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Tourmaster Epic Touring Boots.

Tourmaster’s Epic boots are one of its core products, offered in both a standard version like those tested here and a vented “Air” version. They are the tallest I’ve ever evaluated, running a good 12 inches up the front portion of the shaft, all the better to protect your shins. The basic construction is PU leather, a polyurethane replacement for genuine cowhide. It looks very much like leather and offers good abrasion resistance at reasonable cost.

Inside, a breathable membrane called OutDry allows sweat from your foot to escape to the outside while preventing rain from getting in. Both boots have a Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) shifter guard, in case you like riding old English bikes with right-side shifting as well. While this American boot was designed in Italy and made in Thailand, interestingly the bottom of the red and black sole is labeled “oil and petrol resistant.” 

The boots are up to European safety standards, eligible for approval from the CE (the French initials for European Conformity). That means that they are very tough boots, with stiff ankle guards, but not uncomfortable. Accordion stretch panels front and back allow for good movement when walking.

Rear view of the Tourmaster Epic Touring Boots.

Getting the boots onto my feet is fine, as a 9.5-inch YKK zipper on the side opens them up adequately, allowing my sock-clad feet to slip in. However, it would be even easier if the boots had a little loop at the back, like on my much-abused Tourmaster Solutions, to facilitate pulling them on. Another minor glitch has to do with the little protective flap that folds over the top of the zipper; this hooks and loops into place, but the flap usually becomes unstuck as their seems to be a paucity of hook-and-loop material on the receiving side. Tourmaster says that it is making a running change to fix this, and that if your Epics have the same problem they would be replaced under the one-year warranty.

My pair, size 11, weighs 3.5 pounds. Men’s sizes run from 7 to 14 in any color you want as long as it’s black, and the price is $199. Tourmaster also makes the Epic Air, a similar version that is a warm weather boot, but since I can be at a balmy 80 degrees in the morning and a chilly 40 degrees come evening, I’ll take the all-season variety. A woman’s version, called Trinity, is also available. 

For more information, see your dealer or visit tourmaster.com.

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Brain tumor survivor Levi (right) is ready to ride in New England. (Photo: Ride For Kids)

Every year the Ride for Kids and all of its volunteers and participants do an amazing job of raising funds for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which is working hard to eliminate the challenges of childhood brain tumors.
In addition to enjoying a great ride for a very worthy cause, participating in a Ride for Kids event is downright fun, and RFK has added several new ones this year. You can see the full schedule of 22 events around the country and get more info at the links below. Hope to see you there!

http://www.curethekids.org/events/ride-for-kids/

Sept 29th The Deals Gap Ride for Kids
www.Rideforkids.org/dealsgap
Ride for Kids is thrilled to partner with Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort!
Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort is home to the world-famous Dragon. The Dragon is one of the top-five motorcycle destination rides in the United States, with 318 curves over 11 miles. Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort is partnering with Ride for Kids to provide extra benefits to those who make the trip to the resort on September 29th to join us in finding a cure for childhood brain tumors.
There are some changes to this event’s format and we are drawing for a new Honda Africa Twin!
Oct 14th is the Las Vegas Ride for Kids
This year we are combining our event with the AIMExpo.
We will start the Ride for Kids at the Town Square mall, where once the ride takes off it will make a scenic loop through Red Rock Canyon and end up at AIMExpo at the Mandalay Bay Resort. Also there will be a special program for people who pre-register at certain levels, where they will be able to enter the show for a guided VIP tour on one of the Trade days.
Oct 21, The Los Angeles Ride for Kids…
Returns to American Honda’s Campus in Torrance where Honda will help us celebrate the final Ride for Kids of our 35th year. We will also have a bike show and live music.

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1982 Kawasaki KZ1000J2.

Numbers matter, even subtle numbers. Like the difference between 1,015cc and 998cc. Arriving at the smaller number meant decreasing the bore on Kawasaki’s 1980 KZ1000G from 70mm to 69.4mm on the 1981 KZ1000J. In addition to this minor adjustment to meet racing rules, just about everything else on the motorcycle had been changed as well, with the exception of the 66mm stroke.

Let’s go back a bit, to late 1972 when Kawasaki introduced the 903cc Z-1—the Killer Kaw, later labeled the KZ900 in 1976. It had a perfectly equal bore and stroke, 66 by 66mm, which was then bored out 4mm in 1977 to make the 1,015cc KZ1000A, maintaining the KZ’s reputation as the biggest, strongest UJM on the market. But the competition was getting fierce. Move up to 1981, and the new J model was an absolute delight—a street bike with Superbike potential. When the boys at Akashi, Kawasaki’s brain center, were given the task of revamping the 1,015cc KZ, the company’s bread-and-butter bike, they did it with gusto. It may have taken them a couple of years, but it was time well spent.

1982 Kawasaki KZ1000J2.

First, as always, more power. They lightened the crankshaft by hollowing out some bits, used a pork-chop flywheel rather than the previous full-circle design, and in the end shaved 4.9 pounds off the weight. Bigger valves went in the two-valve heads, and bigger, lighter, aluminum-bodied 34mm constant-velocity Mikuni carburetors were fitted. They fiddled with the camshaft timing so more gas could be stuffed into the combustion chambers and compressed 9.2 times. End result: almost 25 percent more horsepower, from 83 to 102 at 8,500 rpm. Mind you, those were Kawasaki numbers probably taken off the crankshaft, as the rear-wheel determination was more like 80 horses.

Ignition was by CDI, and anybody interested in the history of capacitor discharge ignition should go back to Nikola Tesla’s patent No.609250, filed in 1897. All agree that this modern electronic arrangement was far better than previous ignitions, especially with multi-cylinder engines. Exhaust used a four-into-two system, with a muffler on each side of the rear wheel.

Primary drive was by straight-cut gears, efficient albeit a bit noisy, and an extra plate was added to the clutch. Five gears moved the power along, from a 12.5 first-gear ratio to 4.9 fifth. No kickstarter was included, as riders now understood that the electric leg was very reliable. The output shaft was beefed up, and a new #630 chain with a breaking strength increased by more than 1,000 pounds went to the rear wheel. Chain technology development was going gangbusters at this point, as engines were generating more than 100 very stressful horsepower.

1982 Kawasaki KZ1000J2.

Second, the chassis. The diameter of the steel tubes in the frame was increased for better cornering rigidity, while the wall thickness was reduced. Stiffer frame with less weight; good thinking. The steering head, now using tapered roller bearings, was strengthened with two gussets and had a rake of 27.5 degrees, an increase of 1.5 degrees over the previous model. According to the spec sheets, wheelbase was 59.8 inches.

The front fork was enlarged to 38mm, and anti-stiction bushings were at top and bottom. It had 5.7 inches of travel and was air-adjustable, operating with a modest 7 psi for street use, 13 psi when getting enthusiastic. The pair of rear shock absorbers (the photo bike has a pair of aftermarket piggyback Öhlins) had a lot of adjustability, with seven positions for spring preload, five for rebound damping and almost four inches of travel. Seven-spoke aluminum alloy mag wheels used a 110/90-19 tire at the front, 120/80-18 at the rear. A pair of 9.3-inch discs up front were squeezed by single-piston calipers, as was the similar-sized disc at the back.

Third, rider comfort. This was not a racer, but a sportbike intended for the weekend rider—who might well want to put a few hundred miles on between Saturday morning and Sunday evening. To this end the front of the crankcase was rubber mounted to the full-cradle frame, eliminating much of the inevitable vibration. Handlebars were at a useful level, allowing for comfortable riding during this 55-mph era. (For all you young ’uns, back in 1974 the feds were worried about our consuming too much gasoline and imposed a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph, an excellent example of congressional incompetence.) Up front a speedometer, fuel gauge and tachometer were very readable, with the speedo going as high as 85 mph—when in fact 135 would have been more truthful.

1982 Kawasaki KZ1000J2.

A pleasantly large gas tank held 5.7 gallons, good for more than 200 miles, and the long, flat saddle was built to keep a rider happy for many hours. We don’t know what effort was put into shaving ounces off the body panels, but the J model ended up 30 pounds lighter than the previous G.

Choke if cold, turn the key, push the button and a very melodious sound emanated from the mufflers. An average rider would certainly enjoy his or her day in the saddle, while a more competent person would like the extremes to which the J could be pushed.

In 1981 Eddie Lawson won the AMA National Superbike Championship on an admittedly much modified KZ1000J, and Kawasaki decided to build a look-alike version, the ELR or Eddie Lawson Replica. This KZ1000R, advertised as a “street-legal superbike replica,” was offered to the masses for a few hundred dollars more than the $3,800 J version. The ELRs had a little nose-fairing, sophisticated Showa shocks and a black 4-into-1 Kerker exhaust.

Kawasaki also built 30 real-racer versions to sell to qualified racers, which were certainly not street-legal. These KZ1000R-S1 models cost a hefty $11,000.

Then the ZX bikes came along, and the only KZ1000 left was the police version—which could still pull over a speeding motorist with ease.

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Rider doesn’t normally post clickbait crash videos, but as you’ve no doubt heard by now “Oceans 11” actor George Clooney was involved in a car/scooter accident on the Italian island of Sardinia on Tuesday. Clooney’s publicist reports that he only suffered minor injuries, is recovering at home and will be fine, but based upon on the video above and reports from the scene, there’s a very good chance that Clooney’s motorcycle helmet saved his life. The actor wasn’t racing or performing a stunt for a movie; he was simply riding to work at 8:15 a.m. like many of us do every day when a Mercedes failed to stop, made a left turn in front of him and collided head-on with Clooney’s scooter, which was traveling at a significant rate of speed. CNN is reporting that Clooney only suffered minor injuries despite smashing the windshield of the car that hit him with his helmet. Photos from the scene clearly show the car’s windshield is smashed from the outside in a circular pattern that is probably from the helmet.
All of the Gear, All of the Time, friends, especially that helmet. Glad you’re going to OK, George!

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There are many opportunities to practice visual skills, body positioning and throttle control.

The term “boot camp” conjures up images of drill sergeants badgering recruits into submission, but that’s not what the Texas Tornado Boot Camp is about. Yes, the TTBC includes some intensive training and even morning calisthenics, but you are always treated kindly and never pressured to do anything you’d rather not do.

This boot camp is a friendly dirt riding retreat for adventurous types who want to advance their riding skills while also getting a real taste of Texas. The remote 20-acre facility is owned and operated by ex-World Superbike champ and MotoGP star, Colin Edwards, a.k.a. the “Texas Tornado.” The camp is situated 40 miles north of Houston and includes a Wild West-style building that is a bunkhouse, dining hall, game room and community space. Out back is a shooting range and three distinctive dirt tracks, one covered by a massive pavilion.

The massive pavilion allows riding in all weather and even at night.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this camp is geared toward training the next crop of young-gun dirt racers, but the truth is that it caters to all types and levels of motorcyclists. Yes, you should expect to ride hard, get dirty and maybe fall down a time or three (at relatively slow speeds). But, anyone in reasonably decent shape with the desire to improve his or her overall sense of motorcycle control should put the Boot Camp on their bucket list.

The camp I recently attended consisted of riders spanning a wide ability and age range. Among the two-dozen riders was a 9-year-old boy accompanied by his father and 14-year-old brother. There were five women and the rest of us were 30-to-60-something men, some with little-to-no off-road experience. The friendly and immensely knowledgeable staff is able to teach to all levels of ability with zero pressure. The laid-back atmosphere dissolves any feelings of intimidation, and personal coaching is available for the asking.

The all-inclusive camp includes riding gear, bike, grub and bunk.

The four-day camp is all-inclusive with a bunkroom bed (single rooms are available at extra cost), food, towels, riding gear and motorcycle all provided. Beverages and end-of-day beer is also included. The food is served buffet-style and ranges from sandwich fixings to lasagna to genuine Texas BBQ brisket, slow-cooked on premises. Meals and meetings are held in the large common room, which echoes with lots of moto-talk and plenty of laughs at day’s end. 

TTBC provides riding gear, so you could easily arrive with just your toiletries and clothes. The Arai helmets, Fly Racing apparel and Sidi boots are clean and in good condition, but the basic shin guards and well-used gloves made me wish I had brought my own.

All ages are welcome.

With bunks assigned and everyone outfitted, we moseyed (this is Texas, after all) outside to pick from a line of nearly identical Yamaha TTR 125s. You may think these little ponies wouldn’t be adequate for grown adults, but you’d be wrong. The well cared-for 125s are indeed diminutive, but have plenty of giddy-up and are unintimidating; perfect for learning. The bikes are shoed with a knobby up front for grip in the dirt and a nearly treadless street tire in the back to allow easy rear tire slides.

Wait. Did he say, “Easy rear tire slides?” Yep. A bike with less rear tire grip forces you to manage traction with refined throttle control. While control is always the goal, learning to corner while flirting with the limits of traction at relatively low-risk speeds teaches you a lot about handling a motorcycle. It is easy to think that a weekend riding dirt bikes would have little benefit to the average street rider. But, I contend that the lessons in motorcycle control and traction management transfer to pavement riding, including minimizing the likelihood of panic in the event your bike slides on a wet or sandy road.

Counterweighting body positioning is important for maintaining traction in the dirt.

To prepare us for three days of riding dirt bikes, instructor Joe Prussiano begins with a lesson in proper off-road body positioning. This includes sitting forward on the seat and “counterweighting” when cornering so your body remains upright while the bike leans beneath you. This creates vertical force that keeps the tires from sliding out.

With this first lesson complete, we fire up our mounts and are led around each of the three freshly groomed, clay-covered dirt tracks; an eighth-mile oval, a TT “road course” and a large flat area under the 300- by 150-foot pavilion. This is not enduro or woods riding; there are no logs to jump or rocks to climb, nor is it motocross. This is flat-track riding on a relatively hard and smooth surface that constantly changes with use. The challenge is not in surmounting obstacles or doing sweet jumps, but simply managing traction and balance.

After an hour or so of free riding, we line up to run against the stopwatch during our first “Superpole,” where each rider is sent out individually to do a single lap on a course that combines all three tracks. This first Superpole lap time is recorded and used as a baseline from which to measure progress.

Timing and recording our laps for all to see may not seem appealing if you’re not the competitive type. But a healthy taste of friendly rivalry spurs learning through good-natured fun. Superpole, slow races, drag-race stopping drills and a team endurance race are fun and purposeful “games” that give the lessons meaning.

Each of the next three days start promptly with breakfast and a riders’ meeting outlining the day’s agenda, followed by free riding and drills designed to teach us about visual skills, cornering lines, traction management, throttle control and balance. After lunch, we head to the firing range where we get a chance to shoot various handguns at metal targets and fire a shotgun at flying clay pigeons. Like I said, this is a real taste of Texas.

Soon, we are back in the saddle for some afternoon riding before we end the day with Superpole. With our lap times posted on the “pole” many riders call it a day, while others stay for some extra-curricular shenanigans under the well-lit pavilion. After the dust settles, we meet up for supper and beverages. Before hitting the hay some partake in a boisterous pool table game that involves running around like a bunch of kids. Fun!

We get a big taste of Texas by shooting all manner of weapons.

Our final day starts with a few awards followed by the morning briefing before we suit up to run an early Superpole to take advantage of the freshly groomed track. Throughout the weekend, each rider’s lap times steadily improve, confirming the effectiveness of the curriculum. We finish the day riding some of the most fun drills of the weekend, including brake-sliding exercises and optional lessons in wheelies and donuts. By 5 p.m., everyone is tuckered out. We get cleaned up and exchange contact info with new friends before hitting the road.

The Texas Tornado Boot Camp is about learning to be a better rider, but it’s also about having a good time on a motorcycle. Think of TTBC as a sort of moto-dude ranch that immerses you in the Lone Star experience where you get to ride as hard as you want, shoot some guns, eat Texas BBQ and spend time making new friends around a campfire. Yee haw!

Learn more at texastornadobootcamp.com.

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Straight from a robot sci-fi movie and into U.S. dealerships this fall, the Yamaha Niken is its first production Leaning Multi-Wheel Vehicle, or LMW. (Photography courtesy of Yamaha)

One of the most eye-catching and thought-provoking motorcycles unveiled at last fall’s EICMA show in Milan was Yamaha’s Niken Leaning Multi-Wheel (LMW), a two-wheels-in-front trike capable of a 45-degree lean angle thanks to the Ackermann dual-axle steering mechanism and a cantilevered suspension system mounted to the outside of the wheels. And it’s based on the Tracer 900 sport tourer, which is powered by Yamaha’s raucous 847cc Crossplane in-line triple.

Rider‘s Editor-in-Chief Mark Tuttle got a first ride on the Niken in the Austrian Alps last May, and he concluded, “for someone who wants more stability, control and incredible grip up front, especially when the conditions are less than ideal, or just wants to own one of the most unusual and exciting machines Yamaha has ever built, the Niken is a triple treat in more ways than one.”

Read our full 2019 Yamaha Niken first ride review

Based on the 2019 Tracer 900, the Niken will be part of Yamaha USA’s Touring lineup, and its three-cylinder 847cc engine has been revised for more low-end grunt.

Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, has announced price and availability details for the Niken. It will only be available through Yamaha’s online reservation system, and customers who reserve online will receive their motorcycles from authorized Yamaha dealers for the suggested retail price of $15,999 beginning in September.

Featuring a Granite Gray color scheme, Yamaha says the Niken will have very limited availability on a first come, first served basis. To reserve online, visit yamahamotorsports.com/nikenorder.

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Though taller and heavier than other Ducati Scramblers, the Desert Sled is a blast on the street. Photos by Kevin Wing.

Ducati’s free-spirited, user-friendly Scramblers have been a playful departure from the company’s hard-edged, gotta-go-fast motorcycles. Even the diminutive Monster 696, which was Ducati’s most accessible model before the Scramblers came on the scene in 2015, had a committed riding position, stiff suspension and an aversion to low revs. Available in various styles and colors along with a burgeoning catalog of apparel and accessories, Scramblers have had broad appeal—nearly 50,000 have been sold worldwide since the line was launched.

The new Scrambler 1100s offer more power and sophistication, but the lighter, less expensive 800s are the heart of the Scrambler lineup. An early version was the rugged looking Urban Enduro, outfitted with a high fender, fork protectors, a headlight grill, a handlebar cross-brace, a skid plate and spoked wheels.

Read our First Ride Review of the Ducati Scrambler 1100 here.

The Desert Sled is the most off-road capable model in Ducati’s Scrambler lineup. With a fortified chassis, taller suspension, extra ground clearance and spoked wheels with knobby tires, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

Like other Ducati Scramblers, the Urban Enduro was aimed primarily at street riding, but its replacement—the Desert Sled—has off-road bona fides. Named after ’60s- and ’70s-era street bikes modified for the rigors of desert racing, the Desert Sled isn’t just a styling exercise. In addition to many of the same bolt-on protective parts found on the Urban Enduro, the Desert Sled has a beefed-up frame, a longer reinforced swingarm, a stronger triple clamp and larger-diameter tubes for the upside-down fork (46mm, up from 41). Intended to be flogged, jumped and skidded where the pavement ends, the adjustable suspension offers more travel (7.9 inches front and rear, up from 5.9) and the 19-inch front/17-inch rear spoked wheels are shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR dual-sport tires.

Among the Desert Sled’s many dirt-ready features are a headlight grill and a high front fender.

Extra brawn and extra suspension travel means the Desert Sled is a taller, longer, heavier machine than its Scrambler stable mates. Seat height has been boosted from 31.1 inches to 33.9, wheelbase has been extended from 56.9 inches to 59.3 and wet weight has increased from a feathery 411 pounds (for the last base-model Scrambler Icon we tested) to 477 pounds—an extra 67 pounds on a bike aimed at an environment where light makes right.

The taller Desert Sled is also easier to stand up on, vital for off-road excursions.

While exploring some gravel roads (after digging into the setup menu to turn off the ABS), the Desert Sled was more than willing to get frisky and do rock-spitting power slides. And when I encountered a step-up on a stretch of two-track, I wicked it up and launched the bike off the lip. The Sled raised no red flags and it was so much fun that I did it again and again.

The suspension absorbed big hits without pogoing or bottoming out, but there was no escaping the Desert Sled’s weight, nor its street bike origins. Light-duty scrambling is fine, but I’d think twice before taking it through a deep sand wash or down a technical trail.

Suspension is up to the task of light off-roading, including occasional air time!

Despite the name, where Desert Sleds will spend most of their time—as we did for this test—is on pavement, and there it feels much more capable. Revised ECU settings and a progressive throttle tube have eliminated the snatchy throttle response of earlier Scramblers, and the air-cooled, 803cc Desmodue L-twin is a lively powerplant.

Although it’s pretty sleepy below 5,000 rpm, keep it spun up and you’ll be rewarded with rapid-fire power pulses and a nice bark from the stubby, low-slung exhausts. On Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno, the Desert Sled made 63 horsepower at 8,100 rpm (redline is at 9,000) and 42.4 lb-ft of torque at 5,600 rpm. Modest output in the grand scheme of things, but plenty for a knock-around, retro-style middleweight.

Like other Ducati Scrambler 800s, the Desert Sled is powered by the air-cooled, 803cc Desmodue L-twin.

A high, wide handlebar makes it easy to pitch the Desert Sled into corners, the tighter and nastier the better. Its added weight rarely felt like a liability, there’s ample cornering clearance and, being overbuilt for off-road abuse, it has the toughest chassis in the Scrambler lineup.

To keep up a good head of steam I rowed through the gears frequently, but the easy-shifting 6-speed transmission and light-action clutch meant that I never gave it much thought. At times, however, the Desert Sled was short-leashed by the limited stopping power of its single front disc brake and the limited grip of its knobby tires, which are designed for a fairly even split of on-/off-road use. Those Pirellis look great, but when pushed hard on the street they get squirmy.

The Desert Sled loves to lean, but the dual-sport tires have limited grip on the street. Accessory waterproof saddlebag is sold as part of a set.

As a daily rider, the Desert Sled is fun to ride, easy on the eyes and good for about 140 miles of range (we averaged just under 40 mpg, and fuel capacity is 3.6 gallons). It certainly adds some spice to mundane commuting, though with that wide handlebar and no wind protection, you’re in the elements come what may.

Single front disc brake provides adequate stopping power, and ABS can be disabled. Spoked wheels require tubes and wear Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR knobby tires.

The broad, flat seat may look inviting, but after about a half hour of riding I found myself looking for excuses to put the kickstand down and take a break. Other considerations are excessive engine heat when the Sled gets a workout, spoked wheels that require tubes and chain final drive with no centerstand. Also, the single, all-digital gauge cluster lacks a fuel gauge and has a nearly useless tachometer, and the crossbar pad blocks the rider’s view of the high beam and oil temp indicator lights.

Single digital instrument lacks a fuel gauge and the bar tach, which sweeps around the bottom edge, is hard to read.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Ducati’s Scrambler lineup is the degree to which you can customize them above and beyond whatever style you choose. If the Desert Sled were mine, I’d go the retro supermoto route by spooning on a set of sticky sport tires and installing the factory accessory Termignoni high-mount exhaust ($1,599). A stylish add-on that looks perfect on the..

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Windshields do more than keep bugs, dirt and wind off you. They also say a lot about how well you take care of your bike. These Quantum hardcoated polycarbonate windshields from National Cycle deserve premium cleaning products like Novus polish and scratch remover and Rain Zip water repellant, designed for plastics (see images below).

When you spend a lot of money on an accessory, part of the enjoyment is seeing it on your bike. But if that accessory is a windshield, you want to see right through it. Unfortunately windshields, both the aftermarket and the OE kind, are right out there in front of you where they’re vulnerable to dirt, rocks, bugs and other damage that can leave them battle-scarred after only a few riding seasons. There’s no way to beat bad luck, but according to National Cycle’s Paul Gomez you can tilt the odds in your favor with regular care and cleaning.

National Cycle uses two materials for its shields. The first is a hard-coated polycarbonate with either FMR (formable mar resistance) or National Cycle’s proprietary Quantum hardcoating. Polycarbonate is more impact resistant than the other material, acrylic. In its plain form acrylic is brittle and cracks easily, so National Cycle uses a high-impact acrylic that combines good optics with more resistance to damage.

This chart from National Cycle illustrates the differences between polycarbonate, high impact acrylic and standard acrylic.

“With acrylic you want to be very careful not to use any type of abrasive cleaners, because it scratches easily,” says Gomez. “We have a special cleaner for acrylic, or you can use warm soapy water.” Any commercial cleaner that says it’s made for use with plastics is probably fine, too, but avoid cleaners with petroleum products, ammonia or kerosene because these can all damage hardcoating. The same caveats about abrasive cleaners and harsh cleaners apply to hardcoated polycarbonate, too; although the hardcoating is more resistant to abrasion, you can’t grind away
at it forever.

Another product to avoid on polycarbonate and acrylic windshields is Rain-X. “Rain-X and plastics do not play well together,” Gomez warns. Instead, he says, consider using National Cycle’s own Rain Zip coating, which does to plastic the same thing Rain-X does with glass, but without harming the underlying material. “It also works well on helmet visors,” he adds.

Novus polish and scratch remover is great for windshield maintenance.

Whatever you use to clean your windshield, start off by soaking paper or cloth towels in water and laying them on the windshield. Leave them there for 15 minutes or so to soak through and soften the dried-on bug guts and dirt, then scrape off the stubborn bits with your fingernail––don’t wipe them off with a rag or you might scratch the very surface you’re trying so hard to protect.

The first step in any windshield cleaning is laying a wet fabric or paper towel over the surface to soften up dried-on bugs and dirt.

Use a cleaning cloth made of microfiber, terrycloth or cotton flannel, and make doubly sure it’s clean. Paper towels are too abrasive, and shop rags, even though they look clean, can pick up metal chips and other scratchy stuff that remains even after a thorough washing. A clean cotton T-shirt is the last-resort choice, but make sure it just came out of the washing machine.

RainZip is designed for use on plastics, like windshields and helmet visors.

Plastic cleaners are designed to work in cool temperatures so park your bike in the shade before you start. Whether you’re using soapy water or a plastic cleaner, apply it gently—you don’t need to apply much pressure—and turn the cloth frequently to carry picked-up grit away from the surface. Rinse the cloth often, too, to get the small stuff out.

To remove scratches Gomez recommends a plastic polish like Novus. “But it’s a case-by-case thing,” he says, “depending on how deep the scratch is. Novus is low-abrasive, but the trick is to remove the scratch without going through the hardcoat.” Crack repair is another iffy area. In some cases you can stop a crack from spreading by drilling a small hole at the end, but first check the manufacturer’s warranty to see if cracks are covered. You might be better off swapping for a new windshield than making your old one worse.

A clean and well-maintained windshield improves any bike’s looks and comfort. This National Cycle Plexifairing is also easily removable for that wind-in-your-face rush.

The last step in a thorough cleaning is applying a coat of protectant such as non-abrasive spray wax. This acts as an extra layer of protection against dirt, and makes subsequent cleanings easier by preventing the goo from sticking to the surface of the windshield. Use the same kind of towel or cloth you used to apply the cleaner, but make sure it’s clean and unused since the last laundry day or you could just end up back where you started. 

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The Black Hills of South Dakota boast some of the nation’s best motorcycle roads, with rugged natural beauty as a backdrop. Oh, and then there is that little rally that draws a few folks to the area each August. Photos by the author. “I hear the voice of the mystic mountains/Callin’ me back home/So take me back to the Black Hills” -Doris Day

Doris Day is one of a multitude of artists who have crooned about the storied South Dakota mountain range. Songs of lush beauty, colorful characters and a rich, often infamous history fill the lyrical canon the hills have inspired. For those of us who grip handlebars rather than microphones, the Black Hills can be equally inspirational. Rising majestically from the Great Plains, the Black Hills of South Dakota are laced with hundreds of miles of serpentine tarmac. Tantalizing roads run through the area’s canyons and forests like the marbling on a quality steak.

A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

The Black Hills have drawn millions of motorcyclists to southwestern South Dakota for the better part of a century. The lion’s share of that attraction has been the town of Sturgis, which has hosted a rather famous rally since the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club organized an intimate gathering of racers and spectators in the 1930s.

While never a real rally guy, I knew that I should make one trek to the Sturgis Rally as part of my lifetime motorcycling resume. However, knowing that the hundreds of thousands of bikers who would be attracted to Sturgis over the 10 days of the rally would slow my exploration of the area to an annoying crawl, I decide to arrive days before the heavy influx.

As the vendors set up shop in Sturgis, and law enforcement agencies put finishing touches on their public safety strategies, I will set out on my BMW GS into the Black Hills.

The usually quiet little town of Surgis balloons in both population and volume during the historic rally each summer.

Deadwood and Spearfish

I spend my first morning setting up camp in a remote corner of the massive Buffalo Chip Campground a few miles outside of Sturgis. After a quick sandwich, I ride through the property and the smattering of other early-bird arrivals. My afternoon ride will be a “get acquainted” exploration of two of the area’s iconic attractions.

The historic town of Deadwood sits at the convergence of several great motorcycle roads.

I ride out of Sturgis toward the west into the Black Hills on U.S. Route 14A. The climb is a relaxed, rolling warm-up of long sweeping corners cutting through an increase of forest foliage throughout the 1,000-foot climb to Deadwood.

Many of the roads that carve into the Black Hills are skirted by rushing creeks and impressive canyon walls.

Deadwood is a pristinely preserved 19th century mining town that sprung up as part of the Black Hills Gold Rush. The town’s history is replete with lawlessness of virtually every variety. Gunfights, theft, gang violence and ladies of the night were common, and frontier characters Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are famously linked to the town. Now, tourists roam the town in search of a bounty of trinkets and the next casino jackpot.

I take time to walk the cobblestone streets of Deadwood before making the short loop ride to the southwest through the town of Lead. Lead was a company town started by the Homestake Mining Company and is home to the largest and deepest gold mine in North America. The mine closed in 2002.

Gold rush era structures and historic ranches dot the Black Hills landscape.

After Deadwood, U.S. 14A melds with U.S. Route 85 as it carves deeper into the Black Hills. The road is skirted by rock escarpments and mountain streams. It becomes increasingly clear to me that the Black Hills are anything but black. Vibrant greens, multi-hued cliffs and blue-green waters paint the region.

When U.S. 85 branches off to the southwest, I remain on U.S. 14A toward the famed Spearfish Canyon. Its well-paved road winds alongside the cool waters of Spearfish Creek. Impressive gray and pink limestone cliffs flank the ride on both sides. This is prime motorcycling country—canyon carving at its best. The entire canyon road carries a 35 mph speed limit, which seems pretty reasonable for the topography and traffic.

This historic power plant on Spearfish Creek is a significant relic of the area’s gold mining era. It was the second power plant built in the area to meet the increased need for mining electricity.

About halfway through the canyon, the red brick structure of the Homestake Hydro Power Plant carries the date 1917, which harkens back to the heyday of the Homestake Gold Mine operation. Another notable stop on this stretch of the ride is Bridal Veil Falls, which joins several seasonal falls on the route. At the end of the Spearfish ride where the road intersects with Interstate 90, instead of completing the loop with a freeway drone, I exit I-90 on the CanAm Highway (U.S. 85), which allows me to retrace my ride back to Sturgis on U.S. 14A.

The Buffalo Chip Campground becomes ground zero for concerts and raucous merriment during the Sturgis Rally.

Intermission in Sturgis

After my highly satisfying 80-mile introductory ride in the Black Hills, I have a couple of things I want to do in Sturgis. First on the agenda is a visit to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame.

On my approach, I am a little taken aback by the diminutive outside appearance of the museum. That first impression would be misleading. The first floor is a compact but well-organized survey of motorcycling history. From a stacked pair of Vincents at the entryway to the pristine Flying Merkel and vintage Indians and Harleys farther in, the legacy of motorcycling is well represented.

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Shoei Neotec II in Matte Blue Metallic.

After years of swearing by full-face helmets, lately I find myself reaching for a flip-up-style lid for commuting and longer rides. Although “modular” helmets tend to be a bit heavier and noisier, being able to leave it on and flip up the chinbar to expose your face (namely your mouth to speak, eat, drink, smooch, etc.) is worth a couple trade-offs. Safety isn’t really an issue, since the quality modulars all have solid metal latching systems and the same impact-absorbing EPS foam in the chinbar that is used in the head form.

In the past the Cadillac of modular helmets has been the Shoei Neotec, primarily by virtue of its comfortable fit, relative quietness and solid feel. Its other features are exceptionally well done, too, like the built-in, drop-down sunshield, removable, washable liner and cheek pads, easy one-handed chinbar operation and headset-readiness (e.g. speaker cutouts in the ear area).

Sequels rarely live up to the original, but Shoei has blown that notion away with the new Neotec II. While it returns with all of the best qualities and features of the original, Shoei has also made definite improvements in the Neotec’s performance and convenience.

Sena SRL System.

First up is the integration of an optional headset system created with Sena called the Shoei Rider Link, or SRL. Although the original Neotec accommodated most headsets well, the Neotec II has special channels in the EPS for the SRL headset wiring and integrated battery and control compartments that help make installing the $299 SRL a snap. It has the same audio feature set as Sena’s 20s and 10C headsets, too, so you can connect phone, music, GPS and up to eight riding buddies with a one-mile range, 10-hour talk time, voice commands and more. The audio sounds great, phone calls are clear and easy to make (when stopped of course) and by using Sena’s app the volume can be boosted enough to hear the audio wearing earplugs.

Shoei went with four shell sizes for the XS-XXL Neotec II size range to ensure a good fit with minimum weight (about 5 ounces more than the original in large, with the SRL installed). The shell shape has been significantly enhanced overall, and several changes were incorporated with the help of Shoei’s wind tunnel for better aerodynamics and noise reduction, including soft “Noise Isolator” wind deflectors on the cheek pads and a “Vortex Generator” lip on the bottom of the chinbar. Worn back-to-back with the original the Neotec II does seem about 10-percent quieter, though it’s still not as quiet as most of Shoei’s full-face lids. Fit runs slightly larger but I found it even more comfortable than before.

More new features include a super convenient and comfortable micro-ratcheting quick-release chinstrap; new air and watertight beading around the eyeport (that does indeed keep water out) for the Pinlock-ready, 3D injection-molded face shield; more effective intake and exhaust venting, with a new chinbar vent that is harder to close accidentally; and a dual-lock system for the chinbar that holds it securely in the open position (this was requested by the numerous police departments that use the Neotec).

Shoei Neotec II with chin bar in the open position and interior sun shield lowered.

The Neotec II isn’t so much a helmet as it is a superior system for protection, comfort, convenience and communication on a motorcycle. The new venting flows significantly more air, the shield seals tightly and with the included Pinlock Evo fog-resistant liner installed you’re essentially impervious to the elements. I love the new QR chinstrap, and much appreciate the reduced noise. As before the upper eyeport edge is a bit low, so you have to tilt your head back farther on sportbikes, but otherwise the Neotec II is more than ever my go-to modular helmet for commuting and long rides. 

The Shoei Neotec II retails for $699 in solid colors and $799 in metallics or graphics. The $299 Sena SRL system is available exclusively through Sena and its dealers; see sena.com for more information. 

For more information, see your dealer or visit shoei-helmets.com.

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