Motorhead Coffee

Vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Month: July 2015

A Good Pair of Boots

I’m a boot guy. Some people like tennis shoes, some like loafers. Me, I like boots. I’ve been wearing boots as my shoe of choice since I was a little kid. I don’t know if it was because I lived on a small farm or if it was driven from spending all my time riding motorcycles. Nothing like a good pair of well worn boots to make you feel right at home.
I’ve owned several pairs of motorcycle boots over the years. I’ve tried a few brands, but there is one boot in particular that stands above the rest. Sometime back in the late 90s or early 2000s I bought a pair of BMW Kilimanjaro boots. They looked more like motocross boots than street boots, and maybe that was part of the appeal. This was before everyone started using the term “Adventure bikes.” Those boots were the most comfortable riding shoes I ever owned. I wore them until just about a year or two ago, when I discovered I had worn the toe completely out. It was a sad day indeed.
I began searching for a replacement and ended up picking up a couple different pairs. Neither one compared to my old worn out boots. Frankly, I didn’t much care for them at all, so when I go the chance I picked up a pair of boots that reminded me of my old friends. I read somewhere that at one time Forma made some of the BMW boots. I have no idea if they made my old Kilimanjaro or not, but I’ve got to say I love these new Adventure boots! They are all day comfortable…good thing, as that is how they will be worn. When I go on bike trips my riding boots go hiking on mountain trails, walking around quaint downtowns and take me out to dinner and drinks. FullSizeRender (5)
These new boots feel like home and they remind me of my aging Triumph Street Triple R. I decided a few days ago that it was finally time to let my 5 year old Street Triple go. I have owned the bike since new. It was actually a gift from my wife for my 50th birthday. I have loved that bike since the day I rode it home. I didn’t put all that many miles on it (pushing 15k right now) because I have owned other bikes at the same time, however, none of them ever stuck with me like the Triple.
It’s not just that it was a gift that makes me wax poetic about this machine; it just fits me. I love the sound of that three cylinder engine as it winds out. I love looking over the bars and realizing there is nothing between me and what lies ahead. I love the minimalist nature of the bike, the raw power, the ease with which it can be handled. I don’t even think about steering it; my body just knows how it will respond and, together, we navigate the asphalt serpent.DSC_0050
This bike has taken me many places, figuratively and literally. It has spent many weeks in Asheville, running from one end of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the other. It’s been all over Virginia, West Virginia and the Midwest. Together we have created many memories.
So, I tried to put it up for sale, just like I’ve threatened to do many times before. I went as far as to create an ad. As I wrote out the post I found myself getting a bit teary-eyed and realized I couldn’t let this bike go to just anyone. I have loved this machine and someday, its new owner must love it the way I did. But for today, the Street Triple stays in the garage, at home where it belongs…just like those old worn out boots.IMG_0923

Viking Cycle Ironborn Textile Jacket Review

Call us hoarders if you will, but I prefer to think of motorcycle enthusiasts as collectors. We collect extra seats, windshields, all types of motorcycle luggage and random spare parts. Right now, my mother’s barn has 2 stock exhaust systems, mirrors, handgrips and random other parts from bikes dating back many years. In fact, it was not too long ago that I had a tail box lid for a 1982 Honda Goldwing Interstate tucked away in her barn.
We also tend to collect riding gear. I’m an all the gear all the time rider, which means when I ride I not only wear a helmet, I wear gloves, boots, a jacket and riding pants or 1 piece suit. Right now I could probably scrape up 6 helmets around the house and at least that many pairs of gloves (probably twice that, yet I only wear one brand and one style…ever!). I have 3 different pairs of riding pants, a 1 piece Roadcrafter suit and I would guess about 5 jackets. That does not count the 2 old BMW riding suits I recently gave my son-in-law and 3-4 others still packed away in crates. Over the years I’ve owned dozens of riding jackets, including: BMW Savannah, Motoport, Aerostich Darien, Tourmaster, Firstgear, Klim, Rev it’ and Clover. In my closet right now is a Klim, 3 Rev it’ jackets and a Tourmaster, all of which see regular duty. Oh and don’t forget the red Stich.
The same people who ask me why I own more than one motorcycle also wonder why I own so much riding gear. Well, the answer is the same; different tools for different occasions. I have jackets that are 100% waterproof but are a little stiff and don’t breathe well. I have jackets with removable waterproof liners, which can be a pain, but they are lighter and breathe better. I have jackets that are warmer in winter and others that are cooler in summer. I have touring jackets and around town jackets. There, see? Makes perfect sense!
So when the folks at Motorcycle House approached me about trying one of their Viking Cycle jackets, I was more than happy to oblige. Just to be clear, I did not purchase the jacket; it was sent at no charge for my review.
The jacket that showed up at my doorstep this past week was the Ironborn Textile Jacket. The jacket body is black and comes in several accent color options. I asked them to send me the jacket in black/black. I’ve never been accused of being flashy! They were out of that combo in a medium, so I was sent black/green. Green? That made me a bit nervous. I was envisioning Kawasaki Lime Green! Anyone got a Ninja H2R they can loan me? When the package came I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead of lime green, the accents were more reminiscent of Hi Viz yellow. I can do that.

