Back on the Grid

February 9, 2015

Finally back in communications!

I thought I’d be posting from the road as we traveled, but this trip became so much more all-consuming than we’d expected. Nursing vintage 125cc two-strokes along 2,335km of mountains, rivers, dirt, and backroads was a totally awesome challenge. And a hell of a lot of fun too. Long days, beautiful scenery, off-the-track detours, friendly people, and random small town stops. Everything I love about moto-touring. We made it to Hanoi in one piece and now it’s time for yours truly to get back to work.

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Dusty, Nicole, and Andrew have been keeping up-to-date on advrider posts, emails, and web inquiries.  Things have been a lot busier so far this winter than we expected.  I can see there is a lot of great new input on tank bags on our advrider thread too.  I have some new thoughts on that as well after completing this most recent trip.

I’m posting from a meeting room at our apparel factory a few hours outside of Hanoi.  I’m here with the factory development team working on our 2016 Mosko riding gear.  From here, I’ll return to HCMC tomorrow to meet with David, Anton, and Ted to review the final bag revisions before production starts.  The materials & parts have all been ordered and are on the way, now we just need some time on the production floor.

Reckless 40L/80L

Here’s my review of the Reckless bags while the info is fresh. We’ve been in development on these two bags for over a year and a half, and they’ve had their fair share of on-bike testing, but this was by far the longest continuous trip yet.

Amarett took the 40L and I took the 80L. The shared 120L capacity was more than enough for a two-person, month-long, overseas trip without camping gear. Amarett, a shining example of minimalist travel, had plenty of additional capacity on the 40L, even carrying two liters of fuel in her MOLLE pouches.  I carried the spares, tubes, tools, and supplies, plus a mini-laptop and some extra clothing for work, which fit fine in the large reckless with extra room left over. As we worked our way north, we acquired additional gear for wetter/colder weather, like boots, rain coats, and puffy jackets, so the extra space really came in handy, as did the beavertails.

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After living out of these bags for a month through dirt, mud, rivers, mountains, heavy rain, and pavement: I love them. Obviously I am biased so I won’t even pretend this is an objective review. I know why every buckle is there and what every pocket was designed for, and we used them all.

Compared to the Backcountry/Scout Kits, the Reckless bags have a smaller capacity (80L compared to 110L for the BC Kit and 40L compared to 80L for the Scout Kit) and they don’t have the hard-plate, one-click mounting system. But they shave off a lot of weight from the bike without the mounting hardware and racks, while retaining the same 3-bag feel of traditional moto luggage.  They’re really easy to get in & out of throughout the day, and it’s always easy to find what I’m looking for. I love that they can be fitted to almost any bike which can accommodate a passenger, even these little vintage 125cc Minsks.

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Things I really like:

  • Easy to fit/mount, even on an odd bike like the Minsk.  At one point when the blue bike broke down we even mounted both Reckless bags on my bike, the 40L rigged on the tank, and rode two-up.

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  • Tons of stash spots all over. Two front molle pouches, a large molle pouch on top, two rear fixed pockets, a map pocket, mesh pockets, and of course the beavertails. So many different ways to stash and store things. We used them all.
  • The beavertails. Man we used these things every day and all the time for everything from the rubber rain boots we bought when it started raining, to wet towels/clothes, and even carrying Amarett’s gas tank, which I had to remove when we loaded her bike on top of a bus to get it back to Vietnam (from Laos) for a top-end rebuild. Other uses: water bottles, puffy coats, food, trash, wet/muddy shoes.

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  • Really easy to mount: Some nights we elected to leave the harnesses on the bike and take the drybags to the room, some nights we took the entire harness. Most nights we took the harness because they mount/dismount easily and we didn’t want to risk having one of our only two prototypes stolen. Plus we had things stashed in the molle pouches and extra pockets and we wanted access to all that stuff in the room.

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  • Adjustability of the mounting angle. The system we designed for the revised bags has an aluminum bar with several different mounting options to connect the strap. I changed the angle of the side bags on the large Reckless to a steep slant, which was necessary with the small frame of the Minsk, to keep the side bags off the exhaust.

