30 January 2011

Small or Medium Size?

Give me your opinion ...

Small Micatech (8")

Medium Micatech (10")

The smaller ones hold about 37L each, the larger ones around 45L each. To give a feeling for the difference: two one-gallon milk jugs more per case in the medium sized ones. That's quite a bit. Twice my compressed sleeping bag. Or 3/4 of our small tent. Or a set of hiking boots.

But on the other hand: 32.5" overall width with the smaller ones, 36.5" with the bigger ones.

Oh, and yes, I hate the low exhaust, too and if I get this rig will get a very narrow exhaust that goes between pannier and bike, not underneath the pannier.

Another Blog Worth Following

I was laughing quite hard when I read some of BeemerBob's blog. He seems to have quite some misfortunes along his travels ... and still have humor left to write about it, laugh about himself and the little "mishaps". Great read and worth following.

27 January 2011

Awesome Customer Service

After I was complaining about the customer service of some vendors a few days ago, I now have to acknowledge the awesome service of two companies:

1) Micatech

Micatech has a vendor thread on advrider.com and they are incredibly responsive there. The luggage seems to be very well made, sturdy, and well thought out. The Micatech team (or at least one person) is following that thread closely and has answers for pretty much any question asked there and also valuable thoughts on suggestions and ideas thrown in by existing or potential customers.

2) BestRest Products

Over the last few days I was in contact with David Peterson from BestRest about the Metal Mule exhaust system. He promised to get some photos and measurements for me - and he did. I had some more questions which he answered and overall he was very helpful.

And as said: I have already ordered there two times and was always happy with the service.

So, if you are looking at buying some motorcycle gear, give those two a consideration. Good customer service needs to be valued and supported!

24 January 2011

One More Responsive Vendor (and some Luggage Thoughts)

A few days ago, I complained about vendors that are not up to the task of real customer service per email. They all might be great in person or on the phone, but email or online service still is a challenge for most.

Nevertheless, I had one with the rating pending. I asked the American Metal Mule distributor, BestRest Products about measurements and photos for the Metal Mule exhaust system for the R1200GS and David Petersen responded within the same day that he would provide the information I asked for. It actually took him a bit longer as said he was busy on Thursday and Friday and out riding over the weekend - understandable, so no complaints from my side about that. Today he got back to me with excellent information and the measurements and photos I asked for.

So, I'll give that a 9/10 for service!

23 January 2011

Getting Dirty

Yesterday it got late and we postponed our motorcycle tour to today. We planned a longer ride, basically a full day, and started right after we did our weekly Skype / iChat / phone session with our parents.

Today was a first: some dirt roads were on the planned route. About 10 miles of an overall about 110 mile trip. Doesn't sound too much, I know, but we spent quite some time on those 10 miles. Going between 10 and 25 mph, really careful as I'm not very experienced with dirt roads and it was definitely the first time for Andrea.

Dirt roads on inadequate tires - still fun!

Different Kind of Bike

Yesterday we were a little bit slow getting up, going to the Chiropractor and back, having some trouble with the car, getting back late, and therefore it was a bit too late for the planned longer tour on the motorcycles.

We decided then to take the bicycles and ride out to Steven's Creek Reservoir. It was a really nice 25km roundtrip, some up and down and really nice weather. On the way back we had to stop at a Jamba Juice, get a "Cold Buster" with lots of vitamins ...

On the way we crossed 280 over the new bridge at Mary Ave built last year:

Bicyclist on Mary Ave Bridge

Some really weird bird setup (metal or so) on the South side of the bridge:

Metal bird with stupid crap around the neck

And of course, we are in California, flowers blooming in mid January:

We had a great day, enjoyed the weather, got some good workout, and will go on a motorcycle trip today.

21 January 2011

Customer Service

Why is it often so hard for small vendors or companies to provide decent customer service? I have an example here: For my R1200GS I'm still looking for a decent set of side cases and I seem to have some really weird requirements:

  1. They need to fit my 2010 R1200GS. Don't laugh - a lot actually tell me they have something and then they say, oh, right, that exhaust lowering kit only works up to 2009 model years.
  2. The overall width needs to be narrow. Really narrow. I rather pack less stuff and have a narrow bike than add wide cases and have more space.
  3. I still like to get a decent size. 70L in combined volume should be manageable.
As I have a really hard time finding something that fits my aesthetic and functional requirements, I'm trying to puzzle something together from different vendors. Therefore I wrote lots and lots of emails in the last few weeks and here's what I got.

Below are some impressions from my quest for panniers (rating is for pre-sale service only, 0 being abysmal, 10 being perfect):

Jesse Cases

They seem to have a 9" set of Safari cases for the R1200GS, but other than a photo on their website, there is no information around it. I wrote to xplorermoto a few months ago and they told me they should have more photos "by the end of the week" and where careful enough not to tell me which week. Haven't heard back since then.

Rating: 2/10

Vern's Worldbeater Cases

Wrote emails before Christmas. Got response that he will respond the next day. Never heard back. Wrote again a week ago. No reaction. 

