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Alone: Onward Through the Fog

Alone Onward Through the Fog Melissa Holbrook Pierson Rider September 1992
This essay was originally published in the September 1992 issue of Rider. (Illustration by Roland Roy)

Sometimes you don’t know where you are, the name of the town or even the state. The place is located by days and miles. It is remembered by highway proximity. And by what kind of terrors gripped you there.

For me, that April night fell on day four. I had already passed through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, finally stopping in Tennessee. Yes, that’s as far as I must have gotten. Near U.S. Highway 81. Days Inn.

After a little practice, divesting a motorcycle of all its luggage for the night and carrying it into a motel — three trips, including the tool pack with its 10 tons of lock, spare cables, liter of oil, roll of tape, tire tube, rain gear — doesn’t get any more fun. But such a trip, all alone, is about repetition as much as it’s about welcoming the blessedly new. I’ve always stayed at Days Inns or Knights Inns, make of that symmetry whatever you will, because a woman searching for lodgings after dark by herself is looking only for predictability and the guaranteed anonymity these places make it their business to provide.

After three days of telling myself different, the truth was coming through like green oxide on bogus silver: this wasn’t such a gas. My vacation, my proud declaration, my little adventure, was oppressing me as nothing before. I hadn’t suddenly become loquacious the minute I hit the road, the sort who meets locals at every way station and makes them fast friends over a bowl of chili, or gets invitations that start a new trajectory of discovery about the places passed through. I was still myself only more so, saying not much more than was necessary to purchase gas, coffee, a place to sleep, glossy post cards on which “Wish you were here” was written with no little urgency. Night would bring the same: take-out food eaten at the plasticized fake-wood veneered desk; a long bath to leach the cold from the bones; the local news indistinguishable from any local news anywhere; five hours before sleep to kill in the confines of the double-double-bedded room because continuing after nightfall pushed the stakes up a tad too high; a dose or two of Jack because of that.

I was feeling every one of the 975 miles that separated me from home. The most comfort I’d had was talking to my painfully estranged boyfriend, a mechanic, from a hotel room in Waynesboro, Virginia, the first night. Earlier in the day, stopping at a truck plaza after riding through two hours of the most imposing rainstorm I’d ever encountered, I’d noticed the box at the rear axle spewing the 90-weight oil that lubricated the shaft drive. My boyfriend was properly worried on my behalf and told me to seek out a bike shop in town the next day and have it checked out before I started down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The second deepest conversation I’d had in all the intervening time was at that shop, when four mechanics stopped to inspect my bike.

Now, near U.S. Highway 81, I spread the map out on the rigid bed and scanned it for some promise that I might make it all the way home tomorrow, three days before schedule. There didn’t seem much point in drawing it out longer, to look for more motels just like the last. I’d simply had enough of blissful solitude.

However I looked at it, though, the miles would collapse no further. There were at least 15 hours of holding the throttle open at a steady 70 mph etched in those lines, and it couldn’t be done — not by me at least. The force of the wind at that speed, the temperature, the buzzing, the constant watchfulness, the tension that crept up the neck, took it out of you too fast. You got more tired on a bike than you ever thought possible.

The days had grown so elongated that to look back on them seemed to be to glance into history: had it really been this same afternoon that I had ridden up the side of Mount Mitchell, parked, and ascended the lookout tower in the persistent wind that blows up there? Taking in the small exhibit room empty of visitors except for me, I read the placards that described Mitchell’s quest to prove that his mountain was actually higher than Clingman’s Dome, that it was in fact the highest spot in the East. Scrambling around on the desolate peak with his calibrators, he slipped and fell, perhaps dying instantly, perhaps waiting days for death in the cove of rocks. His was a bitter feud with Clingman, and his victory was posthumous. He lay now under the stones there, unable to give up his purchase on faith. At the height of my own futile journey, I realized that he and I were about the only people up here on this cold day, and he was dead.

I had known from my trip down this bucolic byway the previous October, legendary among motorcyclists, that the next stretch would take me farther into the Smokies, and that the higher I went, the lonelier the way. Then, though, I had simply felt alone, not lonely; I was with a man I was beginning to love. At that stage you welcome the height, the wide vista over uninhabited wild. It feels fine to be there and feel small, together. Now, the peculiar lunar landscape at 6,053 feet, the highest point on the Ridge, was crushing. The wind singing over the rocks had an edge of cruelty. I had climbed into the thinner air with my Guzzi’s beating engine without seeing but a car or two hurrying in the other direction, and the groups of riders I’d hoped to fall in with were still home, waiting for the next month and warmer air.

I wouldn’t let it stop me from going through the motions of marking my trip in the customary manner, and I stopped the Moto Guzzi in front of the sign that declared this the highest point in order to take the obligatory photo of proof. As I did so the lone man who had been standing, looking out over the view from the opposite end of the parking lot, came up behind me and told me I could get into the picture, too.

After handing my camera back he engaged me in a conversation that felt somewhat unreal: he told me his destination, his reason for g here in such an unvacationlike month, all the while glancing at my bike. As often happens, he informed me he used to ride, too, and asked me if the road was good for riding. My enthusiasm was a little forced – it certainly was, but I would have hardly known it from this experience. He said he wasn’t sure if he’d ever make such a trip alone, and he kept complimenting me on my bravery, though I wanted to correct his misapprehension so it could bear the more proper label: foolishness, a bid to prove I would have a grand time without anyone else at all.

