August 1, 2014
I just rolled back into the gorge from a two week trip out to the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association gathering in St. Paul Minnesota. It was a sort of last minute decision to ride out there from Hood River instead of fly, and man what a trek. 4,200 miles on a mix of forest service roads, single lane highways, and interstates.
I rode because I wanted some solo time to focus on product development and business thoughts, without the day-to-day distractions that typically encroach on that kind of musing. Plus, it was fun. I free-camped the whole way and avoided restaurants and hotels, except in the grasslands, where it’s hard to just pull off and find public land to camp on. My buddy Dave joined for the first few days on his KLR, then peeled off to spend the rest of the week riding and fly-fishing in Idaho. After that I was solo.
I have about 30 pages of hand notes with various product and feature ideas that I scribbled in my notebook at gas stops and at night. Looks a bit like the unabomber’s manifesto now that I’m looking at it, but hopefully I’ll find a few keepers in there.
In prior posts on prior trips, I’ve covered a lot of the main features of the bags. At this point there aren’t really any of the features of the bags that I don’t use daily, which is not surprising since Andrew and I designed them. Here’s a few minor new things that I discovered on this trip.
The duffle d-rings are a good spot to clip a helmet (with a carabiner) at a gas station or when shuttling short distances, like around a campsite. I used to put the helmet on my mirror but about 1 in 5 times I knock it off the bike, which always ticks me off, and it screws up the angle of the mirror too.
Getting everything to a room in one trip: after the rally I had to do laundry plus i wanted a real shower so I got a hotel in Cassleton, North Dakota. My room was on the third floor. To get everything up in one trip I clip the tank bag to the duffle like this.
Helmet on the pannier like this
And with the backpack straps on the duffle, get everything up in one trip. This is the same way I was doing it in Central America last winter.
Locking: everyone always asks about locking/security. In my opinion, it’s easy to overestimate the security of hard bags (I can easily pry my locked hepco beckers with a screwdriver) and also easy to underestimate the ease of locking soft bags. I didn’t really need to lock my bags on this trip but I had the locks and I wanted to try them out so for 3 days I diligently locked/unlocked them every time I needed access. We got these retractable cable locks from a factory Andrew knows and they work great. When they’re cinched shut, it would be a real pain in the ass to get into the roll top, and it’s impossible to remove the bag from the bike without cutting the cable. The cable runs through the front/back daisy chains and through the drain hole at the bottom of the beavertail. It really works. And its super easy. I didn’t really need them on this trip, but they would be really handy in a more urban environment, like when I’m in a grocery store or whatever.
In St. Paul the bike was my only transport, and I spent a bunch of time running around town to get things like duct tape and groceries before/after the show. I used the backpack straps and then just rolled the top a few times like a bike messenger bag. It worked great for this, and the straps are really comfortable.
The duffle beavertail: oh man, I love this thing. Here’s how I rigged it most of the time. Tent poles under the connector straps, jacket and wet swim trunks under the beavertail.
I had this nasty gas leak I was dealing with for the first half of the trip due to some sheared bolts on the fuel distribution plate on the inside of the tank. The beavertail makes a great tool/work surface, and a place to sit the tank.
My favorite new use for the beavertail is as a food-prep surface & table. It really works. I used it for this every single night and morning.
Cam Straps: I use traditional cam lock straps to connect the duffle to the bike. Mine look like this:
These are a little more of a hassle than rok-strap type straps, but they’re firm not elastic, and they can be used as a tow rope in a pinch. Also, since each is 12′ long (the excess length just tucks under the beavertail) they work great for storing food at night up out of the reach of bears. Just hook the two straps together, toss the metal end over a tree branch, and hoist the bags. 10-15 feet off the ground is what they recommend. The two straps together are 24 feet plus another 6′ of human reach makes 30′, which means you can hoist to 15′ no problem. More than enough to get food into the safety zone. Really convenient.
Regarding the bags themselves: there were no new issues to report, which is great news since the designs are finalized and currently in production, so making changes at this point would have been difficult. The abrasion points that Chip fixed before I left (and which were also fixed in the final design) gave me no problems at all. Everything was totally solid. I got rained on plenty and everything stayed dry. I slid-out on some gravel, and even under the weight of the big GS the mounts and latches held no problem. Between our local backyard trips, the Moab trip, the ride to Panama, and this 4,200 mile ride to Minnesota and back, at this point I think we’ve tested the bags about as thoroughly as we possibly can.
The BMW MOA event itself was great. We got lots of attention despite being in the way back of the room, and we picked up a whole bunch of new pre-orders which I haven’t even had time to tally yet. I shipped out a box with some samples, signs, and business cards, but due to the gas leak on the bike which slowed me down, I rolled into the MN fairgrounds with only an hour of setup time before the show started. That was kind of hectic. I found some empty pallets sitting around, and I nabbed some tablecloths and extra folding chairs from the annex building. Considering it took only 45 minutes to setup, I was pretty stoked on how our booth looked.
The rally took over the entire fairgrounds. It was total urban camping, kind of cool. Tents everywhere. This is where I camped, right outside the vendor building. Check out the fried cheese curd stall in the background.
My stockpile of supplies.
Setup a solar shower on the outside of one of the buildings.
Woke up one morning to find this little guy in my tent.
Had a number of BMW customers who bought the Backcountry 40 duffle planning to mount it like this with their hard bags:
No pics from the show itself because it was only me and I was crazy BUSY all day everyday, which was awesome, I am not complaining! And then suddenly just like that it was over. I packed everything on my bike that would fit, shoved the rest into a box which I shipped home, and got back on the road.
This was my second visit to the MN state fairgrounds. The last time was 20+ years ago. I was going through a kind of vagabond phase, riding freights and hitchhiking around the western states. I worked a bunch of random jobs to make money along the way, things like bucking hay, or painting, etc, mostly through day-labor offices. The MN state fair was one of the places I worked, shoveling sand for this big sand castle they were building. That was in the early 90s. It was interesting to be back there again 20 years later in a completely different context. Although this time I was working too, and I’m still kind of a vagabond I guess, so maybe it’s not that different after all.
The laser-cut logo badges for the wedge-mounts arrived when I was gone. They look great!
The latches also arrived. Beth at the post office was happy to see me because the boxes were taking up so much space.
Some new SW Motech racks for my KTM Super Enduro also arrived, as did the prototypes of our new SW Motech mounting brackets. I’m telling you, I was like a kid in the candy store. Looks like the SWM bracket protos are a clean fit. I’ll get them mounted up next week and confirm.
Andrew is in Vietnam working with the factory on the production and getting the Reckless big and small turned into prototypes. We’ve been traveling and working so much the last few weeks that we’ve barely had a chance to catch up aside from the occasional text message.
SBA Loan is moving forward. Should close in two weeks.
P-38s will go out next week.
We’re behind on responding to customer emails. With Andrew overseas and me on the road, it has been hard to keep up with the email traffic. We’ll get caught up now. Appreciate your patience!