Rating: 1/10

Keihan Exhaust Systems

Asked them whether their system is available for a 2010 model. Never heard anything back.

Rating: 0/10

Metal Mule

When I was still interested in the Tiger 1050 I had some questions for them and they responded fairly fast, competent, and with photos. Took a bit and not every question was answered, but still - decent service.

Unfortunately their system costs an arm and a leg and I don't like their racks.

Rating: 8/10

Best Rest (Metal Mule USA)

Asked for photos / measurements for the MM exhaust system - got a response back that I'll get the info "tonight", haven't heard back yet. It's about a two days ago, I still give them some time and I will also ask one more time - as I did for most of the others.

Rating: no rating just yet


Asked about their exhaust system, had to ask twice but at least got a response then with the excuse that their computer system had crashed. Seems to happen fairly often in the world - especially when there are too many unanswered emails.

Unfortunately the response wasn't totally clear to me and on my follow-up question I never heard back.

Rating: 5/10

Asked a lot of questions, requested some photos, more information. Got everything I asked for and more. They are responsive, nice, helpful, and take ideas from outsiders serious.

Rating: 10/10

Micatech are also the only ones I link to at the moment, the others weren't worth it so far. Seems nobody wants to sell a set of side cases including racks and possibly a narrow exhaust to me.  I always asked politely and tried to be as precise as possible. 

What is wrong with those vendors? I can understand that people do not respond within a day or two as not everybody is a computer geek, types fast, or checks email regularly. But come on, when you offer your stuff online, you should be able to answer questions that are asked online within two or three days, right? I'm I totally off with what I expect? Possibly. Maybe. Nevertheless - it makes me hesitant dealing with those people.

So far, I might be buying the Micatechs just because they have great service and the panniers are solid and good quality, too. Don't meet all my various requirements and I'm still uncertain about the fitment, but what the hell - with those guys I have the feeling I can work something out. With the others? Nope. 

18 January 2011

Seat Testing

When I saw a GS Adventure seat used on advrider.com for a very good price I jumped on that chance to get a bit more seat to peg distance and some more padding. The seat arrived last Friday evening and of course, we tried it on the weekend.

Some impressions:
  • The passenger part is sloped forward too much, so that Andrea slides forward too easily. That is not so comfortable for her and also bothers me as I have to work harder keeping both of us back when braking. Christmas is over, no need for a "Nutcracker" anymore ...
  • The rider's seat is also more sloped forward than the standard GS seat and I'm not certain whether I like that or not.
  • It is slightly higher, but not so much as to make a big difference in knee angle and comfort.
  • I like the room it gives toward the back due to the missing "hump" to the passenger. On the other hand - that is what makes the seat itself and the pillion space more angled forward.
  • Not sure about the color combination. 
Overall I like it but I also like the standard seat - both for different reasons. I might not keep it. It is definitely not a seat for long tours two up for us for the mentioned reasons but for me alone it is actually pretty good. Decision is not made yet.

Here's a photo (and easily comparable with the image on the top of the page):

R1200GS Adventure Seat on my GS

On this picture the slope looks way worse than it actually is when riding as the bike was on the centerstand. When standing on the wheels and the suspension compressed a bit, it's way less pronounced.

16 January 2011

Impressions from the Weekend

Some backcountry riding, lots of fun, lots of nice roads. We were together on the R - 270km of backroad carving.

Some impressions: we had to move the Givi Airflow screen all the way down or all the way up or buffeting would be a real problem for Andrea. Worse than it was for me as it seems. We used the GS Adventure seats I got used on Friday (photos to come) to try it out. Results were mixed, I kind of liked it for the height, not so much for the slight forward slope and definitely not for the forward slope of the passenger as Andrea was sliding forward all the time. I might not keep it, we'll have to see.

Okay, no more words, just some photos:

Mt. Diablo
Still Mt. Diablo
Lick Observatory - Mt. Hamilton
No, it's not Oranje, just Orange (European Insider Joke)
Tinted visor has advantages
Great Oak Tree
And the route (Sunnyvale to Fremont (Chiropractor), San Ramon, Mt. Diablo, Livermore, The Junction, Mt. Hamilton and home):

09 January 2011

Finally - Sunshine on a Weekend

Somehow, over the last weeks the weather was pretty foul on nearly every weekend. During the week there was some sunshine, on weekends it was mostly pouring and pretty cold (at least for us living in California).

Finally, today it was sunny albeit fairly cold. We got up late this morning, it was around 4ºC (39F) and only slowly warming up. We left home around noon after a longer than planned breakfast and a nice Cafe Latte - home made of course. When we left, my bike showed around 9ºC (48F) and it felt pretty cold. After a short shock, as the little DR200SE showed similar behavior as a few weeks ago when I had to take the carburetor apart to get it running again, we started, the bike was just slightly hesitant but after a few blocks it was okay. Gas station first, then heading West towards the coast.

After a Jamba Juice in Santa Cruz

08 January 2011


One of the things we are dreaming of for a long time is a hike through the Grand Canyon. This is a great challenge and requires careful planning, good preparation, a lot of fitness and some gear. One thing missing from our list was a really lightweight backpacking tent.