a different seating position than street bikes, so it's very important to make sure you have a bike that suits you. Dirt bikes tend to have a higher seat height, but your feet should still be able to just touch the ground. And when you stand up on the footpegs, you shouldn't be pulling up on the handlebars.

For beginners, we recommend these off-road/adventure bikes:

- Kawasaki KLR250
- Yamaha WR250X
- Husqvarna TE310
- BMW F800GS
- Triumph Tiger 800XC

Ride within your limit: If you're a beginner, start small. Find a riding group or riding partner that you're comfortable with and that is at the same relative skill level as you so you can take your time and not feel like the slowest guy in the group. We've seen a lot of ego take a bike and ride to the ground in a bad way! It's okay, you?ll work your way up to the big boy stuff. And that's half the fun of riding anyway: to feel the gradual improvement and sense of accomplishment and to share stories with your buddies over the camp fire or local watering hole.

Wear the Right Gear

Just like on the streets, it is important to wear the correct protective gear for off-road riding. But going off-road has its own set of requirements. When you're riding off-road, you never know what kind of obstacles you'll come across, whether it's loose gravel on the trail, tree roots, a sand patch, or a rut. Any of these could make your tires slide and cause you to lose control.  And furthermore, having an accident on a trail could mean hitting your head against rocks or other objects. This could cause serious injury even at low speeds.

Here is the gear you should always be suited up with:

A helmet: This is the most important piece of gear and we highly recommend splurging for a quality one. The helmet should fit snug. Dual sport helmets have a visor edge to shield from the sun and debris. A dirt bike helmet has an open eye port, so it's lighter and you have the option of wearing goggles. But if you're going for a helmet that can be used for the street as well, look for one that is DOT approved (approved by US Department of Transportation).

Gloves: Gloves will not only protect your precious skin in a fall, they'll also protect your hands from rocks, debris, and other flying obstacles you may encounter. It's impossible to find a glove that does it all, so use one that suits your riding conditions and the weather (hot, cold, wet) that you'll be riding in.

More in-depth read: Beginner's Guide to Motorcycle Gloves

Goggles: If the helmet doesn't have a face shield, goggles will protect your eyes from dirt and dust, branches, and any debris that may fly your way. Goggles with tear-offs are a great option. When you're hit with a face full of dust, simply tear off one of the layers and have a clear field of vision again.

Boots: Boots will provide protection for your lower legs, ankles, and feet. Most off-road boots are designed to be worn over the pants.

Jackets and Pants: Off-road riding jackets and pants are specially designed to be comfortable, lightweight, and flexible. They're usually made of a light textile in a highly breathable material (this is important so you don't overheat on your excursion!), and don?t offer as much protection as street gear does. If you're going to be riding split-shift on the street and off-road, then go for a higher abrasion resistant dual-sport or ADV riding jacket and pants instead of purely off-road apparel. 

Protective Gear: Because the jackets and pants don't come with too much built-in protection, dirt bike riders typically wear their armor separately. Chest protectors, knee braces, and knee & elbow pads are common additional protective gear worn by MX and Off-Road riders.

Be prepared for the journey

If you're heading out for a longer length adventure ride, it is absolutely essential to make sure you have packed the correct supplies. Even if you have all the protective gear, not having the supplies you need could quickly mean the difference between a pleasurable adventure ride and serious trouble.

Stay hydrated: Probably the MOST important thing you can do is to stay properly hydrated during your ride. Check out the highly performance-focused hydration packs from American Kargo that are designed to fit over the protective guards and allows you easy sipping while riding. This is a MUST, we say.

Bring the proper supplies: At a minimum, we recommend bringing a GPS, an extra gas tank, water, and a tool kit to do repairs such as flat tires.

Be prepared for changing weather: On a longer ride, the weather can change in an instant and you need to be prepared for any possible weather conditions. Rain can drench you in an instant and turn your ride into a complete misery. Pack a rain shell to keep yourself comfortable and dry. Motorcycle rain gear is designed to keep you dry while still providing ventilation.

Be ready for any temperature swings with base layers and mid layers to insulate the body from the cold and wind. Look for moisture-wicking material that will aid in cooling as you ride.

If you're on an overnight or multi-day adventure: Look for small compact tents and sleeping bags (down is the lightest and warmest). Pack camp stoves and non-perishable food (freeze-dried meals are good options). Even if you're not on a long trip, packing snacks is always a good idea in case you run into trouble and lose time.

Have a first aid kit: As most injuries off-road tend to be minor (if you're wearing the correct protective gear, that is!), it is handy to learn basic first aid kit. Your kit should contain supplies to bandage scrapes and treat burns.

Use the buddy system: Always ride with a buddy or in a group if you can. If you're riding alone out in the desert and get into an accident, it could be a long, long time before anyone even realizes you're in trouble (especially if you're not supposed to be due back until a certain time).

Conclusion

With these safety tips in mind, go out there and have fun! Riding in the trail or dirt present a whole new slew of challenges but that's all part of the fun. Don't be discouraged if you're a beginner and falling over a lot. Just practice safety and wear the right protective gear at all times, and go out there and ride with confidence!
By Daniel Relich


2016 BMW Motorcycles We Are Drooling Over



We're back today with yet another installment of Bikes We Wish We Had In Our Garage... oh oops, I mean... favorite bikes of 2016 (see Yamaha and Kawasaki). Our dreams are getting bigger, as the focus today is on BMW!

BMW is generally viewed as a luxury brand that focuses on high performance and every day luxury while pushing the boundaries of hot new technology. Their motorcycles are no different, and as such, while they are pricey, you do get what you pay for. 2016 doesn't boast a lot of big changes in their lineup but we still have our favorite models we've always loved through the years.

Alright, let's get into it!

R1200GS


Oh man, is this the most drool-worthy adventure bike or what? Not a lot of bikes garner visions of trans-continental adventures as the R1200GS. This is the bike that started it all and defined a segment. It features an 1170cc four-stroke flat twin engine that delivers an incredible horsepower of 125. A new water cooling concept has been integrated seamlessly, which allows even greater engine efficiency and more powers.

The R1200GS comes with the option for a Standard or Premium package. The Standard package gives you Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment, cruise control, hand guards, heated grips, and saddlebag mounts. With the Premium package, you?ll also get in addition the LED headlight, tire pressure monitor, On-Board Computer Pro, Ride Mode Pro, and GPS mount. Both packages come with Rain or Road rider modes, but the Premium package also adds Dynamic, Enduro, Enduro Pro, and ABS Pro modes for a more sporty feel.

Also new for 2016 is the special Triple Black edition that comes in a virtually all-black finish. We love the black-on-black tank, anodized black forks, cross-spoke wheels with black glass rims, and blacked-out powertrain. The bike is rounded out with grey accents on the front and rear frame, engine, gearbox, and swingarm. This bike exudes a powerfully daring and sexy presence.

Prices start at $16,495 (and $600 more for the Triple Black). BMW?s are definitely not known for being budget friendly, but as a bike that does it all (and as we love to say), you do get what you pay for!

S1000RR


The new S1000RR is super exciting! I remember when the rumor mill was churning out talks of a BMW M division engineered superbike and I couldn't believe what I was reading (it is the internet, after all...). I was so hopeful the rumors would be true because I absolutely adore the M series cars from BMW and I know a BMW superbike would be epic. Ep-ic! And hey, it is.

Not only did the S1000RR get an entire new facelift, it also got a technology revamp too. In fact, it's been completely revised down to the very last detail! Every last bit has been redesigned to increase power and optimize riding. 