But I couldn’t say it to this stranger. It took too much explaining, too much time-intensive shading between black lines. The simple version was more appropriate to this meeting, so I let him have it the way he wanted. He insisted on writing his name and address in my notebook, extracting a promise that if I ever passed through Iowa I’d look him up. I put it in my tank bag with an assurance that I would, while the knowledge that I wouldn’t sunk down hollowly inside.

There was nothing else to do but get on the bike and keep going, to the next mark on my map, the end of the Parkway in Cherokee.

On the prior trip, too, I had insisted on stopping in this gewgaw heaven, darting into stores on a restless search for the perfect ridiculous souvenir, tiring out my boyfriend until he cried uncle. He let me go on rushing from shop to shop while he waited outside by the row of glass windows that housed the Drumming Duck and the rattlesnake and the python and the rabbit clown and the other sad creatures on display for the visitors who paused a moment, pointed to the displays for their ice-cream-sticky children, then hurried on to buy their rubber tomahawks and beaded belts.

On this day I went looking again, having never found the perfection in plastic I sought, but after two stores I wandered back to my bike and glanced at the sky. It was getting late, and I needed to make it through the winding ways of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with plenty of light. Besides, I had it in mind to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, before nightfall.

Pressing on. I began seeing monumental billboards, on which a horrific, huge butterfly loomed, for the attraction miles before town, a formerly bereft Hamlet that had been Dolly Parton’s hometown before she made it big and it turned into a theme park of cheap restaurants and Western-wear outlets. I turned into the massive parking lot for the amusement park and saw the sign that informs two bucks is the price for parking; besides thinking that was steep for the few minutes I wanted to spend inside, I always resented paying anything to put such a narrow machine into a corner that couldn’t have been used by anything else anyway. Then I found out the admission was $18, and that clinched it. Who spent that much money to ride a ferris wheel alone? Shady characters in old movies did it, but they had ulterior motives. I could only turn around, another wistful goal having come in sight and revealed itself useless in plain view.

The sky was lower as I headed back out of Pigeon Forge, and I wanted to do it fast. I wanted to find somewhere I could be alone where no one would see me being alone. It was time to find the night’s Days Inn.

I hauled in all the garbage — the saddlebags, tank bag, helmet, tool bag. I went back down the hill to the service station’s convenience store and got some Italian rolls that were too white and too soft and a package of string cheese, thus exhausting their variety of real food. I sat in the bathtub and turned on the orange-red heat lamp so that the timer buzzed judiciously for 20 minutes. I unfurled the map and read it with a side of bourbon, so that some time in the future I might be able to fall asleep in the strangely familiar room. I made my peace as best I could with the discovery that I would have one more night like this, but I could do it. Since I had to, I could.

I turned on the news, and just when I was listening intently to some important-sounding item about the municipal airport of the nearby town I can’t recall the name of, I heard the voice.

It spoke in a stage whisper that reached to the fifth tier and back.

It said, “Tomorrow is the last day you will spend on earth.”

A shaking started in my gut, my feet felt very far away. The words of the anchorperson continued to accumulate in the room like cotton batting being stuffed into a mattress. Behind my eyes a scene was now projected, and I saw a white car of some general make coming at me and my white bike — a horror all dressed in the tones of clouds — but there the movie stopped, although I knew its end.

The utter precipitousness and incongruity of this final pronouncement made me unable to avoid its truth. I had apparently had one of those supermarket-tabloid premonitions: WOMAN FORESEES OWN DEATH.

It seemed just as certain that I couldn’t stay in a Tennessee motel in order to stave off death; the irony of that, I presume, is completely obvious. I reached for the glass of Jack Daniel’s and saw my hand quivering in midair. I spoke to myself sharply: Don’t be ridiculous! It kept on shaking.

It was intolerable, more than merely nettlesome, to be here alone now, and I caught sight of the decorator-almond telephone with its little red siren light sticking off the top. Besides the fact that it was well past midnight, how could I explain to anyone I could rouse from sleep what I’d just experienced? I was beginning to think that most of my friends thought I lived on the border of sanity anyway.

I lay back on the bed with a groan. Say, eight hours isn’t too long to spend lying here in the leaden grip of an absurd fear, until it’s light and you can go out and bravely prove the folly of your fantasies, shaking all the way.

If I couldn’t talk to anyone real, I figured I could make someone up and talk to him on paper; God knows I’ve got enough characters in my brain that one of them must be up and willing at this hour.

In the desk drawer were three sheets of motel stationery. Not enough, but a start. I took them back to the bed and started talking. We discussed why at this particular time I would be feeling afraid, why fear was often my co-pilot on my motorcycle. From the moment I’d bought my first bike three years before, I’d managed to pin most of my previously free-floating anxieties on some aspect of machinery. And wasn’t that why, later, I’d realized I wanted one in the first place, to wage war on this fear in the concrete?

