TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex Boots

Over the past couple of years, most of my riding has been done while wearing my TCX X-Move WP Boots. These have been great boots for day-to-day use. During riding season, I wear them all day every day. They’ve held up to the wear and tear of daily use surprisingly well and have remained waterproof for all this time. The only real downside of the X-Move boots is that they do compromise a bit of protection in exchange for comfort.

I’ve also changed the type of riding I’m doing when riding the Kawasaki Versys. I’m beginning to explore some roads that are a bit off the beaten path. I’ve been on some dirt roads and some easy trails a few times and a better, more protective boot seemed like a good idea. This led me to look at some of the many varieties of adventure riding boots that are available.

TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex BootsThe primary features I was looking for included a waterproof liner, good shin protection, good foot and heel protection, and good support and protection for light dirt road riding while at the same time, remaining comfortable enough to wear all day when touring. All of the major gear vendors offer boots that fit this criteria so I relied on various reviews and my past experience with TCX boots. After much consideration, I settled on the TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex boots.

I went ahead and ordered the boots from Revzilla and had them ship them directly to my daughter’s house in California so that they would be waiting for me when I got there in early February.

I generally wear a 9.5 or 10 in US sizes so I ordered a size 44 and the fit was spot on. They did feel kind of stiff at first but they softened up quickly enough. The right boot dug into my ankle a little bit in the beginning but once the boot broke in, this went away and they’re now quite comfortable to wear while riding.

The buckles are easy to adjust which is a good thing because I have had to re-adjust them a few times.   The adjustment sometimes changes when I take them off so I sometimes need to re-adjust them. Not a big deal, it’s just that it would be nice if the adjusters stayed where I left them.

As far as protection is concerned, these boots appear to be well made and seem to have just about everything a good sport touring/adventure boot should have. The toe and heel areas are well protected, there are hard parts around the ankle, and there are nice sized shin protectors too. These are not stiff like motocross boots so there’s a good amount of flex around the ankle.

The liners inside the boots are very comfortable and the velcro around the top is comfortable around my calf. I don’t really know how they’re going to perform in blistering hot weather, freezing cold weather, or torrential downpours quite yet because I’ve only spent about a week wearing them. I can state that for 60-85 degree weather, they’re great.

It took some time to get used to the different feel on the shifter and brake because these boots are thicker and stiffer than what I’m used to riding with. A quick adjustment of the shift lever allowed me to get my toe under the lever more comfortably. These boots feel nice and solid when standing on the foot pegs and don’t slide around at all.

I was a bit concerned that these were going to be difficult and uncomfortable to walk around in when wandering around off the bike. While I wouldn’t want to wear these all day at work, they’re actually better than I was anticipating for short walks. Considering that these are full height riding boots, I’m pleasantly surprised at how good they feel when just walking around. I think they’re continue to get better as they continue to break in.

The TCX X-Desert boots are nice comfortable boots that offer a good level of protection for the type of riding I do. I’m sure that they’ll get even better as I get more miles on them.

Coolest Building in the World?

When I was in California a few weeks ago, I decided I needed a new pair of sunglasses since it was so bright and sunny outside.    I’ve always just stopped a the local gas station or convenience store and bout cheap sunglasses but I decided that this time, I’d go ahead and buy a nice pair of Oakley glasses.

A quick search on the internet for local retailers revealed that I was only a few minutes from the Oakley World Headquarters.  So, I hopped on the bike, punched the address into the GPS, and headed to Foothill Ranch CA to try on some new sunglasses.

20150205_143311The building was a bit difficult to find as it sits atop a hill and the GPS didn’t exactly bring me right to the front door.  Once I found it, I was surprised to see one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen as I rode into the parking lot.  The building has a futuristic military look to it that seems to be something from a sci-fi movie set.

I went ahead and parked the bike and went inside.   The military theme continues as  you walk through a pair of heavy steel doors and into the lobby.  Click Here to see some other photos from inside the building.

I spend about 20 minutes trying on a whole bunch of different styles of glasses and settled on a pair of Crankshaft sunglasses with polarized lenses.  They are by far the most expensive shades I’ve ever bought but they do fit nice and the optics are great too.  Now I just have to make sure that I don’t scratch them or loose them.

Building a New Workstation

When it gets cold outside, I park the bikes and start looking for other activities to keep me busy.  This winter, I decided it was time to build a new computer.

