The UNRally UNBlog

June 20, 2017

The UNRally was and is an experiment in intentional disorganization.

A few weeks back, a group of us met at a GPS coordinate in the desert. Camps were set. Beers were drunk. Fires were lit. Motorcycles were ridden. Hot springs were soaked. Music was played (loudly). Sunrises were stayed up for. We left no trace, and we all got covered in dust. Our intentionally disorganized experiment proved that a non-event event isn’t just total nonsense, it’s also science. Ask a scientician.

THANK YOU to everyone who risked life & limb and traveled great distances to make the first-ever UNRally happen. So many stories… I couldn’t possibly recount. The deer, the red van, the blood brothers, the neck, the muddy jeep, the BMW mudslide, the sailcars, the sunsets & sunrises, the afterparty. Word’s can’t express.

Jesse Felker tells the story with his pics.

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We have four founding principals for the UNRally: 1) Spell Principle Right, 2) Active Participation, 3) Leave-No-Trace, and 4) Self-Reliance. Next year we’re adding a fifth: ‘Everyone is Invited.’ Which is not to be confused with ‘Everyone Can Attend,’ because we have to arrange for porta-potties and dinners, and besides, we’re not trying to have this be some big thing. ‘Everyone is Invited’ simply means that all active participants are welcome, regardless of their riding ability or Myers-Briggs personality indicator. Except that INTPs are definitely OUT (just kidding… that’s mine).

Next year Andrew will pioneer a “quiet camp,” which will be located a sufficient distance from the fire and speakers, so anyone who wants a good night’s sleep can get one. There are no ‘quiet hours’ at the UNRally, but there are plenty of quiet places to sleep. This year might’ve been a little short on sleep for some.

We’re also un-branding the UNRally by removing the ‘Mosko’ name. Going forward ‘The Mosko UNRally’ will just be ‘The UNRally.’ This gathering has nothing to do with promoting the Mosko brand, selling bags, making money, or accomplishing anything even vaguely commercial. We’re definitely not ‘working’ when we’re there. If you catch me running around the desert with a clipboard, please swat it out of my hands.

Big thanks to our friend Woody for making a fire happen in the middle of a desert. Also, big thanks to the entire team at Fields Station general store for their support and delicious food.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

June 2, 2017

After 2+ years in development, the Nomad Tank Bag and Fatty Tool Roll are finally in stock and available for sale on our website! Also the Backcountry 30 Duffle is back in stock.

We only have limited quantities at the moment. There’s more arriving in 4-6 weeks, but if you want one from this first batch, please order soon (i.e. in the next couple of days). In the meantime we’ll do our best to get additional inventory in the warehouse as soon as possible, including air freight shipments if necessary. The demand in the first 48 hours was well beyond our expectations. We thought we had enough inventory to last a month or two, but instead, 48 hours later, we’d already sold-through 2/3rds of the first delivery. A temporary stockout seems inevitable.

Thank you so much for the support and patience. We truly apologize in advance for the stockouts. With new items, we have to place our production orders 4-6 months in advance, and we don’t have a historical pattern of orders to forecast from, so nailing a forecast is tough. Plus, with new products, we always aim low in the interest of conservatism. Sometimes that results in a stockout. We had a similar experience with the Reckless 80 v1.0.

Long Strange Trip

Ash and I have been traveling for seven of the last nine weeks, definitely the most we’ve been on the road since Mosko started. We kicked off this latest stretch with three days at the PNW Dual Sport Season Opener on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. From there we headed south to Flagstaff, Arizona for Overland Expo, then north to Southeastern Oregon for the first-ever Mosko UNRally. After the UNRally, we went south into Nevada for our annual team ride.

It was a long strange trip, and a total blast.

At the moment, it feels great to be home, catching up on emails, sleeping in a proper bed, and soaking up summertime in the Gorge. In a couple weeks though, I have no doubt that we’ll be itching to get back on the road. Just in time for the Touratech Rally in Plain, WA June 22-25th. Hope we see you there!

PNW Dualsport Season Opener

PNW Dual Sport is a riding community based in the Seattle area, incorporating riders of all abilities from all over the Pacific Northwest. We started following them on Facebook and Instagram a while ago, and then became great friends with the founder Jesse Felker. When Jesse said he was hosting an event on the Olympic Peninsula, we signed up immediately.

Last year they had 60 riders, this year it grew to 150+. There were so many new signups that they relocated to a larger venue – Skokomish Park on Lake Cushman – at the last minute. Jesse and his crew have something really cool going. If you live in the area, I highly recommend checking out PNW Dualsport. Their Facebook & Instagram is a good place to start.

Ninkasi Brewing sponsored happy hours at our booth on Friday & Saturday night. Thank god for that, because much beer was drunk.

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That’s Ash in the pic below, reading out the raffle winners for a Reckless 80 and an assortment of Mosko drybags.

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Lee & Chris from Mosko joined Ash & I for the event, and we all went exploring together on Saturday. Ash took a 30+ mph tumble, flying over the handlebars into a ditch, and crash-testing her brand spankin’ new Klim helmet. She also crash-tested our injection-molded wedges (minus the bags). The helmet and wedge held up great. Even though she face-planted hard, the visor didn’t break off the helmet. The rest of the bike fared worse: it’ll be in the shop for a while.

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The pics below were taken by Jackson Carpenter (Insta @jack4carp). Thanks for documenting the event Jackson.

The is Jesse Felker.

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And Kyle Walter.

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And Jackson.

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The crew.

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Thanks, guys, for throwing an epic event! We will be back next year for sure.

Overland Expo West 2017

From the Olympic Peninsula, Ash and I headed 1,370 miles south to Flagstaff, AZ for our fourth annual Overland Expo. This is always a neat milestone for us, because we got our first-ever orders as a brand new company at OX back in 2014. Every year that we return it feels more and more like a family reunion.

This year there were over 12,000+ attendees and 300 vendors. OX is becoming a huge event, the largest of its kind that I’m aware of. This year it was held at a new venue – Fort Tuthill County Park – with tons of additional space for expansion. There was even an 8 mile mountain bike loop around the outside of the park, which Ash and I (and Brady) took full advantage of. The sun was out, temps were warm, and aside from a little wind, the overall conditions were perfect. Much better than the snowpocalypse we experienced a few years ago.

