15 January 2012

Gear - What Worked and What Didn't

After my trip over Thanksgiving in 2011 I have a few updates on the things I bought for myself and the bike and what I think of them. This shouldn't be seen as a review of any kind, just my opinion on some things.

1. Hydration

From last years experience and from some other rides I did in the past, I knew I had to do something against the de-hydration problem I sometimes faced. I'm not someone who stops often for photos or for smoking (I don't smoke) and normally I see to it that my bikes have a decent fuel range. Which means, that I don't stop often enough to drink, too.

So, this time I thought I could do better by getting this:

CamelBak M.U.L.E

And guess what? It worked! It's one of the best additions I have ever made to my motorcycle gear. I will not go on longer trips without some kind of hydration system anymore and the CamelBak is one of the easiest overall and works fantastic!

Get one, you will see what I mean on your next long trip!

Summary: Works excellent!

2. Staying Warm

As my WR doesn't have heated grips and I know California weather (on my trip to Cal City I had everything from 0ºC to 24ºC - btw: If you read this on Windows, can you leave a comment on how it displays the degree symbol?) and I was not going to nearly freeze my fingers off again as I did the year before. I also planned on not getting as cold overall - and that without a fairing and basically the same clothes.

So, what did I add? First and foremost, proper gloves:

BMW Winter Gloves

These are BMW winter riding gloves and they are seriously warm! They are very comfortable but in order to keep a little warm air around your fingers you have to buy them fairly big and loose and you loose quite a bit of feel on the controls. Not a big as I didn't plan on any technical riding with them, just be aware. I was very happy that I had these and would not leave on a trip without them anymore if there is any chance of getting into some colder weather.

Summary: They work! [Side note: Next time I'll try heated gloves ...]

The other problem I had last year was that my riding gear is not really warm. The BMW Rallye II Jacket I have is not really windproof without the liner and even with the liner it seems the wind goes really through and through. Definitely not recommended for cold weather without other additions. I tried the inner liner last time, didn't work, this time I tried something different - an Aprilia rain jacket for $16 that I got when I bought the gloves mentioned above (Btw: I have to give some credit to the awesome folks at San Jose BMW here. They make great deals, are excellent to deal with and always have good ideas how to solve specific problems.)

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the rain jacket handy, will post one when I have it. Just think about a very thin rain jacket that fits in a bag the size of a 0.6L Sigg bottle. It could pack even smaller, but it has one more goodie: the front has chaps sewn in that are in a hidden pouch in the front, so if you only brought this thing and it starts raining, you can protect the front of your legs, too. Doesn't work too well at speed though as it starts flapping in the wind pretty badly. But together with my rain pants, this kept me fairly warm, though still not warm enough in weather around 5ºC at night riding at 65mph. Have to look into other things for the next November trip.

Summary for the rain jacket: it worked. Really good bang for the buck.

For boots and pants I'm still using the stuff I had used before. It works.

Fuel Range

I installed a Safari gas tank and have to say that it works just as advertised. It was easy to install and looks decent:

WR250X with Dirt Wheels and Safari Tank

The tank gave me a fuel range between 180 and 220 miles on my trip, depending on how hard I pushed the WR. I have seen up to 70mpg on backroad riding trips here, so the 3.7 gallon tank could be squeezed to about 250 miles or so. I would not buy it again but just extend the range by taking a Rotopax 1 gallon pack with me. Not as easy, but good enough for what I need I think. I definitely prefer bikes with at least 200 miles (320km) range though. My GS has this and I know that this is a range I can generally live with.

Summary: Works excellent, but is kind of pricy. Might not be as necessary as one might think.

Dirt Tires

I got the Dunlop D606 and have to say, they work in the dirt. But the front is absolutely terrible on the street. The traction in corners is scary, and braking is something you better avoid ... just don't get into a situation where you have to slam on the brakes, the knobbies plain won't hold you.

Summary: Worked excellent in the dirt, front not so much on the road, rear is probably fine


I thought long and hard about what I wanted from luggage and how to achieve this. I ended up buying Wolfman racks and their Expedition series side bags.

On a dirt bike, I definitely wanted soft luggage and I also wanted something I can put on and take off easily. I should have gotten something else. The bags are okay sized for what they are (dirt bike luggage), the racks are nicely done and very solid, but the mounting is just really, really bad. It's fickly like nothing I have used before. There are about a gazillion straps you have first loosen, then get all in the right position and then tighten them up again.