It’s been a while since I’ve built a computer.  In the 1980’s and 90’s I built quite a few machines but for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been buying laptops instead of desktops.  I really haven’t had much need for a fast computer so an inexpensive laptop or most recently, a Chromebook, is all I really needed.   I have an older HP Desktop that I’ve used as a home server to store pictures and videos on but it’s probably about 6-7 years old and not exactly a speedy machine.

Last fall I bought a GoPro camera and started using it to record some of my motorcycling adventures.  When I tried to do some basic video editing, it became clear that I didn’t have a machine that was going to make editing videos an enjoyable experience so I decided that it was time for a new computer.

The Parts List

I spent a bit of time doing research on the internet and decided that one of the newer Intel 5820K chips would probably be a good platform to build a video editing rig around.  The 5820K has 6 cores and 12 threads and, from what I read, it overclocks relatively well.  The processor and supporting components such as the motherboard and memory are a bit more expensive than the latest and greatest Intel quad-core processors but I felt that the extra cores would be beneficial for CPU intensive tasks such as video rendering.

I ended up purchasing the following components for this build:

  • Corsair Obsidian 750D Black ATX Full Tower Case
  • ASUS X99-DELUXE LGA 2011-v3 ATX Motherboard
  • CORSAIR HX850 Power Supply
  • Intel Core i7-5820K  6-Core 3.3GHz Processor
  • Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (4 x 4GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400
  • CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i CPU Cooler
  • ASUS GTX770 2GB Video card
  • Intel 530 Series 2.5″ 480GB SATA III Solid State Drive
  • Acer G27HL 27-inch Widescreen Monitor

In addition to the new parts, I would be re-using some parts from my old computer:

  • 2x – 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black drives (7,200 rpm)
  • 4x – 2GB Seagate Barracuda drives (7,200 rpm)
  • DVD RW Drive
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Speakers

The Build

Building this rig was actually quite easy because the Corsair 750D case is so large and well laid out.  I started with the power supply and then after dropping in the CPU and memory, installed the motherboard.  Standoffs for the motherboard were pre-installed so it was simply a matter of lining up the holes and putting the screws in.

I decided to go with a water cooler for the CPU because I really didn’t want a huge heat sink and fans visible through the clear side of the case.  I prefer the nice uncluttered  look of a simple water-cooled setup.

The H100i radiator and fans were bolted to the top of the case and I was surprised at how easy it was to mount the radiator.  The generous size of the case ensured that there was plenty of room to work and clearance around the radiator and fans is quite good.

Next up was the NVidia GTX770 video card.  Installing it was easy enough but after hooking up the power cables, I noticed that it sags a little bit.  I don’t see an easy way to fix this minor issue and a quick search on the internet seems to indicate that this is a common problem with no simple fix.  It’s really not too bad so I’ll just live with it.

For storage, I installed a 480 GB Intel 530 Series SSD that will be used as the boot drive.  The SSD drive slipped right into one of the 4 mounting slots in the back side of the case.  My old computer had a decent set of disk drives so I reused them in this machine.  I installed 2 Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB drives and 4 Seagate Barracuda 2 TB drives in the supplied drive cages.  This fills up all of the 3.5” drive bays in the included drive cages so if I need to install more drives, I’ll need to get some more drive cages.   I installed an old DVD writer from my old computer into the top 5.25” drive bay.  It doesn’t look too bad and actually seems to match the case pretty well.

The total build time so far was around 3 hours.  A lot of this time was spent routing and re-routing cables and trying to figure out which SATA ports to plug each drive into.  This motherboard has two SATA controllers and not all of the SATA ports support RAID so it’s important that you plug the cables into the right ports if you want RAID functionality.

At this point, it didn’t look too bad from the front but the back of the case was a tangled up rats nest of wires.  Thankfully, I was able to hide the worst of the wiring mess and decided that I’d go back and revisit cable management at a later time.

Finally, it was time to turn the new machine on.  Thankfully, it started right up and prompted me to press F1 to go into the BIOS for the initial setup.  After taking a quick look at the settings in the BIOS, I exited and proceeded to boot from the Windows 8.1 CD and install the OS.

Setting up Storage

The new 480Gb SSD was used to install the OS and all of my programs leaving the hard drives dedicated to data storage.  Even after installing all of my programs, I still have over 350Gb of free space on the SSD.

Since I have two 1Tb drives and 4x2Tb drives, I created two arrays.  The first was a RAID 1 array using the pair of Western Digital 1TB drives.  The 4 Seagate Barracuda 2TB drives were setup in a RAID 10 array.  The two arrays provide just under 5 TB of safe and reliable storage.