We cranked out the drive in short-order, and were the very first vendor to setup in Motorcycle Village.

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We tested the new Scout 25 panniers many times, running errands and getting supplies in town. It’s amazing how much you can get into the Scout harness with the drybags removed. Here’s Ash with $270 worth of groceries.

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And here’s Andrew with a 7 gallon water jug.

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Andrew flew down with the first batch of the new 2017/2018 Mosko catalog in his checked luggage, so we got our first look at the printed version when he arrived. Really happy with how it turned out. Catalog prep was a bit stressful this year, since we had to assemble everything on a tight timeline between road trips. I haven’t found any typos yet, so that’s good.

This year we printed 30,000 copies, 21,000 of which will go via snail mail. The remainder will be handed out individually at shows, or shipped in boxes with outgoing orders.

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Tracy Motz from REV’IT got the very first catalog.

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Ninkasi Brewing again sponsored happy hours at the Mosko booth in the afternoons (thanks again Ninkasi!), and we had a steady stream of riders and friends stopping by the booth all day. In terms of orders, OX 2017 was hands-down the best show we’ve ever had. Which was particularly surprising since, despite overall increased attendance, foot traffic in Motorcycle Village seemed slow. We attribute that to the larger size of the new venue, which resulted in fewer overland (as opposed to moto) people wandering over from the truck & van section. The lower foot traffic didn’t seem to have impact actual orders. Several other vendors we talked to also had banner shows.

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A couple times over the weekend we had so many bikes parked in front of the Mosko booth that it was blocking the main thoroughfare. I love it when we have a bunch of dirty Mosko-equipped bikes parked in front of the booth.

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Mark from Ural Dealership in Prescott (Scooter & Auto Source) brought over this bike for us to test-rig a Reckless 80 and Backcountry 40. This is the first Ural I’ve seen with Mosko bags. A perfect fit: the bags almost look like an OEM product. We liked it so much we left the bags mounted for the rest of the show.

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David stopped by to show off his new “Kit Kube” internal organizers to help keep stuff organized inside your panniers. Great to see a fellow entrepreneur getting started with his new bag business. He loaned us a couple samples to use on an upcoming trip in northern Nevada (they worked great).

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Another cool find was Tacrider. Jesse and his team pulled into OX at the same time we did, and we hit it off with them immediately. They make a really comfortable, stretchy, Polartech mid-layer riding jacket. Ash and I each bought two. I’ve been wearing mine every day since. It’ll be fun to watch these guys expand their product line in the years ahead.

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A rider came by and showed us this cool spacer system he puts between the Mosko mounting wedge and the mounting puck. Al Jesse from Jesse Luggage helped him make this. It’s a cool way to add some back support behind the wedge. This is something we might consider adding to our puck sack in the future.

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Ruth Belcher stopped by, and we all got to sign her jacket. That’s our friend Francois with the pen in the pic below. He also has a new company in the works. They’re making a really delicious new snack called Natti Bar, with only one ingredient: bananas. They’re awesome for riding because bananas don’t travel well. We helped Francois hand out samples at the show. Everyone loved them.

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Our friend Tommy Gunn showed up for his first OX with his custom overland vehicle, called Big Momma, that he built from scratch, starting with a 5-ton military flatbed. Everything was made by him, by hand. It’s one seriously incredible vehicle, and also a work of art. Definitely the most awesome vehicle I’ve ever ridden in. Check out the roof deck in the pic below. There’s even a CVT rooftop tent up there for guests.

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We have some of the nicest customers ever. Paul hooked us up with a bottle of Blanton’s bourbon, Rick & Betsy brought over a bottle of Glenlivet 15yr scotch, and Dan stoked us out with a Cuban cigar. Y’all really know how to make a bag company feel special. Thank you!!! Whiskey donations are always very much appreciated 🙂

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For me personally, a major highlight of the week was running into Gerardo, owner of ViaVia Cafe in Copan, Honduras. Before we started Mosko, I met Gerardo when I was riding through Honduras en route to Panama. He previously ran boat tours to the remote Mosquito Coast region of Honduras. He turned me on to the idea of trying to cross the Mosquito Coast with a motorcycle. Through a wacky series of unexpected circumstances, that excursion led to Andrew and I starting Mosko. It’s also where we got our name.

Gerardo: awesome to see you, man! Hope to visit Honduras again sometime soon.

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We rolled out of OX Monday morning in high spirits, and with a folder full of orders. That’s as good as it gets. Can’t wait for next year.

Road to the UNRally

From Flagstaff, Ash and I headed toward the Alvord Desert in Southeastern Oregon for the first-ever Mosko UNRally. We caravaned with Bill & Lynn Godwin, making a few stops along the way. Bill & Lynn have been on the road since March, traveling with their truck, four-wheel camper, and black lab Sage.

We stopped at this ittle bar in Austin, Nevada in search of food, called the ‘International Cafe.’ The kitchen was closed, but we drank some delicious Serbian brandy and shot the shit with Victor (the owner).

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Now there’s a Mosko Moto dollar on the ceiling. If you stop in for a drink, please send us a pic!

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We camped on BLM land just off the main road outside of Winnemucca. The next morning we woke up to a torrential downpour. This was troubling because, this time of year, the Alvord Desert alternates between being a dry lakebed and an actual lake. It’s a whole lot more fun when it’s a lakebed.

We were confronted with the very real possibility that the first-ever UNRally might happen on an UNDesert.

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Our concerns deepened Wednesday morning, when we awoke to a desert covered in snow. We were looking at a wet, muddy, messy lake.

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Thankfully, the snow melted quickly. Bill, Lynn, Ash, & I hiked up the western shore to get a better view. The entire desert was covered in water. At this point I was busily making alternative plans, racking my brain for backup venues.

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As usual, all the worrying turned out to be a big waste of energy. In its own special ‘Alvord Magic’ kind of way, the entire southern end of the lake bed dried out as the day progressed. By afternoon, we could ride all the way to the eastern shore on bikes. It was muddy, but navigable.

