Check bucket list boxes with two new tours from Ayres Adventures: Berlin to Budapest or Georgia and Armenia. The 15-day Berlin to Budapest runs in September and covers the best of Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Poland and Romania, with prices starting at $9,500. Or choose the 14-day Georgia and Armenia tour in October, delving into the rich culture of two former Soviet republics, starting at $8,950. See website for complete details.
Being a pretty boring fellow, I’m the kind of dude that likes consistency – with constant improvements. Andy Goldfine began his Aerostich company back in 1983, with the Darien coming along in 1992, and the current 3/4-length jacket is a fine piece of engineering. The name comes from the tropical Darien Gap in Panama, which indicates a relatively lightweight jacket, and my size 48 (or 2XL), with full shoulder, elbow and standard back armor, comes in at an ounce over five pounds.
It’s a single-layer coat, meaning no inside lining, no zip-in liner. I generally ride with layers down to about 50 degrees, or a heated liner when it is seriously cold. Which doesn’t happen often where I live in California. I think we had three freeze nights last winter, easy to tell because the cats’ waterbowl on the porch gets a thin layer of ice.
The Darien is made of American-made 500-denier Cordura, using that semi-miraculous Gore-Tex fluoropolymer membrane. No, I have no idea what a fluoropolymer membrane is, just what it does. Billy Gore patented this back in 1969, and it allows the Cordura to be relatively waterproof, windproof and breathable. Breathable? It’s a one-way affair, keeping out rain, but allowing sweat to exit. I rode in a number of wintery showers and stayed dry…except once on a windy, rainy day for a dribble down my neck as I had forgotten to put on a neckerchief. But if you are in for a day-long rain, I would recommend having a serious rainsuit along, as in the past I have found that even the Cordura Gore-Tex can get a tad soggy.
This 500-denier material is pretty tough stuff, and should a rider unfortunately fall, can take a good deal of abrasion. Aerostich uses its own TF (Tempered Foam) armor, with impact-absorbing hard shell, not the European approved CE variety. The Darien comes standard with TF3 armor, but Aerostich also offers optional, no-cost hot-weather TF6 and the cold-weather TF2; you can read more about the various armor options in their catalog or online.
Lots of big pockets, and Aerostich has mastered the art of making two pockets out of one. The outside zippered breast pockets hold a heckuva lot, as do the unzipped reverse pockets on their undersides. Which passengers in need of hand warmth or just hanging on can also use. Over the left breast is a smaller pocket with a hook-and-loop closure and a D-ring of sorts that you can attach your keys to…delightfully old-fashioned in this age of electronic fobs. Two more large zippered pockets are down in the lower third of the jacket. Only thing missing would be a poacher’s pocket (as they used to be called) at the lower back, where a poacher could hide a rabbit. Or a rider’s warm liner. Inside is a top-closing phone pocket on the left, a side-closing map pocket on the right.
Fit is good, with cinching straps at the waist, and an elastic cord at the bottom. Each arm has two cinching straps, and the cuffs have zippers and cinching straps. Armpit and back vents are very useful when Mr. Sun shines bright. Big YKK zipper runs up the front, protected from the rain by a hook-and-loop secured flap. The folding collar has a pleasant liner, and can be used tall in the cool weather, or snapped back to half-height in the warm. Small magnets at both ends of the collar make sure nothing flaps. Nighttime visibility is good, with the use of 3M Scotchlite reflective material.
All told, the Darien is a darn good jacket, especially with summer coming on. My jacket is tan, and four other colors are available. Price is about $600, which isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of jacket for the money.
For more information, visit aerostich.com or ride up to Duluth, Minnesota.
If a basic, no-nonsense leather glove is your style, then the Louie ($39.95) from Highway 21 is right up your alley. The Louie is made from soft, supple deerskin, with a short cuff, double stitching where the thumb meets the palm, a rich, drum-dyed finish and unique tooled detailing. Its simple, single-layer construction allows it to break in and mold to your hand as you wear it. The Louie is available in black or brown, in men’s sizes S-3XL.
The new Ace jacket ($319) from Trilobite looks like stylish denim, but it’s actually abrasion-resistant polyester lined with Kevlar on the back, shoulders and elbows. It’s lined with a fixed Tri-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane and includes CE level 2 protection at the shoulders and elbows; a CE level 2 back protector is optional. It also features four outer and two inner pockets and a sunglasses holder. The Ace is available in blue in men’s sizes S-2XL.
Q: I want to purchase a 2004-2006 Honda 750 Aero, with driveshaft and spoked wheels, or a 2004-2006 Yamaha 650 V Star, with driveshaft and spoked wheels. But I would like to change to tubeless cast wheels. Do you know who makes a tubeless wheel for either bike? I have been told to seal the spokes with either 3M tape or silicone. I do not know how safe that would be or how long that would last. Any info would be appreciated. – Rufus Deloach, Milton, Florida
A: Ralph, you don’t say why you want to go tubeless, but odds are you’re wary of tube-type tires’ rapid deflation when punctured and attracted to the slow leak-down and easy roadside fixability that a tubeless radial offers when it picks up a nail. You also get a lot more choice in terms of tread pattern and purpose when you switch to tubeless radials, but first your wheels need to be ready to accept them. Aftermarket cast hoops for either the Honda or Yamaha you’ve listed don’t exist as far as I’m aware. You may be able to retrofit something from a different model, but modifying the bike’s stock spoked wheels is probably easier. As you mentioned there are numerous DIY options, and any adventure-bike forum is liable to have a good rundown of techniques and outcomes. However, you should be aware that many tube-type rims aren’t meant to mate with the beads on tubeless tires, which could pose a safety hazard. I also feel obligated to tell you that you’re not supposed to switch between bias-ply tires (which is what likely comes stock on the Aero and V Star) and radials since the tires have different handling characteristics. With that caveat out of the way, I think your best option for going tubeless is to get a tubeless-type rim laced to your bike’s stock hub. A company like Woody’s Wheel Works (woodyswheelworks.com) should be able to take care of you, or at least point you in the right direction.
