The Ultimate Guide To A Great Ride
So you finally wrested permission from the significant financial controller in your life, or are banking on “Forgiveness is easier than permission,” and have bought yourself a motorbike. Or you’re about to. Either way, you plan on firing her up and heading out to the open road.
Firstly, congratulations!! Welcome to the club. For the most part we’re a very social group of people, and you’ll make new friends pretty much everywhere you park your bike. There’s something about sharing near death experiences that builds camaraderie.
Whilst there are heaps of sites that review the best motorcycle gear, (I’ll link to the best of them below.) this guide is to highlight pivotal items you may not have thought of that change
every a good ride into a great ride!
1. Mounting Things – The Quadlock Case & Handlebar Mount
Quadlock Case & Handlebar Mount (Link gives you 10% discount)
Chances are you have a smartphone. Fantastically enabling technology for the motorcyclist. On the bike you’ll want to use that for everything from podcasts to music, and navigation to location sharing to route tracking. Not to mention selfie videos, tour photos, and communication.
Having it with you in your jacket pocket makes for a good ride, but for a great ride, until we have affordable AR helmets, you’ll want your phone mounted on the handlebars.
The mount attaches to the handlebar with 2 zip ties. I.e. it’s easy to mount on just about any motorcycle. I’ve used this on BMW G650, F700, & R1200 GS; the Honda Goldwing & ST1300; a Royal Enfield Bullet 500; and 2 Ducati Multistradas.
I have one permanently on my Multi, and a spare I take with me overseas whenever I rent a bike.
Designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the phone is locked in place with a spring clip. Nothing will dislodge it. Take it from someone who has used these over 60,000 kms across the Himalaya’s, through Death Valley, down to Philip Island, and up to John O’Groats. Neither the roughest terrain, nor torrential downpours have impacted my last three phones (iPhone 5, 6, & 6s+)
Once you have the case, Quadlock produce easy lock mounts for your car, tripod, arm, and belt. And they have an adhesive mount you could stick anywhere: on a desk, a wall, a dashboard. So you simply take it off the bike, and mount it anywhere you need to.
Remember to get your 10% discount here: http://quadlock.refr.cc/SQKF2ZQ
2. Hearing Things – The Sena SMH-10 Bluetooth Headset
Every ride is a good ride, but for a great ride you’ll want to keep eyes on the road, and still connect to people, information and entertainment. The most effective way to do this is through sound.
The best tool for this is with helmet integrated Bluetooth Headset. The most effective I’ve found is the Sena SMH-10 which I’ve used since September 2012. Although Sena has since been superseded this with the 20S, and 10C, I still use the SMH-10 Here’s why:
The Sena will fit pretty much any helmet. You can get both clamp or adhesive mounts, wired or boom mics (good for open face or modular helmets), inset speakers, or a jack for ear buds (you may want ear mold speakers for wind noise mitigation).
To my knowledge this is the only BT headset that pairs with every other brand. My experience is that whilst many riders have BT headsets, often others use Scala, or Bauhn (ALDI), or other brand. If you have the Sena you can still connect a BT intercom with them.
Apart from navigation, podcasts, and music, I use this as an intercom, to send and receive texts (thanks Siri) and to take calls. Everybody who calls me is surprised when I tell them I’m on the bike. The automatic noise control on the microphone is that good.
I get 12 hours of life from a single charge. That’s 1.5-2 days on tour, and 5 days of commute at home. Also I have two modules, so it’s easy to pull over at the I5/I405 junction and swap out the flat one.
The jog dial is easy to use even wearing the thickest winter gloves.
3. Comfortable Things – Shark Explore-R Helmet
You need a helmet, and there are many great helmets to choose from. Since Aug 2014, after 4 years riding with another 5 helmets, I settled on the Shark Explore-R Carbon. I also recommend any Shark helmet, and specifically the Vision-R for road riders. Here’s why:
Designed for Headsets
All the new Shark Helmets are designed to integrate with the Sharktooth BT headset. This means there are indents behind the lining for speakers, and indents for cable management. Genius. (& comfortable). These indents work perfectly with the Sena range. That means you don’t have pressure on your ears, or an irritating cable rubbing on the back of your neck.
Both the Explore-R and Vision-R (which share the same shell) have the most visibility of any full face helmet on the market. The peripheral visibility on this helmet is out of this world.
Again with the versatility. (Do you spot a trend for me here?) When off-road, or in the mountains, or in winter with low sun, you’ll want a peak & goggles (actually great in the rain too).
When on the track, or in the twisties, you’ll want an Iridium Visor.
At night, or in winter, you might want a clear visor. Perhaps with pinlock.
And when you ride a lot, you’ll want the lightest helmet out there. 10 hours on a dirt track amplifies every 100g of helmet weight.
The Explore-R Carbon provides all this.
But don’t take my word for it. This is deemed the safest and most comfortable helmet in Australia.
