Category Archives: Adventure Motorcycling Gear Reviews

Stuff I’ve actually used

KLR650s in Canada’s Yukon, BC & NWT (2001)

The full 41-min Call of the Wild was added to the Desert Riders dvd
Six-minute Nat Geo Channel version below.
Original photos long lost. Crumby stills from the video.

It was 2001 and with a quiet summer ahead, I was in the mood for a long ride. So when Adventure Motorcycling Handbook contributor Tom Grenon offered his spare KLR650 for a trip into the wilds of western Canada, I booked a flight to Vancouver and started oiling my boots.

Mid-August at Tom’s place on Vancouver Island: Bill and Norm rock up and the all KLR-mounted Northern Foursome saddled up for the 500-km ride to Port Hardy at the island’s northern tip. From here a ferry saved our tyres 2000km by transporting us along the mist-shrouded coast to Prince Rupert in northern BC.

Thumbnail graphic by simon-roberts.com

Prince Rupert is among the wettest places in the temperate world and docking around midnight, a storm was rolling in off the Pacific as we pressed down velcro flaps and splashed into town and a cheap motel.

Tom’s plan for the trip was to boldly go where no bike had gone before. First up, we’d try to follow the long abandoned 400-km Telegraph Trail which started a couple of days up the road. We had little chance of making it through: long-collapsed bridges or rivers two KLRs deep would soon stop us. But it should be fun trying.

Telegraph Creek is a quaint old town where the southern end of the Trail begins, or should that be: began. Situated on the Sitkine River, it gets by on logging, mining and a trickle of adventure-seekers like us. At the general store we got the drum from a helpful Mountie: on bikes it would be tough and he didn’t rate our chances much beyond KM20 unless we came back in winter on skidoos.

We camped by the Sitkine that night, and next morning headed up the Trail, nothing more than an overgrown ATV track leading into the thick forest.

“It’ll be rude” said a local, leaning on the door of his pickup.

Splashing through a couple of creeks was fun, but after four hours of sweaty, bug-infested pushing, paddling and wheel-spinning we had to concede the Mountie’s prediction was on the money. We found a patch of level dry, ground and by 9pm were fed, watered and zipped into our bags for the night.

Next morning the ride back to Telegraph Creek was a doddle, but an 800km detour through the Yukon to the Trail’s northern end revealed the same story. Without an Argo (an amphibious ATV) or a skidoo (plus snow) we didn’t have a chance. We left the Telegraph Trail to the beavers and the caribou.

Now back on the Alaska Highway, we knocked out another few hundreds clicks to our final jaunt into the Northwest Territories. At Watson Lake (and its famous ‘sign forrest’) we tanked up with 40 litres each for the few days exploring along the valleys on the far side of the Mackenzie Mountains.

Our destination was the ex-mining town of Tungsten atop the largest deposits of you-know-what in the free world. In the 1980s bolshy unions and undercutting saw the mine close, but in the summer of 2001 Tony Blair did the local economy a favour by banning the use of super-hard depleted uranium by the UK’s arms producers. Tungsten is the second hardest metal, perfect for the business end of a missile and so Tungsten town was back in business which for the Foursome (if not others) was good news. A phone call to the local Roads Department confirmed that a river which had blocked Tom’s progress on a previous visit was now bridged. Nevertheless, to save fuel we kept it down to fifty, and 80 miles from Watson poured in a gallon can, stashed another for the ride back, and kept a third for later.

For me the ride into the Nahanni Ranges went some way to fulfilling the promise of impressive scenery. Up till now I’d seen a lot of trees resembling the drabber parts of the Scottish Highlands on a monumental scale. But as we neared the pass on the Yukon-Northwest Territories border it all looked glorious, and even the showers chasing us up the valley couldn’t dampen our spirits.

Part of that reason was we’d finally located a cozy hunter’s cabin described in a local guidebook. Out here on so-called ‘Crown Land’ (undeveloped wilderness) you can sort-of build a cabin wherever you want. Effectively you’re squatting, but that’s how much of the New World got colonised in the first place. Locking up a place would only see it broken into, so an unwritten custom states: ‘Make yourself at home, leave it as you find it and cut some extra firewood before you leave’.

