Sena 50S. Sucked at first. Now sucks a lot less.

I was an early adopter of rider to rider comms on motorcycles. I saw the benefit of being able to communicate with others while riding, without having to use some goofy assed hand signals. Besides that, having the ability to wirelessly stream GPS directions and music into my helmet, was a huge plus, since the wife and I enjoy longer rides than most.

The Sena 50 was the 5th generation of Sena motorcycle communication device I had purchased. As usual Sena had to experience some rather painful growing pains, until they made some improvements, before finally getting it mostly right. I will say firmware version 1.0.8 did address several of the shortcomings the 50S had (in my configuration) that worked mostly flawlessly with the 20S EVO.

The wife and I (she rides her own) put the Sena 50S devices through some rigorous testing last week. Sue does like the Group Mesh comms where she does not have to manually connect to me. Once I found the sweet spot for the VOX settings, the 50S devices functioned quite acceptable. Perfect? No. However much better than the previous firmware.

The main issue with the 50S was the Audio Multi-Tasking. The 50S had a very difficult time performing this function properly with the Sena SR-10. I spoke with the Sena techs on several occasions concerning this shortcoming, and they did address the issues, making very good progress. As it stands now, the 50S are our go to devices.

Getting the bike checked out, for another 70k miles

My 2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide rolled past 70k miles on the way back from this past weekends ride. I purchased this bike from the original owner back in 2010 when it had less than 2k miles on it. It being a limited edition 105th Anniversary model, and 3000 in this color scheme were produced (Sue has a 2008 Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary Road King, with same paint scheme, and is a limited edition as well).

I have this bike setup perfectly for me for longer distances. Although both Sue and I have ridden in poker and charity rides, that’s just not our cup of tea. Playing follow the leader on a detailed ride plan, is simply not our thing. Our ride plans have a beginning and a destination. Where we go in between the two, is usually decided on the fly.

Anyhow, I hit the 70K mile mark this past Sunday while riding back from a weekend ride/camping trip with my good friend Jerry McDowell. My bike is in very very good condition, and I’d like to get yet another 70K miles out of it, so I dropped it off at Tilley Harley-Davidson to have the experts go over the bike end to end, and address any issues that they find. I have always performed the basic services myself. Oils, filters, adjustments, etc, keeping it well maintained. Scott the Service Manager at Tilley H-D even commented on the exceptional condition this bike is in. Nevertheless, I’m sure there will be some areas that need expert attention, that’s why they have it, not a mom and pop shop. Nothing wrong with a mom and pop shop for some services, but not in this case. I want the best for our bikes, and Tilley H-D is the best in our area, hands down.

Great weekend of riding in western NC

Had a wonderful ride and camp with one of my longtime fellow riders, Jerry McDowell.

We departed Hickory around 8AM for the ride to Robbinsville, NC. Made some plan changes due to various weather forecast. Turned out to be a wise decision. Right after we got the tents setup it began to drizzle rain. Not a big deal though cause we had plenty of time for the upcoming 3 1/2 hour ride we had planned. We hung out at the lodge and shot some pool until the rain moved on out, then we jumped on the Harleys (Jerry on his Ultra Classic, and I was on my Street Glide).

Headed to downtown Robbinsville to pick up a bite before heading over the the Cherohala Skyway. Stopped at Wendys and had to WALK thru the drive-thru! LOL Nevertheless, we got it done.

Rode the Cherohala Skyway over the Telico Plains, Tn. The Cherohala Skyway is my favorite route in that area. We didn’t stop to take photos, we were there to ride! Many big sweepers along this route. Did run into rain about 1/2 way across, but not enough to warrant the rain gear. At the end of the Cherohala Skyway is Cherohala Harley-Davidson. Place was very busy, so we didn’t stop. It’s mainly a t-shirt shop anyway. Along the we ran up on a white water rescue underway. The recent rains has swollen the Telico River and a person that appeared to have been ejected from their canoe, was stuck in the middle of the river on some rocks. Many rescue personnel were on the scene. Hope all turned out well.

Once we reached Telico Plains we took route 360, to 411, then 72 back over to 129. Sue and I had ridden this route several times before, and I figured Jerry would enjoy it as well. Once we made it to 129, I needed to pull into US 129 Dragon Harley Davidson for a short break. Jerry did as well. We hung out there for about 15 minutes and decided to head back to Iron Horse, via US 129 (Dragon).

Tail of the Dragon is a lot of hype. It does generate some decent income for that secluded area, and that’s great. But still a lot hype. The Cherohala Skyway or Hwy 28 south to Franklin, NC is a much nicer (curvy ride), without all of the squids riding well above their skill level. I know my skill level, and I stay in it! Anyhow, US 129 aka TOD road is in need of some major repairs. I’ve never seen it in this bad of shape. Road is sinking in many places. So bad it could pitch you off the side, if not paying attention. I really couldn’t wait to reach the end, and head back on Hwy 28. One note I will mention and this was a first for both Jerry and I. We had a crotch rocket rider while on the TOD pull over and let Jerry and I pass! LOL

We made it back to Iron Horse around 6:30PM and we were looking forward to that Prime Rib that awaited us. Yes, it was great. Once dinner was finished, it was time to sit back in a rocking chair and enjoy the evening by the fire pit, for some some good conversation and relaxation. Much needed. Jerry and I hadn’t ridden together in a few years, due to various reason beyond our control, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Catching up we did. Around 10:30 we decided it’s time to hit the sack, and called it a night…

