Category Archives: Project: Enfield Himalayan

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

 

Enfield Himalayan: 4000-mile review

Himalayan Index Page
Him4k - 9

In a line:
Didn’t miss a beat over a month; no one was more surprised than me.

• At £4000, with the stock equipment it’s a bargain
• Low, 800mm seat – at last a travel bike not limited to tall people
• Enfield build quality stood up to it
• Efi motor pulled smoothly up to 3000m (nearly 10,000′)
• Michelin Anakee Wilds (run tubeless) – great do-it-all tyres
• Low CoG and 21-″ front make it agile on the dirt
• Rear YSS shock showed up the rather harsh forks
• Yes it’s 190kg, but road and trail, it carries it well
• Subframe easily sturdy enough for RTW load carrying
• Economy went up and up: averaged 78 mpg (65 US; 27.6kpl; 3.62L/100k)
• 400km range from the 15-litre tank – about 250 miles
• Weak front brake on the road (fitting sintered pads is a fix)
• As a result, front ABS is a bit docile
• Stock seat foam way too mushy for my bulk
Tubliss core failed on the front; replaced with inner tube
Centre stand hangs low – but can be raised
• Valves need checking every 3000 miles (according to manual)
• Small digit dash data hard to read at a glance
• Compass always out
• Head bearings notchy at 4000 miles, despite regressing @ 1200 (replaced on warranty @ 5000)
Him4k - 11

Review
Following a test ride, I bought my Himalayan just under 1000 miles old. Following the make-over detailed here (summarised in the image below) I picked it up in southern Spain with 1300 miles on the clock. So, like many of my crudely adapted project bikes, I’d barely ridden the thing or tested the modifications. With a Royal Enfield this did feel a bit more of a gamble than usual and, on collection near Malaga I was all prepared for the worst.

himlabels


Far from it. The Him started on the button, ticked-over like a diesel and after the ferry crossing and sailing the usual gale down the Atlantic coast, I arrived at a cushy hilltop lodge out of Asilah feeling moderately hopeful, while still braced for a kick in the nuts somewhere down the road.
Riding an untried, near-new machine, saddled with Enfield’s possibly outdated  reputation led to stressful days, waiting for something to play up, either with the bike or with my mods. But riding my first piste: the lovely Assif Melloul gorge route out of Anergui  inspired confidence. This was a great trail bike!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Engine and transmission
Much is made of the 410LS’s meagre 24hp because we’re so used to bikes delivering over 100hp per litre. Don’t forget Honda’s CRF450L makes about the same. It’s when you combine it with the strapping 190-kilo wet weight you’d think it can’t possibly work. Yet it does – and in a way that you won’t find on a similar powered and much lighter 250 trail bike like the WR250R, KLX250S or CRF250L which I’ve also used in recent years, as well as a 310GS. I prefer riding the REH to all of them.
It must be down to the way the long-stroke, low compression, two-valve motor delivers it’s modest power, like something from the apogee of Brit biking half a century ago, but without a millstone for a flywheel it revs more freely. The Himalayan may have the power of a CRF250L, but it has the torque of an XR400: 32Nm at 4250rpm (1150 lower than the XR). Combined with counter balancer and unexpected refinement, despite wide gearing it’s a very satisfying bike to ride. It won’t hurl you from bend to bend, it just chugs along steadily but without the sensation that you’re missing out or grossly under-powered. The key is to maintain smooth momentum which is very much the riding style I aspire to. It’s an easy bike to enjoy on the empty roads and even emptier trails of southern Morocco. Duelling with congested traffic or tackling busy alpine passes may not be such fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
him-temp
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Until the end of my trip – by which time the valves were technically well overdue for adjustment – it started on the button without the ‘choke’, ticked over once warmed up (probably needs adjustment too) and fuelled cleanly up to 5000rpm and nearly 10,000 feet (3000m). A lot of it must be down to accepting the Himalayan for what it is, but there was never a moment on my ride when I thought ‘FFS! I wish this thing had more poke’. I tried some super grade fuel in Morocco but didn’t notice the difference that some claim (I know in the US fuel octane varies widely). However, once back on Spanish fuel, it did seem faster and smoother, or maybe I was just rushing for the finish line.
One thing the Trail Tech temperature sensor did highlight was how hot the engine runs – up to 240°C at higher revs with a load on. Note I say ‘hot’, not over-heating. On my bike it’s reading from the spark plug, about as hot as it gets in there. Running down hill it might drop to 160°C or so. Either way, especially with an air-cooled motor, it’s good to know how hard the engine is working an when it may be time to back off.
Oil consumption was zero up to a pre-emptive oil change at 3000 miles. Straight 50W Moroccan was all they had (a bit thicker; better for hot weather) and I had the feeling consumption increased briefly after that, maybe 200ml in 2000 miles, but then it stopped.
The gearbox is a lot less clunky than some. Originally, I thought first gear would be too tall off road (a common complaint) but, helped by the low-down torque, it’s well matched to the Himalayan’s modest trail biking abilities which are governed mainly by its weight. One time in deep soft sand, the gearing was too tall to move the bike forward –  the chain jumped on the front sprocket instead (see below). You can change up without, but I can’t break the habit of using the clutch when changing gear.
The chain had a hard time in Morocco: conditions too gritty to lube most of the time. On longer road stretches I hand-lubed with a toothbrush from small bottle of Tutoro oil. As a result I adjusted it three times in 4000 miles –  more than normal, even for a stock chain. Again, you have to assume the stock chain was chosen for its price, not quality, but with a bit more care and lube it should last 8000 miles.