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By the time we woke up Thursday morning, most of the Mosko team had arrived overnight, and the entire south end of the lake was dry.

The first-ever UNRally was ON!!

Rallies & UNRallies

May 4, 2017

After Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Ash and I spent a few weeks catching up on stuff at home, then headed out for two events in California: the Death Valley Noobs Rally and RawHyde Adventure Days. These were both first-time events for Mosko.

We decided it’s finally time to put a logo on the Mosko show trailer. We had this old vinyl decal left over from our first Overland Expo three years ago. Just one small problem: the decal is grey and so is the trailer. We applied the decal, spray-painted over it in black, then peeled it off. Now we finally have a logo, the poor man’s trailer wrap 🙂

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Death Valley Noobs

We entered Death Valley in a dust storm. They closed the entrance shortly after we snapped this shot.

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The store at Panamint Springs had only three bags of ice when we arrived, and their ice machine was broken. We had two Ninkasi happy hours planned, and it’s a long way to get more ice. (By the way, if you haven’t tried Ninkasi’s latest release, Pacific Rain… it’s awesome!) Fortunately we bought a fancy Orion cooler to use at the events this summer. Damned if that cooler didn’t preserve three bags of ice for three days in Death Valley.

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Man this was such a blast! It’s a mid-size rally, a few hundred people, managed by a really cool guy named Joel. One thing we realized right away: the people at this event aren’t ‘noobs.’ I guess they were at some point, and there’s probably a few noobs in the crowd, but for the most part this is experienced riders.

It was Ash’s first time in DV, so when everyone headed out riding for the day, we did the same. On Saturday afternoon we ran into some new friends – Eli & Russ, friends of Dusty’s as it turns out – at Ballarat, then found them stuck with a disintegrated tire a few miles down the road. We had an extra tire in our trailer back at camp, and were able to help them get back on the road.

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Jimmy Lewis gave a great seminar on bike control, there were a ton of raffle prizes, and just generally a lot of good vibes all around. Highly recommend this event!

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Ashley helped with the raffle prizes, including a Mosko Backcountry duffle.

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We had KTM toast & whiskey with Kevin from Carson City KTM.

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The Noobs Rally was a fun way to kick off the show season, and it was great to be back in Death Valley. This will definitely be on next year’s calendar as well. Thank you Joel!!

Searles Valley

After Death Valley, we had a 10 day break before RawHyde Adventure Days, and it didn’t make sense to drive all the way back to Washington just to turn around and drive right back to California. We would’ve spent 4-5 days in the truck for as many days in the office. So we decided to stay in California and spend those 10 days in the camper instead.

We needed groceries and supplies, so we headed into Ridgecrest, CA to restock. Originally we planned to return to Death Valley, find an RV park with wifi and cell, and post up there for the week. Leaving Ridgecrest though, it was getting late, so we pulled off the road to camp for the night just outside the small town of Trona, CA. Trona, we learned later, is in the Searles Valley.

We never left. We spent all 10 days there.

We had good LTE service, so we used hotspots for internet, and the camper solar panels kept our laptops charged. We worked from the camper all day, then explored on foot, mountain bike, and moto in the mornings and evenings. There’s an OHV area nearby for riding (Spangler Hills), a big dry lakebed (Searles Lake), lots of rocky hills to hike, and even a crystal clear swimming hole (Great Falls). There were several other things we wanted to see but didn’t have time – like Little Petroglyph Canyon (over 20,000 documented images!!!!) and the sand dunes. We blinked, and the 10 days had passed.

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RawHyde Adventure Days

From the Searles Valley, we headed to Adventure Days at the the RawHyde Ranch, which is located just outside Los Padres National Forest in California. Owned by Jim and Stephanie Hyde, RawHyde is an adventure motorcycle training camp, one of only nine official BMW training centers in the world. It’s situated on a beautiful 120 acre property with 30+ miles of offroad trails and a whole range of man-made and natural challenges, from singletrack to teeter-totters to hill climbs. RawHyde goes way beyond just training, it’s a full-immersion experience, complete with bunkhouses and outdoor showers, incredible food, evening entertainment, and a badass little bar (‘Dakar Bar’). Ash and I were very impressed. We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

The old truck in the pic below belonged to Jim’s parents. that’s how they got to the ranch back in the days before I-5, when a supply run to the city meant an entire day of offroad driving.

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Here’s what the ranch looks like from the highest spot. You can see the bunkhouses and buildings off in the distance, they’re the only visible structures. The entire property is covered in trails.

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Evan & Owen, aka the ‘E&O Medicine Show,’ kept us entertained at night.  Their Snoop Dog covers were killing me.

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We did lots of demos, sold plenty of bags, and met a ton of cool & interesting people.

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I’ve never been asked to sign a bag before! Ash, however, has given lots of autographs in a past life. There’s a story behind that… ask her sometime!

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We did four presentations on three different topics: 1) fly-in trips to the developing world, 2) the advantages of soft luggage, and 3) packing tips & tricks. This is a new thing for us, it’s only the second time we’ve ever presented at an event. This is a photo from our perspective, at the front of the room by the projector. We were so stoked that people actually showed up! A cooler full of Ninkasi probably helped 🙂

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In the pic above, that’s Jim Hyde on the microphone. Jim and Stephanie are phenomenal hosts. They run a tight ship, and created an absolutely flawless event. We had Easter dinner together at their house on Sunday night. It was lovely. Thank you so much to Jim & Stephanie, the entire RawHyde team, and the extended RawHyde family for such a wonderful experience. Can’t wait for next year!

The Mosko UNRally

Ash and I, and the entire Mosko team, will be camping on the Alvord Desert in Southeastern Oregon from May 18-21. If you’d like to join us there’s some info here. This is not a rally. There’s no commercial objective. We just want to camp, have fun, and go exploring with like-minded folks. And we want to do it somewhere awesome, like the Alvord!