By now most of us know the chief advantages of lithium motorcycle batteries – much less weight than lead-acid batteries, slower discharge and no sulfation from sitting being the top three. Of course, lithium (technically lithium iron phosphate, or LiFePO4) batteries are still quite expensive, so most riders simply take the cheaper path when it’s time to replace. That was my intent when I started looking for a battery for my 1982 Yamaha Seca XJ650, but as with some of my other old bikes the choices are very limited. I certainly didn’t want one of the flooded (conventional) batteries available – having to maintain water levels in a battery on a maintenance charger is a pain – and the one maintenance-free AGM battery I could buy was the same one that I was replacing, which only lasted two years.
Which brings me to a fourth, lesser-known advantage of lithium batteries – you can almost always find one that will work in your bike, even vintage machines like my Seca. With four times more capacity per cell than a lead-acid battery, a lithium battery can be smaller than stock and still pack the cranking power your bike needs. As long as the positive and negative terminals are in the right places and the bolt holes are correctly oriented, you can find one to fit in your bike’s battery box, perhaps with some padding around it to snug it in place. The only limitation may be if your older bike’s charging system doesn’t put out enough juice to keep the LiFePO4 battery charged – at least 13.1 volts at idle and 13.6 at speed.
Shorai makes nearly two-dozen 12- and 6-volt lithium batteries in a variety of case shapes and sizes, capacities and right/left polarity options to fit street, dirt, touring and cruiser motorcycles, scooters and ATVs. They can also be used for custom bikes up to 110ci or 1,800cc, and vintage machines. Turns out the Shorai LFX14A5-BS12 battery for my Seca is a perfect fit in its battery box and didn’t need any padding, but it still came with several square feet of self-adhesive foam in different thicknesses for other battery boxes. LFX batteries come with bolt holes on the top and sides of the terminals, so installation was a snap, and the best part is that the 2.3-pound Shorai LFX14A5-BS12 is 4.5 pounds lighter than the lead-acid YB12A-A that came out of the bike.
Lithium batteries offer several other advantages. In addition to operating at a higher voltage than lead-acid (so they can potentially provide faster cranking and easier starts), in older bikes with no parasitic battery drain from clocks, computers, alarms, etc., the Shorai can hold a charge up to a year. On later machines, if you don’t ride it at least twice a month, then you should charge the battery every few weeks. Shorai recommends using its BMS01 charger because it offers Charge, Store and Diagnosis modes, balances the cells individually for peak performance and can be used long-term. But Shorai’s LFX batteries can also be charged with a regular maintenance charger with automatic cutoff as long as the battery is disconnected from the charger once it’s fully charged.
Shorai LFX batteries range in retail price from $99.95 to $329.95 and come with a limited 5-year pro-rated warranty. The BMS01 charger goes for $99.95.
While Starbrite Star Tron is engineered to stabilize fuel for up to two years, making it perfect for winter storage, it’s also ideal as a year-round fuel treatment that keeps your bike operating at its best. Star Tron improves combustibility by allowing more oxygen to attach to hydrocarbon fuel molecules. A more complete burn translates to more power, less emissions, fewer engine deposits and better fuel economy, even with modern ethanol-blend fuels.
Dunlop has announced a new Sportmax Roadsport 2 tire that slots in between the GPR-300 and the higher-spec Q3+, giving sport riders better performance than the GPR-300, with more grip and stability under braking, nimble, predictable handling and quick warm-up, all at a great value. The Sportmax Roadsport 2 is available in many popular sportbike sizes to fit machines such as the Yamaha YZF-R3 and Suzuki SV650. See website for details.
Tackle dirt roads on a budget with the DS-X1 helmet from HJC, with solid colors starting at just $169.99. The DS-X1 includes a lightweight polycarbonate composite shell, a removable SuperCool moisture-wicking liner, a Pinlock-ready shield, a large eye port for goggles, ACS Advanced Channel Ventilation and an eyeglasses groove. The DOT-approved DS-X1 is available in sizes XS-2XL and also comes in several graphics for $189.99.
Perfect for those warm summer rides, the Epic Air touring boots ($199.99) from Tourmaster combine microfiber synthetic leather with breathable small-diameter mesh fabric, and the OutDry waterproof/breathable membrane keeps you dry if you’re caught in a rain storm. They also feature accordion stretch panels, TPR shifter guards, reflective detailing and integrated armor. Men’s standard sizes run from 7-14, and wide widths from 8.5-14.