Major changes include: a new lighter, more efficient exhaust design; new suspension set-up; a leaner, more symmetrical chassis design; and new instrument panel. New features include: a new electromotive throttle actuator for 100% electronic control of the throttle valves; Shift Assistant Pro (allows shifting without using the clutch); Rain, Sport and Race ride modes; and Dynamic Damping Control that adjust the suspension automatically.

All this new redesign resulted in a bike with a more horsepower than the previous version (a whopping 199 hp output!), while being a full 8.8 lbs lighter.  This definitely translates into increased power. The S1000RR was already a fierce machine, but now it's a true unbeatable superbike.

MSRP starting at $15,695 (including ABS).

R1200RT


I first fell in lust with the R1200RT after a few long touring trips up the California coast line with some friends that worked for a BMW dealership and they were all rockin' R1200RT's. Coming from the sportbike world, I simply just didn't get it back then when I looked at these awkwardly large machines that seems so down on horsepower. In my 30s, well, I get it and I want a R1200RT like nobody's business.

This is a legendary bike that has defined the classic touring segment and now it comes with even more features for a smoother, more comfortable and controlled riding experience. This bike is designed for maximum comfort and safety, streamlined aerodynamics, and superior handling for long distance riding.

The R1200RT features a powerful 1,170cc air/water-cooled twin-cylinder boxer engine with an output of 125 horsepower, derived from the boxer unit on the R1200GS. But the R1200RT has a higher centrifugal mass on the crankshaft and alternator, which equals a smoother engine. The continuous main frame, agile chassis, and traction control system ASC offer even more stability and precise handling.

Riders can select Rain or Road ride modes at the touch of a button according to the weather and road condition. Special equipment features make the bike even more dynamic, including a semi-active electronic suspension that automatically adjusts to changing road surfaces, a gear shift assistant pro that allows for shifting up or down without using the clutch or throttle, and a Dynamic riding mode that allows for a more sporty feel.

At a MSRP starting at $18,145, this tourer is certainly an investment for those that want to eat up pavement on an asphalt adventure or simply ride in style to the office or on the weekends.

RnineT


Ex-cafe racer geeks unite! For those that are done with tinkering in the garage and building a custom racer with pieces from the 80's that doesn't ever seem to work right, then the RnineT is that off-the-showroom cafe race/roaster you've been looking for -- and more!

The RnineT (powered by an air/oil-cooled 1,170cc classic boxer unit) is a relatively new bike in the BMW Motorrad lineup. This minimalist, retro style roadster is a throwback to the classics but still has a contemporary appearance with the use of modern finishes and curves, and of course, all paired with top-class engineering expected from BMW.

The main selling point of this bike is that it's a perfect canvas for almost limitless options for customization. The rear frame is removable, as are the pillion pegs and sub frame. BMW accessories range also offer a few seat configurations, carbon body panels, and Akrapovic mufflers for the bike. The specially designed electrical system also allows you to easily swap out electrical accessories without worrying about wiring difficulties. There are also a number of specialist customizers who produce bolt-on parts for the R9T. You can truly take this bike and make it uniquely yours.

This bike breaks away from a fitting into a specific role or bike category. It is made for fun riding, pure and simple. This is a great option for those looking for an urban bike, but not necessarily interested in a cruiser, adventure, or sportbike. If you?re willing to shell out $15,095 for it, that is.

F800GS


And finally for an easier-to-swallow price for an adventure bike, we like the F800GS. In our opinion, the F800GS is a slightly more off-road focused adventure bike as compared to the R1200GS, as it isn't as comfortable on the road as the larger 1200.

The F800GS is powered by a 798cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke parallel twin engine. It offers a great throttle response and power delivery, with good fuel economy. The front end is suspended by an inverted fork, which makes this bike seriously fun for some adventure riding. The size of the bike is on the large side for dirt-bike standards, but still agile enough to ride off-road and speedy enough to use on the streets.

This is a bike designed for everyone, so no one has to miss out on the fun. It offers 4 different seat heights as well as an optional low-slung version, making it possible for shorter or less experienced riders to find their perfect height. Two different style variations are possible, each with different color design and accessories so you can get the bike more suited for you. The bike is also equipped with special features such as Normal, Comfort, and Sport riding modes, ASC traction control, and Electronic Suspension Adjustment.

At MSRP of $12,295, this is a more manageable cost for an adventure bike that takes you off the road as smoothly as on the streets.

Which of these bikes do you have your eyes on? Or are you lusting over another model? 

*all photos courtesy of BMW
By Daniel Relich


The Beginners Guide to Motorcycle Gloves


A good pair of motorcycle gloves is one of the most important riding gear you can own (next to a helmet). What happens if you were to fall or get into a crash? You would probably, without thinking, put your hand out to help break your fall. And now imagine that you were speeding down a road at 45 mph.

Yep, without the proper pair of gloves, I'm sure it doesn't take a strong imagination to envision what kind of damage that would do to your hands.

But aside from just protecting your precious skin in a fall (which we hope is a rare case), motorcycle gloves also help make your entire riding experience more comfortable by protecting your hands against the elements and road debris. We bet you probably didn't think that even insects impact could do damage to your hands at high speeds!

There's a very wide variety of motorcycle gloves out there and it may be overwhelming to pick the right one for your needs, but that's why we're here to give you a hand in the selection process. (Yes, pun fully intended.)

Functionality of Motorcycle Gloves

First, let's take a look at what makes motorcycle gloves.... well, motorcycle gloves.

Just like with motorcycle jackets, any ol' leather or work gloves won't do the trick. Please don't be stingy here!

Here are the common protection features in motorcycle gloves:

- Impact protection such as palm sliders, padding in impact areas, hardened knuckles
- Precurved construction for a comfortable natural grip
- Dexterity to allow use of the brake and clutch levers and gain better control of the bike
- Sturdy closures so the gloves doesn't fly off in a crash
- Long cuffs (called gauntlets) that overlap with the jacket to seal out wind
- Ventilation, insulation, and/or waterproofing for weather protection

These Alpinestars WR-3 Gore-Tex Gloves are super durable all-weather touring gloves. They are both 100% waterproof and highly breathable. 

To put it simply, motorcycle gloves are designed to protect in case of a crash and provide comfort while riding. Your hands are such an important part of your body that it is absolutely worth it to shell out the dough to make sure they're properly protected! 

Gloves for different riding styles

There is such a huge variety of gloves out on the market. The right pair for you will depend on your most typical riding style. Here we break down the differences and what features to look for in each: 

Race and aggressive sport: As this is the most intense kind of riding, gloves designed for this are the most highly technically constructed. Racing gloves typically have a lot of armor (knuckle patches and extra padding in high impact areas) and ventilation to keep you comfortable. Leather is always the best material in this case as it provides the most abrasion resistance. These gloves are always with a full gauntlet for maximum protection. In fact, this is even an requirement to ride on the race track!

No brand does race gear as well as Alpine Stars. Their GP Pro Leather Gloves are tested in their GPMoto program and offer supreme performance protection and comfort.

Street/Touring: This riding style is the most diverse, and so the gloves built for it are diverse too. In general, touring motorcycle gloves provide a great balance between crash protection, weather protection, and riding comfort (for your everyday commute or those long rides!). They are not as heavily padded/armored as racing gloves but still get the job done. 

Looks wise, touring gloves have simple and elegant styling without the loud race inspired design. They come in a range of cuff lengths from short to 3/4 to full gauntlet. Both leather or textile make good options. Leather is always a reliable classic choice, but more and more manufacturers are going with all textile construction on these because of the versatility and ability for weatherproofing.

