Archive for category Motorcycles

Day 1 in Kathmandu

Fifteen hours after arriving in Kathmandu I thought it was a good time to check out the sites and get my bearings. And maybe figure out how to ride a motorcycle through Nepal.

I hired a driver out of the Summit Hotel to shuttle me around first to Swayambhunath Stupa (i.e. the Monkey Temple) then to the Thamel area to see where the tourists do their touristy things. As I was strolling through busy streets full of cars, people, bicycles and motorcycles moving in just about every direction one thought came to mind:

How exactly am I going to ride a motorcycle out of here in two days without hitting something?

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On the road: ICON Hooligan 2 Jacket

Buying motorcycle riding gear is a totally separate endeavor from wearing it. My closet is full of old, but very clean gear. Most riders I know have enough gear to clothe a small family — but they usually wear the same two or three pieces over and over.

My untrained opinion is that we buy all this extra gear as a way to quiet the more expensive urge to buy a 2nd and 3rd bike.

After several years of trial and error and more cash spent than I care to remember, I find myself wearing mostly Rev’It gear — summer, fall and winter. Spring is all of 72 hours long anymore so it doesn’t count. Great workmanship, quality of materials and the now I know my exact size without having to try it on.

But some time ago I bought this safety orange, mesh summer jacket by ICON. I bought it for the air flow potential and the “get out of my way” color. I haven’t worn it much but after getting cut off quite a bit this summer I thought I’d give it some miles.

A hooligan fit: I like the room
I’m generally a medium in every gear brand I can think of. This is cut more loosely — hooligan style. At first I didn’t like it and always reached for my more European cut jackets instead. But I kind of dig it now. The arms are longer and the back and shoulders are roomier than the Rev’It. The arm sleeve length is bothersome only on a sport or sport touring bike because the cuff is pretty stiff and can dig at your wrists when you’re leaned over on them. On an upright standard or cruiser, it just means your wrists are never exposed. No gauntlet glove needed.

Protection: Fall only on your elbows or shoulders!
The armor in the shoulders and elbows are CE level and very good. Not sure why ICON chooses to go bottom basement when it comes to the spine protector. This just in: paralyzed guys don’t ride motorcycles and they won’t buy more ICON gear. The one that comes with this ICON jacket is terrible. I have dry sponges under my sink that could protect me better.

What to do?

I took out the stock spine guard and now use it as a bath mat. With the extra room in the jacket I decided to put on my ICON spine protector vest under the jacket. Walking around it felt great — and on my standard bike it felt even better. The snug fit of the vest and spine guard kept all my innards in place when I hit bumps at highway speed. More than anything, it gave me a sense of comfort mentally knowing I could just focus on my lines and riding smoothly.

With just a tee-shirt on under the vest and jacket I was more than cool in 80 east coast degrees. I may have found my summer long ride outfit that could give my Rev’It gear some time off.

High Visibility: Did it work?
There’s a reason why hunters use safety orange and why “Work Zone” signs around the highway are the same color — it gets people’s attention. I can’t prove it — although I am here typing this vs. on the hood of a car — but I could swear that I got more buffer space from drivers when I was wearing this jacket today. Usually, here in Pennsylvania drivers are good with motorcyclists but they have no problem getting close enough to read your license plate. Riding around today, cars kept their distance at stop lights and I definitely made a young driver hit the brakes as she was about to pop out of a parking lot in front of me.

Overall, the jacket is a good value. Decent quality, airflow is very good, high visibility is great but definitely go to a Plan B for a spine protection. Design wise, I wish the collar were a bit higher. Zipped up it’s about as high as a crew neck tee shirt. I personally prefer some protection higher up the neck so I can avoid wearing a buff if it gets cold. I can’t say I’ll be wearing all hi-viz gear like in Central Europe, but I will be wearing this jacket a lot more than I did last summer.

If for some reason it gets cooler, this jacket comes with zip-in liner. It will insulate you but it won’t stop the wind — especially on a wide mesh jacket like the Hooligan 2. My experience with other airflow jacket is to wear a wind stopper shirt from Aerostich under it if you want some air flow in 50-60 degree weather but don’t want to have to lug around a colder weather jacket. Works like a charm.

Ride safe. Be seen.

-Jose Mallabo


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Passion: What a biker can teach you

“The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one thing when a person died. Did he have passion?”

That’s a line from the John Cusack movie “Serendipity.” It’s likely not true, but it should be. It should be the only question we ask during life let alone after it.

In our crib-to-cubicle world we give status to those who pursue and achieve wealth, instead of passion, happiness and health. We tend to question those who would do foolish things for the sake of a moment of joy. It was 17 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City yesterday. Most people would think it stupid to leave the house to take their daughter to piano practice and utterly insane to go look at motorcycles you can’t even take for a ride.

Smiling ear to ear off U.S. 1 in California last year.

But these are bikers. Motorcycle riders. Whatever you want to call us, you can’t call us passionless. We’ll talk your ears off about our bikes and the adventures we had on them. (Remind me to tell you about the time a hawk landed on my leg when I was riding a rented Harley.) People who don’t ride scratch themselves bloody wondering why anyone would risk life and limb to do 65 miles per hour with five gallons of fuel between their knees and a battery two inches under their ass. I will never run in the house with a knife, but damn it will I ride.

I ride because there’s something Zen in finding calmness from the raw and visceral experience of going fast through the landscape that taking a walk or a ride on a mountain bike can’t give you. Nothing synchronizes the heart, mind and breath like the potential of being maimed. It’s that sense of danger that makes me focus and find peace in that tiny little space behind the handle bars. I can get to that calm and joy with the twist of the throttle – air space usually reserved for only the highest order monks and yoga master.

In that space, it doesn’t matter that I’m not rich and still spend most of my days in a cubicle.  Because, under my helmet you’d see I am happy.

Jose Mallabo

Carbon version of the Diavel is $20,000 of hotness.

Best in show from the New York IMS in descending order:

  1. Ducati Diavel. Nothing on the floor looked like it. But why would you stick this in the corner of the booth?
  2. Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle. American brute force.
  3. BMW R1200R. Hottest do-everything sport standard anywhere.
  4. Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Even the 50-year-old cruiser guys thought it was cool.
  5. Victory High Ball. Spokes, white walls and Victory style may make this the only true cruiser I would buy.

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