himyss
him-yss-fork

Suspension
Normally the suspension is where a budget bike shows its limits once pushed on rough roads, with heavy loads, or on the dirt. Plus I tend to leave my tyres at road pressures unless absolutely necessary, so as a result off-road the my suspension can feel a little harsher than it could be.
On the rear there’s only preload adjustment and nothing on the front, but the Himalayan surprised me with firm suspension. Before I realised this I’d fitted some inexpensive fork preload caps, (set at zero), and a YSS shock that had 1cm of length adjustment and 35 clicks of rebound damping. I had the YSS fitted on the settings out of the box (more here) which worked fine once loaded up and on the dirt. At one point in Morocco I screwed the rebound in 4 clicks (more rebound?) but can’t say I noticed any difference.
Overall, I suspect the stock shock (inset above) would have been OK, but you have to assume the YSS must be an improvement because there’s more adjustment and it’s red. It certainly felt better than a twice-as-expensive Wilbers on the XSR last year. Over the trip it loosened up a bit and bottomed out maybe once.
If anything the front forks are now shown up by the YSS. YSS do offer a fork kit but in the UK it’s £330 (though it seems you can buy springs plus the emulators for half that). Bottom line: no great need to meddle with the stock suspension for normal riding.

Him4k - 13

Economy
It seems that even at a 1300 miles the air-cooled REH was still running in. As I added the miles the economy improved, eventually averaging 78.7mpg (27.8kpl; 65US). With the 15-litre tank that’s a potential range of just over 400km. Riding with some 310GSs for a week, my mpg was near identical to the more powerful and lighter BMWs. The gauge on the tank is pessimistic and the warning light plus a trip reset comes on with a good 100km left. Hot, cold, high, low the fueling itself was glitch-free. Fuel consumption data here.