A model I'm not!

A model I’m not!

My first impression when I pulled the jacket from the packaging was, “This is nice looking jacket.” The Ironborn is a short, sport style jacket. Most of my gear is 3/4 length, but as I said, there is a purpose for every style and there are times when a short jacket is more appropriate.
One reason I like 3/4 jackets is because of the storage. They have lots of pockets. Well, the Ironborn was like a spy coat…it had pockets tucked away everywhere. Aside from the two outside zippered pockets, it had multiple pockets inside, including a phone access pocket, MP3 pocket, sunglass pocket, and random other pockets. Heck, it even has a way to route headphones inside and up to your collar! But the coup de grace is the 10″ tablet pocket inside. No kidding, this thing will hold an iPad Mini! I put my iPhone 6 inside and never felt it once.
take your entire library along!

take your entire library along!

Those of us who wear riding gear do so for specific reasons, the main one being protection. For a piece of riding gear to be of value it has to do the following things: protect you from harm, shield you from the elements, be reasonably comfortable, be somewhat versatile in regards to climate, be durable and it doesn’t hurt if it looks good too.
Protection is number one in my book. I’m happy to say that I did not “test” the Ironborn in this regard! The outer shell of the jacket is constructed of Rock Tex 600 and is complete with CE approved shoulder and elbow armor. It also has a back protector pocket and comes with spine armor in place.
CE Approved

CE Approved

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Ironborn has a waterproof treated outer shell. We have been experiencing pop up showers here in the Midwest for the past several weeks, but in my 400 miles of weekend travel, I never felt a drop. I guess I could have tested the waterproof claim of the jacket by standing in my drive and letting my wife spray me with a hose…but I think she would have enjoyed that too much!
I wear a size Medium in all the jackets I own. The Ironborn medium was a little roomy on me. I think I could have worn a small. There are adjustment straps on the sleeves, as well as take up straps for the body. I pulled all of them as tight as they would go. The jacket felt good on. It zipped up nice, I pulled the velcro tight on the cuffs, put on my gloves, and off I went. 50 miles down the road and I had not given the jacket a second thought. That’s a good thing. It means it is comfortable. The neck closure was secure, no flapping, no chaffing, no bunching up anywhere.
Who says I have a bald spot?

Who says I have a bald spot?

The Ironborn even has a zip out, full sleeve, insulated liner…which I promptly took out. After all, it is 92 degrees in Kentucky right now and the humidity is through the roof. No liner needed.
thermal liner

thermal liner

I was fairly comfortable riding around locally, until I stopped for some photo ops. I got hot quick. I’m not faulting the jacket for that though; I would have been hot standing around in any of my jackets. Once I got back on the road, I did a quick, 30 mile blast down the Interstate just to make sure nothing odd happened while encountering a higher rate of speed. Before I did that though, I opened up the front chest and shoulder vents, as well as the rear exit vents. The high-speed ride, cooled me off quite nicely, thank you.
2 chest and 2 shoulder vents

2 chest and 2 shoulder vents

If I were guessing, I would call this a 3 season jacket. In fact, I think it would be very comfortable in the Spring and Fall, my two favorite riding seasons. I don’t know its degree of warmth for a northern winter, nor how well it would cool on a Florida July. But to be fair, I don’t know of any riding gear that feels all that cool on a Key West summer or warm on an International Falls, Minnesota winter. As for looks, I think the Ironborn is an attractive jacket. The green might have clashed a bit with my KTM orange, but so does my Arai helmet with the Union Jack on the front!
The only thing I really couldn’t test was durability. We motorcycle riders are pretty hard on our gear. We wear them in the hot sun and the pouring rain. We wear them in the cold, and even in the snow when fate fails to smile. We lay on the ground in them, change oil and tires in them and sometimes we even sleep alongside the road in them. Our gear has to be tough. The zippers need to be strong and the seams sound. Only time will tell how the Viking Cycle Ironborn jacket holds up to the test of daily use. When I find out, you will be the first to know.
Overall, I have to say I was quite impressed with the jacket. That is especially true when you realize that it retails at Motorcycle House for $69.99. No, that’s not a typo. $69.99. I’ve got jackets that I paid 3 to 8 times that much for. Are they 8 times better? I don’t know, but I do know this; I’ve had $500 jackets break zippers within the first few months of ownership. What I can say now is, if you are looking for a sport style textile jacket that provides protection and comfort and don’t want to break the bank, you should give the Viking Cycle Ironborn a look. You just might be surprised.


