Category: Reviews

I write product reviews of motorcycle gear and accessories occasionally. I assure you each and every one of my reviews will be honest from my experience with the goods. There will be links to those goods at other sites, but those decisions are yours to make on your own back.

Review of the Viking Bags Large Back Rest Tail Bag

The good folks at Viking Bags sent me the Viking Bags Large Back Rest Tail Bag (3,400 cubic inches) to review and it has proven to be a versatile bag for both of my bikes.

Viking Bags Large Back Rest Tail Bag
The Large Back Rest Tail Bag from Viking Bags

As I am wont to do, I’ve compared my opinions to the manufacturer’s claims below:

Large Back Rest Tail Bag Feature Battlefield Biker Review
Includes a dual mounting system that enables you to mount under the seat using a harness or adjustable straps that attach to your sissy bar or luggage rack. Easy to fit on both the exterior Honda 250 rack and under the seat of the Suzuki V-Strom.
Adjustable backrest pad perfect for the passenger or driver. This was useful on both bikes, but I noticed it most on my V-Strom set-up where it provided a comfortable lower back support.
Includes detachable backpack straps for easy off-the-bike jaunts I haven’t used this feature yet, but it is very easy to handle empty or full.
Main compartment includes a large loading opening located at the top. Two expandable pockets on exterior. Exterior includes three pockets and two mesh pockets for added organization Padded storage compartment for Laptop Interior includes five mesh pockets. The bag is very versatile and allows for lots of stuff, including a padded area for your valuables like GPS, laptops, camera gear, etc. I also like all of the exterior pockets that provide easy access to snacks, gloves and keys.
Rain cover included Yes, very useful. I haven’t ridden with it in the rain yet, but it definitely is waterproof and keeps dust out too.
Retains shape even when empty Agreed. This is a well formed and solid back that will not go limp and floppy after some use.

I used the bag on the Honda 250 for a ride up the Old Geiger Grade Toll Road. It looks big on that bike, but as long as you don’t load it too heavily, it is very stable. It was perfect for some water, tire tools, sunglasses, maps, camera and GPS gear.

However, where I think this bag will come in especially useful for me is on my V-Strom for longer rides. I like to ride inline without bulging pannier bags hanging off the side. I have a secured Givi box for my valuables, but the Viking Bag added storage volume and fit nicely in between the Givi and the small of my back. It provided solid and comfortable back support. The attachment plate fit snugly under the seat to give the bag a very secure feel. When I add a tank bag, I have all I need for longer trips and I can still lane-split in California traffic.

Overall, the Viking Bags Large Back Rest Tail Bag ( 3,400 cubic inches) is a great addition to my riding tack. If you are in the market for such a bag, please consider heading over to Vikings Bags and ordering one.

Update on the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit

After my initial review of the Joe Rocket Survivor suit, I promised an update when I had more mileage on the suit, so here it is.
I used the Survivor suit extensively in 2010. It proved to be a great cold and wet weather riding suit. After an incredibly wet May ride in Belgium, I came out of the suit completely dry and warm. Joe Rocket’s claim of ‘100% WATERPROOF’ is 100% correct in my experience.
Later in the summer I took the winter liner out of the suit and used it in Normandy. The air vents help when you are moving, but it was really pretty steamy in the suit. I guess this is just the price of having heavy duty protection year round.
Gladly, I never tested the abrasion and protection features of the suit, but I can say the suit is very robust and makes one feel pretty well protected.
So, in conclusion, I have to give the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit the Battlefield Biker seal of approval. Please give my friends over at Riders Discount your business if you’re thinking of buying one of these suit.

Review of the Shoei Multitec Modular Helmet

Several of you have emailed me about touring helmets and asked what I thought about modular, or ‘flip-up’, helmets. I’ve never owned one. The reason was that whenever I tried them on, they felt ‘plastic-y’ and loose around the jaw. My hearing ai’nt the greatest to start with, after years on tanks, so I try to keep what I’ve got by using ear plugs and good, tight fitting helmets. However, my good readers have asked, so I felt it was my duty to try to answer! I decided to try the Shoei Multitec in Matte Black. I’ve heard that Shoei was obsessive about lowering wind noise with aerodynamics, so I hoped this would be a good marriage.