himr-filler
himslabs
himcoolcov

Comfort
Thanks to a counter-balanced and non-ginormous capacity, the REH is very smooth for a single. I did feel some tingling in my right hand after hours at the bars which could have been from over-gripping a heavy throttle. I’d have used my throttle handrest had I remembered it.
One of the best things about the Himalayan is the low seat of 800mm or 31.5 inches. At 6′ 1″, it’s actually a bit too low for me, especially once my mass sinks down through the soft foam, but at last there’s a travel bike which isn’t limited to tall people, while still having useful ground clearance.
I needed more height with firmer foam, inexpensively achieved with a couple of 20mm slabs under a Cool Cover. It enabled 500-km days with few stops, but on rough tracks still gave soreness, probably because I wasn’t standing up or letting the tyres down enough. I also thought the seat could do with levelling out to stop me sliding forward on the aerated Cool Cover.
My seat bodge was not a night-and-day transformation, but by the end of my trip it didn’t cause any discomfort over long days on the road. I’m less convinced now that I need to improve it some more.
The 50mm bar risers managed to not snag the screen on full lock and nearly reduced my stooping when standing up – another inch would have done it. I might have cured that stoop by removing the footrest rubbers, but to be honest I liked the comfort when standing (in ordinary slip-on boots). Otherwise, for wet conditions, consider fitting wider footrests if you’re off-roading. I hear that DR650 pegs nearly fit.

Him4k - 10
Some say it will clock 80 but I set myself a self-imposed cruising limit of around 65mph (where possible). At this speed the screen did a pretty good job, even with my wind-catching Bell Moto III helmet. Others claim the mirrors create turbulence and are better moved or changed. I suppose this is possible but it’s a new one on me. Let’s face it: it’s a motorbike out in the wind, not a space capsule. Some turbulence will be evident.

On the dirt
The Him took to the dirt so naturally, I didn’t even notice it at first. The key attributes must be the Michelin tyres, low seat and firm suspension. The 21-inch front wheel must help  too, as does the torquey motor, getting round the wide gearing. And the otherwise ordinary brakes are just right on the dirt.
The Him is a plodder, but then so am I. You won’t be pulling wheelies, launching of jumps or bouncing off berms. For that the bike is just too heavy and low-powered. It’s a travel bike, not a dirt bike and in all the miles I never ever had a sketchy moment on the dirt, nor wished the bike was something else.
I reached the Himalayan’s limit in the sandy gorge on Route MW6/7 in Western Sahara – same place I’d struggled with the WR two years earlier. This time I traced a better route along the valley but the flooded waterhole was now a dry mass of tracks in which the Himalayan would bog down for sure. I aired down, pushed around the side in first but stopped once I the chain jumped on the front sprocket from the strain: the torque had got the better of the weight and tall gearing. The Himalayan doesn’t have the agility or power to handle deep soft sand – for that you want an unloaded KTM 450.

Him4k - 4

Durability and problems
It’s a short list. Apart from what’s below, nothing broke or even came loose, but I’ve not seen the bike since I left it at Malaga. A closer inspection may reveal more.

Stock bike
• Head bearings got notchy by 4000 miles, despite regreasing
• Chain needed adjustment every 1000 miles
• Exhaust guards dented
My mods
• Tubliss core leaked around valve stem, then packed up
Michelin TPMS packed up – twice

Summary
The Himalayan is a rare type of all-road travel bike, one that not only looks fit for the job as many adv bikes do – but one that’s actually equipped for it and performs well, too. You might not think 24hp and 190 kilos (420 lbs) adds up, and for some it won’t. But for your £4000 or $4500 you get a lot of kit that’s no found on similar bikes. Don’t dismiss it as a shoddily assembled Asian cheapie or anything to do with the Bullets. The bike has caught on and in western markets the demand for the BS4 has outstripped importers’ expectations. If you’re curious like I was, try one. You might also be surprised.

Him4k - 5

Tested: Kriega OS22 pannier review

Himalayan Index Page

Soft Baggage Comparison • 2020

krigOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe new OS22 pannier from Kriega is the mini version of their OS32 I tried on a WR250 a couple of years back. The OS22 has the same proportions up-down, left-right but is 40mm thinner, reducing each bag’s capacity by 10 litres. It also retains the same uabrasion resistant Hypalon casing on a 1000D Cordura shell impreganted with aramid webbing to resist slash and grabs. An alloy block allows you to wrap a cable lock round the bag for added security. Each bag folds out to a formed box shape, costs £215 and weighs a hefty but durable 2.6kg.
The OS22s just happened to be ideal for my Himalayan, destined for a similar trip through the Atlas and on into the deep south of Morocco.