After breakfast we nailed back the door and window shutters, filled up from the stream and continued up to the pass where the amazing colours of the turning foliage filled the lower half of the spectrum. We eased over the watershed into the NWT and, ignoring ‘Keep Out’ signs and hard-hatted jobsworths, rode through Tungsten like Gary Cooper in Gore-tex. In Tom’s view the access road had been built with tax dollars so we all had a right to ride it through town and beyond.

There was said to be a hot spring near the airstrip just south of town and sure enough there it was, a warm outdoor pool and just beyond, a little A-frame where a stone tub bubbled at an ideal, muscle-soothing temperature.

Suitably revived, the meatier exploration prospects lay north of Tungsten, where in the 1960s a track once led to a sister mine site. We rode back through town and took the turn-off down into the valley. The day before we’d met some hunters with an Argo who reckoned we’d get about 30kms in before a bike-proof river stopped us. By now the skies were clearing again to give a grand view up the Nahanni River valley which we would parallel.

After a kew kilometres we clocked some rangers’ cabins (handy if the weather turned) but soon came to a large flooded area. A family of busy beavers had woven a twig dam, turning a stream into a lake that backed-up half a kilometre and submerged the track under a metre of water. The only way forward was to roll up our trousers and pull it apart. After an hour’s work the water had dropped significantly, so I undertook a test-wade up to my knees after which Norm rode across. Beavers tend to rebuild these things overnight, but we’d face that problem on the way back.

Beyond the stream we were on the look out for a trail that led down to Flat Lake and hopefully, another cabin. Luckily we didn’t all blink at the same time and spotted the overgrown pathway dropping steeply through the trees to what was indeed the Perfect Cabin. This one had it all: a porch to dry out on, gas to cook on, 5 bunks to choose from and more condiments than Safeways. We hung up our soaking gear, loaded up the wood-stove and went out fishing in the row boat before the sun set over the lake.

The following day the difficulties started almost straight way. Within a kilometre a vertical sided ditch lay where a culvert had got ripped out in the spring thaw. Where the Argo had gone a KLR can usually follow: along a side ditch, over the stream and up a steep bank. These challenges continued with variations; in places we had to dig away at steep banks, flip half-ton slabs out of the way and fill ditches with boulders just to get through. Clearly, only Argos had been up here for years. The trail narrowed through thick willow brush and we bashed ever onward, wincing at the continuous thrashing not seen since Basil Fawlty turned on his Austin 1100. Boggy holes and slimy patches taxed us further; at one point I was convinced the 650’s triple clamps had snapped. Surely the front wheel doesn’t normally flop around like that? ‘Fraid so: this was a pepperoni-forked KLR in dire need of a brace.

As it was, I’d been aware that I’d been riding like a lemon the whole trip, while the others, notably Tom, rode their KLRs with skillfull precision. I could blame the trail-tyred KLR, my anxiety about old injuries, or protecting the camcorder from the rain. But the truth was, I wasn’t really into this relentless, sodden tree-bound battling up dead ends in the rain, even it might make a great video. Give me the Sahara’s far horizons.

After about four hours and 25kms of this we got to a wide river spanned by a collapsed bridge. This must surely be it, back to the cabin we go! But closer inspection proved the broad stream was actually not that deep, and Tom proved it by wading over then riding through.

“Come on guys, it’s easy”

We dithered about but in the end rode in on steady throttles, the engines momentarily muffled by the deep water, but not missing a beat. In fact none of the KLRs so much as coughed during their entire 6000-km drenching.

On the far side the greasy riverbank initially spat Bill back down but led to a grassy slope where some of us needed a push. Then it was back to more willow-thrashings, sawing at fallen logs we couldn’t ride round, tiptoeing over slimy bridges and powering out of ditches with gritted teeth … until we came to a bridge that was ten feet shorter than it ought to be. Though narrow, the river below was full of fridge-sized boulders. We might have manhandled the bikes across or spent the rest of the day sawing down trees to bridge the gap, but by now it was half-two, still pissing down and so, about 35 clicks from the cabin, we called it a day.