4. Tracking Things – GPS Trackers
- Glympse App on iOS or Android
- SPOT Gen 3 GPS Tracker
- Spotwalla Web Service
- Motion-X GPS App on iOS or Android
- If This Then That
You know what makes a good ride a terrible one? When you break down, witness, or worse, have an accident and can’t be located. And you don’t have to go very far at all to be hard to find. Most good rides are where roads are twisty, which tend to be in hilly, inaccessible country.
On the other hand, peace of mind for your significant other, wherever you may be on the planet, contributes to (more) great rides.
Since 201o I’ve used Glympse on my iPhone to provide real time location tracking. This is a great app for multiple riders meeting and riding together. You can easily where everyone is if you split up, and can co-ordinate meet-ups etc. Whilst this is fine for urban riding, it isn’t robust enough for long tours.
In 2012, I rode my first international, multi-day tour, and knew there would be many times I’d be out of cellular range. This is where the SPOT Personal Tracker came in. This uses the GPS signalling channel to update your position, which can then be fed to a Google map. Once there you can embed the map on your website for anyone anywhere to see you in near real time.
The SPOT also allows you to save mobile numbers & social media accounts for “I’m OK,” and “I need assistance” messages. This is great to contact people even if they aren’t tracking you. And it has an SOS button that will contact Global Emergency Operations Services, who in turn will contact Local Rescue or fly a chopper in if there isn’t a local rescue service.
Whilst the SPOT is a great device (I still use the Gen 2) the subscription is expensive, and the company really poor to deal with. Also their website needs a major overhaul. They don’t keep your tracks beyond a couple of months. So I use Spotwalla, a free service that allows you to set up all sorts of devices and tracks. They also keep your history in perpetuity, so you can see all my trips for:
Sometimes even SPOT doesn’t guarantee signal. Like in India. Which doesn’t bode well for tracking your ride there. As it turned out I took my SPOT to the Himalayas, and it worked fine. But as a contingency I used the Motion-X GPS app, saved the track, sent this to my Gmail account where I used a combination of IFTTT and Wappwolf rules to get the data to my blog. Here I used the WP-GPX-Maps plugin to embed my daily route on the web.
This took a little effort to set-up, but once done, every day was automated. I simply started Motion-x on my iPad Mini, chucked it in my backpack, and at the end of the day saved and emailed the track to my gmail account.
Actually Motion-X is a phenomenally powerful piece of software. You can download maps from any provider. It connects to GPS so doesn’t need to be in cell range to work, and provides many features of expensive handheld GPS’ like. If you do nothing else, download this software, and use it to track your rides.
5. Remembering Things – Action Cameras
- Liquid Image Torque 369 Moto-X Video Goggles
- GoPro Hero 4 Silver
- Contour Roam+ Helmet Camera
- Innovv K-1 Motorbike Dual Dash Camera System
What’s the point of riding alone? For a ride to qualify as great it must be shared.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t found the optimum solution here. I have tried many solutions and have hundreds of hours of video. But to date none meet all the criteria for seamless, safe, easy to mount, easy to manage, great video.
I’ve had a Contour + ROAM2 helmet mounted camera; a couple of GoPros (Hero 3+ Black, 4 Silver); and the Liquid Image Torque 369 HD Goggles.
The Contour was designed to attach to a helmet, which you can do with the GoPro. As soon as you attach a camera to a helmet, however, you add weight, it’s unsightly, potentially illegal, and depending on how you land in an off, could be dangerous.
Current cameras also add hassle before a ride with alignment and ensuring batteries are charged. During a ride you’re either constantly deciding whether to record something, or recording everything which makes editing a nightmare later.
From an aesthetic & safety perspective, the Torque goggles are the best . There are no protruding bits and the camera is positioned between your eyes. But it’s tough to find a road oriented helmet, even a dual-sport helmet with a big enough viewport (enter the Explore-R). Even so, these goggles significantly constrain peripheral vision, which is ok at 25kph in the Himalayas, not so much at 120kph on the Pacific Coast Highway.
You can mount the GoPro on the bike, but I’ve found no place is ideal, easy or cheap. In fact you’ll probably end up wanting to change it up during a ride for compelling video. Again a continual hassle.
All of the action cameras have ample battery life, and changeable batteries. Whereas the remote battery life is woeful. Great for a 10 minute run down the road, but for the 10 hour day from Leh over the Khardung La, not so much.
I think the best solution is probably the Innovv K-1 Motorbike Dash Cam. This dual-lens system is permanently mounted on the bike discretely front and back. As the primary purpose is for evidence in an incident or accident, the system includes an integrated GPS, is powered by the bike, and set to begin recording with the ignition. It also comes with a handlebar remote, wifi connectivity, and a smartphone app. The HD video from the device looks plenty good enough for ride recording. Which makes it the perfect system for your ride at home.
For touring I’m considering the Sena 10S as I have a BT system anyway, and the GoPro with a Quadlock mount or (homemade zip tie mounts) to clip the camera onto various bars on the bike.