Once all my drives were set up, I went ahead and pointed the Documents. Pictures, Music, and Videos folders to their appropriate locations on the RAID 10 array so that all of the data is on fast and reliable disks.

Cable Management

After spending a couple of days playing around with the new machine, I decided it was time to clean up the mess of wires that were inside the case.  With one side of this case being a big window, some attention to cable management was called for.  None of my previous computers ever had a window in the side so I would just put the cover on and forget about the mess inside.

Tidying up the cables actually wasn’t too bad and only required a handful of zip ties and an hour or two of time.  Since this is the first time I’ve tried to make the inside of a computer case look nice and organized, it required some trial and error and I did have to reroute some cables a couple of times.  Once finished, the inside of the case ended up looking quite neat and tidy.

The Corsair 750D case has a good amount of room in back of the motherboard for cables so it was fairly easy to hide the wires. There were a few spots where it seemed like all cables wanted to go across the case in the same place but with a bit of thought, I got it sorted out fairly well.  The back side isn’t exactly a work of art, but all of the cables are secure and hidden from sight.

In the end, the time spent organizing the cables was worth it.  Looking through the clear side of the case shows a nice clean layout with very little clutter.

Wrapping Up

So, there it is.  A nice clean build that should meet all of my needs for quite some time.  This machine is fast and looks pretty good too.  I’m pleased with the speed and performance of this new machine.  I rendered some videos using Adobe Premier to see how well it would handle high loads.   Videos that took 10-15 minutes to render on the old computer now take 1-2 minutes.  Quite a nice improvement in performance.

Initially, I had purchased a single 27” monitor for this build.  A week or two later, I decided that a triple monitor setup would be awesome so I ordered two more monitors and hooked them all up.  Having three 27” monitors is highly recommended.

All-in-all, I’m pleased with this computer.  It looks good, is plenty fast, has adequate storage, and should last a while before needing to be upgraded again.

Newcombs Ranch Ride

While checking in on the Kawasaki Versys forums one morning, I was invited to tag along for a ride up to Newcombs Ranch.  Since I always enjoyed riding the Angeles Crest Highway, I accepted the invitation and headed up to Jay’s Shell Station in La Cañada Flintridge early on a Saturday morning to meet  a couple of guys named Joe.

After introducing ourselves and getting to know each other a bit, we headed up Rd 2 towards Newcombs Ranch.  The sky was a bit overcast and the temperature was in the low 60’s when we got started.  As it runs out, this would soon change.  About 10 minutes into the ride, it started raining.  Thankfully, it was a light rain so it really wasn’t all that bad of a ride.

The dampness on the road kept the pace slow and easy.  Visibility remained good for the entire ride and the rain kept most of the weekend warriors off the road so traffic was minimal.  My gear kept me warm and dry so it was actually a fairly pleasant ride.  We arrived at Newcombs Ranch at around 10:00 am and found the parking lot pretty empty.

After eating breakfast, there was still some light rain so we decided to take a different route back down the mountain in the hopes of finding some dry roads.  After starting out down Rt 2, we turned off of the Angeles Crest Highway and on to Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road.   This turned out to be a good route.   The rain gradually subsided and eventually stopped altogether allowing the roads to dry out and the riding to become a bit more fun.

Videos of the Ride

Newcombs Ranch Ride 1 – Going up the mountain to Newcombs Ranch

Newcombs Ranch Ride 2 – Going back down the mountain

I think this is the first time I’ve been caught in the rain in southern California. thankfully my gear kept me warm and dry.

It’s always nice to meet up with other folks to ride and I look forward to getting together with toe and Joe again sometime.

More Dirt Roads

wpid-20150206_151532.jpgI went out to explore some more dirt roads in the Cleveland National Forest and found myself getting in a bit deeper than intended.  Some of the “roads” that I traveled today were definitely intended for 4×4 vehicles rather than street bikes ridden by fools with no off-road experience.

wpid-20150206_150335.jpgFor you folks that have ridden dirt bikes, or are seasoned adventure riders, maybe these roads wouldn’t have been all that difficult.   For me, it was definitely the most challenging terrain I’ve encountered so far.

The dirt roads I rode on were actually roads not trails and I did see tire tracks in the dirt so there had been other vehicles on these roads.  There were many areas where there were very deep ruts, rocks, and loose dirt.  Some of the ruts were knee deep with large rocks and sand in them.  I was able to go around the worst of the ruts by hugging the side of the road while at the same time, trying not to go off the side of a cliff.