We love the sleek classic look of Icon 1000 Beltway Gloves

Dual Sport and Off-Road: These gloves are designed for dexterity, weather, and impact protection. Regardless of the blazing heat, freezing wind, or relentless downpours, today's off-road gloves are constructed to accommodate the most extreme conditions and protect your hands while offering a comfortable grip. These gloves have the least amount of armor as they are designed to be very flexible in order to maintain control of the bike. 

Textile is the more common choice for dual sport gloves, as it offers more flexibility and a wide range of weather protection. Most of these gloves have a short cuff for full wrist movement.

The Thor Deflector Gloves are one of our best sellers in the dual-sport category. It provides a nice balance of ventilation, durability, and protection

Here is a quick run-down of some other types of gloves you may see :

Summer gloves: Usually thin leather (sometimes perforated) gloves that end at the wrist. Only ideal for riding in warm weather as they offer no elements protection at all.

Winter gloves: Cold hands may stiffen up and you may not be able to control your bike as well. Cold weather gloves usually come with thermal lining and climate control membrane and are with long cuffs to keep the wind out.

Waterproof gloves: These have a waterproof membrane to keep the water out. They can be ventilated and are ideal for when it's wet but not cold.

Fingerless gloves: No. Just no.

Textile or Leather?

This will most likely come down to personal preference and what features you're looking for. But in general, gloves follow the same recommendation as jackets. A good pair of leather gloves is always the safest bet for racers as it offers the highest abrasion resistance. Commuters, tourers, or adventure riders will more likely deal with more weather conditions, so textile gloves that provide more protection against water and weather could be a great choice.

The Alpinestars Jet Road Gore-Tex Gloves have an innovation leather + textile construction that offers 100% waterproofing & breathability and excellent abrasion resistance.

Picking a glove / Fitment

Gloves fitment is crucial because well, you use your hands to control the bike. Ill-fitting gloves can have a huge impact on how well you're able to handle your bike. Gloves must be snug enough to protect you in case of a fall (and also you know, to not fly off), but also allow enough movement to use the brake and clutch levers.

Ideally, here is how a glove should fit:

- Snug, but not so tight that you feel like you're cutting off circulation
- There should not be additional material in the palm area.
- There should be some additional room at the finger tips, but at the same time, the finger should not be too long or too loose.
- When clenching and opening your fist, armor should not rub and should feel flexible enough to get the full range of movement.
- In a normal motorcycle grip, gloves should be comfortable enough that you don't really feel like you're wearing gloves.

If you're buying gloves online, pay special attention to the size chart and reviews. In general, European brands tend to run smaller, so you may need to get a size up. Be sure to measure both of your hands and use the hand with the wider measurement. 

Be aware that leather will stretch with use, so when picking a leather glove, make sure it's very snug in the beginning. Once they break in, they'll be the proper fit. On the other hand, textile will not stretch, but will get softer with time. So don't write a textile glove completely off if it seems just a bit stiff in the beginning.

As a general rule of thumb: if you're in between sizes, go one size down if buying leather, and one size up if buying textile. 

Conclusion

The kind of glove you buy will probably mostly depend on what style of riding you do the most and what kind of weather condition you usually ride in. The gloves on our site are broken down pretty clearly in categories by riding style. Generally, racers and performance riders should always go for leather, while commuters, cruisers/tourers, and adventure riders may be better suited with textile gloves that offer a wide range of weather protection.

Remember, your hands are one of the most precious parts of your body, and it pays to be better safe than sorry. When it comes to splurging on your riding gear, you're always in better hands with a high quality pair of gloves!

If you're still feeling overwhelmed by all the choices and need help picking out the right glove for you, we're here to help! Feel free to ask below, call us, or hit us up on our Facebook page!

By Daniel Relich


2016 Best Road Bikes for Beginners



Congrats! You have decided to join the league of the two-wheeled thrill seekers! You have taken a riding course and understand the basic safety tips. And now comes the most exciting part: picking out that perfect first bike.

We understand that for new riders, the prospect of picking that first bike is as exciting as Christmas morning as a kid. You can't sleep, you're drowning in anticipation, and you can't wait to get your hands on that new toy. Except now, your new toy is a sexy machine to speed down the open roads and cruise the curves.

But what is a perfect bike may not be the perfect first bike. A lot of newbie riders end up choosing a bigger bike in order to "plan ahead" for when they are more experienced and want something more powerful. But in general, we really recommend that beginners start on a bike with a smaller engine (250-300cc) and choose a comfortable riding position with a lower seat height (so you can plant both feet firmly on the ground).

We've said it before and we'll reiterate it now: there's no shame in starting out smaller. Safety while riding is the most important (because well... you definitely will not be enjoying your machine if you're injured or worse) so always start out on the safe side.

Are you groaning right now and thinking that small bikes equal boring riding experience? Think again! These great-for-beginners bikes are incredibly fun to ride, and yes, you may even find that they offer all the power you need!

Kawasaki Ninja 300

The Ninja 300 was the first of its kind in the US market, basically setting the stage for 300 class machines. Once upon a time, in a macho, over-hyped US marketplace where cc's and horsepower are king, smaller bikes like this were mocked and relegated into the dark corner of Beginner Land. However, now these little bikes come with enough cool features that they are fun to ride even for more experienced riders.

The Ninja 300 is a lightweight and nimble sportbike powered by a compact but potent liquid-cooled 296cc parallel-twin engine, delivering strong low and mid-range torque, as well as excellent high-RPM power on the open road. Its advanced Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) helps manage cold starting while providing excellent throttle response and great fuel efficiency. Beginners will find the six-speed sequential transmission helpful, and the premium race-inspired FCC clutch offers assist and slipper functions to provide a lighter lever effort and reduces the effect of back-torque. All this makes the Ninja 300 a super agile little sportbike that's easy and great fun to handle.

MSRP Cost: US $4,999

Yamaha R3

The R3 is Yamaha's answer to the aforementioned Ninja 300. The R3 features a fuel-injected 321cc twin-cylinder engine that is capable of delivering a maximum power of 10,750 rpm. The 180 degree crank design ensures that the machine is smooth when accelerating through the rpm range. Forged aluminum pistons (like the R1 and R6) provide excellent strength while remaining super light weight, while the offset cylinders reduce friction for more power. Don't let its size fool you, this little bike is a lot of fun to ride!

The styling is Yamaha supersport inspired with a full fairing in an ultra-light chassis, and newly designed steel frame and swingarm. The riding position is lower with a flat seat design, so it's great for new riders as it's easy to get both feet firmly on the ground. This is an all-around great bike for everyone - from beginners to more experienced riders, from commuters to racetrack enthusiasts. And the clincher? You simply can't beat the price!

MSRP Cost: US $4,990

Yamaha WR250R

Don't let the 250 throw you off! The WR250R is probably one of the most powerful 250 cc single-cylinder engines Yamaha has ever built! This little bike is descended from Yamaha's revolutionary motocross and off-road technology, but made to be street friendly as well. The engine may be little, but it delivers excellent power throughout the entire range.

Even though this bike is in the dual-sport category, the small engine also makes it an ideal street bike for newbies, as the less powerful engine means the rider can focus on technique and the road. The seat height is high typical of a dirt bike, but still lower than the WR250F, so new riders can more easily touch the ground. The entire bike is designed for light, agile handling, so there won't be a steep learning curve to for new riders. Overall, this is a delightful little bike for those who are looking for something easy to ride and offer decent power. And hey! You can also have some fun with it off-road!

MSRP Cost: US $6,490

Honda CBR500R


For a bike with a touch more power, the Honda CBR500R is a great everyday option for those who like the look of a sportbike but want something less race-y. It features a 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine, so you know this thing will pull hard through the whole RPM range. It's got enough power to keep the more experienced riders excited too. All riders will love the incredibly smooth ride delivered by Honda's Pro-Link Rear Suspension.

