Saturday, June 14, 2014

What's New?

There always seems to be some new farkle that you hear about. You check it out. Do a little research and then discover that you cannot possibly live without it. I'm happy, but the wife and the checkbook are not so happy. That said, I have a few things that I've added over the course of the year.

With Christmas, I received a Cardo Scala G9. Despite the issues I had with the left speaker, the customer service was wonderful and since then, I've had not issues at all. On the few short day rides talking to Patrick, or on the commute to work listening to music, I wonder now how I survived so long without this set up. My only complaint at this point, is that with the unit on the outside of the helmet, wind noise does pick up a bit. Additionally, the unit will catch every so often on the collar of my jacket.

The second must have purchase was a whole heck of a lot cheaper. About $20 or so for a pair of NoNoise earbuds I picked up from Twisted Throttle. Personally, they fit great. They are comfortable for me. I can hear music and speech from the G9 with no issues at all. There has to be a compliant...for sure, the only thing the bugs me is that with  my iphone, while I can use the phone, listen to music, I cannot hear Siri. So, when I try and place a call I can't really hear anything until the person on the other end answers. Then I hear fine. Haven't figured that out yet.

A year or so ago, we had a short weekend trip to Indiana and it just rained buckets on us, as we were trying to set up camp. There was a shelter at the campground, under which we could set up the tents and then run them out to the camp site. We staked them down later, but at least we were able to set them up under cover. Not every campground will have such a shelter, so I decided to pick up a 12x16 tarp. It's medium thickness and should roll up just fine for the back of the bike. We'll use it in case it rains, but it can also serve as a shelter for the bikes, or even to keep the sun off the picnic table. We'll see how much we use it and whether it's a useful addition or not.

Mirror extenders. I've got almost 40,000 miles on the bike and I was still trying to adjust the mirrors, so that I didn't just see my shoulders when looking behind. It was a thankless task, so I decided to splurge on Ztechnik Mirror Extenders. So far I love them, though I've only used them a couple of times this past week. There is a downside. I'd always been happy with the clarity of the stock mirrors on the F800. Attached close to the handlebar, there was little mirror vibration and when you could see behind, it was very clear in the rear view. With the extenders, the steel (or whatever metal) is very thick. However, as the device extends beyond the attachment point, and the mirror is on the end of the device, you are going to see enough vibration that the objects in the mirror are now slightly fuzzy. I've seen this stock on some bikes and it's just going to take some getting used to it. However, even with the fuzzy, I still think it's better to see something beyond my shoulders, even if it is a little fuzzy.

My Klim gear is now, once again, waterproof. I think it may have been the same trip mentioned above, but around the camp site, I really didn't want to wear my heavy Klim gear around the camp site if it happened to be still raining. So, I decided to pick up some rain gear that I can stow and use around the camp site. I bought a pair of Revit H2O rain pants and a Revit Cyclone rain jacket. They fold up into two small stuff sacks and they fit perfect in my tank bag.

With that, from an equipment standpoint, I'm done.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nova Scotia Background

As the Gnomads have changed, so has my trip preparation. While the Gnomad Brotherhood has never been more solid, it's always a challenge to get everyone on the same page with regard to where and when to go. Logistically, with Gnomads in Ohio, Indiana, Montana and now Leeds, UK., you can see how difficult it can be.

For the Nova Scotia trip, we will have MofoGnomad and Fist2Cuffs Gnomad. Both stalwarts of the summer trips, going back to pre-Gnomad days. Different bikes. Different riders. Different mindset. We have Gnomad "Fire Marshall Bill" rejoining us after a hiatus of a few years. We then have Gnomad Barry coming in from Wankerton, Indiana. Finally, new to the Gnomads this trip will be Gnomad Patrick. That gives us two Patricks now. Uggh.

From a historical perspective, this is now our 8th year of extended summer trips:
2007 - West Virginia - Based in Snowshoe - Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia
2008 - Maryland Panhandle - Based in Wisp - Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania
2009 - Michigan West Coast & Upper Peninsula - Ohio, Indiana, Michigan
2010 - Canada - Northern Ontario, Lake Superior, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota ,Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana
2011 - Maine - Bar Harbour - Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine
2012 - Colorado - Backcountry passes, then Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio
2013 - Great Smokey Mountains - Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
2014 - Nova Scotia - Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia

We've been very fortunate during that time with all aspects of the trip and we're looking to keep that streak alive. That said, this will be the first trip, that I haven't booked a darned thing. I'm a little nervous, as this is totally outside of my comfort zone, but here's what I did...I just have added waypoints in to the GPS. We'll pick a waypoint and then cruise where we want to cruise, in the general direction of the waypoint.

We have a destination, Nova Scotia. The idea is to spend as much time as possible there, but not try and kill ourselves trying to ride the 1400 miles one way! So, while we do have some heavy expressway days on the way there and to a lesser extent on the way back, we have waypoints that are at least manageable.

Here's the general route:

We will have 3 rallying points. On July 3rd, it is likely that Gnomad Patrick and Gnomad Barry will make their way from Cincinnati and Walkerton to Cleveland to stay with friends and families. Gnomad Fist2Cuffs will ride to Columbus and stay the night with MofoGnomad. With Gnomad "Fire Marshall Bill", we will leave Columbus early July 4th and meet with Gnomad Patrick and Barry, east of Cleveland.

From there, our first overnight stop will be somewhere near Albany or Schenectady, New York. All expressway. The next day will have us either head to Calais, Maine to stay the night before crossing in to Canada in the am. Or, we will head to Portland, Maine to catch an overnight ferry to Yarmouth. Depending on the means to get to Nova Scotia, this will determine the direction of riding in Nova Scotia. We will have waypoints for Cape Breton, Halifax and Kejimkujik National Park.

Coming back, we'll have some additional waypoints for camping in New Brunswick, before crossing back in to the USA. Campgrounds in Vermont and then upstate New York. The latter will then determine the mileage for the last day push home.

It's somewhat liberating not have booked anything. If we feel like we've done enough miles and we're ready to stop, we're not constrained to something booked previously. Additionally, if we're having so much fun in a certain spot...who knows? Maybe we never make it to Nova Scotia? Flexibility. It's kind of cool.

Interestingly as well, this will be the first time that all of the Gnomads will be on Adventure bikes! The riders this year will be on 2 BMW F800 GS's. Clearly the standard that others can only hope to achieve.  2 Triumph Tiger 800 XC's. One KTM 990 Adventure. Our options on riding expressway, state highways, county roads or trails are endless...though, the type of bike ridden has never stopped us previously.

Just over three weeks until the trip. It's time to start thinking about our gear.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Customer Service - Klim and Cardo Systems

Prior to going in to some more detail surrounding our trip to Nova Scotia, I do want to make a couple of customer service call outs, because I think it's really important to celebrate success. That said, I had two products that failed. The first being my Klim Latitude jacket and pant. The second being my Cardo Scala G9 headset.

In November 2013, I noticed a number of wet patches on my dress shirt and slacks, after riding to work in the rain. I had reached out to Klim at that time and they let me know that they could take care of things, but that I needed to send the jacket and pant in. I had visions of a lengthy ordeal trying to convince them that the product should still be under the Gore-Text lifetime warranty. Knowing the winter was coming and that the bike was my only means of transport, I decided to hold off as I could not be without my gear.

Fast forward to Spring and arriving to work after a heavy downpour. I was pretty much saturated on my sleeves and then on my shirt, either side of my belly. Additionally, I had wet patches on each thigh and my crotch. It just seemed like a lot of water, so I checked to make sure I hadn't left a zipper open. All closed. I called Klim again and said, "remember me?"

I received two return authorization codes and on a Saturday in April, I sent my gear in, priority mail. I received notification on Tuesday, that my gear had arrived in Idaho. I received an email on Wednesday that my gear was being replaced. On the following Saturday, I received a package with a brand new set of Klim Latitude Misano jacket and pant.

After my success with Klim, I decided to do something about my Scala G9 headset. The unit was working fine and then I noticed a crackle in the left speaker unit. I attempted to try and fix things, but it became progressively worse and then pretty much unusable. I sent an email to Cardo Systems. They again provided a return authorization number and I was worried how long this would take. It was mid-May and with our trip at the beginning of July, I was worried I would not get the unit back in time. Within 4 business days, I had a new speaker set installed in my helmet.

It's sad to think that my first thought on any warranty issue, was going to be the company not living up to their posted warranties. I thought for sure, that they'd find something that I did, that would void the warranty. Hence my hesitation to do anything about it and my willingness to just grin and bear it. Suffice it to say, that both of these companies exceeded my expectations, in the timeliness, hassle free service provided. Two thumbs up to both companies. Yes, I was disappointed that these expensive (to me) products failed, but given the level of attention provided to their customers, I am happy to recommend them to any one.