Driving back from California, we stopped at the Alvord for a night to scope the playa surface conditions. Sometimes it’s a desert, sometimes it’s a lake. We were pleased to see that it’s currently a desert. The only person visible for miles was Chris, who just happens to be the Vice President in charge of MSR at Cascade Designs. We’re a reseller for MSR, and we design our MOLLE pouches around their fuel bottles and water dromedaries. Nearly all my camping gear is made by Cascade Designs. Small friggin’ world.

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Our friend Woody just cut some firewood. He’ll keep the fire raging all weekend.

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A hot spring, the perfect end to an epic day of exploring.

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The Alvord is one of the least light-polluted parts of the Lower 48. Find the red “X” in the pic below.

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This UNRally thing is an experiment. Hope to see you there!

New Catalog

We finally got back to White Salmon late last week. First up on the agenda: the 2017/18 catalog.

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Dan, who does all Mosko’s graphic design (green shirt in the pic below) posted up in the shop for three days last week working on all the finishing touches. We all put in some late nights of editing to get it done. We need the catalogs in time for Overland Expo.

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This year we added more content, including some mini-articles, a trip report, etc. We want it to be part-catalog, part-magazine. For the cover shot we picked this photo of Andrew sticking a Mosko sticker on the San Carlos sign in Baja. It just kind of seems appropriate: a Mosko sticker mixed with all those kite and windsurfing brands.

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A lot of businesses are moving away from paper catalogs. I can see why: they’re a lot of work to design, print, and mail, and they’re expensive. We debated doing one last year, decided to go for it, and it totally paid off. I think paper catalogs are still very relevant for companies like us that sell direct, because we don’t have a large network of retailers out there promoting our products. A paper catalog is a great way to communicate with riders who already have our bags, and it’s also a nice takeaway to give people at shows and rallies.

Product Redesign

Andrew is working on potential upgrades to some of our core bag systems. Some of these may make it into a possible 2018/2019 revision.

For the Reckless 80, we’re looking for ways to make the harness adjustable: narrower for smaller dual-sports and wider for adventure bikes. Andrew came up with this as one possibility. It works, but we’re worried about the bolts slipping in the slots over time while riding. A possible solution would be to screen print the slots on the harness, and provide just one set of pre-punched holes as a ‘factory setting.’ Riders could customize the fit if needed by making new holes in the pre-marked slots with a soldering iron.

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On the Backcountry 35, we want to make the bags symmetrical, so we no longer have right-side & left-side panniers. This has a number of advantages on the production side of things, in terms of lowering our factory MOQ, and also eliminating the inventory challenges we encounter when we run low on one side or the other. Symmetrical panniers would also open the door for reintroducing a 25L version of the Backcountry pannier in the future. When we offered a 25L version previously, we found ourselves left with a large number of mis-matched pannier sets due to the demand for offset kits.

Making the panniers symmetrical requires a complete pattern update, and a redesign of the beavertail.

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For the panniers to be symmetrical, we need the rear pocket to be removable. We considered mounting the pocket with MOLLE, but we want an even more permanent connection, so we’re thinking the pocket could actually bolt to the main bag. It’s a little hard to see in the pics below, but you get the idea.

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Also, instead of a traditional ‘pocket,’ we want to upgrade this to being a harness that comes with a small removable drybag. If you’re packing fuel bottles, spare tubes, or our Fatty Tool Roll with the rain cover, you don’t need the drybag, just put those items directly into the harness. But if you have your own non-waterproof tool roll, or if you want to store stuff that needs to stay dry, use the drybag.

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We’re also considering riveting these metal pass-throughs for Steelcore Locking Straps to the outside of the bags. For added security.

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We’re planning to add a large MOLLE panel to the inside of the beavertail. This would be a good spot for larger tools, like a saw, hatchet, spade, or machete. We ordered a bunch of MOLLE compatible tools from Gerber Gear in Portland, and mocked-up a couple tool-holder concepts.

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Andrew is also working on our ‘Reckless 15’ concept, which is a small rackless bag for dirt bike & dual-sport day rides. The idea is to make it completely waterproof, and have just enough room for tools, tubes, snacks, and maybe a jacket.

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Black Dog Cycleworks

Kurt & Martha from Black Dog Cycleworks stopped by on their return trip from Baja to Sandpoint, Idaho. I’m always so stoked to see these guys. Not only are they awesome people personally, but their products are next-level bomber, and I like that our businesses are similar sized but with no competing products, so we can compare notes. The vast majority of Black Dog’s business is direct-to-rider, just like Mosko.

I’ve had Black Dog footpegs, a rear rack, a stand re-locator, and a bash-guard on my 950SE for years. We just ordered a new bash-guard and footpegs for our company bike, a 2013 KTM 690. The Black Dog bash guard is so much beefier than the shitty Scots bash guard that was on the bike when we got it, it’s almost laughable.

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Back on the Road

Later this afternoon, Ash and I are headed back on the road for another 4 weeks.

First we’ll go to the Olympic Peninsula for the PNW Dual Sport Summer Opener May 5-8th. Jesse Felker has done an awesome job rallying the PNW riding community for this event. We’re stoked, can’t wait!

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From there, we’ll drive to Flagstaff, Arizona for Overland Expo, May 12-14, which is by far our biggest event of the year, not to mention one of our favorites. Then the following weekend is the Mosko UNRally experiment, May 18-21. Then we’re having our annual Mosko company trip somewhere in Northern Nevada. The Mosko office will be closed for several days, and on skeleton crew the rest of the week. Just a heads up!!

It’s a lot of time on the road. On this last trip, a couple people asked me how we can be on the road so much without negatively affecting the business. My answer: not sure, we’re still working on that. I believe that attending these events in person is a really important part of Mosko, not just from a sales perspective, but also for connecting face-to-face with riders (which we love!), and absorbing an enormous amount of product feedback. The downside is that we spend too much time simply driving from one event to the next, and that’s time we could’ve been spending on other projects with the team. We have some ideas for how to minimize the driving time next year.

But that’s next year. For now: back on the road!