Style wise, the CBR500R is very supersport inspired with a sport riding position, lower handlebars, and minimal bodywork. While definitely sporty, it is not too aggressive and still makes a comfortable choice for beginners. This is just an awesome "do it all" bike with enough power and cutting edge features that will keep you from getting bored too fast. In fact, you may never outgrow it!

MSRP Cost: US $6,499

KTM Duke 390



This little bike has a 44 hp motor, so it delivers quite a bit of power! The Duke 390 beats out a lot of other bikes in the 300 class in terms of power. Like for instance, it way out-performs the Honda CB300F (which has practically identical specs), and can even give the CB500F a run for its money.  It delivers incredible torque and acceleration at all speeds (be careful, sometimes may be a little too wild for the real real newbies), but also rides well for everyday use and offers great fuel economy.

This compact naked-style bike is extremely light at barely 300 pounds. It has a super lightweight trellis frame designed for mass centralization, which makes this Duke 390 extremely agile with great maneuverability. It's powerful enough to ride on the highway for commutes, handles well enough to hug those twisty mountain curves, and nimble enough to take off the road.

MSRP Cost: US $4,999

Suzuki SV650


The SV650 is an interesting bike. It's got a bigger engine which we usually wouldn't recommend for beginners ( 645cc, liquid cooled, 4-stroke), but its V-twin design means that it delivers very smooth power in the mid-range torque, which is the range where street riding happens. This makes it so that it's very friendly for beginners. And when paired with an ultra lightweight chassis, the bike is agile and easy to handle, allowing newbies to turn the corners with confidence. 

Another great thing about the SV650 is that it comes with three levels of fairings (from naked to partially to fully faired), so you can find an option that suits your style. The attractive price (way more affordable than other 600cc's) and the great fuel economy also make this a solid beginner option. And you'll also get to brag to your friends that you went straight to a 600cc.

Price TBD

Triumph Bonneville

A Bonneville is all about going back to classics. Just the name of it draws up images of open roads and a glorious carefree era of freedom and self expression. And now, thanks to modern engineering, you can still get the look and feel of this classic in an upgraded technology package. 

The Bonneville engine and transmission pay tribute to the classic Triumph twins, but have modern electronic ignition and fuel injection. It features an 865 cc parallel twin engine that delivers plenty of power and smooth throttle response even at low RPMs. The classic 1960s suspension is fitted with modern damping internals so the ride is smooth and the bike easy to handle. The classic riding style is great for beginners and the low seat height makes it easy to plant both feet firmly on the ground. All in all, this is a drool-worthy beginners bike for those who want a more classic look. 

Prices start at US $8,099 

Conclusion:

As a beginner, you may dream of riding a "big boy" bike, but don't knock at these small ones. They're seriously fun to ride. These days, bike manufacturers are putting enough cool features on the smaller bikes that they're fun even for experienced riders. Another benefit of starting out on entry-level motorcycles is that they are much more budget friendly and offer better gas mileage. You simply cannot argue against that! 

Which of these are you favorites? Or do you have your eye on something else?

*photos are from the manufacturers 

By Sir D


The Beginners Guide To Motorcycle Jackets



To continue with our series more geared (ha-ha, no pun intended!) towards beginners, we're introducing a detailed motorcycle gear guide, kicking off with jackets!

These days, there are a ridiculous amount of options available, everything from types of fabric to features to ventilation. It can be overwhelming to pick the right one (or ones!) suitable for your needs. We're here to break it down a little to help make the selection process a little easier.

Functionality of a Motorcycle Jacket

A motorcycle jacket is not just to make you look badass. Its purpose is to not only protect you in case of a crash, but also to make the riding experience more comfortable. This is why you can't just buy any old leather jacket from a swap meet and use it for riding protection!

Here are some primary functions and common features of motorcycle jackets:

Impact protection: Many jackets will have built-in or removable armor options.  Some common protection areas include elbow, chest, back, and shoulders. All jackets will have a different level of protection, the lowest being just foam layers to the highest being CE-rated armor with sliders  (we recommend looking for jackets with CE-rated armor!). When picking out a jacket, be aware of which protective pieces it provides. The price, of course, varies based on level of protection, but we recommend being on the safer side and going for something that offers more protection.

Abrasion resistance: Should you end up horizontal on the pavement, a good riding jacket should be made of tough enough material that it holds up during a crash, ideally so that you walk away with minimal skin injuries.

Weather protection: There are also many options for those of you who are not stopped by rain or cold weather! Many riding jackets will come with some kind of waterproof coating or internal liner in case you find yourself stuck out on the road in rainy weather. There are also insulated longer-length jackets for those brave souls who ride out in the freezing cold.

Ventilation: Just like it's important to be protected during rain or cold weather, it's equally important to stay cool while protected during hot weather. The sun may be shining, but that doesn't mean it's okay to go out riding in a t-shirt! There are lightweight jackets designed for these hot summer days with ventilation panels or mesh to keep you from heating up, and all the padding and armor to keep you safe.

Jackets for Different Types of Riding

Your most typical riding style will play a big role in what kind of jacket suits you best. Here are the features you want to look for for each riding style:

Race and aggressive sport: This is the most intense kind of riding and you will need the highest level of protection. Leather is the superior material for this case. The fit must be snug in order to maximize protection in the event of a crash. These jackets are designed with pre-bent arms, sport humps and heavy armor designed from race track development. Leather jackets are also more wind resistant and aerodynamic, meaning you can ride faster and more comfortably.

The Alpinestars GP Pro jacket is one of our best sellers in the race and aggressive sport category, with CE-rated protection, external sliders, perforated back hump and pre-curved arms

Touring and urban: Long distance touring jackets are designed to endure long hours on the road in all weather conditions, all year round. The fit and design are more relaxed than race-style jackets. Touring jackets typically have enough abrasion resistance and armor to protect the rider while still being comfortable. They make a great choice for commuting or everyday use.

Joe Rocket's Sonic 2.0 leather jacket is a stylish touring jacket with a relaxed fit, zip-close breathable mesh sleeve panels, removable insulated liner, and armor in the elbow and shoulders

Dual sport: Protection from all sorts of weather conditions is a must for dual sport riders. These types of jackets are typically specially designed lightweight jackets with less armor and road protection, but offer a great range of versatility in terms of weather protection. They are often waterproof, windproof, and breathable, with the option for liners to keep you warm.

The Moose Expedition jacket is a solid choice in the dual sport category, featuring a lightweight waterproof and windproof shell with elbow, shoulders, and back protection

Now let's take a look at the materials. Leather or textile is a great debate between riders. Let's break down the pros and cons of each.

Leather Jackets

Pros: best protection, extremely durable, classic
Cons: more expensive, heavy, hot to wear, not rain resistant

When it comes to protection, nothing can beat leather. Leather is the most durable material with incredible abrasion resistance. A high quality leather jacket can hold up for multiple crashes. But it is extremely important to choose a jacket that is thick enough to take the impact. A thickness of at least 1.2mm is ideal as it offers a great level of protection while still being soft and comfortable enough to wear.

Looks-wise, leather is also the most classic option. It will always look cool and never go out of style (and let's be honest, a bonus of riding is looking like a badass!).

We love the vintage look of Alpinestar's Charlie leather jacket!

However, leather does have its downsides. It is heavy and hotter to wear. Many modern leather riding jackets are trying to overcome this issue with features such as perforation or zippered vents to help with heat dispersion, but you may still find that it is not enough if you're riding during summer or live somewhere very warm and humid. (It is a great choice however for riding in cooler weather due to its wind resistance.) Leather jackets also don't hold up in the rain. Contact with water can cause the jacket to discolor or shrink, and in some cases, even get completely ruined. It will be necessary to get a rain shell to go over the jacket.