The conventional wisdom is that all motorcyclists are Arai heads or Shoei heads. To date, I’ve been an Arai head. I don’t know when I started, but I’ve always liked the fit of the Arais. My last two lids were the Arai Condor (Vector) and the Arai Tour-X (XD). Both are good helmets and I can recommend them. However, when the good folks at Jafrum invited me to review a helmet for them, I decided to go over to the other side just to see what it was like.

Location – Hampshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire, England
Bike – KTM 950 Adventure (el gato negro)
Weather – Spring! 12C (54F) degrees C and cloudy, but no rain.

Shoei claim to have created a market changing helmet that combines the convenience of a modular helmet with the safety and aero-dynamics of a full face helmet. Indeed, I have wanted a flip-up for a while as it makes it easy at the ferries, border crossings, and riding in low speed environments when it is hot. However, I also wanted the helmet to be good on the open road too. For those of you who are regular readers, this is the Battlefield Biker riding profile. Big rides to distant lands, but then detailed surveys of battlefields at low speed.

First things first. The Shoei is a good looking helmet, especially in the matte black colour scheme. It is wider and rounder than my Arais, but I assume this is to improve the aerodynamics? It fits well and snug at the cheeks. Shoei gets big kudos from me by including an eyeglass channel that allows the helemt to fit snugly, but doesn’t wedge the arms of my glasses into my skull. There is a ridge on the back of the helmet which is the spoiler, I supppose. Good wide vision from the visor and an anti-fog lip above the tip of the nose.

When I put the helmet on fully, the face element clicks into place confidently. The button for pulling the the face up is intuitively situated and seems natural to grab, even with gloves on. So far, so good. Time for a ride.

Walking out the door, I get to do something that I can never do with a full face helmet. I get to kiss each of my three little girls with my helmet on. They think this is hilarious, so I get to do it over and over again. Thank God for small pleasures! One last kiss for Mummy and I’m off. She seems happy that I have a new, quality helmet. She has been asking me how old the X-tour is for a while. I ride out of my village at 30 mph and the face plate up. I feel a little goober-ish for having my face showing, but it feels nice to be staring a Spring ride in the face as I make my way out of town. The Shoei is quiet on the ears even with the face plate up. Nice.

Leaving town, I reach up to pull the face plate down whilst accelerating. Easy. The face plate comes down and locks in place quickly and assuredly. As I get up to… uhm… highway speeds, the Shoei is nice and steady. No buffeting or loud noise around the joints. It is louder than a closed face helmet, but not nearly as loud as I had expected. The helmet feels light compared to my Arai X-Tour. The Shoei has a very neutral sit on my head with no notice-able lift when I perform lane-change looks. Overall, the helmet is as good as any full face helmet I’ve worn at speed.

I roll off the motorway and back onto a country road through multiple small towns. I test raising the face plate multiple times and it is just as easy as the first time. No sticking or fumbling for the button. It seems to be so intuitive that it is hard to miss the button when you reach for it. Good design.

So we know it is nice to be able to flip up the face plate for air, kissing, and filling fuel tanks, but what about battlefield touring? I really like the fact that I can take pictures without taking my helmet off and speak to a camera for my videos. These are things that made me consider buying a modular helmet in the past, but I could never get over the ‘flimsiness’ of the (admittedly cheaper) helmets I had tried. Therein lies the only rub I can find with this helmet. At circa $450.00 (£300.00), the Shoei Multitec is expensive, but I can only assume that it takes this kind of price to make a modular helmet this good. I paid more for my Tour-X and less for the Condor, but they are different things. I’m not sure I would have bought this helmet before trying it extensively, but I can say now that I would. I might choke on the price, but helmets are just one of those things that you get what you pay for, I guess. The five year Shoei warranty helps too.

There you have it, intrepid bikers, the Shoei Multitec modular helmet is quality, but at a hefty price. I’d be interested to hear if you’ve found one as good at a lower price.

I’ve since seen this review over at Thunder Press. Seems like Michael Mihalevich agrees. I also like his statement of helmet and seat belt law issue.