tik • Slimk2232
• Rugged, quality construction
• Easy removal from plate, or just lift out the liners
• Lots of exterior tabs for expandability or securing the bags
• Option to not use platform

cros • Expensive


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost riders don’t seem too bothered, but I like a bike to be as slim as possible and ideally never wider than the bars. Whether splitting city traffic, riding against the wind, squeezing through a hotel door  and not least, teetering along a narrow and gnarly mountain track with a big drop to one side – in all cases excessive width holds you back. Keeping away from the edge of a drop is instinctive and increases the margin of error, but stray too close to a cliff face opposite and you risk snagging over-wide panniers on a rock, losing your balance, over-correcting and taking a dive, just like that viral bike-in-a-boat video of a few years ago (below).

monwideHigh and fat silencers can force racks to be annoyingly wide (especially when attempting to be needlessly symmetrical from the rear). Soft or hard, add a plain, box-shaped pannier and the GS500widebike can be half as wide as it is long, like the F650GS fitted with Enduristan Monsoons (right), or my all time favourite, the GS500 on the left.
On a travel bike, I feel panniers are best when ‘suitcase’ shaped: longer front-to-back than top-to-bottom and no more than a hand’s span wide. This helps centralise the weight but is an unpopular format because, presumably, it interferes with pillion riders. Many aftermarket racks don’t help either, being set too far back for optimal weight centralisation, as mentioned in this old post.


kriega-os32-fit1With Kriega OS panniers, an HDPE plate  or ‘platform’ in Kriegaspeak (left) can be bolted to a rack. You may think it just adds weight and expense. Both true, but a plate is actually a smart way to fit any rack. HDPE (think: kitchen chopping board) is great stuff, too: light, rigid and dead easy to drill or even just poke with a red-hot skewer.
The Kriega plate and its adapter clamps have been designed to fit just about any round-tube, 18mm/¾” rack and offer a broad, grippy surface for the hypalon-backed OS bag to cinch up against. Making your own fitting to fatted or  square tubed racks would be easy enough. The Kriega OS bags use a cunning anchor on and strap-up system to make a very secure fitting while enabling easy fitting or removal – a key element when on the long road. Strapping the hypalon-backed bag to the grippy plate surface spreads loads over a broad area too, meaning no failure-prone stress points.

Like the 32s, the OS22s can be hooked on and lashed down to the Kriega HDPE platform or plate (see above). It’s a very solid off-road-proof mounting system which I also found dead easy to use. But this time round, on the Himalayan I chose to use the 22s as plain throwovers, like Adventure Spec’s Magadans, Doing it this way meant that once the bags shoppingbagwere lashed down securely to the bike, I found it less hassle to simply remove the waterproof, velcro-rimmed white liner bags to carry stuff indoors when not camping, rather than unrigging the whole bag. As such, a couple of shopping bag handles wouldn’t have gone amiss on the liner bags.
A rack is still needed to constrain any swinging and shuffling. I initially bought an Enfield rack from India but despite being cheap, I sold it unopened once I saw how heavy it was; it’s more suited to alloy cases. All I needed was something to support the bags, so Simon made me what I call C-racks (below) in one-inch tube. They’re only mounted at each end and are unbraced against so could bend in a heavy crash, but I tend not to do that so much these days.

