We’ll give you a key tip about adventure riding: it’s all about the stuff. An adventure ride is no adventure at all if you’re miserable. There’s something criminal about taking a creation as wonderful as a motorcycle and simply using it as a medium for punishment. All the fun is gone if you’re cold, tired, scared or bored.
We used our various adventure trips this month as an opportunity to defeat misery. We refused to be punished by weather, poor planning or misfortune; in other words, we had the right stuff. Here are some of the accouterments of adventure.
The world is full of motocross pants, but AXO’s Enduro WP pants are among very few products designed specifically for dual-sport riders. The biggest difference between the two applications is weather. The waterproof AXO Enduro pants are made to deal with riding at 65 mph through driving rain—that’s what the “WP” means. The waterproof liner that can be unzipped and removed for days when the sun is out and riding is good.
The Enduro pants are also designed with social acceptability in mind. They don’t draw unwanted attention when you go into a restaurant, as is often the case with full MX gear. They go over the boot, have zippered pockets and can be worn over your jeans.
We’ve been wearing the Enduro pants on adventure rides and freeway commutes and have come to love them. For commuting, they’re perfect. We wear them over our jeans, then peel them off when we get to the office. Between the pants, the liner and our regular jeans, they are warm even on those mornings when the temperature is down in the 30s. And on one wet commute, the water-proofing proved excellent.
For adventure rides on large bikes, like the BMW GS1200, the Enduro pants are just what you need, offering some protection from mud and the hard elements. Generally, we wear them without knee pads or braces, but they do offer adequate room for either—if you don’t wear your jeans underneath.
These aren’t pants for hardcore dirt riding. They don’t breathe well when you sweat and can be burned easily on a hot pipe. When you wear them without regular pants, the waterproof liner is a little uncomfortable.
At $110, we consider these pants a very affordable addition to your gear bag. They aren’t dirt-oriented enough to be your only set of riding pants, but you’ll be happy if you have them available for wet rides that have extended sections of street.
HJC SY-MAX 3 HELMET
“Modular” helmets have a face piece that pivots up and out of the way, effectively transforming a full-face helmet into an open-face helmet. The adventure-bike community warmed to the concept quickly, and the HJC Sy-Max is one of the more popular examples in this field.
At $299.99, the Sy-Max is priced at the upper end of the modular offerings. (We’ve seen some right around $100.) It has a fiberglass shell and is DOT approved, but it isn’t SNELL approved—as very few helmets of this type are. In addition to the pivoting face piece/chin guard, the Sy-Max has a very cool slide-down, tinted eye shield.
With the press of a button, a little set of sunglasses drops in front of your eyes. These can be used with the face shield up or down. We thought the Sy-Max was a very comfortable helmet and really liked the open-face feature for socializing when we stopped. We have to admit that we didn’t like having the front open while riding. Those days are gone.
BMW VARI SADDLEBAGS
One reason that BMW owns the adventure-bike world is their line of accessories. The Sertao we tested doesn’t have a special-edition model that comes with all the cool stuff, but you can bet that any BMW dealer will be deliriously happy to add options.
The most affordable saddlebags offered are the Varios (short for “Variable Panniers”), which sell for $356.95 each plus hardware and locks, adds another $218.45 to the total. The guys at BMW told us these aren’t their most dirt-oriented cases and recommended we remove them for hardcore dirt riding. We discovered this ourselves when the plastic hooks began to distort with moderate abuse, but we still loved the bags for a number of reasons. The most important is that they are made for the BMW 650. They fit perfectly and are contoured around the bike’s exhaust system. This was in stark contrast to the Suzuki’s bags, which hung out like pontoons.
The Varios are well sealed and keep your luggage from getting dirty or wet. Also, they disconnect quickly, turning into little suitcases. It’s a very clean setup. On the negative side, they’re smallish; they open vertically, which makes them hard to load when they are mounted on the bike; and they are constructed entirely of ABS plastic, which, as we pointed out, isn’t super tough.
SUZUKI ACCESSORIES TANK BAG
Suzuki has its own substantial line of accessories. We turned to the Suzuki Genuine Accessories catalog for some additional luggage space on the V-Strom. The saddlebags on the Adventure version are huge—so huge that we often preferred riding the bike without them. That meant we needed a small place to carry our stuff, and the Suzuki magnetic tank bag was perfect. It fits on the tank right over the gas cap and is completely unobtrusive. Only one strap in front holds it in place; the rest of the work is done by four magnets in the base. We should give you the standard magnet disclosure here: don’t put your vintage collection of cassette tapes in the bag or they could be damaged. Technically, any electronic info media could be corrupted by magnets, but in the real world, it doesn’t happen often. The magnets do a great job of holding the bag in place, and when it’s time to gas up, the bag can easily be moved out of the way. It’s not huge; in standard configuration, you might get a six-pack of Diet Coke inside.
For a little more space, you can unzip a section and expand the bag another 2 inches. If you get it too full, bumpy off-road riding can be tricky, but with the front strap, the bag can’t go far. It comes with a waterproof cover, has a clear map/iPad pocket on top and sells for $174.95 through any Suzuki dealer.