Used to bringing up the rear, I now led the way back, delighted that the film was in the can and the Sony had survived. Miraculously, the triple clamps welded themselves up, the tyres grew some knobs and I finally found myself in the groove, leaving the others behind. Flat Lake Cabin was locked into my internal GPS and despite one shin-twanging face plant, nothing could stop me, even if some washouts demanded a double take. ‘Did we really ride out of there? I guess so’, so down I went, paddling over the creek and blasting out any which way to get through.

“That was a prime ohr-deal” observed Norm as we drained our boots off the cabin’s porch, two hours later.

By now my mission was accomplished and I was in going-home mode, even if two scenes still remained on my filming list: catching and frying a fish and the Northern Lights. I needn’t have worried. The following night, fuelled up from our cache, we camped about 120kms out of Watson Lake on the Frances River. Previously failed fishing attempts were all forgotten as each of us reeled in an arctic grayling within a minute of casting.

And later, popping out about 2am to check the chain tension, I watched a sallow moon setting over the river through a thick blanket of mist. Turning to grab the Sony I was transfixed as before me neon green veils of ionized oxygen appeared to sway in the boreal breeze. Crouched by the frost-coated tent, it was a fitting finale to our call of the wild.


Wet Weather Gear 2001
The fear of that icy-trickle-down-the-crotch feeling had obviously seeped from my despatching memories when I undertook this trip. Still, in the intervening years biking gear has got a whole lot better – and about time too – so I was finally going to put my Aerostich Darien suit through its paces in one of North America’s rainiest places. On the torrential ride inland from Prince Rupert it didn’t live up to its reputation; but at least what the zips let in the Goretex steamed off over a day. And yet on that soaking last day north of Flat Lake, I was amazed to end up dry. My feet were wet, but only after that big river crossing towards the end. Up till then they merely got damp as long as I made a nightly application of Nik Wax Aqueous Wax which actually works better on wet leather.

Bert Harkins Racing kindly gave me a pair of Scott Turbo Flow Double Glazed goggles which claim to avoid misting. I took my old Scotts to compare and was glad to leave them behind. You can wear Turbo Flows full time and huff and puff all you like, they don’t mist up.
As for the baggage, Cascade Designs SealLine canoeing bags were a revelation to me and all of us had them. A heavy PVC kit bag in various sizes, just roll up the open end, click the buckle and head into the weather. Best protected inside an old holdall or in panniers (where good draining was more useful than ‘waterproofing’), I found the SealLines more effective than an Ortlieb duffle or rack pack version I was also testing, although the long opening makes Ortliebs easier to pack. SealLines also make handy pillows or even bouncy aids. Over ten years laterI still use the same two SealLines I bought in Seattle for biking and paddling trips.
Researching a new tent, I soon found prices and offerings confusing, so I just went for a spacious 30-quid cheapie from Macro. It was bulkier than the other guys’ one-man versions, but went up fast and didn’t let in a drop.

Review: Kriega Trail18 daypack

New daypacks join Kriega’s long-established five-strong R range from 15 to 35 litres. You got the snazzy colour-backed Trail in 9 and 18-litres and the bigger more urbanesque Max 28 which expands to take a helmet.

Supplied free for review and testing


What they say:
The TRAIL18 Adventure Backpack utilises Kriega’s groundbreaking Quadloc-Lite™ harness, combined with high-tech construction materials to meet the needs of the adventure rider.
Composed of three sections:  A heavy-duty zip access 7-litre rear compartment which is a perfect storage area for a Tool-Roll and water bottle or the optional 3.75L Hydration Reservoir. This area also has a small internal waterproof pocket for a phone and wallet, combined with the main roll-top body providing a total of 12-litres 100% waterproof storage. The innovative Hypalon net also provides more external storage for wet gear.


What I think:

tik

• Roll-top compartment
• Comfortable to wear; sits well on the back
• Removable waist straps
• No compression straps
• Durable 420D Cordura body
• White waterproof liners in two compartments
• Hydrator-ready
• External hypalon net
• Smooth-gliding main zipper
• Colour-backed Trails aid viz
• 10 year guarantee

cros

• Bulky roll-top small inner pouch
• Expensive
• Quadlock-Lite interferes with jacket pocket access


Review
For years I’ve been happy enough with my dinky R15, once I cut off the unneeded compression straps and removed the unnecessary waist strap. I’ve used it for weekends in Wales, backroads and tracks in the Colorado Rockies and Baja, and of course on my Morocco tours and rides. The main compartment was big enough for my laptop in a dry bag plus the hydrator, with bits and pieces in the PVC mesh inside pocket and the bigger outer pocket.