At the bottom of the second page, the TV well into a rerun of “All in the Family,” the writing trailed off. I slipped into sleep and dreamt of nothing.

II

There is a beginning to this story, of course, far before the beginning. I was boarding at a prep school in Ohio, the town — a miniature replica of a New England hamlet replete with town green, white steeples, stone wall around a campus of gentle slopes and neatly tended playing fields — was midway between Akron, where I am from, and Cleveland. Although I had opted to attend (pleasing my father, who had also gone there) and escape public school for which I was decidedly not cut out, by my third year I was beginning to feel I had chosen another type of prison instead. I was blissfully happy up in the art room, a sun-filled kingdom ruled by the brilliantly eccentric Mr. Moos, but I was not allowed to spend all my time there as I would have wished. I had to do sports (for which I was equally woefully miscast), science, woodshop (which I flunked, for “refusing” to keep my plane sharpened), and, most loathesome of all, math.

No one has ever erred in calling me stubborn. I have a place, like the end of spring, beyond which I can stretch not a millimeter further. I hit that wall one achingly green spring day, on which I was not uncoincidentally expected in math class at 8:30 a.m. — stupefyingly early, to add injury to insult. I looked at the clock when I opened my eyes, saw it was 8:20 and pulled off the covers. I put on my jeans, forbidden in class, a T-shirt, and put my money and keys in my backpack. I wheeled my Raleigh 10-speed out the door, carried my prize possession bought with hard-won summer babysitting funds down the stairs and outdoors. And I rode past the streams of students heading up the brick walks toward school.

The trip took a half hour in the car. I was thankful in more ways than one that the direction was reversed this time. Approaching the quaint crossroads of Peninsula, a half-mile hill shot down into the town. I coasted, let the bike pick up speed. The wheels were flashing now in the sunlight. I couldn’t go fast enough; I shifted into tenth gear and pedalled as hard as I could, pumping, pumping. The wind dried my teeth clean so my lips stuck to them — that was because I smiled.

When I turned up the drive to my house my mother looked up from her gardening. She hardly seemed surprised to see me. Without her asking, I told her that I simply couldn’t take it anymore. She nodded, and we had some lunch. I think she must have called my father at the office, because when he came home he didn’t seem too stunned either. I was relieved, near elated. I could stay — we would work out the credits and whatnot later. We had the usual nice dinner my mother prepared. Then my parents rose from the table and announced it was time to get going.

Now it was my turn not to be surprised. I had achieved at least that much maturity to understand a certain version of reality.

The next day I was summoned into Sherwin Kibbe’s office. The school’s dean was a dead ringer for Norman Mailer, and he looked frighteningly out from under overhanging silver eyebrows and inquired just what I thought I had been doing. I was several pages into my explanation, which combined a bit of Jefferson with a smattering of Kerouac, when he cut me short. “Well, I think you just wanted to take a ride on a nice day.”

My deeply felt protests met with an offer of demerits and probation. Tears of misunderstood frustration coursed down my cheeks after I shut the door. My issues were high – how could he have leveled me with such an insignificant charge? It was contemptuous.

Sixteen years later and I still ask myself the same question. My answer is still stubborn. So why shouldn’t I run away because it’s a nice day? There is never a better reason.

III

I’d made it as far as the Delaware Water Gap in one day. I’d been riding for 13 hours, and it was now 1 a.m. I was strung out from the numbing consistency of the highways, the same speed, the light, persistent rain that shrouded everything in mist, just like my brain felt. If I could just stay awake and bear down hard enough, I could be home in another two hours.

It was just me and the long-haul trucks now, and nothing broke the dark outside my headlight beam. I didn’t know if I’d been riding for one day or 10. Time had no meaning, except that it was what had exhausted me. I probably could have gone on. Suddenly, though, a thought came into my head, a small distillation of all the biking horror stories I’d ever heard: I was outrunning my headlight’s visibility, and if there were a railroad tie across the lane, I wouldn’t see it till it was too late. I was awake enough to appreciate what that meant.

In a few miles I saw the green Holiday Inn sign rise above the gloom of trees. In the office the woman behind the desk gave me a wide-eyed look as I clomped in in my rainsuit. No, no rooms, all full; there was another place 20 miles away — she’d call. No room in that inn, either, she informed me on putting down the phone. I felt at that moment I was going to collapse.

Actually, she considered, there was one, but the air conditioning had gone out in it. If I didn’t mind….

No, I didn’t. A couple of hay bales would have sufficed. I fell asleep in moments in the sickly, still air.

It was still raining in the morning, and I jerked on the same still-wet clothes and covered them up with the rubber-lined suit. I got an early start.

Two hours later I made the last turn onto my street, and for the first time was forced to slow to a near halt. It had stopped raining. The sun was calling up the hot moisture from the pavement to choke the air. Halfway down the block an earth-mover and police barricades barred the way. Workmen were sweating in their undershirts. I felt the heat rise up from the Guzzi’s cylinders and envelop me. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, jeans, leather jacket with winter lining, rainsuit on top of that; my hands were encased in rubber gloves with a thick synthetic liner, and the vents on my helmet were closed against the early morning chill that was an incredible memory now.