Review of the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit

I have been debating buying an all-weather textile riding suit for a while. I wanted something for the winter and summer that I could just slip on over my street clothes and ride. I’ve been told by many that the Aerostich suit is excellent, but the high price tag had put me off. I use a lot of BMW kit as it always wears well and uses quality materials, but it also was topping out at close to $800. Alpinestars makes the Drystar at a more reasonable price, but I was a little concerned about it being hot in the summer. I had read a couple of pieces on the Joe Rocket Survivor suit, but was not sure. The price was far better, but I had questions about Joe Rocket quality. I did like their Big Air™ ventilation system, though, so I was leaning that way. With the big touring season coming up (D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge with MSL tours), I was faced with a decision point.
With perfect timing, the good folks at Riders Discount offered me a chance to review the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit. It has had two good runs already in the nasty environment known as an English February. I will review the suit in detail here and then update the performance over a longer period. Check back here for updates on the performance of the suit.

Short version; If you are considering a riding suit with appropriate protection, comfort, and a good fit, but choke back tears when you see the price, this could be the suit for you.

Long version;
Location – Hampshire, UK – Motorway, A roads, B roads, single track, Green lane.
Bike – 2006 KTM 950 Adventure (el gato negro)
Conditions – on/off rain and sleet. Temperature, 1-6C (34-43F). February 2010

Fit, Finish, and Construction – I put the suit, with the winter insert, on over street clothes of trekking trousers and a short sleeve T shirt. The X- Large suit is heavy. When you pick it up, you know it is a proper riding suit. I’m a 6′ 2″ (1.88cm), 210 pound (95 kilo), 45 year old male with the appropriate middle age proportions and the suit fits snugly as a riding suit should. That means if you are thin, it may be a little loose or if you are heavier than me, a little tight. Joe Rocket provides sizing advice here. Sure Fit™ adjustment points are well placed along the legs, waist and arms too. The part of riding suits or riding trousers I always fear is a short leg, but the Survivor suit has a nice long leg that stays down over my BMW Santiago boots. It also has long zippers on the outside of the leg to allow easy fitting over boots. The weathertight zips, snaps and pockets all work easily and seem firm. The suit is stiff right out of the package, but should loosen up with break in. The only down side to the fit and finish is a little too much branding for my taste. Joe Rocket has the “Rocket” name as patches on both shoulders, in day-glo yellow on the breast pocket and in reflective lettering across the shoulder blades (although this is already peeling off and I may help it along).

Warmth, Weather Protection, and Riding Comfort – Joe Rocket claims ‘100% WATERPROOF’ and on my two 1 hour rides, it was. I had intermittent rain on one ride and pretty constant rain and sleet on the other. No leaks and perfectly dry when I took it off. The real test will be when I’m in a long tour situation and a full day of rain which is when most waterproof products normally come up short. However, for now, I report faithfully that this was as good as I have ever experienced and I have ridden a lot in the rain in recent years (Hello, Norway!). The really surprising thing was the warmth that I experienced with just street clothes and the winter insert. Absolutely toasty. I think the snug fit really helps with this. Again a long ride in the cold and rain might require more, but I would be happy travelling with just an extra pair of thermals and maybe a vest in the english winter, so that says a lot. The suit was also very comfortable in the saddle. It was well proportioned in the seat to allow movement and no tugging on the sholuders. The trouser legs were long and did not ride up the leg. Crucially, it was not slippery in the saddle either, which is a thing I hate worse than anything. The left leg pockets are a little weird looking, but they held my wallet and keys safely and that is what pockets are supposed to do. The suit uses the Joe Rocket Big Air™ ventilation system, which I hope will work well in the summer, but was not tested in these rides for obvious reasons. I honestly cannot find much fault with the suit when it comes to being warm, dry and comfortable, so I won’t. Good piece of kit.