The end result is actually fairly nice, but I don't like using them. It took me about 20 minutes each morning to get the already packed bags on the bike. That's about 15 minutes too long.

Wolfman Expedition Luggage

I bet they are watertight though and will work if you can put up with all the strapping and pulling  and hassling, and so on. Just not for me. Next time I'll try either just my two Ortlieb bags (had one with me this time) or test out the Giant Loop Great Basin bag. Just throw it over, pull three straps, done. At least in theory. But as this is about seven (yes, 7) straps less than the Wolfman gear, I'm willing to give it a try.

Wolfman Summary: Didn't work for me. Will sell with the bike.

The Pelican case I mounted on the back was damn handy. I put a small padlock on and put everything that I wanted to be halfway safe in there. This worked out great, but it had one major downside: it pushed the pack roll I had for the camping gear too far forward and therefore I didn't have enough room to move anymore.

Next time I go on a trip with a setup like this (if ever), I'll take the case off and move the bag further back, have one easily detachable bag that I can carry into a restaurant with my valuables.

It works awesome on local rides though.

Pelican Summary: Great idea, unfortunately big downside on a bike that small


Only item I really used where the Zeta handguards and they were excellent. Protected the levers in my get-off very well. I bet I would have broken the clutch lever and then I would have been in some trouble in the middle of nowhere. Something I'd do to any bike that will see unpaved roads is adding metal backed hand protectors.

Summary: Excellent stuff, get some if you might drop your bike.


As a sleeping pad I used my trusty Therm-A-Rest mattress - I have an older one that packs quite large and is still only 3.5cm thick (roughly 1.5"). It's a bit thin, but when inflated properly just comfy enough to be okay for me.

If I have to replace it one day, I'll probably go the comfort route and get something like an Exped Downmat 7 or so. I'm getting older and like my creature comforts. And camping is fun overall as long as you sleep well.

Shortly before my trip I also got a new sleeping bag as my 15 year old one was wearing kind of thin and would definitely not be warm enough for desert nights (temperature just around freezing). I got a Marmot Helium down bag and believe it or not - it was exactly the right thing. I could use it in the motels opened all the way as a comforter and in the tent, completely crawl in and it was nice and toasty warm. Only bad thing: you have to get out of it for ... oh, wait, yeah, no restrooms either. You get the point though, I guess ...

For the tent I used our MSR Hubba Hubba and despite the ridiculous name it worked as expected. It's not the best tent for colder weather as the ventilation is just a little bit too good, but I knew that beforehand and can't complain. It worked, was very small and light (~ 2kg packed) and performed flawlessly. I wouldn't want to use it in strong wind though as it doesn't have enough tie down points (at least our older version doesn't) and guy lines. It's a nice weather tent and for that it's perfect.

MSR Hubba Hubba Tent

For some trail side cooking I used my good old MSR Dragonfly, a good gasoline based stove and I'm very happy with it. If I had to buy a new one, I'd get the XGK instead, but that's only for easier and more robust packing.

MSR Dragonfly Stove

Summary Camping Gear: Worked great.

There is definitely more and once I can think of it, I'll put it in more postings ...


  1. Thank you for the gear summary. I've been picking up some new gear to replace stuff that I've had for years. E.g. a new MSR Whisperlite International multifuel stove to replace my very heavily used, 30 year old MSR G/K. The old stove still works fine but the O-rings need replacing as well as some other minor pieces. I've only burned a couple of tanks of diesel in it (11¢/gallon in Mexico) and it smokes quite a bit more and soot builds up on the pots so you may want to rethink the utility of the XGK.

    Trying to get gear for my first long motorcycle trip this summer. A family reunion in Santa Cruz.

    Great post, thanks again!

  2. Hey Richard - what I like about the XGK is not the multi-fuel capabilities. I don't care all too much for these as I normally do short hiking / biking trips and can plan my stove fuel. What I like much better about the XGK is that it is much more robust when folded. The whole apparatus is better protected. I'm already on my second Dragonfly as the first one broke about 10 years ago when being transported in a backpack in the stuff sack. I normally keep it in the large MSR pot, but that's not always possible.

  3. The Whisperlite seems much more fragile than the old G/K model. I'll see how it holds up and see how much heat it puts out. The old one was virtually a blow torch and was great for stir frying.

    I'm looking forward to your other reviews.