The men tried to wave me to a stop. Instead I let out the clutch and came toward them, provoking wilder gesticulations. At the last moment, I jumped the curb onto the sidewalk to pull up in front of my garage. Only then did I apply the brake.

I switched off the key, then pulled off my helmet and sat for a second, steam rising around my neck. The bike let out its little clicks and coos, already cooling in the heat.

This is how 2,000 miles ends. I’d made bigger trips, but not alone. There was a certain purity to this one, a perfect insularity. It was as though I had done all that distance without leaving a mark on any atom in the universe. I had slipped quickly and quietly by, and the wind in my wake only a vague memory of disturbance in the grass by the edge of the road. Maybe we were white dream-cars ourselves. Yet now I was home, and that’s all that mattered.

* * *

For more from Melissa Holbrook Pierson, visit her website. You can also listen to our interview with Pierson on the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast.

The post Alone: Onward Through the Fog first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Riding Wisconsin’s Waumandee Valley River Roads

Where Motorcyclists Roam
Riding Highway 88, aka Black Lightning. Photos by Kathleen Currie

Buffalo County, Wisconsin, is a hidden gem for motorcyclists. Located in the northwest part of the state, its southern border is the Mississippi River, which is the dividing line between Wisconsin and Minnesota. This is rural farm country, and the entire county has only one traffic light.

Buffalo County boasts dozens of fantastic motorcycling roads that twist along river banks, climb steep bluffs, dive into coulees and steep ravines, and cling to the edges of sandstone ridges. Numerous creeks and small rivers flow through the Waumandee Valley on their way to join the Mississippi, and they influence the shape and slope of these roads.

Where Motorcyclists Roam
Buffalo County appears to have the most curvy road signs in Wisconsin.

The best starting point is the town of Mondovi, located in the northeastern corner of Buffalo County. A quick fuel and food stop is recommended, as gasoline stations, restaurants, and other amenities are sparse as you head south. After a bite at McT’s Diner we follow County Roads (CR) H and ZZ south to a hook up with State Highway 88 at the Buffalo River.

Known as “Black Lightning,” Highway 88 has approximately 130 corners and curves in 40 miles as it runs from Gilmanton to the Mississippi River, making it one of Wisconsin’s highest-rated biker roads. It gives riders — and their brakes — a real workout as they ride the ridges and slash through a sandstone cut north of Praag.

Where Motorcyclists Roam
This tour route is available on the REVER app in the Rider Magazine community.

Link to Waumandee Valley River Roads tour on REVER

At CR U, we head east until we reach CR C at a crossroads just north of the village of Montana. CR C dishes up a variety of steep climbs and hairpin curves as we work our way south along Swinns Valley Creek, on our way to State Highway 95 just west of Arcadia. A short jog going west on 95 takes us to CR E, which heads northeast through Pansy Pass and Glencoe to Waumandee. CR E east of Waumandee has such steep hills that many homeowners have large angled mirrors mounted on posts at the foot of their driveways to help provide a view of any hidden oncoming traffic.

The village of Waumandee — Chippewa for “clear and sparkling water” — is worth a stop. It dates back to the 1850s, and Waumandee House, which was built in 1879, is still an active inn and restaurant. Every September the village hosts the Waumandee Hillclimb, a unique event for sports car enthusiasts. A two-mile stretch of Blank Hill Road west of Highway 88 is closed for a day of timed runs up an 18-turn hillclimb road course.

Where Motorcyclists Roam
J & J BBQ in downtown Nelson is a favorite biker stop.

Crossing Highway 88 we take a shot at Blank Hill Road, which is as challenging as advertised. Take care along the section of road that clings to the side of a cliff and has no guardrail. At CR N, we head north along Alma Ridge, which has some white-knuckle descents on its way to the Buffalo River at State Highway 37. A short jog up Highway 37 takes us to Highway KK on the west side of the Buffalo River.

Where Motorcyclists Roam
The lunch crowd heading down Great River Road (Highway 35) to Nelson.

Want a taste of riding the Isle of Man TT? Much like the famed road circuit, the CR KK south of Modena has climbs and descents chiseled into the sides of ridges with few guardrails, testing our binders and our nerves as we plunge down to CR D.

CR D winds west through rolling farm country to its junction with State Highway 35, which is known as the Great River Road and hugs the northern shore of the Mississippi. Overlooking the river, the town of Nelson has several recommended dining stops. On the day of our visit, J & J Barbeque and Nelson Creamery are overwhelmed with two-wheeled customers. We find an empty table at Beth’s Twin Bluff Café, and enjoy the best lemon pie we’ve ever tasted.

Where Motorcyclists Roam
Picturesque farms are everywhere in Buffalo County.

We headed north on State Highway 25 along the eastern edge of the Tiffany Bottoms Natural Area. At the village of Misha Mokwa, we turn east onto CR KK and complete the circle at the junction with CR D. Twists and turns command our full attention on our way to the village of Modena. Visit the general store in Modena to see two large motorcycle sculptures made from scrap metal, and pick up some cheese curds for a snack. We continue east on D until it dead-ends at Highway 37, then we follow the Buffalo River north and return to Mondovi.