No Place Like Bangladesh

April 6, 2017

Hello from the Searles Valley in California. We’re camped here for the week, catching up on work stuff between the Death Valley Noobs Rally last weekend and the Rawhyde Adventure Days next weekend. This is where I’m posting from:

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Bangladesh

After Sri Lanka (covered in the last post), Ash and I headed north to Bangladesh.

I was really excited to visit Bangladesh. We were introduced to Taufik, our manufacturing partner there, through our friends at Trew Gear. Taufik has an extensive background in seam-sealing and outerwear sewing. He started as a work-study officer on the sewing floor, supervising the production of garments for major U.S. outdoor brands, ensuring their work processes and tasks were allocated efficiently. Now he owns a 50-employee design & development company in Chittagong.

Taufik focuses specifically on seam-sealed, waterproof/breathable garments. They make all their own samples, and they work with a few carefully picked factories in Dhaka and Chittagong for production. When Taufik’s team sends a production order to a factory, they send their own managers to oversee production. As far as I know this is a totally unique business model.

Chittagong

At Taufik’s office in Chittagong we got our first look at the new apparel samples. That’s Taufik in the pic below.

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The new eVent fabric is awesome. Problem solved.

Working with Taufik and his team, we made many revisions, too many to list. One major change was the zippers. Zippers on motorcycle and ski apparel aren’t truly waterproof, they’re actually water resistant. Waterproof zippers are what you see on diving dry-suits. We wanted to experiment with real waterproof zippers, but as soon as we put on the latest sample, we knew it was a mistake. They’re cumbersome to operate and you need to lubricate and maintain them, which nobody will remember to do. Plus we’re not at all confident they’d survive the dirt and grime of moto travel. So we’re switching back to the YKK Vislon, which is pretty much the gold-standard in high-end outerwear. That means we need zipper garages and internal gutters on all our vents and openings.

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This is Taufik testing a zipper by pouring water on top and letting it sit. Good idea.

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Here’s our jacket broken out into individual pattern pieces on the computer. For samples, they print this on a large-scale printer, cut out the shapes, lay the pieces on a sheet of fabric, trace the individual pieces onto the fabric, and cut them with scissors.

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Here you can see the cutting process, and the stack of paper patterns on the corner of the table.

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Sample-makers are expert sewers. Each sample-maker works on all different parts of a garment, so they need very broad-based sewing skills. This is different from a production sewer, where each person performs only one simple step, and doesn’t necessarily know how to make an entire garment from scratch.

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We were totally impressed with Taufik’s operation. We’re in good hands.

Moto Mini-Trip

It was Ash and my’s first time in Bangladesh and we wanted to see more of the country. I asked Taufik if he knew anyone who would lend us a motorbike. His buddy loaned us a 150cc Honda ‘Unicorn.’ A mini-bike for our mini-trip. We packed clothes and toothbrushes in a Scout 25 duffle, and strapped it to a side rack on the bike. Taufik was a little sketched-out about us riding in the countryside alone – he nearly insisted on an escort – but we wanted to wander, and in the end he let us go.

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Bangladesh doesn’t get a lot of tourists. GDP per capita is around $1,200 per year. It’s a 90% Muslim country that was separated from India in 1947 along religious lines, with Hindus on the India side and Muslims in Bangladesh. Originally Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, which is totally bizarre since Pakistan is 900 miles away. Bangladesh gained independence through a brutal war in 1971. Taufik schooled us on the history.

On the map, we saw some mountains along the eastern border with India and Myanmar. The area around Chittagong is flat, so we headed for the hills.

Chittagong traffic is nuts. It’s on par with Old Delhi and Ho Chi Minh City. A hot, dusty, seething mass of wonky, smoke-spewing vehicles of every conceivable size & shape, fighting over every inch of forward movement, with scooters and rickshaws filling the gaps. Honking and gridlock throughout the entire city. Out in the countryside though, different story. The roads open up nicely.

Here’s Ash boarding a ferry (hint: she’s the one wearing a helmet, not a veil).

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Everybody was outrageously friendly and welcoming. It was awesome. We peeled off onto some small, winding country roads, which were mostly made from cobblestone. We stopped in some little villages to drink tea and chat.

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Ash and I played cricket for the first time. We stopped to watch the game, and the kids invited us out to join, very excitedly.  Ashley is good. Me, not so much.

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We also explored the markets. So friendly. Everyone wanted a selfie with us. It’s a nice feeling.

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Eventually we got to the hills. At the bottom there was a military checkpoint and a big sign: no foreigners without prior permission. The soldiers turned us around.

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We learned that the ‘Hill Tracts’ are occupied by an ethnic minority, and there’s a history of conflict with the Bangladesh government. The government is wary of international NGO workers and/or reporters posing as tourists. Also there have been some issues with domestic terrorism. We didn’t know anything about that until we arrived at the checkpoint, but we immediately started researching. If you’re interested, here’s some info from Wikipedia: Chittagong Hill Tracts Conflict.

After being turned around twice at two different checkpoints on two different roads (very kindly, we might add), we gave up on the Hill Tracts and backtracked to a small town, where this really nice family rented us a room for the night. Not much English was spoken, but lots of smiles all around.

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Somewhere in Bangladesh, there’s a house covered in Mosko stickers 🙂

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One small problem. On the way back to Chittagong, the Unicorn’s front brake locked up and sent us tumbling on the pavement in traffic. No injuries, just a couple bruises, bent crash bars, and some scratches. The caliper was misaligned, causing it to overheat and lock up. At first we couldn’t even push the bike. We used the rear brake to get a little further down the road, found a mechanic, and were back on the road in a couple hours.

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Because of the crash, we returned to Chittagong late, but still in time for a wonderful Bangladeshi dinner at Taufik’s sister’s house. No silverware, everyone in Bangladesh eats with their hands. Amazing food and hosts. Nice photo-face Taufik.

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Our short moto adventure in Bangladesh was off-the-charts amazing. We wished we had more time. The next one will be longer.

Dhaka

From Chittagong, we returned to Dhaka, where Taufik’s friend Rana gave us a tour of the new factory he’s building. They only have a few lines running at the new factory, but it’s a beautiful facility, on par with the most modern sewing shops I’ve seen in China and Southeast Asia. There’s even a daycare facility. I love the colorful headscarves on the production line.