him-raker

Adjusting the strap length for the throwovers is easily done. A horizontal strap round the bag and rack kept it located and another (yellow) strap from the rear rack stopped the bags sliding forward. There are plenty of attachment points all over the outer bags to refine your strapping set up if not using the platforms, or of course to add additional Kriega bags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It all worked well for me once I pinned down the strapping arrangement. Access was as simple as undoing or just loosening the two big hook straps then unclipping the side cinch-down clips. I never got to test the bags in prolonged rain, not did I test the rugged hypalon panels by sliding down the road. My load in the bags was about 15kg overall. The RHS pipe-side pannier was hitched high enough to avoid the silencer, but just in case, I had a long jubilee clip to attach some sort of metal heat guard round the pipe, had it been necessary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lomo Crash Bar Bags
lomo_logoForty four litres may not sound enough for a month-long trip involving camping, but the Himalayan benefits from tank racks which are Product Imageideal for adding a pair of small bags like the tough, 7-litre PVC Lomos (£40 a pair). In this position they’re easy to access from the saddle, and up to a point protect your knees from an oncoming downpour or chilly wind. They also help give the bike a soft landing when you don’t quite swing your leg high enough while getting on or off.
Access is roll top with clip down sides, like the Kriegas. Two additional horizontal straps fix or pull the bags in, but I didn’t use them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The combination of Lomo and Kriega gave me a massive capacity of 58 litres and meant no bag was ever jammed packed and I needed no bulky tailpack other than the trusty old Touratech zip pouch I’ve reused over the years from bike to bike. Add the small Giant Loop tank bag and my Himalayan always had room to spare. One drawback with several bags hanging all around the bike means there’s more to empty and take in to a hotel of an evening. But on the road having the load spread evenly across the bike is better for access and weight distribution.

The Kriega and Lomo bags were supplied free for testing.

k22ender.jpg

 

Tested: Michelin TPMS review

Updated April 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 one of them. 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.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
tpmsp1
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Review
There are some metrics I like to know while riding: speed, engine temperature, 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.
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.

michtpms1
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Michelin TPMS
The 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Tested: Bell Moto III review

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATested: Bell Moto 3 helmet

Where: Spain and Morocco

Cost: £185 off ebay

Weight: 1650g (to be verified)

In a line: Looks cool and works great with Qwik-Strap goggles and a non-ballistic ride.


What they say
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe iconic legend has returned! When the original Moto-3 was created back in the late 70s it was a product ahead of its time. Quickly becoming the industry standard in performance and style, today’s Moto-3 is everything it was style-wise, with the added benefits of modern safety and production advancements. From the fiberglass composite shell to the EPS-lined chin bar, we left no detail unpolished. The solid colors use the original style terrycloth liner, which is removable and washable.


What I think:

tik• Looks cool
• Feels light
• Chin guard not too close
• No visor hinges or other fittings to break
• Works well with Qwik-Strap goggle straps
• Good price, compared to recent X-Lites
• Yellow

cros

• D-rings a bit fiddly
• Not full face protection; the old bug or chip will get through



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Review
For years I’ve been mostly wearing a costly open face X-Lite 402 or an inexpensive Bell Mag 9 with full face visors. Best thing is the great visibility and protection plus you leave it on to talk to people (less faff with glasses, too). But sometimes I miss a full face’s ability to be securely cable-locked to the bike via the chin bar (doing so via the D-rings never fooled anyone). And it has to be said thee types lids look good too.
I don’t usually get on with ‘in your’ full face lids like an X-Lite X551 I tried, but after  few thousand miles the Bell Moto III has suited me just fine. The wide aperture and the fact that the chin guard isn’t right in against your mouth makes it unobtrusive on the road while not feeling too claustrophobic when not on the move. Usually I can’t wait to get a full face helmet off my face.
I’ve been riding a Himalayan with a low screen at no more that 65mph, and at that speed buffeting or neck strain hasn’t been a problem. There’s no annoying bobbing around and the wind noise is what you’d expect when riding a motorbike.
Inside the lining has a nice, towel-like surface (terrycloth they call it) and all of it removed and refitted easily after washing – not all lids manage that. Only the double D-rings can be a bit fiddly – I seem to recall the X-Lite does it better.