Shop for leather jackets here: http://www.solomotoparts.com/Motorcycle-Leather-Jackets-Men/


Textile Jackets

Pros: inexpensive, lightweight, comfortable, better for riding in weather
Cons: not as durable or abrasion resistant

There is a wide range of high-quality textile jackets on the market today designed for all riding styles, making it the more versatile choice. With more and more advanced textile construction these days, some can argue that textile can even rival leather in some cases, but we'll get into that in a bit.

Textile jackets are the better option for riding in all kinds of weather conditions, due to the variety of materials used. They can be waterproof, windproof, insulated, or ventilated - they can do it all, sometimes even all in one jacket by snapping in liners!

Textile jackets come in the full range: from lightweight mesh to keep you cool (a lot of riders who live in very hot and humid States find that this is the only viable option), to heavier advanced fabrics like Gortex or kevlar to protect from harsh climates. Textile jackets can also offer 100% waterproof protection and will not damage, whereas leather will in wet conditions. Basically, for ever changing weather conditions, textile jackets make a great choice.

Alpinestar's Valparaiso Drystar Jacket is a premium textile jacket with features such as waterproof and breathable membrane, sonic quilted liner, and CE-rated armor. A great all-weather jacket.

The lower cost and light weight make textile jackets a good option for general all-around riding, but they do not have the durability and abrasion resistance of leather. They're an ideal option for touring, sport touring, or adventure riding due to their flexibility, many versatile features, and the ability to be worn in many weather conditions.

Shop for textile jackets here: http://www.solomotoparts.com/Textile-Jackets-Men/

Cost Considerations

Leather is the more expensive choice, when comparing jackets with similar features and levels of protection. It could go for upwards of $500 to even $1000 for GP-technology race jackets. However, a good one could last for multiple crashes, or even a lifetime if well taken care of. Textile jackets are definitely the more budget friendly option, however, they may need to be replaced after a single crash. It is also possible to patch and repair leather, whereas with textile, damage would usually mean having to buy a new jacket.

In the long run (though we really hope you don't experience too many crashes!), some may find that just getting a leather jacket upfront end up being more cost effective.

Picking a Jacket

The fit is extremely important when picking a jacket that will protect you. In general, a jacket should be snug. The protective padding/armor should not move out of place when the jacket is on. When you're in the riding position, the protective pieces should still fit snugly where they belong (elbow pads at the elbow, etc.).

The right fit not only will protect you better, but also makes a big difference in your riding comfort. Too loose jackets means extra material flapping around in the wind. A tight fit will decrease the wind strain, which will translate into a much less tiring and much more enjoyable ride.

Conclusion

Of course, the best option is to have a few jackets to suit different weather conditions and riding situations, but we understand that the average person does not have that kind of budget. There are strong cases of pros and cons to be made for both leather and texture, so the jacket you choose will all come down to personal preference. But in general, leather is the safest bet for performance riders, while commuters or adventure riders could opt for the more budget friendly and versatile textile jacket.

But remember, whatever jacket and material you choose, the golden rule of "you get what you pay for" applies here. A good motorcycle jacket means the difference between severe bodily injury and walking away without a scratch, so don't risk your safety by going too cheap!

If you have questions or need help picking out the right jacket for you, feel free to ask below, call us, or hit us up on our Facebook page!

By Daniel Relich


Ten Things to Remember when Riding on Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has long been a day that many Americans use to enjoy great Mexican food and margaritas with their friends and families. However, much like on holidays such as the Fourth of July or New Year's Eve, these celebrations can lead to an increase of intoxicated drivers on the road. Here are ten tips to remember if you decide to go out on the roads on your motorcycle this Cinco de Mayo.

1. Never ride intoxicated
The only thing more dangerous than riding among intoxicated drivers is riding while intoxicated yourself. If you feel uncomfortable operating your motorcycle after enjoying a few drinks, then trust your gut and find an alternate way home. It may also be a good idea to purchase a home breathalyzer test kit, which can be found for cheap prices at many pharmacies and convenience stores. Even if you feel comfortable riding, your blood alcohol levels may tell a different story, so a breathalyzer test can be used to make sure your BAC is within legal standards.

2. Avoid riding late at night or early in the morning
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has often found that the hours between midnight and 3 a.m. feature the most fatal drunk driving accidents, especially on weekends and holidays. If you must ride your motorcycle following a Cinco de Mayo celebration, try to be extra cautious during these times or avoid these hours on the road altogether. 

3. Have a designated driver
If you have any close friends or relatives who live with you or close to you, it may be a good idea to hitch a ride with one of them. However, it is unsafe to be an intoxicated passenger on a motorcycle, so make sure you choose a friend who will be driving a car for both you and your friend's safety.

4. Avoid long road travel if possible
Whether you are starting a vacation or planning to visit family in another state, it is generally best to avoid long travel on days such as Cinco de Mayo. The more time you spend on the road on Cinco de Mayo, the more likely you are to encounter dangerous situations. Furthermore, drowsiness from long travel will decrease your awareness and slow your reaction time to those situations, so try to arrange your travel to occur the day before or the day after if at all possible.

5. Do not let others ride intoxicated
If one of your friends or relatives is ready to leave a celebration and is not sober enough to travel on the road, do not let that person ride a motorcycle. If you are hosting a party, you may want to encourage him or her to stay the night. If staying overnight is not an option, you may want to arrange for a ride sharing service or friend in a car to bring him or her home.

6. Enjoy an alcohol-free Cinco de Mayo
There are countless ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, so if you are not interested in drinking, try to celebrate simply by enjoying some great Mexican food and culture. Doing so will mean you will not be endangering yourself or others with intoxicated riding nor will you have to worry about issues at DUI checkpoints.

7. Enjoy great Mexican fare
It is well-known that drinking on an empty stomach increases impairment from alcohol, so go ahead and enjoy some great Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo. While eating will not prevent impairment, you are less likely to be too impaired to ride after one or two small drinks if you drink them on a full stomach rather than on an empty stomach.

8. Wear proper protective equipment 
There are some states where helmets are not required to be worn by law. However, wearing proper protective equipment such as helmets, jackets, boots and gloves will significantly reduce your risk of fatal or severe injury in the event of a crash. The NHTSA estimated that more than 1,600 motorcyclists' lives were saved by helmets in 2013, and more than 700 more could have been saved if all states required helmets by law. On a day when there is an increased risk of auto accidents, it is more important than ever to wear proper protection while riding.

9. Arrive at a celebration with a friend or in a taxi
One major issue that leads to people driving or riding while impaired is not being able to leave their vehicles or bikes somewhere overnight. If you are going to a celebration where you know that could be a possibility, avoid that issue by riding with a friend or using a ride sharing service or taxi. In fact, if you plan to drink on Cinco de Mayo, leaving your motorcycle at home to begin with is likely the best course of action.

10. Put down the phone
While there are helmets that come equipped with bluetooth capabilities to allow you to listen to music or receive phone calls while riding your motorcycle, it is still best to avoid those activities while riding. Talking on a phone, even hands-free, can distract your mind from events on the road around you. To guarantee your safety on the roads, it is of utmost importance that you stay as alert and focused as possible by concentrating solely on riding.

Do you have any safety tips to share? Let us know!
By Daniel Relich


The Ups and Downs of Motorcycle Suspension


When it comes to motorcycle aftermarket improvements, replacing the suspension is often seen as the ultimate upgrade for performance riders. This is one of the few upgrades that allows you to feel IMMEDIATE improvement after installation (and some slight adjustments to dial it in). 