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This is the view from the not-yet-finished factory roof deck. That’s Rana on the right.

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This is the view of Dhaka from our hotel’s rooftop bar on our last night in Bangladesh.

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Did I mention that Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world where alcohol is illegal? You literally cannot get a drink except at a small handful of high-end hotel bars catering to foreigners. A shot of Johnny Walker Red costs $30. In the local markets we found a rice moonshine served in used plastic bottles. It was flammable and undrinkable: we tried both.

Back in the US

After 48+ hours in airports and planes, going from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, then Sri Lanka to Singapore, Singapore to San Francisco, and finally to Portland, we were home. We brought the samples with us, and reviewed them with the rest of the team.

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Maia revised the specs and sent them to Taufik a couple days later. Revised samples are being made now. I feel really good about the status of the apparel project.

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Maybe you noticed that somewhere in this blog post Ashley cut her hair. It’s a funny story. Ask her.

Sri Lanka Trip

March 14, 2017

This has been the longest break in blog entries since we started the business three years ago. Ash and I have been moving non-stop since February, traveling through Sri Lanka & Bangladesh. That’s my excuse. Now we’re back and getting all caught up. Big thanks to Tiffany, Lee, Andrew, & Dusty for keeping this train on the tracks while 33% of Mosko was overseas.

Sri Lanka: amazing. We rented Honda Baja 250s from Sha Lanka in Negombo. The owner, Suranga, is an awesome guy. Highly recommend connecting with Suranga if you want to explore Sri Lanka on two wheels. The bikes cost approximately $500 apiece for the month. We spent ~$20-40/night on lodging (for two people in a double room) and almost nothing on food/supplies, except when we splurged at fancy restaurants. Gas is cheap and the bikes are efficient. Beer, however, is expensive, and sometimes hard to find. Though somehow, we always seemed to manage.

I took the new Scout 25 Panniers v2.0 and a Scout 25 rear duffle. Ashley took a Reckless 80. We both took Nomad tank bags. Sri Lanka is a densely populated country, so we didn’t bring camping gear, just an extra blanket and some canned food for emergencies. 75-80 liters apiece was plenty. Packing was easy. Here’s what I took:

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Scout 25L Panniers v2.0

We didn’t have final prototypes of the mounting plate, so I made due with an older version. The slots had very sharp edges. I was worried they would saw through the connection straps, so I filed them down before leaving. The slots will have factory-rounded edges in production.

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Suranga had some homemade pannier racks welded for us in Sri Lanka based on the same hoop dimensions as the standard Touratech racks. He made these specifically so we could test the new Scout 25s. Thanks for that Suranga!

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We found a couple issues with the Scouts right away. First: the slots in the back plate didn’t extend far enough to accommodate the Touratech-sized hoop. At some point tn the design process, we must’ve made some small revision to the overall dimensions, and not adjusted the slot-size accordingly. Whoops. In the pic below, you can see that the mounting puck isn’t properly seated on the rack. This worked fine for the trip, but I’m really glad we caught the issue before starting production.

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The second issue was that the clips on the MOLLE panel were sewn too close to the MOLLE panel itself, so they don’t reach all the way over the back plate. Again, easy fix. We’re adding a couple mm of extra webbing to the clips.

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After living out of Scout 25s for over a month, covering thousands of miles on dirt and pavement, I’m so excited for this new system to be ready. It’s extremely durable, light-weight, and incredibly easy to take on/off. Removing the side bags takes a couple seconds:

1) Un-clip the side buckles.

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2) Clip them together into a handle

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3) Pull the bag out of the harness

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With the drybags removed, the harness can be cinched-down tight to the back plate so it’s not flopping around while you ride. The cinched-down harness also works as a convenient spot to tuck things – like a hoodie or jacket, or recently acquired groceries – when you’re out & about on the bike without the drybags.

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The Scout v2.0 system weighs only a few pounds, and it looks sharp. This will be a great system for minimalist, lightweight travelers and smaller bikes. The outer harness protects the inner drybag, just like on the Reckless 80 and Backcountry 35, so when the bike goes down, you don’t damage the integrity of the drybag. When you’re riding, the outer harness cinches really tight, so there’s zero movement in rough terrain.

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The only issue we had on the entire trip was that the welds on my homemade pannier racks spontaneously released one day. I heard this loud noise behind me, and suddenly the bike got really squirrely. I was like wtf?? Ha! That’s a first.

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We used Steelcore locking straps to reconnect the racks. Of the many uses for Steelcore straps, holding a pannier rack together isn’t one I’d heard of, but they worked great. I finished the day like this with no issues.

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In the next town, we got the racks re-welded and reinforced for $5 in less than an hour.

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I’m so stoked on the new Scouts. Production is currently underway. We should have them in stock by June. Prices should be in the range of $350-400 per set including all the mounting hardware, dry bags, harnesses, etc.  The optional MOLLE panels will cost another $30 or so.

Nomad Tank Bag

Ash & I both took our Nomad tank bag prototypes. This is exactly the kind of trip this bag was designed for, and it lived up to expectations 100%. We’ve already done several testing trips with the Nomad, and it’s been fully covered on the blog, so no surprises there. On this trip I was initially concerned about whether they would fit a small bike like the XR250, but it turns out they fit great because of the large fuel tank.

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It’s so awesome having hydration on the tank instead of on my back. Especially on a trip like this, where it’s mostly hot & humid, and we’re constantly getting on & off the bike to go exploring. I just pull out the backpack straps, put it on my back, and I’ve got water/camera/wallet/passport ready to go. Looking back through our photos, it’s funny that a Nomad appears in so many pics. We always had them with us everywhere, on or off the bike. This is an awesome bag for international travel.

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Reckless 80

Ash’s Reckless 80 held up great. No issues. The R80 system is ideal for this kind of travel. On international flights, she folded it up and tucked it into a Scout 60 duffle with the rest of her gear, and she used the Stinger 22 as her carry-on bag. When we arrived, it took her only 5 minutes to setup. So simple. Our buddy Josh, who joined us for the final week of the trip, also brought a Reckless 80. He mounted it on a Yamaha TW200 with no issues.