The roads on this 110-mile loop are challenging, but most of the pavement is in good condition (be mindful of gravel in some corners). Part of what makes Buffalo County a great riding destination is the traffic — except for Highway 35, there is none! On a full day of weekend riding we encountered two tractors, two pickups, seven motorcycles, and one corn picker, which was blocking a narrow farm road. The only thing missing for a perfect riding weekend is a motorcycle class at the Waumandee Hillclimb so we can clock our time going up Blank Hill Road!

Where Motorcyclists Roam
Snaking roads and incredible scenery in the Waumandee Valley.

The post Riding Wisconsin’s Waumandee Valley River Roads first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

HJC RPHA 90S Modular Helmet | Gear Review

HJC RPHA 90S Modular Helmet Review

We can’t get enough of modular helmets here at Rider. The protection of a full-face helmet combined with the convenience of a flip-up chinbar is really hard to beat. Add in the premium features of a helmet like HJC’s RPHA 90S, and you cover all the bases: safety, comfort, aerodynamics, ventilation, versatility, and ease of use.

Based in Korea, HJC is the world’s largest helmet manufacturer. RPHA, which stands for Revolutionary Performance Helmet Advanced and is pronounced “arfa,” is HJC’s premium line of full-face and modular helmets. The 90S shell is made of HJC’s proprietary, lightweight Premium Integrated Matrix (P.I.M.) Plus that blends carbon and carbon-glass into a hybrid fabric. My medium-sized 90S weighs 3 pounds, 11 ounces, which is comparable to other premium modular helmets we’ve tested.

The interior is 3D-engineered to reduce noise, and combined with the aerodynamic shell, neck roll, and chin curtain, the helmet does a good job of dulling wind noise. The 90S has a plush, removable comfort liner, recessed ear pockets, and channels to accommodate glasses. The anti-scratch faceshield is Pinlock-ready (an anti-fog insert comes in the box), and a sliding lever on the lower left edge of the helmet deploys or retracts the drop-down sunshield. Vents on the chinbar, crown, and rear of the helmet are easy to open or close with gloved hands. Airflow through the helmet is decent but could be better (though that would increase wind noise; I wear earplugs most of the time, so it’s a trade-off I’d be happy to make). Sold separately are Sena-made Smart HJC 20B and 10B Bluetooth communication systems that integrate into a port inside the rear of the helmet.

HJC RPHA 90S Modular Helmet Review 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT
HJC RPHA 90S on a 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour (Photo by Kevin Wing)

I’ve been wearing the RPHA 90S for about a month on bikes ranging from a Triumph Speed Triple naked sportbike to the Honda Gold Wing. There is no EPS padding built into the chinbar, but it does latch closed with metal pins and locks securely. The chinbar’s release tab and the center locking mechanism for the faceshield are both easy to find and use on the fly, though with the faceshield cracked open the mechanism ends up in my line of sight. Otherwise, vision is very good through the large eyeport. I appreciate the plush liner for the chinstrap, which secures with a traditional D-ring. The 90S was comfortable, quiet, and user-friendly during 12-hour days in the saddle with highs in the triple digits. Can’t ask for much more than that.

The HJC RPHA 90S is available in sizes XS-2XL. Pricing ranges from $459.99-$469.99 for solids to $499.99 for graphics (shown).

For more information: See your dealer or visit hjchelmets.us

The post HJC RPHA 90S Modular Helmet | Gear Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review

Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket
Photo by Kevin Wing

As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But much of North America has felt like living in an oven lately. If, like me, you prefer to ride with the protection of an armored jacket regardless of how high the mercury rises, Fly Racing has a summer solution that will help you beat the heat.

The Flux Air Mesh is a lightweight riding jacket with a crew-style collar. Huge mesh panels on the chest, sleeves, and back allow plenty of cooling air to flow through to the wearer. High-abrasion textile sections provide additional safety at the elbows and across the shoulders, and behind these are pockets that hold removable CE Level 1 armor. An additional pocket at the back secures a foam back pad, but we recommend upgrading to Fly Racing’s Barricade CE Level 2 back protector ($39.95).

Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review
Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket in Black/White/Grey

Reflective panels across the shoulders enhance nighttime visibility. Adjusters at the cuffs, forearms, and waist enable an optimal fit and help ensure body armor remains in the correct position. A slightly tapered fit makes for a stylish cut, and a drop tail accommodates a more aggressive riding position while adding a measure of safety for the lower back. The jacket is fitted with a durable YKK main zipper with a lanyard for ease of use with gloved hands, and two external zippered pockets combine with phone and wallet pockets inside to provide plenty of practical storage for your valuables.

During recent test rides on a Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, temperatures hovered in the 90s. Thanks to the generous airflow and light weight of the Flux Air Mesh, I all but forgot that I was wearing an armored jacket. Wind passed through the entire chest and arm sections, and even with the optional CE Level 2 back protector fitted, any sweat was wicked away quickly. I was also impressed with the fit, which provided room for comfort but was snug enough to keep the armor in place and prevent any annoying flapping on the highway.

Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review
Black
Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review
Camouflage
Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review
Black / Hi-Viz

During the heat of the summer riding season, the Flux Air Mesh Jacket is a great option to ride safely and in comfort. And at $119.95, you can’t beat the price. It’s available in men’s sizes S-3XL in four colorways: Black/White/Grey, Black, Camouflage, and Black/Hi-Viz. It’s also available in women’s sizes S-3XL in White/Grey and Black.

For more information: See your dealer or visit flyracing.com

The post Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh Jacket | Gear Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Dunlop D404 Tires | Gear Review

Gear Lab | Dunlop D404 Tires
The Author’s 2006 Triumph T100 Bonneville, fitted with D404’s. Photo by Clement Salvadori

I’ve worn out a lot of tires in the last 66 years of riding, and I have no real memory or record of what I used when and on what bike. I am sure I had a lot of Dunlops, as they have been around a long time. Back in the late 1880s, John Boyd Dunlop made the first practical pneumatic tire for bicycles, which were a lot more comfortable to ride than bikes with solid rubber tires. In 1901, he started the Dunlop Rubber Company, which now belongs to Sumitomo Rubber Industries. 

Dunlop describes these D404s as fitting “standard” motorcycles, and they don’t get much more standard than my 2006 Triumph T100 Bonneville. I call these tires universal-use, reasonably good at everything, from wet pavement to dirt roads. My Bonnie is pretty much an all-around, local-use machine, happy with doing errands or a 200-mile day. Around here we do have all sorts of roads, from smooth asphalt to pothole specials, and lots of good dirt roads, from Gillis Canyon to Cypress Mountain. 

I find the tread to be pleasingly chunky, and Dunlop says the design enhances wet grip and water evacuation. Since we are in a drought here in our part of California, I can’t attest to those functions. The off-set center groove is intended to improve straight-line stability, and I can’t fault that, as on some deserted back roads I just might exceed the speed limit. 

The carcass is a bias-ply design, which means that the fiber belts, or plies, go from side to side at an angle, hence a bias. About half the tire is made of rubber, both natural and synthetic, and the rest is mainly the fabric body plies that go between those wire bead bundles that keep the tire properly attached to the wheel. Dunlop says this compound will give excellent mileage; you are reading this report after a mere 800 miles, and I’ll let you know when I will need a new rear tire. 

Speaking of which, the official Triumph size for my ’06 rear wheel is 130/80-17, with that 80 being the aspect ratio. And just what is the aspect ratio? The height of the sidewall expressed as a percentage of the width of the tire. The closest the D404 comes is a 130/90-17, which means the tire will be a smidge taller. 

New tires are on, new inner tubes are in. Picked up the bike late in the afternoon, and after a relatively calm 40-mile break-in, went home and had a glass of wine. In the morning, I checked that the tires were at proper pressures, and then went with a friend to do a run over Rossi’s Driveway, as we call the eight miles of Route 229 going from Route 58 to Creston. Guilty fun, with just one car on the road, quickly dispatched. 

MSRP on these tires are $118.81 front, $132.01 rear, but if you shop around, you will pay less. 

For more information: visit dunlopmotorcycletires.com

The post Dunlop D404 Tires | Gear Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
California Route 38 follows Mill Creek Canyon as it climbs into the San Bernardino Mountains.

There are rides we’ve ridden only once and they became favorites, and then there are favorite rides we’ve ridden over and over again. This ride falls into the latter category. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve ridden Rim of the World Scenic Byway, but I’ve done it on pleasure rides, solo tests, comparison tests and press launches, on cruisers, sport-tourers and adventure bikes.

RELATED: 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R | (Off) Road Test Review

Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Click here for the REVER route shown above

This route is entirely paved, but it goes through California’s San Bernardino National Forest and provides easy access to many unpaved forest roads and OHV routes. And although I describe the route from its eastern end in Redlands to its western end at Mormon Rocks, it’s just as enjoyable when ridden the other direction. The route is about 100 miles and can be ridden in just a few hours, or it can serve as the main artery for a weekend of adventure, from camping and hiking to boating, fishing or relaxing in mountain communities like Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Most of Rim of the World Scenic Byway is above 5,000 feet, so snow and ice are common in winter and early spring. The road is plowed regularly, but shaded sections can be dicey.

Redlands is part of the Inland Empire, a vast metropolitan area east of Los Angeles that covers parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. State Route 38 begins in Redlands, at the junction with Interstate 10. Rim of the World Scenic Byway begins as Route 38 starts to climb into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. The escape from civilization happens quickly as the road starts to gently curve its way up Mill Creek Canyon, with slopes rising steeply on both sides of the road.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Rim of the World Scenic Byway offers panoramic views of the valley below

Following a 180-degree, constant-radius sweeper, the road begins a much steeper climb into the mountains. Now we’re talking! Route 38 winds its way through beautiful mountain scenery on its way to 8,443-foot Onyx Summit. Due to the high elevation, snow and ice are common during the winter and early spring, so proceed with caution. On the flip side, the thinner air makes this route a wonderful escape from broiling heat down in the valley during summer and early fall.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes just east of Onyx Summit, and beyond that high point, Route 38 begins a gradual descent with sweeping views of the desert valley to the northeast. As you begin to see residential areas, be mindful of posted speed limits. Route 38 takes an abrupt left as it becomes Big Bear Boulevard and heads west. After the intersection with Greenway Drive you’ll be on Route 18 (Route 38 turns off to the north) and travel through a heavily trafficked area. Some folks who work down in the valley live up in Big Bear, and it’s a popular weekend destination with many rustic cabins available to rent. There are plenty of options for gas, food, supplies and lodging.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Bear Valley Dam was originally built in 1884

Route 18 roughly follows the southern shore of Big Bear Lake, an expansive blue reservoir. (Route 38 runs along the northern shore and typically has less traffic.) After navigating your way through town and a tight, winding section of road through trees and big lakeside houses, you’ll see Bear Valley Dam. There’s a parking area where you can stop to check out the dam and snap photos of the lake.