bell84

I had an original, but beaten up old Moto III in the early 1980s – a nice-looking lid but as cozy as a brick-like inside. Goggles were always a bit awkward to move easily one-handed while riding. Decades later we have Qwik-Straps which I tried in Algeria last year and bought again for the Moto III.
As you can see in the pictures, two short straps fit in your regular goggle anchor slots, then two separate attachment pads glue to the side of your lid. One is velcro (best fitted on the left); the other is a clip-and-pivot stud. Clip the right strap to this pivot then pass the goggles over your face attach to the velcro. Undo the velcro and the goggles swing down to the right. Or – as I got used to doing – unvelcro and swing the goggles over to the back and re-velcro. Goggles are securely out the way but not dangling. It’s a clever system which definitely helped make the Moto III a much better travel lid than I expected.

bell1

 

Himalayan: Out of the Western Sahara

Himalayan Index Page

dig treeWith back up from Mark in a 4×4 sat alongside Colin on a Nikon, we set off for the 1100-km ride from Assa through the Western Saharan interior to Dakhla via Smara and the Digtree (left), a fuel cache I had buried in 2015.

The fuel may have been getting a bit ripe by now, but all was going well until I hit irreparable tyre troubles just 100km from the Digtree. I limped back 250km to Layounne, got fixed up and, now out of time before I meet my tour group, we settled for a leisurely drive north up the windswept Atlantic coast. Not for the first time, my Sahara plans slipped through my fingers.

clayJPG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHooning about on a clay pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside the base.

him-capjubyCap Juby in its heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.

him-steamHot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.

him-sarawi‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey like the word Sahara out here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKhnifiss Bird Lagoon.

him-jerryTopping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.

him-chatMost of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.

him-blissRemoving the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColourful beetle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ex-Dakar track.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mouth of the Draa which rises near Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, but very rarely flows in its entirety the 1000-odd km to the ocean.

him-fbj-route.jpgOut of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.