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Scout 25 Duffle

I rode with a Scout 25 rear duffle. There are lots of things I love about this little bag. Here’s a few:

  1. On a lot of other duffles, the shoulder strap lives inside the bag while you’re riding, so you have to open the bag and connect the shoulder strap before using it. With the Scout, it’s always sitting right there under the beavertail. Grab a side pannier in each hand, throw the Scout over your shoulder, and you’re mobile.
  2. I mounted two bottle holders on the beavertail MOLLE, and mounted the beavertail on the bag with the MOLLE side face-up. The bottle holders each fit a 1L bottle or – just barely – a 1.5L bottle. So in the morning I’d grab two store-bought water bottles and stuff them in the bottle holders. With that, plus 1.8L of water in my Nomad tank bag, I was good on drinking water for 24+ hours.
  3. On the face-down side of the beavertail, I used the waterproof pocket for map storage, various trip notes, random people’s business cards, and other paper stuff like that. Everything stayed 100% dry through several torrential downpours.
  4. I used the Scout beavertail constantly for rain gear, groceries, snacks, beer, arrack, garbage, and all sorts of other things we acquired or used during the day. It really comes in handy.
  5. I don’t keep credit cards and excess cash in my wallet, in case it gets lifted, so I need a convenient spot to store that stuff. I used the two internal side pockets on the Scout: credit cards on one side and a roll of currency on the other side. The pockets are great for cash because you can reach in the bag and access the pockets without removing any other stuff.
  6. On the trip home we had 48+ hours of travel from Bangladesh to Portland. I pulled out the backpack straps, put the beavertail in my checked luggage, and used the Scout 25 as my carry-on backpack. For long international flights, where I’m taking snacks and extra clothing and a laptop, it’s nice to have extra space in a carry-on.

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I used Backcountry Cinch Straps for the bike/duffle connection. I trimmed the straps to length, which makes them less functional as an emergency tow/tie-down strap, but makes them a lot easier & faster to thread.

Scout 60 Duffle

We used Scout 60 duffles (minus the beavertails) as gear-haulers for flying. With two Scout 60s each, we were able to fit all our luggage, clothes, and riding gear, with plenty of room to spare. I used the shoulder strap on one bag and the backpack straps on the other. That way I could tote everything through customs and airport terminals without help. Although, of course, I still prefer a luggage cart.

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Trip Pics

After thousands of miles of riding (not sure exactly how many, since neither of us had an odometer) we made it back to Negombo with zero major mechanical issues and only a handful of cuts and bruises. Such a ridiculously fun trip. Sri Lanka is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been. So many smiles and waves. English is widely spoken, which make it easy to get around, and easy to make genuine connections with locals everywhere we stopped. We avoided cities and tourist destinations, spending most of our time in small villages, going back and forth between the beaches and mountains. Sri Lanka’s culture is ancient and fascinating, the terrain is interesting and diverse, and the people are welcoming. We wished we could’ve stayed longer!

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Our next stop after Sri Lanka was Bangladesh, where we worked on our latest apparel prototypes. Plus we spent a couple days exploring the countryside on a bike. More on that in the next post!

 

New Year New Stuff

January 19, 2017

It’s 2017! We made it!

The year is off to a fantastic start. Orders have been remarkably consistent despite the onset of winter. We’re a highly seasonal business, so usually sales dip sharply from December to February. This year has been different. Thank you!

Fatty Tool Roll

A few posts ago, we described the Fatty tool roll, and a bunch of advriders posted back that they wished it was waterproof. So we made a waterproof cover.

It’s an envelope-style bag with RF welded seams that the Fatty slides into. The loop handle on top helps when you’re pulling it out of the rear pockets on the BC35 and Reckless 80. With my tools, it’s a tight fit in the pockets, but it works. Your results may vary, depending on how many tools you carry. The hard thing about a tool roll rain cover is that we have to use an extremely durable material, otherwise it won’t be waterproof for long.

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The strap around the outside with the blue buckle comes from the tool roll itself. When it’s wet outside, use the strap around the rain cover. When it’s dry outside, leave the rain cover at home and put the strap back on the tool roll itself. The rain cover also makes a convenient tool-tray for roadside repairs.

We added two extra webbing pass-throughs on either side of of the one for the strap, so you can strap the tool roll directly to a bike with Simple Cinch Straps.

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With the addition of the rain cover, the Fatty will be the most expensive tool roll on the market. Probably $65-70. It’s an expensive little bag to make. I have one sitting next to me on the couch right now, and I can say for certain that when you actually hold one in your hands, it feels like a hell of a good value. This is definitely the most badass tool roll I’ve ever seen.

Tent Pole Bag

The tent pole bag is nearly finished. This will eventually replace the velcro tent pole holders on the Reckless 80, and will also be available for individual sale. This is a simple vinyl bag that replaces the flimsy OEM bag that probably came with your tent poles when you bought the tent. For those of us who store tent poles separate from the tent (making the tent itself much easier to pack), this bag will prevent your poles from wearing through the storage bag. We designed this for the Reckless 80 and Backcountry 30 duffle, but it should work in other applications as well.

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The tent pole bag has this cool velcro roll top closure, so it can easily adapt to different length tent poles.

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Once rolled, it clips closed with a side release buckle.

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Scout 25 Pannier

I am really excited for this one. We sold out of the original Scout 25s last week, and we sold out of the Backcountry 25 panniers several months ago, so we’re anxious to get this new system in stock as soon as possible.

Andrew redesigned the front of the removable drybag to include top & bottom daisy chains for our Steelcore Locking Straps.

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The harness looks great with the logos.

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The removable MOLLE panels look & work great too.

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We originally planned to use metal clips dipped in rubber, but our factory sourced these sweet heavy duty plastic clips, which we like even better. In production, these clips will sit in small cutouts in the metal frame, so the MOLLE panel can’t slide around. Even without the cutouts, the panel is remarkably secure.