I awoke around 6:30AM and could tell it was getting a little lighter out. Heard a few of the Iron Horse staff begin rolling in, so knew coffee would be available soon. Rolled out of the tent around 6:45 and headed over to the main lodge. A few others were already up and moving about. Coffee was ready. Jerry showed up a few minutes later, and we ordered our breakfast. Pancakes and sausage for me, pretty sure Jerry had a country ham biscuit. Took a quick look at the weather radar. Looked good now, but knew afternoon storms are always in the mix here in western NC. We decided to ride Hwy 28 south to Franklin, then 64 through Highlands, then over to I-26. I wasn’t sure if Jerry had ever ridden 28 to Franklin, and 64 west of Highlands, but I knew he’d love both roads due to the curves. Sure enough was his first ride on these roads, and he loved it. I did as well, even though Sue and I had ridden this route several times in the past. IMO, Hwy 28 to Franklin is a nicer ride than TOD.

As we were headed south on 28, I noticed that we picked up a rider and he fell in behind, and followed us. Once we entered Franklin, I contacted Jerry on the Sena bike to bike comms system letting him know I was pulling in for fuel soon. Shortly down the road I saw the gas station that Sue and I had used several times before. Jerry and I rolled in, and the rider who was following us followed suit. This guy who was from New Orleans who was also staying at Iron Horse saw us heading out, and said it looked like to him that we knew some good roads, and he decided to follow. He said he had no idea that rode we just came down was that fun of a ride. I explained to him, yeah it is, but most riders are here to ride the TOD and the Skyway, and this one is ignored by most. I then told him about another road he may wish to ride while here. Hwy 215 out of Rosman to Canton being one of them. He thanked us for the ride, then Jerry and I headed over to Hwy 64 east.

We made our way onto 64 east. Traffic was light, and the pavement was in good shape. As we traveled through the curvy road, and ran up on cage traffic, these folks were kind enough to use the numerous pull-offs and and let us pass. I could see Jerry was having a blast on his Harley Ultra Classic. He was laying that bike into the curves! Again IMO this route also is more enjoyable than TOD, even with the increase of cage traffic. Once we made it through Highlands and Cashiers, I noticed my water bottle was near empty. Got Jerry on the comms, and we pulled in for a break, a jacket + glove change, and a water bottle refill.

Back on 64 east and Jerry on point, we rode to Hendersonville then jumped on I-26, over to I-40 east, and headed to the barn. Clicked on some good classic rock on the iPhone, streamed it into my helmet via the Sena Bluetooth comms, set the cruise control on the Street Glide and headed back to Hickory. Heck of ride with a good friend. Looking forward to the next…..

Motorcycle Camping tips. What worked for us.

First and foremost you have to have a motorcycle that is capable of carrying your gear, and bike that offers comfort while traveling down the road. Keep in mind, you have to pack this gear, along with your usual riding gear on your bike. Don’t buy oversized gear, and don’t try this on an under-sized motorcycle.

Gear list.
Tent. A good one. Doesn’t have to be very expensive. Not a Walmart special though. I like Marmot, Big Agnes, The Northface, and the REI house brand. They offer several designs, that won’t break the bank. If your camping alone, get a 2 person tent. 2 of y’all get a 3 person tent. Expect to pay between $125.00 to $175.00 for a 2 person tent. Along with the tent, purchase a footprint for your tent, or carry a sheet of plastic that is slightly larger than the bottom section of your tent.

Sleeping system. Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow.
Sleeping bag: Unless your going to be motorcycle camping in sub freezing temps, and good bag rated in the 30’s will do just fine. Again Marmot, Big Agnes, The Northface, and the REI house brand are good choices. I prefer extra room for my feet, so I use a bag that is in between a mummy bag, and a rectangular bag. Expect to pay between $75.00 and $100.00 for a decent sleeping bag.
Sleeping pad: Several choices here, but do keep in mind you have to pack this on your bike. Look for an inflatable sleeping pad that has an R rating of 5 or better, R 5 being perfect for warmth, and pack-ability for how I camp. Cost of a good R 5 rated inflatable pad is between $75.00 and $125.00. And remember, purchase one that is the correct size for your sleeping bag.
Pillow: Inflatable is the way to go here. You have several choices of material. Expect to pay between $20.00 and $30.00 for nice inflatable pillow.

Low side cost of good gear would be around $300.00. Now you need a place to setup camp. The 2 most popular in Robbinsville would be Iron Horse Lodge and Kickstand Lodge. $20.00 per night. Iron Horse Lodge being my favorite. Male and female bathhouses (and they are clean!), restaurant on premises, media room, wifi, covered bike parking, community fire pit for gathering after dark (and some moonshine sipping!) etc. Compare that to the cost of a hotel room for one night in a motorcycling rich environment such as in Robbinsville NC. $125.00 per night on the weekends at the Quality Inn! 3 camping rides and your gear is paid for!

There are of course camping site all throughout the US. I just used Iron Horse Lodge for a comparison to a hotel. I’ve camped on the Blue Ridge Park Way, Skyland Drive, in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and many other locations. If there is not a dedicated motorcycle camp, I look for state parks. I can tell you this AVOID KOA’s.

You’ve got the bike, get the gear, and go enjoy the adventure of motorcycle camping. You can thank me later…