It seems like I’ve always lived my life Iike I was on a mission. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I feel the driving urge to get it done as fast as possible so I can move on to the next “mission.” A sickness? Maybe. Crazy? Certainly. Annoying? Absolutely. You wouldn’t think a person should have to learn to relax, but sometimes I think I need a lesson  in letting go of all the meaningless, irrelevant, time -strapped pursits that I engage in. 
I sometimes wonder if that’s why I tend to ride motorcyles on the aggressive side. I’ve never been one to lope along at the speed limit, while stopping to enjoy the sights. “Oh look Jamie, the Grand Canyon!” “Yeah, yeah, its a big hole, looks cool, no time to stop, we’ve got miles to ride!” Sounds silly, but its pretty accurate. I will never be accused of being the rider holding up a long string of traffic. Cruising to me is something I did when I was 17 while making laps in my car around the courthouse square. And I’ve never even owned an actual cruiser bike in my life.
Well, that’s not 100% accurate. The first bike I ever took a trip on was a Suzuki LS550, a very cruiser-like machine. Of course, I made it as touring friendly as possible by adding a Vetter Quicksilver fairing and Bagman soft luggage. My first wife and I rode it two up through the Smokey Mountains for a week. It rained every day. We didn’t care. We slept in a tent, rode in cheap plastic rain gear and meandered along the mountain roads. Probably the only time you will ever hear me say I “meandered” anywhere!
Yesterday morning I was debating what sort of mood I was in before mounting up for a 4th of July ride. The Duke would have been my obvious choice, but it’s still at the shop getting that performance enhancement I was telling you about. It is done, but Chad, Commonwealth’s miracle worker of a mechanic, decided to torment me by calling me 9 minutes before the shop closed for the weekend to tell me the bike was ready to go. I was 120 miles away. I did the math anyway…nope, not going to make it! Thanks Chad…you probably saved me a speeding ticket. Or at least, delayed it.
I’ve got new street rubber on the Vstrom, so I thought about breaking those shoes in. The Street Triple always puts a smile on my face, but there is no relaxing on that bike for sure. I was feeling pretty shot physically yesterday. I had spent all day Friday doing something I have not had to do in 3 years; mow grass and swing a weed eater. My wife and I spent about 13+ years mowing the 11 acres my Dad and Mom decided to call their “yard.” It reminded me of how much I enjoy living in a condo! I determined my energy level for the day was much more suited to backroad rambling than tightrope waliking and mile eating, so the Scrambler got the nod. 
 It’s not that you can’t ride the Scrambler aggresively, but it does lend itself to a relaxing ride if you will let it. And I did. With no destination in mind, I just pointed it down a country road, navigating in no particular manner, with no concern for where I ended up or when I got there. I enjoyed it very much, thank you. No pressure to attack a corner, no voice saying, “If you keep going you can be in Tennessee in another hour.” Just a relaxing ride. I know for me that is an anomaly, but I hope when retirement comes and time takes on a different meaning, that I can learn to do this more often. I’m planning a coast to coast in the near future, but I don’t want to make it a 50 cc (coast to coast in 50 hours); no, I want to take about a month and soak in all the unique people, places and things along the way. I wonder if my boss will let me take 4 weeks vacation at once? Uh, no.
Well, getting ready to climb on the Vstrom or the Street Triple for today’s ride. Wonder how fast I can make the Virginia line and back?

Performance Awards

My 690 Duke is in the shop right now getting a “performance enhancement.” I’m very excited to get this little Tasmanian Devil back so I can give it a proper spin. The big challenge, however, is how to keep from turning a performance enhancement into a performance award! IMG_1126
You would think that a 690 thumper, putting out a paltry 67 hp, would be the last bike you’d worry about causing an impromptu meeting with Officer Friendly, but you’d be wrong. Pure adrenaline is pumping through those fuel lines. Combine that with razor sharp handling and a wet weight that is lower than an NFL linebacker and what you’ve got is an invitation to driving school!
I learned long ago that there is a lot more to a motorcycle than horsepower and that certain bikes have an unspoken quality that coaxes the juvenile delinquent right out of your Brooks Brother’s suit. My very first Ducati had that effect…and it wasn’t even a sport bike…or the color red, but that ST2 got my blood running every time I hit the start button. As I ran down the highway it would whisper in my ear, “No one is looking, do a wheelie, now!” “Here comes a curve, lean me over, hard!” So I did.
I spent a year on a Yamaha FJR 1300, a bike with no shortage of brute force. There were about 145 ponies under that tank. It pulled like a runaway locomotive. I distinctly remember heading dow the Interstate on my way to Florida and coming upon a semi who was trucking along at a healthy 80+ mph. I cracked the throttle of the FJR, whipped out left and passed the trucker hard and fast. Next thing I knew I was doing xxx miles per hour and looking for my ripcord. Fast bike. Never got pulled over once.
After about 10 months I got bored with the inline 4 and traded it in on a Ducati Multistrada 1000. About 58 less hp than the FJR, but one of the most enjoyable motors I’ve ever owned. I wrung it to redline every time I rode it. It begged me to…and who was I to deny this lovely redhead? I had my first speeding ticket on this bike within a week of taking ownership.
So, you see, the Duke is a dangerous creature in stock form, let alone the improvements currently being bestowed upon this little firecracker. I was thinking that when I pick it up I should probably just head on down to the courthouse and sign up for driving school. You’d think a 55 year old man would know better, and I do…but I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face.

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