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On the back of the drybag we added these removable/replaceable polyethylene sheets to prevent abrasion where the bag rubs against the metal frame, mounting hardware, rotopax, and/or MOLLE accessories.

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When the backpack straps are deployed from the rear zipper pocket, the velcro flap which holds the PE sheet in place can be folded back on itself, so the exposed velcro won’t agitate your neck.

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More good news: the new Scout 25 will cost around $350-400 – which is exactly what we were hoping – plus an extra $15-20 each for the optional MOLLE panels. It will be weight-efficient, bomber, minimalist, modular, and super affordable. Ash and I are taking the latest prototypes to Sri Lanka for testing in a couple of weeks.

Mini Tank  Bag

This is a minimalist tank bag, perfect for riders who don’t like tank bags. It fits a cell phone, wallet, compact camera, and maybe a couple of snack bars, but it’s still small enough to stay out of the way when you’re up on the pegs.

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Inside, some basic elastic cable holders on the bottom of the bag.

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There’s a clear cell phone pocket on top that fits an Iphone or Galaxy.

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There’s an internal divider that folds out when you need it, and folds away when you don’t.

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Underneath the waterproof insert, there’s a cable pass-through on the bottom of the bag, for charging cables and headphones.

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This is still a rough prototype, but it’s getting pretty close. Hopefully the next version will be our golden sample for production.

Reckless 80 v3.0

Thinking ahead to a future Reckless 80 redesign, we’ve received some feedback that on bikes with asymmetrical back ends (for example, due to an exhaust bump-out, or a side-rear fueling gas tank) or on bikes with unevenly-weighted  loads, the R80 tends to favor one side vs the other, causing it to sit slightly off-center.

We’re experimenting with a possible solution using Simple Cinch Straps, attaching them to the R80 harness with the same bolts we use to connect the 3 pieces of the v2.0 harness together. Anyone who currently has a v2.0 can modify their existing bags in this way, and we’re going to consider adding this additional connection point to a future version of the bag.

First we heated up a nail to make holes in the harness and webbing. A soldering iron would be easier.

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Then we used the bolts and tee nuts from the R80 connection hardware kit.

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One end of the Simple Cinch Straps bolts directly to the R80 harness.

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The other end connects to the bike, either on the luggage rack or somewhere on the frame.

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The straps pass through the rear fueling hole on the R80 harness and tighten against each other, providing a sturdy new connection point, and preventing side-to-side movement. With these added straps, the harness feels extremely taught, though we haven’t had a chance to test it yet since all of the Gorge is covered in snow at the moment.

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If you want to try this on your bike, send us a note through the website and we’ll send you the nuts and bolts for free (not the straps though, those are $17). Ash and I will try it in Sri Lanka. We’ll have more feedback after traveling with it for a month.

In general, we’re starting to think about upgrades to the Reckless 80 and Backcountry 35 systems for the 2018/2019 riding seasons.

Nomad Tank Bag

After my last post on the Nomad tank bag, several riders requested measurements. Here they are. Keep in mind that this is with the bag fully stuffed, and with a full water bladder inside. It sits noticeably flatter with less stuff in it.

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At first glance, compared to other tank bags on the market, the Nomad is very long, much longer than standard toaster-style bags. However the base of the bag is actually much smaller than the bag itself, which enables the Nomad to fit on a smaller tank, and also to be rigged farther forward on the tank.

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Mounted on the bike, the Nomad sits much farther forward than any tank bag I’ve ever used. On my 950, I push it all the way out over the gas cap almost to the handlebars. Rigged that way, it doesn’t interfere with my riding position

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Outdoor Retailer Show

Last week I flew to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer, the major outdoor industry trade show. I met up with Maia from the S-Group and we walked the show together, looking at fabrics for our new riding apparel line.

First we met with Toray, a major fabric supplier from Japan, who makes the Dermizaz NX membrane that our friends at Kuiu and Trew Gear use for hunting/skiing apparel. The trouble we’ve run into with Toray in the past is that they don’t make high abrasion fabrics that can stand up to motorcycling.

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Then we met with Sympatex from Germany, who does have some cool high abrasion fabrics, two in particular that we liked. Their membrane has impressive breathability stats. I love this little MVTR field-tester. Place the membrane over a hot cup of coffee, and you can observe moisture condensing on the mirror above.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the waterproof/breathable membrane sandwiched between the outer and inner layer of your ski gloves looks like, now you know.

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We also met with Schoeller from Switzerland. Man, these guys have some cool stuff with really high abrasion stats. Very expensive though, nearly twice the cost of eVent/Gore/Sympatex. We did some quick math, and assuming 3 yards per jacket, a jacket made entirely from Schoeller fabric would cost $250-$300 more than a jacket made from any other membrane. That’s a challenge. Still, we like the fabric.

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Our last meeting was with eVent, and this was one of the more interesting meetings of the day. eVent has some new high-abrasion fabrics they developed for snowmobiling, using their proprietary waterproof/breathable air-permeable membrane. We’re waiting on samples, but based on what we saw at the show, this could be a really interesting direction for our apparel. They have this cool little bubble tester to demonstrate the air permeability benefits of of eVent over Gore-tex.

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The blue fabric is Gore, the orange fabric is eVent. Both are 100% waterproof (note the lack of water in the bottom of the tester)

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When you add air pressure to the bottom of the tester with a hand pump, look how many bubbles come up through the eVent side. Gore is not air-permeable, whereas eVent is. The term ‘breathability’ so frequently thrown around in outdoor product marketing usually refers to moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR), not air permeability, which is a bit misleading.

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I caught up with Chris Pew from Trew Gear at the end of the day for a beer, and ordered a new snowboard jacket (the Cosmic, made from Toray). Can’t wait to use it this weekend!

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Shows

Dusty’s been busy at the New York and Washington DC Progressive International Motorcycle Shows. Thanks for representing us Dusty, and a big thanks to all the riders who stopped by to show support!

New York

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Washington DC

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Holidays

Over the Holidays, Ash and I joined our friends Josh & Agnes for a moto & mountain biking trip to Moab. It was really neat to have these epic slickrock trails to ourselves.

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