The longer Trail18 will be a nifty replacement. Straight away I like the coloured back panel. Often on my tours I try to ID riders up ahead and anything non-black makes it a whole lot easier. I dare say it will be for them too.
You often get thin bungy elastic laced across daypacks as a quick and easy place to stuff stuff. Kriega have thought it through a bit further by using a distinctive hypalon net panel with the elastic strung along the edges and attached closely at the base. This way, what you stuff in there – mucky bottles, baguettes, wet cloths – won’t fall out the bottom. And if you want more colour or don’t like this arrangement, you can easily unlace the elastic and remove the hypalon panel.

I can see a use for this feature buying some food on the way to a night’s lodging, or securely stuffing a jacket or overpants in there on a hot day when you don’t want to dick about with the closures. It’s possible the excess elastic and cinch fittings above may flap about in the wind behind you, but tucking the end in is easy enough.

Behind this panel is a full-length 11-litre compartment with a removable white waterproof liner and a clip-down roll-top. The great thing with roll-tops is that even if you forget to do them up right, stuff stays in. No more clattering laptops on leaving airport baggage scans with unzipped zips.

Behind that compartment against your back is a smaller 7-litre zipped compartment with no liner. Inside are a couple of tabs to hook up your hydrator (more below) and down below a couple of sleeves for drinks cans or 500ml water bottles. A smooth-running (non water-resistant) one-way zipper only comes right down on one side (below) so forgetting to do it up ought not see things fall out so readily. It includes a finger-hooking ring pull which can only be in one place when closed, but I always add a bit of bright tape to make this puller easier to locate.

My only mild gripe with the Trail is the bulkiness of the roll-top/clip-down waterproof liner’d 1-litre pouch with a phone-sized zip pocket attached in the inner compartment. I know it’s waterproof but the roll-up takes a lot of space and clipping it down would be a faff. I’d have preferred a bigger version of the plastic ripstop zip pocket from the R15. But then again, you can easily drop a big camera in here and be reasonably sure it will stay dry.

The long mesh-padded back panel seems stiffer than my old R15 so the whole thing doesn’t rest quite so unobtrusively on your back, which may actually be a good thing. The waist strap can be removed and there’s also a door hook tab plus a chunky carry handle. Mine weighed in at 1550g and a Trail18 costs £179.
Impressions added here once I get to use it.

The Trail is hydrator-ready with a slot for the hose to come over either shoulder and a velcro tab inside the back from which to hang the bladder.
Kriega’s stubby new 3.75L (7.9 pint!) Hydrapak Shape-Shift reservoir is made to fit both Trail models by fully expanding to fill the space below that bulky top pocket.
Nearly 4 kilos of water is a lot to carry on your back, but maybe that’s what some riders need. The rubbery TPU bladder has the same fold-and-clamp, easy fill and clean opening as the original one, as well as the clip-off and insulated and UV-proof hose with hopefully a less-brittle bite-valve on the end. I tucked my nozzle end under a tab on the front of the strap, but Kriega offer a velcro attachment tab which may well work better if the hose is on the short side for you. It costs £45.

Olympus TG5 Tough – a great motorcycle travel camera

You’ll have read it again and again: the best camera is one you can whip out and shoot off in a jiffy. On a bike, that won’t be a bulky 3/4 mirrorless or DSLR stuck in the tankbag. It’ll be a back-up P&S in a quick-access chest pocket or mounted on your belt or daypack strap. The exposure of bike riding means it wants to be weatherproofed if it’s going to last, chiefly against dust, but if you can use it in the pouring rain, so much the better.
For this waterproof ‘diving’ P&S cameras with an enclosed lens are ideal. Rain, shine or sandstorm, you never have to worry about missing a shot or ruining the camera, and the sealed lens – tiny though it is – is protected. Over the years, along with lots of blurred rubbish, I’ve grabbed many great, one-handed shots while riding with such cameras. With it tethered to you (as right) or attached via a neck strap, just pull it out, switch it on (thin or finger-chopped gloves help), Point & Shoot. Switch off and re-pocket.
tg5I used Panasonic’s Lumix FT2 ‘wet’ cameras for 13 years or more, a simple, slim, one-handed, all-weather P&S which didn’t have to be mollycoddled. In 2011 we even used them to make a packrafting movie. Later models seemed to lose the functionality of the FT2 so as mine died or sank, I replaced them with used ebay cheapies until they got too hard to find.