From Bear Valley Dam to Lakeview Point, Route 18 hugs rugged cliffs and offers up a delightful — and at times challenging — series of curves. Beware of rockslide debris and fine gravel used for traction in the winter, and commuter and tourist traffic can add their own hazards. Lakeview Point (7,100 feet) is a scenic overlook with great views of the mountains and a peekaboo view of Big Bear Lake off in the distance.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
A view of Silverwood Lake from an overlook on Route 138

What follows is a tight, technical section that will put your riding skills — and the limits of your cornering clearance — to the test. After passing through the community of Arrowbear Lake, you’ll come to the town of Running Springs. Pay attention to the road signs and stay on Route 18, which follows an off-ramp to the right. It’s easy to end up on Route 330, an absolute blast of a road that winds its way back down to the valley; it’s a fun down-and-back-up spur if you want to extend your ride.

West of Running Springs the route offers up some of the most scenic views on the entire byway, as Route 18 follows the spine of the mountains. There are many turnouts where you can enjoy the view, particularly Red Rock Scenic Overlook, but from the westbound lane be careful crossing the eastbound (valley side) of the road on blind corners.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
A majestic juniper stands sentry near Onyx Summit. The Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby.

As Route 18 starts to make its way down to the valley (another fun one), at Mount Anderson Junction you’ll turn onto Route 138 (another off-ramp to the right) toward Crestline. Roads are well marked, so if you’re paying attention or following the route on REVER, you’ll be fine. After winding your way through tall trees and densely clustered cabins, Route 138 becomes a rollercoaster of tight turns, hairpins, dips and rises. This is my favorite section of the entire route, but it’s also the most challenging.

As you come out of the forest, the road opens up as it approaches and rounds Silverwood Lake. No more hairpins, just big sweepers, a few rollers and some straights through sandy desert landscape. After crossing over I-15 and railroad tracks at Cajon Junction, you’ll see Mormon Rocks, a dramatic wind-eroded sandstone formation, rising up in the distance.

That’s the end of the scenic byway, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your fun. Right across from Mormon Rocks is Lone Pine Canyon Road, a lightly trafficked back road that goes to Wrightwood and Route 2, better known as Angeles Crest Highway, a legendary favorite ride.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway
The Red Rock Scenic Overlook was built during the Great Depression, with masonry work by Donald S. Wiesman

RELATED: Nelson-Rigg Sahara Dry Duffle Bag | Gear Review (shown in photo above)

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission cutaway
A cutaway of the Honda VFR1200F’s engine is color-coded to show the 1-3-5 gears, clutch pack and solenoid valves in red and the corresponding setup for gears 2-4-6 in blue. Dual clutches allow rapid-fire, nearly seamless gear changes. (Tech images/illustrations courtesy of American Honda)

The age of the Dual Clutch Transmission is not approaching, it’s already here. If you happen to be comparison shopping Ferraris, Lamborghinis, or McLarens to fill out your garage, you won’t find a stick shift in the bunch, just DCTs. But for now, Honda is the sole motorcycle manufacturer offering this option.

First introduced for 2010 on the VFR1200F, Honda’s 2021 lineup offers seven distinct models with an optional DCT: three versions of the Gold Wing, two versions of the Africa Twin, the NC750X, and the new Rebel 1100. For the 2019 and 2020 model years, across Gold Wing, Africa Twin, and NC750X models, half the units sold were equipped with DCTs. And when you include Fourtrax ATVs and Pioneer and Talon side-by-sides, Honda obviously has a whole lotta DCT goin’ on.

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission 2010 VFR1200F
Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission debuted as an option on the 2010 VFR1200F. (Photo by Kevin Wing)

In our road tests we’ve discussed the benefits of having a DCT along for the ride. Even if you absolutely insist on manual shift for your own machines, you gotta admit an automatic transmission opens the door to many new riders — and that’s always a good thing for our sport. Without clutch and shift levers, there are fewer controls to operate, allowing beginning riders to stay focused on throttle control, braking, leaning and staying out of harm’s way. They can also avoid the frustration of stalling or not finding neutral. Grizzled riders may scoff that such are the dues one must pay to learn to ride a motorcycle, but the fewer barriers to entry the better.

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission
Illustration shows the shaft-in-shaft configuration of the dual clutches, as well as the odd (1-3-5) gears and clutch in red and even (2-4-6) gears and clutch in blue.