Impact and Abrasion protection – As a father, I am more and more concerned about remaining safe as I ride, so I look for proper touring protection kit these days. I’m not a track guy, nor a sports bike rider, so I don’t need that kind of protection, but I do want something that will give me a good chance of meeting the road and surviving it. Joe Rocket uses Rock Tex™ 600 for the outer layer with double layers on the shoulders, elbows and knees. It also has CE armour on the shoulders, elbows and knees. It also comes with a back pad that can be replaced with a CE back pad if you so require. (good discussion on that topic here) Thankfully, I’ve not had the occasion to test these qualities, but my non-expert eye rates them as good or better than my current Hein Gericke Trousers and Jacket. Importantly, the Battlefield Bikette liked the solidness of the protection and was quite happy that I was taking protection more seriously. Finally, the suit also has a melt resistant material on lower leg area which I will be keen to test on the KTM in the summer. The right side exhaust on the KTM absolutely scorches my leg in the heat, so hopefully this will provide some respite as well as not melting. I’ll report back in July or August.

Conclusion for the initial review – Reasonable, neutral looks, even if it is a little too “Rocket-ish”. Good weather protection and fit. Reasonable protection. Great value against its competitors. Check back for updates as I put the suit through its paces in London commuting, European touring, and the occasional green lane or battlefield farm track.

UPDATE after 9 months of use.

Review of Fieldsheer Mach 6.0 Mesh Glove

I’ve always made gloves stink. I guess I am just one of those guys that sweat a lot, but when I have worn leather gloves in summer riding conditions for too long, they just smell.

Of course, I’m also very cost conscious and have resisted buying another pair of gloves that are made only for summer riding. My friends over at Riders Discount took pity on me and sent me a pair of Fieldsheer Mach 6.0 Mesh gloves.

I’ve never been a fan of short gloves, mainly because the ones I have had have been really tight to the point of cutting off circulation to my fingers on long rides. However, the Fieldsheer Mach 6.0s are very comfortable. They fit snugly, but don’t bind and the padded, goat-skin palms feel very good on the KTM’s handle-grips. I have not had a long ride with them yet, but two hours in the saddle did not produce any hand fatigue. I’m hoping the padded palms will reduce some vibration too.

As for their defining feature of breathe-a-bility, they rock. There are air vents that channel air through the glove, not just let it in through the mesh, so they should make a really cool glove in the summer.

Finally, these gloves don’t skimp on protection either. The knuckle protectors will fend off the rogue branch or two as well as keeping your hands cool on the wooded gravels tracks we find around battlefields.

The Fieldsheer Mesh glove will not replace a good pair of all leather gloves, especially in the rain. However, for those hot, dry days when you just want to ride in comfort, sticking a pair of these in your tank bag is a good idea.

As with all of my gear, I try to give long term updates as well an initial review, so check back here for more info on how these gloves are performing.

Thanks again to the good folks at Riders Discount.

Review of Bobster Phoenix Over-Glasses Goggles

The good folks at Riders Discount provided me with a pair of the Bobster Phoenix Over-the-Glasses Interchangeable Goggles that go on over your normal glasses. I sometimes like to ride without the face plate in my Arai Tour-X helmet, especially when it is hot, so I thought they might be worth a try.
They are very comfortable over my glasses and seat very well in the channel made for goggles on the Arai helmet. I assume they would fit even better over a standard open face helmet, but I cannot confirm that. They were breathable and did not fog up, which is a situation that I am very sensitive too. (i.e. I would have thrown them out, if they did).
The one downside was when I got onto busy roads. The goggles give you tunnel vision, so when there is a lot of lane changing going on, it takes a while to get used to them.
Otherwise, they seem a good piece of kit for those of you who like to wear goggles. There is a very big upside to these goggles too if you are a snowboarder. These should make great winter mountain goggles too!

The Bobster provided features are as listed;

  • A distinct groove on each side accommodates standard prescription glasses, ensuring a comfortable fit and enabling all to ride in style
  • 3 sets of interchangeable lenses are included (anti-fog smoke, amber and clear), allowing continued use through transient weather conditions and times of day
  • Scratch-resistant polycarbonate lenses shield the eyes while supplying 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Flexible polyurethane frame creates a molded seal over the face, cushioned by a dense layer of sweat-absorbent, neoprene foam
  • Highly ventilated on both the top and bottom of the frame, these goggles also provide anti-fog coating to further prevent any degradation of clarity

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