Desert, pocket or sea, I’ve always liked the Lumix range’s preference for a wider 24mm-ish lens. Ridiculous zoom levels are far less important because with the tiny lens, picture quality dives. But after a really old FT1 burner unsurprisingly failed to survive a few minutes of snorkelling recently, I decided to try a used Olympus TG-5 (left) recommended by some paddleboarding bikers on one of my tours.
Ft7Commonly, the current Olympus TG-5 and Panasonic FT7 (right) get rated as the best waterproof cameras you can buy. But they seem expensive for what they are. And when you consider the tiny zoom lens tucked inside the inch-thick body you’d think you’re never going to get great shots, especially in low light or at full zoom.
Even then, my old FTs always needed to be tricked into slightly lower (correct) exposures by half-clicking on the sky, pulling down and composing the shot before clicking. lumixevcIt was only when I got a Lumix LX100 a few years back that I realised a: how handy an EV Comp dial (right) can be; I use it on almost every shot (usually to under-expose a bit) and b: how relatively crappy some of my FT pics were. My photos improved greatly with the LX and I used the FT less and less.
With all the essential controls – actual buttons and levers on the body, not buried in a digital menu – the compact LX was very nice to handle, but wasn’t really suited to ride-by one-handers or paddling. Like all such cameras with extending lenses, each time you turn it on the lens sucks in dust which eventually gets on the sensor and appears as marks or smudges on most lumixhooverimages. It drove some LX owner-reviewers nuts, though it’s far from unique to this model. You can’t easily reach the sensor as you can on a mirrorless camera, even if the marks can easily be erased in iPhoto. But here’s a great trick: zoom in and out as you hoover the lens via a bottle (left). It really works.
After a few years of mostly desert trips my LX dials got grittier and grittier, and the deployment of the lens and the zoom got slower and slower. Eventually, it needed a tug to extend fully and a push to retract. The 2018 LX100 II got some improvements, but sadly weather-sealing wasn’t one of them, so I flogged my crunchy LX before it seized completely and bought a similar-sized but weather-sealed Sony 6300 mirrorless (here’s a great list of similar cameras) which so far, I’ve hardly used.

lympusBack to the TG-5. Watching one of the vids below I learned an unmarked control dial in the same, top-right position can work as an EV Comp dial. That alone is worth the price of the camera. No more point to the sky to expose correctly.
Having even been inspired to RTFM, I now realise the TG-5 is actually much closer in quality to the LX than I realised, not least in terms of the staggering number of things it can do – most of which go way over my head.
For riding, you can easily screw on a clear filter over the lens window to stop it getting a scratch. It may not show up on photos, but a filter is easily wiped by a cuff or relaced for a few quid. To mount it you need the Olympus olyhoyaCLA-T01 adapter (£20; or a £6 JJC knock-off; right) to which you then screw in a regular 40.5mm filter: olyjjcUV, polarised, whatever (left). Add a piece of screen guard over the LCD and the Olympus Tough can now be treated Olympus Rough, with both screen guard and UV filter being inexpensively replaceable.
I used the TG for a month in Morocco on my Himalayan and again in November loved the Mr-Whippy-like accessibility. It too has a wide 24mm so you know you’ll shoot something, and closing the EV Comp down to -0.7 means great exposures. On very bright days -1.
It also has an easy to use custom self-timer, a blessing for us adventure-riding singletons. Normally I’ve had to settle for 3-shots-at-10 seconds, or simply shoot video and extract a cruddy still or a more complicated 4k. On the TG you press the sequential shooting dial and set: delay time, # of frames and shooting interval. With this I was able to grab some of the key riding shots which magazines require. Even my Sony hasn’t got as good timer options. At 4000px width resolution, that’s enough for a magazine full pager. And when shooting others, the 20fps burst speed is staggering. And all this without having to fuss about knocking the lens, dropping the camera or crap getting in it.
The battery is a slim 1270Ah which still did masses of shots – a week or more – and can be charged in olycharthe camera which means one less thing to carry. But for 20 quid I bought 3 clone batteries plus a travel-friendly USB- olymp(right) charger, which will work off a laptop, battery pack, USB wall plug or a solar panel. I’ve hardly used them.
I always use a tether while riding, but one time in Morocco the chunky red Olympus strap attached to the tether unknowingly came undone just as I chose to let it go… It should have dangled from my wrist but instead fell on the road at 30mph and tumbled along. I swung back expecting the worst but, apart from a small hole bashed through in one corner, it still worked fine! Its snorkelling days may be over before they began, but that was amazing. A bit of duct tape kept the dust out of the hole.
olycompOnce I’d have said GPS position, elevation and a compass in a camera were gimmicks. Now I’d admit they add some redundancy when a proper GPS unit goes flat. The Olympus accesses this data with a simple press of the Info button with the camera off (left). Up it comes for 10 secs, north by northwest. The TG-5 also takes great pictures.