Since we’re only gonna find more DCT options down the pike, let’s learn more about how it works. First, understand that this system does indeed use two clutches rather than just one hanging off the end of the transmission input shaft. Honda’s DCT setup positions a pair of clutches in a shaft-in-shaft configuration: a hollow outer shaft and a second one that runs inside it (see illustration 1). One clutch carries odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5, plus 7 on Gold Wing models) while the other carries even-numbered gears (2, 4, 6).

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission illustration
On the Gold Wing models, the DCT adds a 7th gear as well as a reverse chain and gear.

In the accompanying color illustrations and cutaway VFR1200 engine image, the red parts are the 1-3-5 clutch pack and gears, while the blue parts are the 2-4-6 clutch pack and gears. This allows two gears to be engaged at the same time, so while one gear is busy supplying power to the rear wheel, the DCT preselects the next gear and it stays ready for immediate engagement when the clutches pass the baton. This is accomplished through the use of linear solenoid valves that send hydraulic pressure to actuate the clutches as directed by the ECU.

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission Rebel 1100 left grip
On the Honda Rebel 1100 DCT’s left handlebar are the manual downshift (-) and upshift (+, on front of switchgear) buttons and emergency brake. Note absence of clutch lever. (Photo by Drew Ruiz)

In practice, a DCT-equipped motorcycle with the ignition off or at idle will be in neutral, so all DCT bikes feature a parking brake (above). Once the bike has been started, to engage first gear the rider presses the “D” (Drive) button on the right switchgear (below). The “A/M” button switches between automatic and manual modes, and the “N” button shifts the transmission into neutral (this happens automatically when you come to a stop regardless of mode). When Drive has been engaged, to pull away from a stop all the rider has to do is roll on the throttle, just like the twist-and-go convenience of a scooter.

Honda DCT Dual Clutch Transmission Rebel 1100 right grip
Right handlebar has the DCT mode buttons. (Photo by Drew Ruiz)

The default mode is Automatic, with shift points electronically programmed. For fuel economy, the DCT typically shifts into higher gears quickly, to keep engine speed low. On the Rebel 1100 tested in this issue, DCT shift points vary based on the riding mode: Standard mode has a middle-of-the-road shift schedule, Rain mode shifts earlier to keep revs low, and Sport mode shifts later to allow high revs. When the throttle is rolled on abruptly, such as to make a quick pass, the DCT quickly downshifts a gear or two so the engine can deliver power as needed. At any time, a rider can use the down (-) or up (+) buttons on the left switchgear to change gears as desired.

Honda has also tailored the DCT for different models. For example, Africa Twin DCT models have four automatic modes (Drive and three Sport modes with successively higher shift points), and Gold Wing DCT models have 7-speed transmissions with a reverse gear.

With more than a decade of proven performance in the books, the motorcycling Dual Clutch Transmission is clearly here to stay.

The post Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special | Video Review

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special
Testing the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special in the Mojave Desert. (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Check out our video review of the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special, an all-new adventure bike powered by the 150-horsepower Revolution Max V-twin. We hammered the Pan America 1250 Special for two days in the mountains and desert, on- and off-road, and it never gave up or reacted in an unexpected way or felt out of its depth. And its Adaptive Ride Height option is a game-changer, lowering ride/seat height by 1 to 2 inches when the bike comes to a stop. Whatever the metric — power, performance, handling, durability, technology, weight, price — the Pan America 1250 Special can compete head-to-head with well-established players in the ADV segment.

To find a Harley-Davidson dealer near you, visit harley-davidson.com.

The post 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special | Video Review first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Christian Dutcher: Ep. 10 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Episode 10 Christian Dutcher Director Americade Touratech DirtDaze Rally
Christian Dutcher is the Director of Americade and the Touratech DirtDaze Rally.

Our guest is Christian Dutcher, Director of Americade, the Touratech DirtDaze Rally and Rolling Thru America, a motorcycle tour company focusing on the Eastern U.S. Americade is the World’s Largest Touring Rally and takes place each year in Lake George, New York. Due to the pandemic, Americade was cancelled in 2020 and will move from June to September in 2021. We discuss what makes Americade such a special event, from the scenic rides and huge vendor area to the entertainment and family-friendly atmosphere.

Check out the episode on SoundCloudStitcher or iTunes, or you can listen on the Rider Magazine Insider podcast webpage.

The post Christian Dutcher: Ep. 10 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Christian Dutcher: Ep. 10 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Episode 10 Christian Dutcher Director Americade Touratech DirtDaze Rally
Christian Dutcher is the Director of Americade and the Touratech DirtDaze Rally.

Our guest is Christian Dutcher, Director of Americade, the Touratech DirtDaze Rally and Rolling Thru America, a motorcycle tour company focusing on the Eastern U.S. Americade is the World’s Largest Touring Rally and takes place each year in Lake George, New York. Due to the pandemic, Americade was cancelled in 2020 and will move from June to September in 2021. We discuss what makes Americade such a special event, from the scenic rides and huge vendor area to the entertainment and family-friendly atmosphere.

Check out the episode on SoundCloudStitcher or iTunes, or you can listen on the Rider Magazine Insider podcast webpage.

The post Christian Dutcher: Ep. 10 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com