Thankfully, most of my route was down hill so I didn’t have too much trouble with spinning the rear tire.  I was actually quite amazed at how well the combination of the Versys and the Scorpion Trail tires did on these roads.  There were many times when I thought that the tires would spin or slip but they never did.

More than once, I figured I was going to tip over only to roll through whatever obstacle was in the way without any hint of instability.  It was amazing because I really don’t have any skills.  Luck seemed to be on my side.

I think this is about the end of my dirt road adventure riding for this trip.  I’ll stick to pavement for the next couple of days.

Off Pavement Riding

One of thThe Versys on a Dirt Roade reasons I chose the Kawasaki Versys was because I wanted a bike that I could take out on some of the less traveled dirt roads found all over the southwest. Over the years, I’ve passed countless dirt roads while riding my full sized touring bikes always wondering where they went.  My Harley Ultra Classic and BMW K1600 are definitely not made for travelling on gravel roads or forest service fire roads.

In the last couple of trips to California,  I spent a little bit of time trying out some easy dirt/gravel roads and I have to admit, I kind of like it.  I still go very slowly and haven’t really tried anything remotely challenging, but I’m gaining experience and getting a little more comfortable with the bike each time I turn off onto another dirt road.  I never really rode dirt bikes all that much so it’s going to take me a while to get my skills to where they need to be.

End of the roadThe tires on the Versys are Pirelli Scorpion Trails which are heavily biased toward street riding rather than off-road riding so I’ll be trying to avoid mud and sand for the time being.  The bike is also a bit heavy for real off-road or trail riding.   While I haven’t tipped it over yet, it’s bound to happen sooner or later and I really don’t want to have to lift it up by myself more than once or twice a day.

The gearing and power delivery seems to work pretty well for me. I can go as slow as I want to without worrying about bogging the motor.   For the most part, I’ve been staying under 30mph on the unpaved roads so first, second and third gear are all I really use.  I like the fact that I can let the rpm’s drop real low and the then rely on the torque of the motor to pull me along nice and slowly.

I’m looking forward to many more off-pavement adventures exploring the places that I’ve been unable to visit in the past.

Mid-Winter Riding in Southern California

I recently flew out to Southern California to visit family.  It’s great to get away from the cold and snow that is so typical of Upstate NY in February.    Daytime temperatures here in California have been 75-80 degrees making it perfect riding weather.

The last time I was out here, I had discovered some roads that are a bit off the beaten path but didn’t have time to fully explore them.  So this time, I kind of knew were to go and decided to give these routes another try.   I rode up the Ortega Highway to a road called South Main Divide.  This road starts out as a normal road but eventually turns into a single lane paved trail that meanders through the canyons.  It’s a nice easy ride through some beautiful mountains.

At the end of the South Main Divide trail, I found some nice easy dirt roads/trails to continue onto.  There were some rutted sections but nothing that seemed too challenging.   When I ran into a  gate that prevented me from continuing, I stopped and had some lunch.

On the return trip, I retraced my path.  It’s amazing how much different the same road looks when going in the opposite direction.  The afternoon shadows in the canyons made for some amazing views that were not visible earlier in the day.

The ride was through the canyons around Malibu.  I did have to spend some time on the freeway to get there and back, but it was worth it.  The LA traffic wasn’t too bad and I’m becoming a bit more comfortable with lane splitting so even when things do slow down, I can keep moving and a reasonable pace.

I got to Malibu at around 9:00 am and before heading into the canyons, I stopped at a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee.  It was rather obvious that this is an upscale neighborhood by looking at the cars parked there.  There was a black Bently coupe, a white Bently convertible, a couple of Audi’s, a Porsche, and various types of BMW  cars and SUV’s.

After my coffee stop, I started the good part of the day’s ride by heading up Latigo Canyon.  From there, I turned on to Mulholland Highway and headed toward the Rock Store.  From there, I turned around and took Encinal Canyon Road back down to the PCH.

I went North on the PCH and turned on to Decker Road  heaidng back into the canyons.  I’m not exactly sure what roads I took once up in the canyons but I ended up on Yerba Buena Dr. at some point.

Yerba Buena Dr. is a bit beat up but has some spectacular scenery making it a road worthy of exploring.  This road brought me back down to the PCH where I stopped at Neptune’s Nest for a fried seafood lunch.

The PCH north of Yerba Buena Dr. was closed off for some reason so after lunch, I headed south on the PCH and turned back onto Encinal Canyon Road to get back up to the Mulholland Highway.  I continued on Mulholland, picked up the 101 near Woodland Hills and headed back home for the day.

Perfect weather, and very few cars in the canyons make for a great day of riding.  The canyon roads here in Southern California never disappoint.

Youtube Videos

Just before going out to California this fall, I had purchased a GoPro camera to record some highlights of my rides.  I haven’t figured out how to use it to its full potential yet and hope to get some more experience with it over the winter months so that I’m ready to capture some more interesting footage next summer.

One of the things that surprised me the most about the GoPro was how well it did with audio.  With the camera mounted to the handlebars on the Triumph and the crash bar on the Versys, I figured that wind noise would be a problem.  However, it seems as if the camera does an excellent job of eliminating the wind noise leaving just the sound of the engine.

I haven’t taken a lot of footage yet, but I did post a couple of short videos to YouTube recently.

Triumph Street Triple – Late Summer Ride

Kawasaki Versys – Palm to Pines Highway

Video editing is another area where I need to get some experience.  Right now, I can only manage to do the most basic things with Adobe Premier and hope to get a lot more experience during the snowy months here in the Northeast.

Nice ride through the Angeles National Forest

On October 23, I took a nice day ride through the Angeles National Forest.  I had intended to ride the Angeles Crest Highway but my plans changed when I stopped for gas in La Cañada Flintridge.  After filling the Versys up with gas, I pulled off to the side next to some other bikes and went into the store to get a drink.

I started chatting with the other riders and found out that they were locals who had taken the day off of work to go out for a ride. It was an interesting group of bikes these guys were riding.  There was a Suzuki DRZ400SM, a Yamaha R6, a Yamaha V-Max, a BMW S1000RR, and a BMW Scooter.  After talking to these guys for a little while, they invited me to tag a long with them for the day.  I had intended to go over the Angeles Crest Highway as I’ve done in the past but my new found friends were going to take some me om some less traveled back roads to Wrightwood.

We started out by going up Rt. 2 but quickly turned off on to a road towards a place they called the “Big Tree”.  After about 30 minutes, we pulled over and stopped.  I found out that the Big Tree tree had been cut down years ago but this is where it used to be.  After a nice 15 minute break, we took off towards some nice twisty roads.

We continued through the mountains where there was virtually no traffic at all.  The roads were typical CA canyon roads – smooth, twisty, and fun to ride.  Looking at a map now, I think we took Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to highway N3 but I’m not really sure exactly what route we actually took.  I just know that we really weren’t on Rt. 3 for more than a few miles before stopping for lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood.  I got to know my new friends a bit better and discovered that they’re all self employed and every so often, they take a day off and go out for a ride.

After lunch, we headed out onto Rt 138 and then Rt 18 past Lake Arrowhead and into Big Bear.  In Big Bear, we stopped at a coffee shop for a nice hot beverage.  By this time it was around 4:30 so I decided that it was time to head back home.  I said goodbye to my new found friends and headed back down Rt 18 and then on to Rt 330 to Loma Linda.  From here I just took freeways back home.

What a great ride.  The weather was great and riding with locals allowed me to follow along on roads that I never would have ridden if I were out on my own for the day.

Back on the Versys

I’m back out in California so I get to ride the Versys for a few days.  The first order of business was to get some fresh tires and an oil change.  I had a local shop install a set of Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires, clean and lube the chain, and do an oil change.

I chose the Scorpion Trail tires because I want to start exploring some unpaved roads.  Pirelli describes the tires as “Suited to Enduro motorcycles with a Touring setup, capable of tackling long journeys and excursions with light off road stretches”.  It didn’t take long to get them scrubbed in and so far, they feel good on the street.

A Short Off-Road Excursion

20141018_162627I rode around a bit looking for some forest service roads to ride on but found them to be closed.  Eventually, I found a dirt road called Trabuco Creek Road that went off into the canyons.  A mile or so up this road, I saw a guy stopped along the side of the road so I pulled up to say hello and try to find out a bit more about this road.  He was riding a homemade bike with an old single cylinder 500cc dirt bike motor,  a rigid frame, two solo seats (rider and passenger) and a bunch of parts salvaged from various other bikes.  It was a great little bike.  He assured me that that road was in pretty good shape and that I would have no trouble for the next few miles.  20141018_163648

Since I really haven’t spent much time riding in dirt, I just took it easy and went nice and slow. The road was pretty good with only a few small ruts making it a nice easy ride.  Since it hasn’t rained here in months, it was a bit dusty and mud definitely wasn’t a factor.  Since it was getting to be late in the afternoon I decided it was time to turn around and go back after going only about 3-4 miles into the canyon.  The new tires seemed to handle this terrain just fine although just about any tire probably would have worked.