First ride report

Just posted my first ride report of the summer.  A 107 mile ride after work on Wednesday.  Hope you enjoy, let me know if you want more or what other content you think I should include.

- - Rob


Happy Trail Aluminum Panniers

 Kim and I are planning to do a fair amount of riding this summer including multiple trips to various hot springs around the state, moto-camping trips, and just scenic out of the city riding.  I'm not planning on getting my new bike until October, so we'll be riding two up most of the summer (if I'm not riding the Aprilia).  Because of this we decided that we need a way to carry our gear.  A tank bag is a no brainer, and we knew we'd probably go with panniers, but weren't really sure about what brand and did we want aluminum or plastic, and what the cost of each would be (I think aluminum looks a lot better, but that's just me). 

The first thing I did, of course, was take a look at the Adventure Rider forums as well as start looking for bike specific forums.  As it turns out, there is tons of information on different luggage options for the Versys, even though the bike has only been around since '08.  After combing through the Kawasaki Versys forums, and asking a few questions and looking at tons of pictures/posts, we settled on the Happy Trail Aluminum Pannier Kit.  As it turns out, they were running a special, and we got them powder coated, and pre-mounted at no extra cost.  We decided to go with the HT kit because of the positive reviews I got from many riders (even those on different bikes), the price, they were big enough, and we really liked the way they looked on the bike. 

After ordering the kit online, we received it in about a week.  I immediately went to work on installing these bad boys.  The first thing you'll notice when you order your HT panniers is the lack of installation directions.  In their place, you'll find a picture with a few annotations.  That's it.  It's not exactly rocket science to install the luggage, but it does take a little time to figure out which screws go where, and you'll have to do a little guess work when you're moving your blinkers with the supplied angle brackets.  Also, my biggest gripe was I was missing two nuts and two washers that I needed to move my blinkers.  It wasn't that big of a deal, because I live right across the street from an Ace Hardware, but the fact of the matter is I paid over $600 for this kit, so I expect everything to be there.  And, to add insult to injury, I emailed HT support about the issue, and never heard anything back.  Yet another company with poor customer service.  All I can say, is I'll probably think twice about ordering things from them if that's how they treat customers.  There's always Twisted Throttle...

With the time it took to run to the store, and the messing with the blinkers, I had the boxes installed and ready to use in about an hour.  I'm sure if you're better at turning a wrench than I am, you could have the job done in half that time.  At any rate, with proper instructions, the job could be done in as little as 15 minutes (if all your parts are supplied).  After getting the boxes on, the only thing left to do is drink a brew, and garnish with your favorite ADV sticker.

So how do they hold up?  At this point, it's hard to say, as we've only had them on for a few weeks.  I will say they seem very well made and I've ridden through some heavy rain as well as had them parked in rain for a few hours without so much as a drop inside the boxes.  They come on and off the racks very easily with just a twist of a few knobs, and that's perfect for Kim, as she prefers to ride without them.  One thing to note, you won't be sliding them on and off very easily when they are fully loaded I assume as you'll probably be blocking the release pucks, so if that's important to you, you may want to consider other panniers.  Mostly, I've just been taking my laptop and lunch to work in them and maybe picking up beer on the way home, but they seem to load well.  I guess I'll have a more thorough review on how they load when I actually load them up in a few weeks.

So overall, I give the HT panniers a 3.5 out of 5 stars.  The product is a 4 or 5, but I put a lot of value in customer service, and that coupled with the poor install instructions, brings down the overall score.  If you have any other questions, shoot me a question in the comments, and I'd be happy to answer.

- - Rob


Watch Darren go

One of the hosts (Darren Kitchen) of my favorite internet based show Hak.5 is currently riding across America to his new home in San Fransico.  He's dubbing his ride Hack Across America, and doing a cool video log of the adventure on Youtube.  Anyway, since I haven't posted a video in a few weeks, I figure you can take a look at his.  Seems like a fun ride, and he's meeting a ton of cool people a long the way.  If he comes to CO, I'll probably try to go to a meetup or ride with him a bit.

- - Rob


Weather woes

We haven't done any meaningful riding, because for some reason it's been raining for like five days here in Denver.  If you live/have lived in Denver, you know it rarely rains for any meaningful amount of time.  I have been riding too and from work, and last week I got a ride in just about everyday after work.  So, since I don't have another post in my "video blogging" series, I decided to just throw a few clips together from last weeks rides:

On another note, we got some Happy Trail aluminum panniers for Kim's Versys, and they are scheduled to be delivered on Monday.  Luckily, I took the day off, so I should have plenty of time to get them on the bike ;).  Anyway, I'll make sure to do a right up on the installation and have a review after some good use.  We've got a trip planned to Glenwood in a week or so, so we'll have them loaded and on a long ride.  See ya in the next video.

- - Rob


Moto blog take one

What am I doing?

If you haven't noticed yet, I've decided to start blogging about my riding.  I'm still going to be blogging on my tech blog, as well as working on code, but riding motorcycles is a passion that I've had for some time now, and I recently started sharing with my girlfriend Kim.  Above is my first segment, and is a little rough, but it gives you an idea of what I plan on doing, and what my format is going to be like.

I plan to blog about fun rides, safety tips, bikes, gear reviews, and a little of everything in between.  Kim and I try to ride every weekend when it's nice out, so my initial plan is to have a new video post every week or two.  Hope you enjoy, and if you've got anything you'd like to see, hit me up in the comments.

What's my setup?

Bike: Aprilia SXV 4.5 (mine) & Kawasaki Versys (Kim's)

Camera: GoPro HD helmet cam with chest harness

Sound: iPhone 3Gs using the built in voice memo app and supplied wired mic

Editing software: ffmpeg, Kdenlive, Audacity

What's my process?

I wear the GoPro on the chest harness so that it's not moving and bobbing around with my helmet, and then I put the iPhone in my coat pocket and run the mic cord up to my helmet.  Then I just use the ear phones to tie the mic on the inside of my helmet so the mic is sheilded from the wind and right in front of my mouth.  It's about as low tech as it gets, but as you can tell above it works pretty well.  If I really get serious with this stuff, I'll probably get a bluetooth mic, so I'm not actually tethered to the phone. Another nice thing about having the chest mount, is you don't have the weight of the camera on the helmet.  It's not that big of a deal, but it is noticeable.

When I get home, I email the sound file to myself, then use ffmpeg or kdenlive to mix the sound with the video.  If I need to do any kind of video editing, I use kdenlive otherwise, I just use the raw video and sound clip and mix them with ffmpeg.  Every once in a while, I may want to tweak the audio before mixing it, and I can do this with Kdenlive or with Audacity.

Here are a few pictures of how I attach the mic to my helmet:


And inside:

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