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  • Totally 100% waterproof. Even after several days of nonstop rain plus many water-crossings, some of which we had to push the bikes through in neutral with the engine off because the water level was well-over the air intake, we had zero water inside the drybags. Not one drop. It’s SO nice to have moto luggage that doesn’t leak.

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  • Clear panels on the front of the drybags. Even though we usually brought the entire harness to the room, we generally removed the drybags inside the room because the harnesses were covered in mud.  Having the clear front panels made it much easier to find stuff.

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We also found some things to work on in future revisions. A few examples.

  • Adding Velcro to the rear pocket roll-tops to reduce the risk of small, heavy items bouncing out if the bags are mounted at a steep angle, as on the minsk. We’ll try to make this revision before production starts if we can.  You can kind of see what I mean in the side-on pic below where the rear pocket is open because I took my flask out.

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  • An improved carry system for the entire bag & harness when it’s off the bike. The dry bags themselves are easy, and have their own closure system, but the entire harness and bag system is a bit of a handful. Most of the time I threw it over my shoulder. My bag weighed at least 50-60 lbs with all the heavy, basic tools we had (bought in Vietnam) and spare parts etc. It was fine for a short distance but I think we could develop a better carry system down the road.

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  • Making it easier to get the drybags in/out of the harness when packed. Even with the pull handle at the bottom and internal stiffener in the back of the dry bag, it still takes some wrestling to get the bags in/out. We’re adjusting the size of the drybags in the small Reckless to help. I found it’s much easier to leave the roll top open until the drybag is inside the harness. Then I would roll/compress the bags once they’re inserted.

None of these was all that big of a deal, just some things to work on. The bags performed great and I am extremely stoked to get them in stock and start selling this spring.  They held up great after a month of bumpy, dirty, wet riding and were a pleasure to use.  The construction is totally bomber.

Riding Jersey

I also wore our new riding jersey the entire time. One jersey, 26 riding days in a row, with an occasional wash in the sink. The jersey is awesome. It’s mesh, so lets through plenty of air, but also makes a great base layer worn under other jackets. As far as I’m concerned the jersey is ready for prime-time. It has a more athletic fit than some other jerseys out there, but we’ll do an XL/XXL as well for stockier riders.

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Adapters & Tank Bags

I’m just getting caught up on things back home now that I’m back in the city with good internet etc. I heard from Andrew that the BMW adapter saga continues, but is getting closer. Because the adapters are still underway, we haven’t started tank bags yet.  In a way that’s cool because for selfish reasons I wanted to be around when we the development process kicks off, although it does mean we’re already a little behind on 2016 development.  When I get home, the first thing I want to do is to condense all the awesome info on advrider into a single concept list for brainstorming. Then we’ll build/consolidate from there. It’ll be a fun process and I can’t wait to start.

Vietnam

This was such a fun trip.  Early-on with Mosko, Andrew and I decided to focus our cut & sew in Vietnam — as opposed to other cut & sew countries like China, India, Bangladesh, etc — because we knew this is a place we would enjoy visiting, working, and riding in. For me, this trip just further reinforced that decision.  Andrew and I have spent more than our share of time in the industrial zones of southern China, working at factories with transient labor and crowded in-house dormitories. It’s a drag. Working in Vietnam is a totally different experience. The workers and managers live in the local community, and they all go home to their families every night.  The quality of life is so much better.  People are friendly, welcoming, and helpful, and the economy is growing.  I look forward to coming back.  Plus, now that I’ve had a small taste of the moto-touring potential of SE Asia, I’m excited to come back on a bigger bike someday.

Here’s some other assorted pics from the trip.

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Can’t believe the spring riding season is right around the corner!

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2 thoughts on “Back on the Grid

  1. Curtis Cummings

    Great Report! I got a couple of sets of your bags for a few of the KLR’s at Great Southwest Moto Adventures and am a huge fan of the product. Ease of use, durablility, watertight, integrity, looks and a big winner on functionality. Your guys are producing great products. The Posts are something I look forward to reading. Keep up the great work…

    Reply

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