tikEasy to turn on and zoom one-handed
EV Comp dial in the usual position
Battery charges in the camera
Spare 3rd-party batteries from £4; USB charger from £8
Good hand grip
Rated at 15m of water so ought to survive some splashes
Slim and light (260g with chunky wrist strap)
GPS, elevation, compass, and even a tracking app, with the camera off
Easy to access and configure custom self-timer
Red; easy to find on the river bed or roadside
Now discounted to <£300 new
cros A baffling new menu to master – sigh
LCD text is a bit small
Wrist strap undoes itself in the wind

 

Quick Look: Adventure Spec Trail Waterproof Shell jacket


Quick look
:
Adventure Spec Trail Waterproof Shell* jacket

UK price: £375

Weight: 715g (verified)

Size tested: Large (me: 6ft 1in/186cm • 210lbs/95kg)

* Yes, the label pictured top right was confusing
See also:
Adventure Spec Linesman,
Klim Overland and Aerostich Darien
Klim Traverse (shortly),

tik• Smart-looking design
• Good fit according to AS size chart
• Generous length keeps you snug
• Very light and rolls up to about a litre (right)
• Integrated hood
• Two-way zips on the vents
• Kevlar abrasive patches
• Actually has 3 outside pockets (contrary to AS description)

cros

• Main zip is one-way and lacks storm flap
• Single underarm vents limit air flow
•  A bit heavier than the claimed 650g
• Is an integrated hood that useful?


What they say:
A lightweight waterproof breathable over jacket with DuPont™ Kevlar® reinforced impact areas. This expedition/trail jacket includes a helmet a
[sic] compatible fold away hood, body vents and one throttle friendly chest pocket.


Review
The Trail shell is the latest addition to Adventure Spec’s  own-brand rider wear, including the vented Atacama Race jacket, similar open-weave Mongolia and the popular Linesman softshell I used last year.
The long-awaited Trail is their first waterproof shell to wear all day, rain or shine, or over some of the above listed jackets. It breathes, it vents, it’s waterproof and has an integrated hood. But note that unless you’re riding in the tropics, as an all-weather, trans-continental travel jacket you may find the TWS a bit too skimpy; the body is not much thicker than my hill-walking cag. The priority has been to save weight and bulk while retaining some function and the agility needed in off-roading rather than sitting on the slab at 120kph..
Contrary to AS’s online description (which may get corrected), the Trail has three external pockets (left), not one. Good to see. In one of the lower pockets is a small combination whistle/tyre valve-core tool. The latter will work but blowing through the tiny whistle, the air soon backs up and doesn’t make a usefully audible noise. For that a proper ‘pea whistle’ works best.
High-wear areas like elbows/forearms, shoulders plus the lower sides get rugged kevlar patches which also help give the otherwise plain nylon shell some eye-catching texture. The elongated back with its drawstring hem helps keep draughts at bay when crouched over the bars on a mission.
Adv Spec suggest the bonded membrane shell errs towards waterproofness rather than breathability, and without layering, the thin body fabric won’t keep you as warm as heavier jackets. When things do warm up or slow down in gnarly terrain, single underarm vents (right) with two-way, water-resistant zips help the air flow through, especially if you open up the front. But with front zipped up and on the move, I’ve found single underarm vents less effective in purging air.
I’m not convinced the roomy hood which tucks into the collar is such a useful feature for bike riding, even if it does make for a cushy collar. It’s huge, and the rationale of it stopping water running down the back of your neck is not an issue I’ve experienced with a snug jacket collar or wearing a neck buff. Around a camp or at the roadside, it may have its uses (I mislay at least one cap or hat a year).
I think many potential buyers would sooner see that weight re-allocated towards some sewn- or velcro’d in sleeves for armour pads. Such an option would broaden the Trail’s use out towards less technical moto-travelling as opposed to pure dirt biking, where some sort of padded or armoured top (right) would probably be wise.

