July 17, 2017
So much can happen in a month.
After the UNRally, Lee, Andrew, Ash, and I parked our vehicles in Fields, OR and rode down into Nevada. We didn’t have a specific route or destination, just wandering.
On the second day we hit snow, got turned around, and took a random shortcut that we hoped would take us into the vicinity of the Black Rock Desert.
On the shortcut, doubletrack became singletrack, and singletrack became a cow trail. The were no tire tracks and the riding was a little rough in spots, but we continued anyway. Eventually we got tired and camped.
The trail was getting increasingly hard to manage on fully-loaded bikes, and we were headed downhill with no idea what was ahead. I woke up early and hiked a few miles further down the trail to see if it connected to anything. The Nomad tank bag’s backpack straps and hydration reservoir really came in handy. Eventually the trail merged into a flowing stream bed, with a series of rocky ledges dropping off into pools of water. There was no way we were getting through.
We made breakfast and prepared for several hours of steep, challenging backtracking. About half-way back to the doubletrack, the clutch on my 950 gave out.
In the rush to pack up after the UNRally, we’d somehow all managed to forget a tow strap. We did, however, have three sets of Backcountry Cinch Straps with us. We’d been looking for an opportunity to test the towing capacity of the aluminum ladder-lock buckle on the short end of the strap, and since we had multiple sets of straps with us, we decided this was as good a time as any.
Note: we have always recommended NOT using that buckle when using the BC Cinch Straps for towing. This was just an experiment.
It took three people pushing and one bike towing to make any uphill progress. It was hot, sweaty work. The buckle held for a few hours but eventually gave out. So we can now officially confirm: that buckle does have a breaking point that can be reached while towing. Which is a shame, since the short end of the strap makes a perfect quick-release harness for towing. We’ll try something else in a future iteration. In the meantime, if you break a buckle for any reason, contact us and we’ll replace it free of charge.
We went back to towing with just the two long webbing sections of the straps connected together – which is how they were meant to be used – and had no further issues after that. Having those straps saved our ass.
Before we got back to the doubletrack, we also fried the clutch on our tow bike, a KTM 690. Fortunately the 690 clutch was still gripping well enough to move forward when it wasn’t pulling the 950. Andrew rode it out, returned on foot, and towed the 950 the rest of the way with his KLR. We rode two-up back to Fields to fetch Lee’s truck, and returned the next day to fetch the 950.
What should’ve been a week long moto trip became two days of riding and two days of bike retrieval. We got home a few days early, which was ok, since we needed the rest anyway after traveling for more than a month. Yeah we all wished we could’ve seen more of Northern Nevada, but as a team-building and product-testing exercise, it was priceless. Who needs a friggin’ ropes course when you can tow bikes around instead?? We’ll get another Nevada trip on the calendar for this fall.
Back in Fields, we got our friend Thadeus all setup with a Stinger 8 on his BMX bike.
Pinner Tool Roll
Andrew and I have been messing around with ideas for a smaller tool roll. We took an early Fatty prototype and cut/stapled it into a half-size version, deleting the handle, tire iron pockets, clear pocket, and rain cover. We ditched one of the two zippered tool pockets and half the open tool roll pockets.
The end result looked something like this.
This new concept is off to the factory for sampling. It’s kind of like the Fatty, only smaller. We’re calling in the ‘Pinner.’
Backcountry Pannier V3.0
We’re brainstorming a version 3.0 of the Backcountry 35 pannier. This is something we’d likely release in Spring 2019. Here’s a few of the ideas we’re playing with.
Break-away buckles on the side compression straps.
A riveted aluminum pass-through for Steelcore Locking Straps on the front of the beavertail.
A symmetrical shape – no more ‘rights’ and ‘lefts’ – with a removable rear pocket that bolts to the outer bag. So you can decide whether to mount the pocket on the front or the rear of the bag, or mount a pocket on both. With the pocket removed, there’s MOLLE webbing on the other side.
The pocket itself would become an open harness that comes with a roll-top drybag. The drybag slides in/out of the harness, or you can remove the drybag altogether and slide-in two fuel bottles, a water storage bag, or a Fatty tool roll.
We’re working on a new buckle for the front compression straps, something that slides better than the current aluminum g-clips. We chose the current g-clip 4 years ago because it was the best ‘off the shelf’ metal buckle we could find. Plastic buckles slide better, but we can’t use plastic buckles on the front, because they will break when you drop the bike. Aluminum buckles are stamped, not molded like plastic buckles, so the webbing slots are vertical not angled. Without an angled slot, the webbing tends to get ‘stuck’ and not slide well, especially when it’s dirty.
For version 3.0 we’re developing a custom-molded aluminum buckle with angled slots that slides just like a plastic slide release. Here’s a pic of our first sample.
Inside the beavertail on the Backcountry 35, there’s a big piece of unused real-estate. We’re re-purposing it as a tool-holder for a hatchet, spade, machete, or any other awkward tool that’s hard to stuff elsewhere. We’re adding MOLLE webbing as well.
Reckless 80 v3.0
For version 3.0, we’re experimenting with ways to make the Reckless 80 adjustable, so you can change the width of the center harness or the angle of the leg bags to customize the fit for your bike.
We’re also replacing the sewn-on pocket with the same harness/drybag system we’re developing for the BC35.
We’re adding a helmet-holder clip to the rear beavertail.
Scout 25 Panniers
Production on the new Scout 25 panniers is done. They look awesome. We anodized 50 sets in blue, and the rest in silver.