A good suspension setup can take a mediocre bike and transform it into the smooth handling beast you didn't even think was possible. And more importantly, it can inspire confidence that you never knew you had, transforming you into a riding superstar, whether on the street or track. Confidence while riding is a huge deal that will ultimately translate into a safer, funner riding experience.

Even if you're not sliding the back end around on a race track, upgrading your suspension whether in whole or in part, will vastly improve the riding experience because, after all, it's really all about the experience. That's why we ride!

Suspension 101

Before we get too far into this post, let's quickly review the setup and function of a suspension system.  A motorcycle suspension system is typically made up of shock absorbers in the back and forks in the front, acting as a cushion between you and the road. (After all, you're basically sitting on a chair on two wheels zooming down the road at 70+ mph!). The suspension system is usually made up of an assembly of dampers and springs (for the rear) and forks (for the front) to insulate you from road vibrations and bumps by compressing and rebounding. These are basics.

In a well set up system, in the event of a road bump, the suspension would take in all the impact, keeping the wheels in contact with the road at all time so that you can ride hard, safely and comfortably. In the simplest of terms, an awesome suspension system will make you feel like you're gliding on velvet and riding as smoothly as silk. It will let you ride faster and smoother while being more controlled and, as a result, you'll enjoy the ride more and feel like a superstar.

Benefits of Upgrading the Suspension

Upgrading your motorcycle's suspension system is one of the most costly aftermarket improvements. It could cost thousands of dollars depending on how much of it you want replaced. So for anyone who's not a serious performance or track rider, what would be the benefit of investing this much money? Good question.

Stock suspensions are usually fine (until they wear out), but manufacturers still must cut costs where they can in order to produce their bikes at an reasonable price. A truly great suspension that works for you will have to put weight and road conditions into consideration. So as a result, manufacturers end up supplying a suspension system that fits the "average" rider for "normal" roads. Anything not average or normal and the suspension suffers. This is when riders look to aftermarket systems to boost performance and to dial in the ride for each rider's personal differences and preferences.

Here are the benefits of buying an aftermarket suspension:

It makes the bike smoother and safer! -  When you encounter a bump or a hole, your bike will jerk up or down. The travel distance is how much your suspension is able to move before being fully compressed, or "bottoming out."   The amount of travel affects the handling characteristics of the bike. Aftermarket shocks often offer a longer travel distance, meaning the bike will not "bottom out" as easily. The bike will also turn much smoother with the wheels gaining better traction on the ground. Better handling + better traction = a safer ride!

They are adjustable -  Stock suspensions do not take into consideration the terrain or additional loads and, more often than not, do not have a wide range of adjustment capabilities and some don't even allow for compression or rebound adjustments. Carrying more load, riding with a passenger, or riding on more twisty or rough roads will all burden the stock suspension.  Aftermarket suspensions typically have a greater range of compression and rebound adjustments, thus allowing you to custom tune your suspension to suit your weight and riding style. With some prestigious brands, such as Ohlins, even the shape of the damping curve can be changed to suit all types of tracks and conditions.

Öhlins: The Best of the Best

Öhlins was founded in Sweden in 1976 by Kenth Öhlin, and since then has dominated the motorcycles suspension market. Their products can be seen on race tracks all over the world on world-championship winning motorcycles in every class of racing.  By 2012, over 300 World Champions have won using Öhlins products.

Öhlins suspension products are developed with state-of-the-art technology and thousands of hours of research and test data from race teams across the globe. With a focus on service and support, Öhlins have their distribution networks across 50 countries ranging from MotoGP circuits to the local national racing events.

Some special features on Öhlins shocks include:

-All independent settings, with high and low-speed compression and rebound damping.

- A huge range of adjustments with equal increments of force. Even the shape of the damping curve can be changed to suit all types of tracks and conditions.

- Unique compression damping forces caused by an increase in pressure on the compression side (as opposed to a drop in pressure on the rebound side of the piston like in conventional shocks). This reduces cavitation and makes high gas pressure in the shock reservoir unnecessary. The internal pressures in the shock unit is kept low, which results in excellent suspension response.

- A piggyback-type shock reservoir gives improved cooling to the shock oil for more consistent damping and long damper life

- Integrated remote hydraulic spring preload adjuster.
Quite simply put, Ohlins is used in most aspects of motorcycle racing so they have an immense amount of product feedback and development to go off of so that the end consumer product is absolutely brilliant.

Conclusion

So is a suspension upgrade worth the steep cost? We think most definitely! The price may be hard to swallow, but once you feel the difference in handling, we can't imagine anyone regretting it! If going for a full system upgrade is not possible in one shot, we recommend first checking and setting the bike's sag and possibly adding aftermarket springs and valves, as it'll give a significant improvement over stock while you save for the big upgrade!

*photos via Öhlins 
By Daniel Relich


Tips for Riding Safely on the Streets


Motorcycle riders (and riding) ROCK! While we believe there's nothing as invigorating as blasting down the street on a bike with the wind in your face, we're still all about safety first and foremost because, you know, crashing hurts.

While riding a motorcycle is perhaps the most exhilarating mode of transport out there (that is... until hovercrafts become a reality!), it is also notorious for being the most dangerous. But we get it. We do it for the adrenaline and thrill factor too.

For one, motorcycles don't have an exterior frame or seat belts like cars do (obviously). So in the event of a collision, the bike and the rider absorb all the forces of the crash, which means a high risk for the rider of being thrown off. Seriously, just ask Aram how badly it sucks to get flung off your bike (twice!). Ouch.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're thinking about riding or are a novice rider. Don't be scared off by the statistics out there. Riding a motorcycle is not the suicidal affair that your mother would like you to believe. All you have to do is practice some safety guidelines. Here are our most important tips for safe riding on the street!

First and foremost, don't ride above your ability!

start with a smaller bike like YZF-R3
We know riding a motorcycle is one of the most adrenaline-pumping activities, and once you get a first taste, you can't wait to get to do "big boy" stuff! But if you're a beginner, don't be tagging along with your experienced buddies for a highly performance-based ride through twisty mountain roads. Don't be speeding down the highway weaving in and out of traffic (actually, even if you're experienced... we don't recommend doing this either!). And also, don't be starting out on a powerful 1000cc bike. It's best to start with a smaller 250-300cc road bike (you may be surprised at just how powerful the engines on these could be!), and one that you can rest both feet flatly on the ground.

It's okay, there's no shame to start smaller and safer. We all start from somewhere! Nobody was born being awesome at sex either. Once you've got enough experience, you  can be twisting and turning along those cliff hugging roads with the best of them!

So as a beginner, how can you grow your skills? Consider taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area. MSF is a national, not-for-profit organization sponsored by the major motorcycle manufacturers including Honda, Yamaha, BMW, and Kawasaki. It offers a variety of courses, from basics training to more advanced fine-skills courses designed to develop a novice rider into an excellent rider. Find a location near you on their website!

Before hitting the road: 

Always wear the right gear

We cannot stress the importance of wearing the correct gear, for yourself and any passengers you may have! It may look (and sound) cool to go cruising along with beach in a T-shirt and Ray-Bans, with that salty seabreeze in your hair, but it is definitely not cool to end up on the pavement with your head cracked and half the skin scraped off your arm (trust us, we know from a real life example).

At the very minimum, we recommend that you gear yourself up with:

A helmet: We know some states have abolished the helmet law (which is just plain crazy....), but please still choose to wear one! Statistic show that riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to die in a crash due to head injuries. Don't become part of that statistic! We recommend a full faced helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation (this is very important!). Not only will a helmet keep you safer, it also aids your riding experience by reducing wind pressure and fatigue. And remember, helmets do deteriorate over time, so it's best to get them replaced every 5 years or so.

A riding jacket: A leather jacket is always the best option, or if not, a textile riding jacket is also a solid choice. Leather jackets are classic and are extremely durable and abrasion resistant, while textile jackets are more versatile, lightweight, and less expensive. With the modern advanced materials used, many textile jackets even rival leather ones in terms of abrasion resistance! We recommend riding jackets with built in armor and reflective materials.

Check out our beginner's guide to motorycle jackets.

Riding gloves: Aside from the helmet, this is probably the next important gear to get suited up with! What happens when you fall? Your first instinct is always to catch yourself with your hands. Right... and now think about how well that would go over if you're hitting the asphalt at 20 mph. Ouch! A right pair of gloves will not only ensure that you keep these hands nice with all skin intact, but also offers protection against weather and road rash.

Check out our beginner's guide to motorcycle gloves.

The right foot protection: Obviously, this means no flip flops or sandals! While you don't necessarily haaaave to buy special motorcycle boots, the right shoes should be closed toed, sturdy, and with a rugged sole, something that won't burn your feet or slip off the foot pegs.

These are the gear items we absolutely 100% recommend you slip on before any ride. To complete your head to toe protection coverage, consider riding pants (there are plenty of reinforced riding jeans that are available if you're worried about looking like a power ranges), and motorcycle boots. It is always better to invest in protecting yourself because you never know what kind of riding situation you may get in and there's always that learning curve period where stuff can happen.

Check your bike

Perform a quick pre-ride check to make sure that the tires, brakes, chain, drive belt, lights, horn, and turn signals are all functioning properly. Under-inflated tires and worn brake pads are common no-nos and significantly drive up the risk of crashing. We know expecting anyone to do this on every ride is near impossible but I'd keep an eye on these things at least once a month.

On the road:  

everything in this picture are definitely riding DON'TS 

Practice situational awareness at all times

Watch out for cars: The most common cause for car/motorcycle crashes is because the driver did not see the motorcyclist. So unfortunately, this means that as a biker, we have to do both jobs: watch out for the cars and also make sure they see you. Be aware of cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from the side. Use your mirrors to check behind you. Never ride in someone's blind spot and check around you often too.

Don't tailgate: Leave enough stopping distance between you and the car in front, not only for in case the car stops suddenly but also to avoid obstacles in the road. Sand, gravel, potholes, or bumps are no biggies to a car, but can all be hazardous to a motorcyclist. Practice stopping to know just how much distance you would need for your bike - you'll need lot than you think!

If you do encounter road obstacles, it's best to slow down as much as possible and be very gentle with the steering. It can be easy to over-countersteer, resulting in skidding and crashing. Braking and steering are the two most important skills to master to keep yourself safe on the road in case of emergency situations.

Don't be distracted!: Practicing a heightened sense of awareness will save your life on the road. So don't allow yourself to be distracted with headphones or even worse, the phone! If riding with a passenger, don't always turn your head to talk with the person behind. If you must communicate, do so safely with products such as Sena's bluetooth communication devices.

Try not to ride in bad weather

This one seems self explanatory enough. If you're planning on a Saturday morning jaunt through the mountains but woke up to rain, cancel! If you're a commuter and you see rain (or heavy snow) on the forecast, don't take your bike to work that day! Rain makes the roads slippery and thus harder to get traction on your tires. And unlike cars, motorbikes also lack the windshield wipers so you'll also have the added problem of not being able to see the road too well (trust us, this isn't fun!).

However, we do understand that sometimes it is completely unavoidable to ride in bad weather. If you do find yourself out in the rain with your bike, it's best to wait it out a bit. The most dangerous time is when it just starts to rain, as the water brings oil residue to the top of the asphalt, making roads very slippery. And then when you're ready to go, practice extra caution, be extra gentle with the brakes and throttle, and leave extra space in between you and other other vehicles.

And lastly, ride with confidence!

Yes, confidence makes a huge difference in how you ride! So get out there, be safe, and have fun! 

These are our top tips for riding safely on the street! What else would you add? 

By Daniel Relich


Green with Envy: Kawasaki 2016 Motorcycles


It's time for another installment of our favorite new 2016 bikes (aka. what we would buy for ourselves should we happen to come into a large sum of money)! We're going to focus on Kawasaki this week and a few models we're hot on because, hey, you gotta have dreams!

Seemingly quietly, Kawasaki hasn't missed much of a beat by releasing a strong line-up of sport bikes over the past 5-8 years. Although I can't seem to mentally cheat on Yamaha, it's hard to ignore the impressive models being cranked out by Japan's team green. 2016 isn't full of all-new models but there are a few that are tried and true and have been seen vast improvements through the years.

Here we go...!

Ninja ZX-10R 

Kawasaki Photo
The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is already one of the fiercest bikes out on the racetrack (with two World Superbike Championship titles!), so this version definitely has got us drooling! Made using all the racing technology that propelled the Kawasaki Racing Team to stardom, this is a machine that dominates from the track to the street with looks to boot.

When this electronically assisted superbike platform first arrived on the scene a few years back, it was a grand debut from any Japanese manufacturer. With Honda still a bit in the stone ages as far as superbike electronics and power goes, Kawasaki was sitting at the top of the mountain for a bit...only to be challenged by S1000RR, Panigale and the new R1.

The Ninja ZX-10R features a 998cc four-cylinder 16-valve engine, delivering incredible power. It boasts an electronics package carried over from Kawasaki's World Superbike experience and is exclusive to this bike, including a sophisticated traction control that automatically adjusts according to conditions and a new Bosch five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that allows for even more precise control. The new launch control modes and power modes allow the rider to control the power delivery to suit different rider abilities and conditions.

Other new features include a lighter crankshaft that allows for quicker revving and increased low-mid-range power, a computer controlled electronic throttle valve, lightweight titanium alloy exhaust system, and World superbike-derived Showa suspension (a first on a production bike!).

At a US MSRP price of $14,999, it's certainly more in the splurge category, but we feel like this bike is a great choice for those looking to buy a high performance liter bike that offers high performance suspension and a strong electronics package.

Z1000

Kawasaki Photo
The Z1000 is the ugly sibling everyone loves to hate! This is a beyond powerful naked style street bike wrapped up in a compact chassis and minimal bodywork. It features an impressive 1,043cc inline four-cylinder engine, which out-cranks a lot of sportbikes even! The engine provides a wide range of power and delivers impressive low and mid-range torque for street riding. It also has a more comfortable, upright riding position for greater leverage on the handlebar and better control at those corners.

The Z1000 is designed for a high degree of mass centralization, which results in crazy light, sharp handling and it is a blast to ride! This is achieved with an exhaust system design of a large pre-chamber and short silencers, lightweight aluminum rare frame, horizontal back-link rear suspension and the use of downdraft throttle bodies. Most of us will be slapping on an aftermarket exhaust system but it's good to know manufacturers are keeping this in mind during development so we can still enjoy a good 'ole time in stock trim.

As an off-the-showroom-floor hooligan bike from Japan, Inc., well, this would be our choice for a fun weekend bike and low mile commuter - given the lack of a fairing. If you're looking to put on the miles and do a little light touring however, Kawasaki offers the near identical platform Ninja 1000 for just that purpose!

It's priced as a non-entry level machine at $11999 for the US market. It's definitely a lot of a bike but in the hands of an experienced rider, there can be endless fun (...and speeding tickets). The look of the Z1000 leaves some scratching their heads but we really love the bike's presence - even when sitting alone in the parking lot. There's a little bit of mystery behind it. And we like mystery.

Ninja 300

Kawasaki Photo
The Ninja 300 is every rider's bike! Whether you're a beginner, a track enthusiast, a commuter, or leisure rider, this lightweight and nimble sportbike has enough cool features to perform in any situation at any level of experience.

Unfortunately, in a macho, over-hyped US marketplace where cc's and horsepower are king, the Ninja 300 (and most 300 class motorcycles) are often scooted into the dark corner of 'beginner land' and mocked. Recently however, with the introduction of Honda and Yamaha's 300 class sportbike choices, the segment has opened the way for more new riders to get into motorcycling. Back in the day (oh, say 2004), the majority of the options from a major Japanese manufacturers was either a 600 or 1000cc sportbike. Today, we have so many choices that the industry has us eyeing more than one machine.

This little bike is powered by a compact but potent liquid-cooled 296cc parallel-twin engine, delivering strong low and mid-range torque, as well as excellent high-RPM power on the open road. Its advanced Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) helps manage cold starting while providing excellent throttle response and great fuel efficiency. Experienced riders will have a hoot with this thing!

The beginners will find the six-speed sequential transmission helpful, and the premium race-inspired FCC clutch offers assist and slipper functions to provide a lighter lever effort and reduces the effect of back-torque. All this makes the Ninja 300 a super agile little sportbike that's easy and great fun to handle.

The Ninja 300 goes for a US MSRP of $4,999, making this powerful nimble little number one of the best deals out there. It was the first of its kind in the US market, basically setting the stage for 300 class machines, and it is still a great option whether new or used. Don't rule it out!

KLR650

Kawasaki Photo
This is the ultimate adventure bike that will take you from the street to twisty canyon roads! The KLR650 features a solid torque pushing 651cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine for smooth power delivery. The bike offers superb balance with a long-travel 41mm telescopic front fork and Uni-Trak rear suspension, which can take you comfortably across any terrain. The large 6.1 gallon tank provides an unbeatable fuel range for long distance touring.

The KLR650 is a well rounded choice for a basic dual sport and adventure bike since its been around from what seems like forever. It isn't going to have crazy power or all the fancy electronics or a fancy shaft drive but it'll do what you need it to do. Take it across the street or across a continent, the KLR650 is easy to maintain, easy to repair and easy to ride. There's a lot of aftermarket accessories available so the bike is easy to customize for any kind of riding.

Other features include a multi-contoured seat for long-range comfort and stability,  a taller windshield to reduce buffeting, an engine guard to protect against loose rocks, and a lightweight sturdy rear luggage rack. This is a bike built with the adventurer in mind but it also commutes around town or to your local Starbucks juuuust fine.

The KLR650 goes for a US MSRP of $6,599 - a great value for those looking to get into motorcycling but aren't interested in a sportbike. On the road or off, new or used, the KLR650 is a strong choice for a basic do-it-all kind of a workhorse.

Which of these are you favorites? Or are you eyeing some other models? Do tell! 



* images courtesy of Kawasaki
By Daniel Relich


Rocking Stock Brake Pads? No Bueno!



Bike enthusiasts are quick to spruce up their new toys with all sorts of aftermarket upgrades, from exhausts to windscreens to frame sliders. However, one of the most overlooked parts is the brake pad (yeah, that).

I hope we don't need to elaborate on the importance of a good braking system in general (pads, rotors, brake lines, fluid levels). As fun as riding the bike full throttle is, safety always rules, and well, it's important to also be able to stop the bike. Brake pads work by pressing against the rotors with a friction surface, and overtime, they wear down with the constant pressure. Don't put off replacing your brake pads and only finding out that they are no longer working properly when leaning into an apex of a sketchy mountain road!

The pads that come on stock motorcycles are perfectly functional in the sense that they offer decent stopping power for the average pleasure riders or commuters. However, you may find that they are insufficient for those engaging in more performance-based riding. And isn't better always, well, better?!

Different kinds of brake pads will make a difference to your riding experience. Organic vs. sintered. Kevlar or carbon. And what about those double letters commonly tackled on in the product names? While all this can be an entire post of its own, today we will focus on the HH friction rated (or double-H) pads.

While we generally don't recommend HH pads for a rear caliper application (unless you're looking for a hard bite), they perform wonderfully with front brake calipers in most performance scenarios.

Read on:

What HH means

When the brakes are applied, kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy through friction. Brake pads are typically made from steel or aluminum plates to main heat stability, and then with friction material bound to the surface. The more friction the material offers, the better the braking power.

The Chase Test is a procedure which assigns a two character code to the brake pad on the basis of their frictional characteristics. The 'HH' code indicates that the pads have the highest coefficient of friction. The first H refers to the friction coefficient while at a normal temperature, and the second H refers to the friction coefficient while hot. Having a double H means that the friction is maintained during the braking process, as the brake pads heat up from the applied pressure.

Brake Pads with this code are ideal for high performance street and track day performance riding. They offer the best in street & track dual duty performance since they bite well and work when cold. HH Pads are even considered as a standard by some modern moto buffs. As a downside, these higher friction pads may prove to be bothersome for regular everyday commuting since the the braking effect may be a little too sensitive and may produce a little bit more brake dust.

But hey, we're talking about pure performance here -- especially when engaging the sportbike crowd! In the brake pad industry, two brands rule: EBC and Galfer:

EBC HH Double-H Sintered Brake Pads

EBC launched in the 1970's with an innovative range of motorcycle brake and clutch parts. EBC Brakes produce the largest range of brake pads and brake discs in the world and has become an industry leader with its superior technology, quality control, product performance and customer service.

EBC's HH Sintered pads became the industry standard due to their high friction rating. (Sintered metallic pads are made using heat and pressure to fuse together metallic particles and other elements, which results in a longer life and enhanced heat performance.) They're known in riding circles everywhere as THE brake pad for upgraded braking performance. These are so popular, in fact, they are considered the go to brake pad by many performance riding enthusiasts.

EBC HH brake pads are made in the USA using sintered copper alloy of the highest quality. Most are fitted with perforated stainless steel heat radiator plates to help reduce the heat transition into the caliper and brake fluid. Their "double segment" vented design keeps your brakes cooler and prevents drag and overheat or fade.

Riders report a superb "brake feel" (which uber moto performance geeks know is most important). EBC's HH Sintered pad are ideal for the weekend performance riders, track day events and even for touring because of the fantastic stopping power and long wear life.      

See if they're available for your bike:
http://www.solomotoparts.com/EBC-Motorcycle-Brakes/

Galfer HH Sintered Brake Pads

Galfer is a family-owned company primarily known for their motorcycle brake lines, brake pads, and their patented, state-of-the-art Wave Rotor technology. Galfer works with top motorcycle race teams to develop high performance braking systems that satisfy even the most demanding rider. We recommend pairing Galfer brake lines with Galfer brake pads for the ultimate braking experience but some riders choose to mix and match to their liking.

Galfer HH Sintered pads are made with an advanced ceramic-coated back plate, which helps to dissipate heat away from the brake pad and reduces the amount of heat transferred into the caliper pistons. This gives you a cooler running system that will be able to withstand more heating cycles. This means a very fast heat recovery for more consistent braking.

Galfer's HH Sintered pads are used by sport street riders to racers at the top of club levels and AMA contenders. They are ideal for moderately aggressive everyday riding as well.

Though these pads are available for the front and rear, one thing to consider is that rear has so much stopping power and the potential to lock up that it may be too much for the average street rider. The most popular combination of brake pads for performance street use are the HH sintered pads in the front and black compound pads in the rear.

See what's available for your ride:
By Daniel Relich