For the purpose for which it was designed, Adventure Spec’s super light Trail Waterproof Shell will suit many riders. Be it the bike or the gear you wear, lightness is always desirable, but to me all-weather functionality is more important. For my sort of riding I’d be happy to skip the hood and, if necessary, carry another few hundred grams for proper through-venting, a big, securely dry inner pocket and a storm-flap over the front zip.

AS-TWS dims

Tested: Michelin TPMS review

Updated Summer 2020

After problems with the original 2019 kits (explained below), Fit2Go updated their TPMS software for 2020. They also redesigned the magnetic mounting following negative reviews on amazon. In 4000 miles of riding on and off road, the magnetic fitting wasn’t a problem for me.
I tried the seemingly identical Mk2 version in March 2020. See pros and cons, below

michelin-tpms

Tested: Michelin TPMS (tyre pressure management system)

Where: Spain and Morocco 2019 and again in 2020

Cost: £80 (kits suppled free by Michelin for review)

Weight: Negligible

In a line: Once you discover TPMS there’s no going back. (More here)


michtpms1

What they say
Introducing our first tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) for motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and all two-wheel modes of transport – bringing new levels of safety to riders for whom tyre condition is paramount.
MICHELIN TPMS – Bike detects a tyre in distress through loss of pressure, fast leakage or an increase in temperature – often the sign of an impending blowout. Its compact display flashes as brightly as a mobile phone torch if it detects an issue, plus identifies whether it is the front or rear tyre affected.
Our patented solution can be fitted in less than two minutes, bringing the same direct TPMS technology already proven in the passenger car and van markets to two-wheels for the first time.

This wireless system needs no programming and features a compact LCD screen which fits into a magnetic mount placed on a prominent part of the bike. The fully sealed and buttonless device can be quickly removed for security and is small enough to fit in a pocket. The display offers a battery life of up to three months, with the USB-powered inductive charger making it simple to top-up.
Once fitted, the unit displays the pressure of both tyres, in either psi or bar, toggling between the front and rear at set intervals.
Riders will see a low-pressure warning if a tyre becomes under-inflated by 15%, an enhanced alert when the pressure either drops by 25%, or if over-inflated by 35% or more. There are also alerts for high tyre temperatures or fast leakage (at least 2 psi per minute).

What I think:

tik

• Real-time tyre pressure data at last
• USB rechargeable – should last a couple of months
• No hard-wiring so fits in a couple of minutes
• Magnetic retaining dish secure off road
• Reads bar or psi
• Rated up to 7.5 bar (100psi+)
• Various warning displays
• Mk2 2020 kit paired up fast and worked seamlessly

cros

• In 2019 original and replacement units played up after a few days (see below)
• Doesn’t live-read from a static start (e.g.: overnight). Wheels need to turn first
• Expensive at £80, but there are both less elegant kits and pricier kits out there
• Green/yellow on black background hard to read unless under your nose
• Valve-cap lock-nuts complicate tool-free topping up
• On the 2020 version the F&R display interval was too slow for a quick glance.

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Review
There are some metrics I like to know while riding: speed, engine temperature, speed, fuel level are the obvious ones.
Now wireless technology has enabled inexpensive TPMS kits to display live tyre pressure readings, too. This is something that’s really useful to.