There’s a small issue with the dimensions of the removable MOLLE panel vs the mounting plate. We made some last-minute changes to the mounting plate, and now the MOLLE panel is too long for the plate. We’ll have to fix these when they arrive, and change the design going forward.
Josh Mchale came in to photograph the new Scouts so we can update our website pics.
We mounted the first set of Scouts on our 690 for the BMW rally in Salt Lake City. Really excited to get these in stock. The response at the BMW rally was excellent.
Revised samples of the jacket/pant arrived just in time for us to take them riding with us in Nevada. We made some huge steps forward in the latest revision. We’re very close to a finished product now. In the pics below, the red fabric will be either grey or forest green in the jacket, and black in the pants.
The base-layer (on Andrew).
Taufik is currently making 16 sample sets in a range of sizes and colors for additional testing this fall. We’ll keep a couple sets for ourselves, and send the rest out to other riders for independent testing and feedback.
A few weeks ago we attended the Touratech rally in Plain, WA. Pulling into the entrance gate, we hopped out of the truck to check in, and our seven month old Frenchie pup hit the door lock. We were locked out with the engine running, keys/phones inside, blocking the entrance gate. Tracey helped us find and call a locksmith, and a few hours later we were in. Another great year!
We caught up with Ryan Groseclose, our very first customer. This was the first set of bags we ever shipped. They’re still going strong! Since then, Ryan has started his own guide business in Idaho called Northern Rockies Dual Sport Adventures.
Our buddy Jesse Felker from Pacific Northwest Dualsport ordered a bunch of aftermarket MOLLE gear to experiment with on his Reckless 40 and Nomad. This is by far the most MOLLE stuff I’ve ever seen on a single bike. Nice work Jesse!
It was hot, so we headed up to Lake Wenatchee to swim with Jesse and Coby.
The Scout 60 makes an awesome keg holder.
On the way home we were tired, so we stopped to camp for a night on the banks of the Columbia. Caught a bunch of fish.
BMW MOA Rally
We’re currently on our way home from the BMW MOA rally in Salt Lake City. We stopped for a night at Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho to catch up on work stuff.
Despite 100+ degree temps, we had a blast at the MOA. Our booth was busy, and sales were more than 2x vs last year thanks to the new Nomad Tank Bag and Fatty Tool Roll. It was great to see a mix of Mosko and BMW Atacama bags on bikes in the parking lot. Big thanks to Roel from My Ticket To Ride for helping us work the booth all weekend!
We were located directly next to Corbin Seats, and got to share a beer with the man himself, Mike Corbin. 50 years of custom motorcycle seats, starting with the Norton. Good stuff.
Lance Gines from Into The Horizon Motorcycle tours came by with his son on this sweet little Honda Grom setup like a mini BMW, complete with cases and everything. Needs a set of mini BC35s!
If anyone still doubts the dangers of riding with hard panniers offroad, check in with our friend Bryan. Here’s his story:
On June 26 I was riding the Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route with a couple of friends when my BMW 1200GS and I had a misunderstanding about when we were going to come to rest. We were in a deep, sandy two track approximately Lat 38.878567° Long -116.803701°. It just wasn’t wide enough to maneuver as much as I needed. The bike flopped over on its ride side, my foot got peeled off of the footpeg, and the sidecase and my leg tried to share the same space at the same time. Apparently, that violated some obscure law of physics.
After limping around a few minutes (I could at least still walk!), I picked up the bike, rode out of the ruts, and we rode another 70 miles of dirt road to a motel in beautiful downtown metropolitan Austin, NV, where the kind motel keeper fed us a tasty, home-cooked meal (because neither of the two restaurants were open). The next day, my two friends continued on the BDR while I rode the 460 miles of pavement home.
The podiatric surgeon at Alpine Orthopaedic Specialists was able to see me the very next day and delivered the bad news that my fibula was, in fact, in two pieces. It’s supposed to be only one. But the good news was that he had an opening in his surgery schedule the next day and all of the hardware bits in stock to put me back together. That’s done, and I’m in recovery mode, taking advantage of my wife’s willingness to fetch ice, make dinner, do the laundry, etc. Not supposed to put weight on it until mid-August, but the doc said the bone is strong and should be fully healed by early September.
It could have been so much worse. I’ve been on a trip where a friend made a similar mistake and had to be evacuated with a broken tibia AND fibula. My injury is so much less traumatic. And now I get to buy some more motorcycle stuff…like soft luggage that won’t be so insistent about sharing the same space at the same time with some of my body parts…
He bought a set of BC35 panniers at the show. Hope you heal up fast Bryan!
Tom Asher brought one of the first cracked mounting plates we’ve seen since we switched to glass-filled nylon frames. This happened after slamming into a tree. Check out his field repair in the pic below. There’s a metal bar on the inside of the frame holding it together, with nuts and bolts inserted through the two slots at the top of the frame. We added those slots specifically for quick & dirty field repairs like this one. Nice work Tom.
Nomad Tank Bag
We released the Nomad 6 weeks ago. It’s nearly sold out now. We have another batch coming, but once the current inventory is gone, we’ll be out of stock for at least 4 months. We are amazed at how fast the first batch of Nomads sold out. Hopefully everyone who really needed one got one. We’ll make more in the next round.
We encountered a few minor issues. These will be fixed going forward.
New sewing machine in the shop.
The Reckless 15 takes shape.
Steve from our factory stops by White Salmon for a visit.
Andrew gets a new bike.
The fishing & crabbing have been excellent.
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