Big CA Road trip, route and gear reviews pt 1 - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 6 Old 06-28-2013, 09:37 AM Thread Starter
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Big CA Road trip, route and gear reviews pt 1

Part 1: The trip, the route, and road recommendations

This was my first big trip on my own bike, having taken many trips with my dad on the back of his bikes when I was little. This time, he flew to LA where I live and rented a BMW R1200RT. I took my 05 V-Strom 650 and we hit the road. To get my bike up to snuff I had a thorough tune up by my local mechanic, and added on a few tasty bits and pieces to make the travel more enjoyable. I'll give a brief overview of the trip, with roads recommended, and then review each piece of kit. (EDIT: The trip review got a bit long, so I'll put the gear review in a separate post)

The trip: https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=...e378a4c5&msa=0

I think this Google Map link will let you look at the trip route we planned, and even copy it into your own map if you like.

Day 1: LA to Sequoia Natl. Park-
Hot, hot, hot! By far the hottest day of the trip, with temps reaching a high of 103 degrees Farenheit. Not the prettiest day of the trip either, once we got close to Bakersfield. The drive out of LA is actually very pretty, and on a Sunday morning there was very little traffic. We took highways to make good time, and then got a bit turned around and wound up riding through many miles of farmland. You could smell what each field was growing, strawberries, cucumbers, avocados, etc and it was very nice. But so freaking hot! Once we got the hotel just outside the park we were totally cooked.

Day 2: Sequoia to Yosemite.
The park was absolutely beautiful. We rode from almost sea level at the valley floor up to 7,000 feet. As you go up the landscape changes and the air gets much cooler. We stopped along the way for scenic pictures and to look at some of the amazing Giant Sequoias in the park. Some of the trees are up to 3,000 years old, 100 or more feet around, and 300 feet tall. It's really humbling to stand next to something so ancient and massive, especially the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world. We took small natl park roads north, including 198, 180, and 41. All of these roads were beautiful riding, but a little slow going. We're talking 15-20mph steep mountain switchbacks up and down thousands of feet of elevation. Add to that mix sheer drop offs and gawking tourists, and these are roads which will definitely keep you on your toes. We managed to make it to the Yosemite Valley Camp Curry before dark, but we did encounter some rain along the way.

Day 3: Yosemite
We stayed in Yosemite for 2 nights and did some hiking around the park. At the end of the day we drove our bikes out to the scenic Tunnel View lookout point, which was just a stunning view of one of the most beautiful places on earth. A must see before you die kind of place, and what better way to do it than on a bike?

Day 4: Yosemite to San Francisco
We went north out of Yosemite on 120, then took it west to 108, then got on Interstate 580 across the Bay Area, over the bay, down through Sausalito, over the Golden Gate bridge (amazing!) and then through SF to our hotel near Fisherman's Wharf. This was another long hot day, and the riding east of the bay area was incredibly windy. From a distance the giant windmill generators looked pretty, but I didn't realize that they should have been a warning that windy conditions lay ahead. Between the wind gusts and the massive truck traffic, I spent about an hour and a half leaning my bike into the wind to keep from being blown off the road. Not the most fun way to ride. Dad on his fully faired RT seemed a little bit more comfortable than me on my Vstrom, but this was really the only time on the trip that the bikes showed a major difference. Other than price, of course.

Day 5: SF to San Simeon
Hwy 1, what more can I say? Other than Dad was majorly sick from bad seafood in SF. (Lukewarm octopus sitting under a heating lamp? Bad idea, right?) It was kind of slow going getting out of SF, including traffic and some construction, but the views were absolutely incredible. From here the directions were simple, Hwy 1 until we get home in LA. We stopped in Santa Cruz for lunch and I honestly wanted to buy a house right there and forget all about LA. It's a lovely small beach town with great people and a relaxed atmosphere. Also with its small amusement park right on the beach and lots of fun activities it would be a great family destination. There aren't a lot of places to stop and stay on Hwy 1 and we didn't book a place in advance. We just figured we'd ride until we got tired and then find a place. San Simeon has a couple big motels and is a natural half-way point between SF and LA. Dad was so sick he fell asleep without even taking his boots off or unpacking his bike, so I let him sleep it off and I got dinner at the local diner. There were people from all over the world, and tons of bikers too.

Fave biker conversation:
Austrian guy with wife getting off a giant Harley: Hey, nice V Strom, I have same bike at home in Austria.
Me: Hey, that's awesome! I love the bike, it's great for traveling.
Austrian guy: Yes, it is perfect motorcycle. But for traveling America, you need this (points to Harley).
Me: Ha, well, alright have a good trip!
Harley: BBBBBRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHPPPPPPP!