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I only realised how much I missed my Michelin TPMS kits once they both packed up mysteriously after a few days in Morocco.
A few days later I hit Tubliss tyre troubles in the middle of the desert. Luckily I wasn’t alone, there was a road 25kms back, and I was able to ride the flat slowly for hours to the coast and fit an inner tube. But being forewarned of low pressures or other tyre anomalies is what TPMS is all about.
I headed back north and a day or two later the tube slow punctured, then went suddenly after a dirt road short-cut pushed it over the edge. This time I couldn’t ride the collapsed tyre ten feet. Cue more laborious roadside repairs. This is why we like tubeless.
Because you never, ever get just a single puncture, I’d wisely bought a spare tube and was back on the road in 40 sweaty minutes. But especially with a slow puncture, with a TPMS I’d have been aware of it much earlier.

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Michelin TPMSThe Michelin kit is made by Fit2Go TPMS, an official global licensee of Michelin. It is composed of two over-sized valve caps marked F and R. You screw them on finger tight to the appropriate wheel and lock them off with a valve stem nut (yellow tool and nuts supplied; left). The round display module sits in a stick-on magnetic dish fitted wherever suits your eyeline and an appropriate surface. Putting the module in the dish activates the display: usually battery level (said to last for 3 months) plus front and rear pressures which flash up alternatively every few seconds. You may not get a pressure reading until the wheels are turning. There are no buttons or switches; place the module in and out of the dish three times and the display changes between bar and psi, though it may take a few minutes to read.

Playing up
The first kit I had was fully charged by me, but on fitting in Spain took many hours of riding to pair up and show pressure readings. That would be inconvenient if you regularly removed the module to save it getting pinched. Once things worked, I left it in place. (As I was only out for a month, I’d not brought the USB recharge dish.) Fitted flat like a plate on a table, it didn’t budge on rough tracks but was hard to read at a glance; at an angle like the bike’s clocks would be better and probably still secure. Or there’s always the tank bag. I’d also find black digits on a light background easier to read – like my Trail Tech temperature gauge, below right. Ten days in, after briefly removing it, the module went blank.
A replacement kit was brought out to Morocco, appeared to show a nearly full charge, and this time paired up in seconds and flipped to psi with no bother. But it also went blank after just five days. Neither unit was more than half discharged. I decided to put the original unit into the USB recharging dish from the replacement kit on the off chance, and it responded by charging from ¾ full (as it had been when it went blank). After just half an hour it was fully charged. Back on the bike it showed pressures in the original bar, and on changing to my preferred psi, displayed that too after about 20 minutes of being blank.
This suggests the display modules might discharge in a few days rather than three months, but while still indicating they’re more than half charged. Popping it in the recharge dish revives it, but it can be slow to pair up. This discourages you from removing it, if it indeed discharges when immobile. The blurb doesn’t advise removing it when not riding, but if it does discharge unused, it’s not reflected in the battery level status display.

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Especially when travelling in the AMZ where – as I found – tyre troubles can leave you up the creek, knowing the state of your tyre pressures is less a convenience and more an important safety measure. Now, when I could swear I have a puncture, I glance at the TPMS and relax; it’s just the road surface and my paranoia. Very reassuring. Best of all, the easily fitted and recharged Michelin TPMS kit now makes maintaining your tyres at optimal levels a whole lot easier.
But because my two kits seem to play up, I’d wait a bit before buying one. They sort of work, but not as they should. I sent both kits back to Fit2Go for analysis and will update this review with any news.

Updated kit – 2020

Fit2Go sent me their revised kit which I used on my Africa Twin ride in Morocco in March 2020. The kit was welcome as again, I’d DIY converted my rear tyre to tubeless and so wanted to keep tabs on pressures. (The wheel lost 20% over a few days – fixed by adding Slime).
The kit looks identical but no problems at all this time. Without making an angle bracket, I couldn’t find a secure and legible position on my AT (red arrows, left inset below) so put the display and dish inside the clear lid of my tank bag (below right). The opaque vinyl made it hard to read easily but there was no danger of it falling off. Had that ride not ended prematurely I’d have worked out some legible-angle bracket in the cockpit or stuck the dish on top of the tank bag.

The only complaint is that the display intervals seem slower than before: 10 seconds on Front then 10 on the Rear. It means you need several glances to ascertain both pressures, whereas a higher flip-count might mean you catch both in one glance. I still think the display could be brighter, too. Other than that and the high price (which may be dropping soon), all good.