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 🙂
Death Valley Noobs
We entered Death Valley in a dust storm. They closed the entrance shortly after we snapped this shot.
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.
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.
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!
Ashley helped with the raffle prizes, including a Mosko Backcountry duffle.
We had KTM toast & whiskey with Kevin from Carson City KTM.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
Evan & Owen, aka the ‘E&O Medicine Show,’ kept us entertained at night. Their Snoop Dog covers were killing me.
We did lots of demos, sold plenty of bags, and met a ton of cool & interesting people.
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!
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 🙂
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.
Our friend Woody just cut some firewood. He’ll keep the fire raging all weekend.
A hot spring, the perfect end to an epic day of exploring.
The Alvord is one of the least light-polluted parts of the Lower 48. Find the red “X” in the pic below.
This UNRally thing is an experiment. Hope to see you there!
We finally got back to White Salmon late last week. First up on the agenda: the 2017/18 catalog.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re also considering riveting these metal pass-throughs for Steelcore Locking Straps to the outside of the bags. For added security.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!