Day 6: San Simeon to LA
More beautiful Hwy 1, and no traffic until we got off the PCH onto I-10 east to go home. (Culver City, if you know LA) It wasn't a long stretch on the interstate, but it was jam packed with traffic. Dad didn't want to split lanes on his rented RT with bags (I don't blame him) so it was a hot, slow, ride home. Those few minutes of traffic made me appreciate lonely mountain roads even more. Strangely, except for the last bit, this was the coldest day of the ride. Massive amounts of fog coming off the ocean, and temps dropped to 50 degrees. I never thought I could be that cold in June in California on the beach, but it was brutal. I brought out all the liners to my mesh jacket, my Gore Tex gloves, and a scarf, and I was still freezing. At least it wasn't a long stretch of cold. I have a new appreciate for those of you who live and ride in the NE or anywhere where it's cold. Brrrr not my cup of tea. Dad was fine, with his full fairing, heated grips, and heated seat. He said when I'm old I can have a heated seat too. Can't wait.

See Part 2 for gear reviews!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg in Sequoia Natl Park.JPG (70.4 KB, 46 views)
File Type: jpg cockpit view in Yosemite valley.jpg (86.9 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg me and dad at Golden Gate lookout.JPG (74.9 KB, 41 views)

[FONT="Georgia"]"Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul."[/FONT]

[FONT="Georgia"]2005 Suzuki V-Strom 650 aka The Red Bike
2006 Suzuki Boulevard C50 aka The White Bike (traded in)[/FONT]
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post #2 of 6 Old 06-28-2013, 09:44 AM Thread Starter
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Big CA trip part 2: gear reviews

Helmet: Shoei Qwest. I love this helmet. Lightweight, good venting, comfy, and excellent protection. I normally wear a dark shield and carry a clear one.

Jacket: Tourmaster Intake Series 2 mesh jacket. It's not fancy, I wanted an upgrade before the trip but put the money into the bike and tires instead. Turned out to be totally fine. Jacket was great on hot days and even moderate ones. But when it got cold the windproof liner was mostly inadequate. If that cold snap had gone any longer, or been any colder, I would have frozen myself solid. I didn't pack the insulated liner (because it's June in CA, duh) but wished I had. I'm not sure how much of a difference it would have made, because that cold foggy air just ripped right through the jacket. But that isn't really what it's designed for, and I was really asking a lot out of it. Overall, it's a very affordable, very serviceable jacket and a great summer riding buy.

Pants: CycleGear Bilt kevlar jeans. They have CE knee armor and a decent amount of protection for not a lot of money. I have other kevlar jeans (Sartso's) with more kevlar and less armor, but these are way more comfortable and I feel good about the protection. Not great, but good. Mesh overpants were on my to-buy list, but economic reality set in.

Gloves: Rev'it Fly summer and Phenom (I think) Gore Tex winter glove. I love Rev'it gloves. They're not cheap, but they fit great and feel like a second skin. I've bought cheap gloves before and they suck, and I've worn gloves that didn't fit well (Dainese) and that also sucked. It's your connection to the motorcycle, and it shouldn't be a distraction. But that's my .02.

Luggage: Givi e55 with AdMore lights. This is my everyday luggage I use for commuting. It's awesome.
I added a Wolfman Expedition dry bag, size medium. There was a thread on here a while ago where people were debating this versus the TwistedThrottle bag. I had wanted the TT bag but got a gift certificate to Aerostich right before the trip. So I used it for the Wolfman bag, and I am completely happy with the decision. It mounts on the rear seat better than the TT bag would (for me and my size at least) and is very flexible with its roll-top closure. It is a wonderful piece of gear and I would say if you're looking at the two, go with the Wolfman bag for its versatility and ease of use.

Tankbag: Nelson Rigg CL-1050 Adventure. Great price, great fit, but it ripped three days into the trip. Brand new bag! I was pissed. BUT, the folks at Nelson Rigg were really great about getting a warranty return right away, and now I have a brand new replacement. I'm hoping it was a one-off issue because the bag is great, simple, and affordable. I don't need all that fancy stuff in a tankbag, and I really don't want it getting in the way of my riding. This bag ticked all the boxes, as long as Nelson Rigg keeps standing behind their product. I do wish it was made with a little tougher materials though, it would make me much more optimistic about its durability.

Crashbars: SW-Motech from Twisted Throttle. YES buy them. Now! I had never dropped a bike (note: past tense) but I knew that if I did I would be really pissed at myself. The moment came after a scenic stop in Sequoia the second day of the trip. I looked down just before starting the bike and noticed my bootlace was sticking out a bit. I reached down for a split second to tuck it in before realizing I wasn't going to reach. In that split second the bike rolled forward downhill just enough to tuck the kickstand back up without me realizing it. By the time I did realize it, the bike was going down baby! Luckily it was into a soft sandy shoulder and the crashbar held the bike up. Not a single (more) scratch on the bike, not even the mirror or signal. A little nick on the crashbar, but hey, that's what they're for! Had to stop for a few to let the adrenaline cool down, and then we were on our way. No harm, no foul. Moral of the story: BUY THE CRASHBARS!

Headset: Uclear HBC 200 for both of us. They were amazing, all-day battery life, super clear voice and no microphone! Seriously, no mic. It's some sort of magic unicorn infrared beam from space. Only downside was we couldn't figure out how to get GPS directions while in an intercom session, and you can't have music and intercom going at the same time. But I usually find music distracting anyways.

Tires: Michelin Pilot Road 3 Trail front and rear. Super grippy, super comfy tire. Grips like heck in wet and dry, transitions side to side very nicely, and they look cool to boot! If you're not going off-road (like me) these might very well be the best street tires you can buy. I'm a believer.

Windshield: MadStad and Givi airflow. They're great, 'nuff said.

Others: Slime mini air pump from Target. Dad used this to help a guy on Mulholland fill up his tire in order to limp home. Cheap, small, lightweight, and effective.

GPS: RAM mount with quick release, Bags Connection Navi Bag (for iPhone) and RAM mount for Garmin Nuvi 1300, all from Twisted Throttle. This setup worked great for visibility and ease of switching between iPhone and GPS. I used the GPS most of the time since we were out of cell range a lot, and the maps were easier to see. I also have a USB power port on my bike.

Conclusion:
This was a great trip and a fantastic amount of scenery to take in. In a week and about 1,200 miles we saw every kind of terrain from mountain, to desert, to forest and ocean. We also encountered almost every kind of temperature change possible. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to buy a new riding jacket and pants before we set out, but a few days into the trip I realized that it really didn't matter. My old gear performed just fine, and new gear wouldn't have made much of a difference, except making me a few hundred dollars poorer.

Moral of the story? Enjoy what you have, get out and ride more.

I hope you all enjoy reading about the trip and the gear reviews, and maybe some of you will come to California and ride these incredible roads. If you need anything, or have any questions, just drop me a line. See you out there!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg cockpit view 2.jpg (67.8 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg fully loaded yosemite falls in background.JPG (83.7 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg medium wolfman bag loaded up.JPG (53.1 KB, 22 views)

[FONT="Georgia"]"Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul."[/FONT]

[FONT="Georgia"]2005 Suzuki V-Strom 650 aka The Red Bike
2006 Suzuki Boulevard C50 aka The White Bike (traded in)[/FONT]
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post #3 of 6 Old 06-29-2013, 02:07 PM
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Nice report! We are fortunate to have so many good riding routes and destinations in California. Next time you come through the Valley, try HWY 41 to Oakhurst, then HWY 49 through Mariposa and Angels Camp to HWY 50 to Lake Tahoe. Then you can pick up I-80 near Truckee and head west to Old Town Sacto and check out the train museum. From there it's off to San Fran and down the coast road again. You can never get enough of HWY 1!
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post #4 of 6 Old 07-12-2013, 11:40 PM
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Thanks for sharing your riding experience, especially the gear report section. I try to share my gear experiences in my ride reports as well.

I wanted to mention something that I'm hoping you might find useful...rain gear. When the temps drop, adding a rain proof outer layer can sometimes be just enough the keep the cold at bay. Most rain gear is wind proof. Personally, I think it is very silly how companies continue to design liners to be worn inside your gear to keep you dry and warm. If your outer layer isn't water / wind you're just going to chill the inner liner. Once you deal with the outer layer by adding a water / wind proof layer, your base layers will work much better. The outer layer of my jacket, an Olympia AST, is water proof. However, I wear mesh pants most of the time. When the temps drop, slipping on some rain pants usually does the trick and it a lot easier to put on than adding an inner liner. With a decent wicking base layer, my mesh pants, and my rain pants I've been comfortable down to 27F.

Again, thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading your next ride report.

-rodney

2012 G-Strom - White
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post #5 of 6 Old 07-13-2013, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Mr. McBride, that's good advice. A lightweight rainsuit would probably have made a big difference. I really underestimated how cold the coast road would be in June in SoCal, and I overestimated how much warmth the "windproof" inner liner for my mesh jacket would provide. We debated about rain gear, but after checking the weather report and not seeing much chance for rain we decided to take a risk and skip it. Next time I'd probably choose differently. Thanks for the tip!

[FONT="Georgia"]"Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul."[/FONT]

[FONT="Georgia"]2005 Suzuki V-Strom 650 aka The Red Bike
2006 Suzuki Boulevard C50 aka The White Bike (traded in)[/FONT]
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post #6 of 6 Old 07-14-2013, 01:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATerkel View Post
Thanks Mr. McBride, that's good advice. A lightweight rainsuit would probably have made a big difference. I really underestimated how cold the coast road would be in June in SoCal, and I overestimated how much warmth the "windproof" inner liner for my mesh jacket would provide. We debated about rain gear, but after checking the weather report and not seeing much chance for rain we decided to take a risk and skip it. Next time I'd probably choose differently. Thanks for the tip!
That's easy to do. I don't get a lot of rain in my area, but I always keep the rain gear in the panniers ( just in case of rain, or like you experienced an unexpected drop in temps ).

For what it's worth I use Tour Master Sentinel two piece rain gear ( I usually use the pants, though, since most of my jackets have waterproof exteriors ). But the Sentinel's do not breath at all. This is a disadvantage in the summer rain when the temps are high ( due to very high humidity ). I've had the Sentinel's since 2008 and they still work great. However, I'm thinking of trying Froggs Toggs. They are breathable and easier to pack since they are much more compressible. Froggs Toggs get great reviews....

-rodney

2012 G-Strom - White
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