Himalayan: Impressions at the edge of the Sahara

Himalayan Index Page

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust got to the desert about a 1200 miles in. Two wheels on my wagon and the Himalayan still humming along. Hard to believe it hasn’t missed a beat running down from Malaga over the High Atlas and down here to the edge of the Sahara. The tension is unbearable!
Fuel economy has slowly improved and is now averaging 77mpg Imp (about 27.2kpl; 64.1 US). Bear in mind since leaving the autoroute from Tangier I rarely go over 60, where that’s possible. At yet at these modest speeds the REH is a very satisfying and undemanding ride. It’s an ideal low-profile machine for Morocco, if not so much the getting here. That’s because the seat still needs work; an easy enough fix.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m really impressed how well this thing rides on the dry stony mountain tracks which sum up most of ‘mainland’ Morocco. It’s so effortless you don’t even notice at first. Can’t say the same of a 310GS which I’ve also ridden out here a lot: more concentration required on the dirt. The 310 motor and brakes are more suited to shredding tarmac canyons – another adventure-styled bike that’s not really an off-roader. The REH doesn’t look like anything you’d know – maybe a civil partnership of Rokon and MZ.
It must be down to the Him’s combination of low CoG, torquey, long-stroke motor, wide gearing and 21-inch front, plus on my bike, the Anakee Wilds and YSS shock which help make it one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in Morocco for years. On one epic high mountain day I even managed to zing the centre stand on the supermoto track they call the to Sidi Ouaziz.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brakes are fine on the dirt. The weak-on-road front is as you’d want; the back a tad sharp, but that’s normal, easy to manage and even useful.
To me the ABS is not an issue at the speeds either I or the bike can manage on the dirt. If it engages you probably need to slow down. Both wheels lock easily on really loose stuff before the ABS even reaches for the alarm clock. On the road I’m sure there will come a day when I welcome it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My proof-of-seat concept (2 x 20mm foam sandwich under a Cool Cover) is an improvement but not there yet. Two days over 400km more or less non-stop and I wonder if the foam slabs are crushed out already. It’s worse on rocky dirt where I tend to stand only when I must. The aerated Cool Cover may help, but it’s slippery and tends to slide me forward. Next version wants to be more level and maybe more foam.
I think what’s still a short distance between seat and footrest (for me) makes levering the body upwards harder that it would be on a KTM450 for example. Removing the footrest rubbers will add an inch more leverage while the 2-inch rise in the bars is nearly just right for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though I’m wearing a Bell Moto III I don’t find the buffeting from the short screen intrusive at 65 – my self-imposed max until I know better. It needs to be about 4 inches higher to push the wind over my head but I wonder if one of those air lip/dams might also help lift the airstream. I bought the MRA one but it was too wide to fit without drilling or other bodging. Of course on the dirt the screen is as unobtrusive as you want which is why a spoiler is a better idea than adding height.
The Enfield catches you out with firm stock suspension – the opposite of most of my recent bikes, especially the Jap ones. I bought a YSS shock and fork preloaders as soon as I got the bike, and the YSS shock works as well or better than the Hyperpro (XCo, WR), Tractive (CB500X) or Wilber (XSR700) I’ve run out here recently. All it needs is a pricey HPA to be truly useful, because adjusting preload will be a right  pain (unlike a 310GS, for example).
I suppose they’re now a bit shown up by the YSS shock, but road and trail the RWUp forks are just right for my sort of speeds and load. The preloaders are set on zero – rats! that’s ten quid down the drain.
Because my Anakees are knobbly I tend to leave them at road pressures on  the trail, which makes the suspension feel harsher than it is. I know dropping just a few pounds will make a difference, but I tend to endure rather than fiddle, until necessary. Fyi I’m 95kg (210lb) and my gear is probably another 20%.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My tubeless tyres hadn’t lost any air on collection but the back (vulcanised band) lost a couple of pounds after a few days then settled down. The Tubliss front was doing the job until I saw a bit of Slime oozing from the red valve which means it’s getting past the 7-bar high-pressure core. I tried to top it up, but the crumby garage hose was split and purged more air than it put in. Don’t meddle until you must! Now I realise my pressure gauge doesn’t read to a lofty 7 bar (100 psi) and my Cycle Pump has no gauge. I pumped it up for 3 minutes which hopefully has got up to 7 bar until I find a better garage pump. I said this years ago when I fitted it on the GS500R:  Tubliss is a pain for overlanding rather than rec dirt biking. Or maybe I should have anticipated the need for a gauge that reads 7 bar +…
Out of Malaga the fully charged Michelin TPMS took many hours to pair up and show readings, but since was very handy in monitoring the experimental tubeless tyre pressures. Sadly, 10 days in it appears to have packed up – not even the battery level is indicated.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I’ve refined the strapping, the slim Kriega OS20s throwovers sit tight and are easy and quick to access. Total demounting would be easier with the HDPE Kriega platform, but I just pull out the white liners if I need to strip the bike overnight (rare). Their slimness is a real benefit on some narrow and gnarly canyon tracks where catching the cliffside with metre+ wide alloy cabinets risks being ejected into the abyss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Even with bivouac camping gear (everything bar a tent) there’s no need for a tail pack because the nifty 6-litre Lomo bags either side of the tank take up the slack and help spread the load evenly. A very handy spot for gear and, with the Kriegas, a sacrificial crashbar for when that days comes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, after 10 brilliant days in the mountains managing to dodge hail, bandits and lightning, all is good with the Himalayan and pretty good with my adaptions. It’s somewhat nerve-wracking but then it always is as I tend to come out here on a wing and a prayer with roughly adapted bikes I’ve barely used.
The XCountry came with the various lip-chewing issues of that series (but nothing went wrong) and the WR250R had dodgy fuel pump activity when hot (but with care got me round OK). Clapped-out Tornados only had age- or user-related issues. Even a Husky 650 Terra, a 701 and an F650GS loaner and 700GS rental with 100k did me a week. Only the Tenere 660Z CB500X and tasty XSR700 came with- and delivered absolutely no worries. You can’t pay enough for that (bodes well for the XT700, too. You can see where I’m going with this).
I met a gnarly KTM450 overlander carrying a spare injector, fuel pump and clutch. Me, I have spare underpants. In fact I brought two by mistake. One will have to go.

Time to see how the Himalayan manages several hundred miles of desert piste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA