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Everyone’s doing it. So why not me. A lot of the gift lists I see are really bad. Here’s a good list of stuff you can get for the motorcycle rider in your life. Maybe even me.

1. Something to make the buns more comfortable on long rides. 

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

There are a lot of different varieties of things you can throw on a motorcycle seat to extend saddle time and delay monkey butt. Inflatable, gel-filled, lambskin. You can even get an entire new custom seat to try and crack this problem. I’ve tried a number of them, and the one I find works best is a simple wooden bead seat cover from Whitehorse Gear.  The best thing about this particular seat cover is it is simple to install and will fit on just about every bike. For $25 it’s affordable and the biker in your life will definitely appreciate it. Whitehorse Gear even throws in a free kickstand support with every purchase. I have the beaded cover for my V-Strom, but haven’t picked up a second one yet for the Triumph America that I acquired in August.

2. Branded motorcycle gear. 

Your biker will always appreciate something that helps them advertise the make of their bike, regardless of the brand they ride. For example, I practically have a lifetime supply of Triumph tee shirts, jackets, and sweat shirts. But the newly-opened online Triumph store has a nice selection of other Triumph-branded gear that my kids could get me if they weren’t sure what I’d like for Christmas (hint, hint). Like the Triumph mug or pen or even this mouse pad.

In addition, even though I bought a Suzuki V-Strom at the beginning of the year, I don’t have any Suzuki-branded merch, so that would be nice.

3. GoPro.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

At $300 this is on the “pricey” end of the gift spectrum, but just about every biker wants one of these doohickeys. GoPro is based in Silly Con Valley, right down the road from Apple, so they know how to market and they know how to sell. Accordingly, they do a nice job of adding features and functionality every year, and about a month after I bought my first GoPro they were onto version 2 and now they’ve just announced version 3 (just in time for Christmas!!) So even if you’re biker already has a GoPro, they need a new one because the old one is just so last month.

There are lots of accessories for the GoPro, too, so if you don’t have $300 to drop there are a few that would be on any motorcyclist’s wish list if they already have a GoPro, such as the tripod mount, the wall charger, the LCD backpack (I’ve always found it extremely frustrating that I can’t see what I’m filming while I’m filming or even THAT I’m filming with the GoPro. This caused me to lose some of the best footage I ever thought I was getting on a ride this fall) and extra batteries (GoPros have notoriously low battery life – at least in my experience.)

4. Heated handgrips.

I don’t have these on my bike. If I was to put heated handgrips on one of my bikes, it would be the V-Strom, which I ride most often and frequently in the early morning chill on my commute to work. There are a couple of aftermarket kits but the Oxford Grips seem to get good reviews from bikers and they’re easy to install and under $100. They are available on a number of gear sites such as Twisted Throttle.

Another alternative along these lines would be the BarkBusters handguards. They don’t heat the grips but they do protect the hands from the wind.

5. Cruise Control.

The Kaoko throttle lock system is a nice cost-effective aftermarket upgrade to just about any bike.

6. A six-pack from the “sure I can dream” category.

  1. A new bike. If I had my druthers, a 2013 Triumph Street Triple R is the one I’d like to add to my stable.
  2. A new used bike. It doesn’t even have to be new, a good quality used bike will float their boat just as well. There is a beautiful Bandit 1250 with low miles available at a dealership near me. If you want your biker to love you forever, get him (or her) a new bike.
  3. A full complement of Gerbings heated gear. Heated gear will extend the riding season by a month in either direction, and it will come in handy on really long tours. The whole enchilada of Gerbings will set you back about a grand.
  4. Icon 1000 Elsinore boots. I think these are some of the coolest looking motorcycle boots out there. I’d like a pair in each color, please. Size 10.5.
  5. A leather track suit. Budget about a grand for these. I did my first track day last summer, and would like to do more. And since you’re getting me a trackable bike in 1 or 2 above, I’m going to need this. I’m a size 46.
  6. Manayunk Triumph. If I could have any job in the world, it would be owner of this dealership. So since this is from the ‘dream’ category in an alternate universe where my significant other is a millionaire (heck, billionaire) sugar momma, I might as well think big and put this on the list.

OK so this started out with the intention to make a really useful and helpful list of things that my readers (or their significant others) could put on their Christmas shopping list, and ended up getting rather silly with me crossing one of the biggest items off my bucket list (to work in the motorcycle industry and perhaps own a dealership.) But hey, this is the season for dreaming, so deal with it!

Happy holidays to all.

Motorcycle accessories are expensive. In fact, I remember reading once that when you buy a motorcycle, you’re really just making a down payment on accessories. My experience bears this out.

Yesterday I was riding solo and stopped by Van Sant Airport in Bucks County, PA – a regular gathering place for bikers. As I was munching on a hotdog from the snack bar, I noticed a Kawasaki KLR-650 pull in. The KLR is a similar bike to my V-Strom, so my interest was already piqued, and this particular bike had what looked like a very unusual set of panniers and topbox.

When I looked more closely and chatted with the owner, it was clear that this luggage set up was so ingenious and uniquely frugal that I had to write about it. Here are some pictures. See if you can figure out who makes this luggage set (apologies for the picture quality; I didn’t have my digital camera with me so these were taken with my iPhone):

KLR-650 with unusual luggage…

Another angle.

Close-up of the pannier. The sticker is from a local motorcycle shop, not the manufacturer.

Close up of the top box.

So here’s the deal. The owner (Pete) put mounting brackets on his bike ($200 from the local dealer) and jerry-rigged plastic bins from two large containers of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes ($14 each). The bins are completely waterproof and accessible, albeit not secure against theft. Then he found a box from a DeWalt tool set in the trash and mounted that straight to the stock KLR luggage rack (cost: $0). The box has plenty of space for gear, and like the charcoal bins, is completely waterproof. The paint and paint scheme I don’t entirely understand, but when I asked him about the color choices, Pete said, “That’s just what I had in the barn.”

Pete went on to say, “The dealer wanted $1,000 for luggage. That’s a lot of travel money to me, so I wanted to find something cheaper. This is what I came up with.”

I’ll admit it’s not as flashy as a set of Touratech luggage but, damn! I’m impressed with Pete’s resourcefulness. As they say in baseball about an ugly hit, “Not purdy but effective.” The same holds true for Pete’s home made motorcycle luggage.

I bought a GoPro HD Hero last fall for a motorcycle trip through West Virginia and North Carolina, and I’ve got to say I’m one of the few who’s not in love with it. The small form factor, rugged construction, and multitude of mounting devices are main selling points. But I have a few pretty big complaints about it:

  • Battery life is limited. I’m only getting about an hour of life from the battery.
  • Navigating the settings is a challenge. If I ever lose the users manual to this camera, I’m screwed. The settings are in a decision tree embedded within the camera and proffered up on a miniscule display in arcane codes. Every time I want to change settings I have to bust out the manual, which means I have to carry it with me on every ride.
  • You can’t change modes on the fly. There’s no way to switch from video to still photography (or vice versa) on the fly, something I used to do with my old Flip video camera. (See below.)
  • It’s hard to turn it off and on while riding. You have to firmly press the power button and hold it down for 7 seconds for the unit to power up. And there is no way from the rider’s seat to know if it has powered up successfully or not. If your finger wavers on the power button even for a moment it won’t turn on. There have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.
  • It’s hard to engage the shutter button while riding. Pressing the shutter button requires a firm press to engage, and there’s no way for the rider to know if the camera is actually recording. The red blinking LED that’s on the front, confirming operation, should be mounted on the back. Likewise, because of the tricky shutter button, there have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.

I think the latter two complaints are because the GoPro is intended as a “set it and forget it” video recording device. The editing is supposed to be done when you’re done your ride and back at home. But I’m pretty limited when it comes to video editing, and prefer to record brief memorable segments of my ride, upload ’em and ditch the whole editing process.

Last weekend I shot some video of my ride on the Jersey shore and found one more limitation: because you can’t see what’s being recorded, there’s no way to know if there’s a bug on the viewfinder! Here are a few segments of my ride down the shore on NJ Route 47:

Nice clean view across the display. Pretty day, pretty ride:



Pretty day, pretty ride, ugly blotch of dead bug in the top right quadrant of the screen, at about 2:00:



As I noted above, on previous trips I jerryrigged a FlipVideo camera to my handlebars with a mini-tripod and electrical tape.  The shots from these earlier trips look like their from the paleolithic era compared to the video footage from the GoPro, but I actually found that setup to be much more user friendly than the GoPro:




I’m going to keep experimenting with the GoPro and hopefully I’ll become a true believer like just about everyone else who has tested and reviewed this camera, but for now the jury is still out.