Thursday, August 27, 2015

The New AeroStich R3 Light

What's better than one AeroStich Roadcrafter Light one piece suit?

This past Spring, I sent my AeroStich Roadcrafter Light in for repair, then when I got it back I updated my post review here:

I am incredibly happy with the customer service and communication I received from everyone at AeroStich,  more so the emails from the girls and staff that make things happen, but I'll give credit for the personal emails from both Kyle Allen and Andy Goldfine too.

As I mentioned in my repair review, I was impressed with the heavier stitching and thread they used to repair my suit, they also updated my zippers with new waterproof ones at no additional charge. Thank you again.

Worn suit (left) vs NEW R3 Light (right)

However, I believe it may have been my comment regarding the difficulty putting on my suit, due to the shoulder pads getting in the way when donning my suit, that prompted correspondence from the higher-ups at 'Stich. I received an email from Mr. Goldfine stating that they resolved that issue on the new R3 suit; how the R3 Light is now made entirely with the heavier thread, that some new R3 Light suits are made in the USA and that they can do custom alterations.

Lastly, he mentioned that if I could spare my suit again to send it back to them to retrofit the shoulders. I chuckled to myself, after being without my suit for several weeks, I couldn't possibly surrender it again.

The next logical thing to do was to simply order a new AeroStich R3 Light, right?

Again, the staff at AeroStich kept me updated via emails on my order, when it was being sewn and when it was expected to ship.

When I received my new R3 Light the first thing I checked was the stitching, yes they use the heavier thread for every seam on the R3.

NEW R3 Light

NEW R3 Light

NEW R3 Light - stitching compared to the previous suit

Heavier stitching throughout the suit

The fabric is their 200D GoreTex nylon used on the previous suit, and it has double layers in the elbow, knee, and shoulder area. These same impact areas also have heavy duty hook and loop fastener system (aka VelcroTM) and the TF3 armor as did the previous model. It's the stitching that holds true here.

Comparing the two suits side by side, revealed subtle, yet well improved differences.

The back vent caught my attention right away. On my original suit, I couldn't figure out why the zipper was designed the way it was, other than "it is what it is". It would only open from either side or from the center, so there was little option for venting, left, right, center or all the way open.

Former suit back vent zipper opens in the center

The R3 Light back vent has a zipper that meets in the middle, so to speak. This affords me the option of venting a small or a varying amount from both the right and left side at the same time, as well as either being fully open or fully closed. Like I mentioned, a subtle difference that makes much more sense.

NEW R3 Light opens from the center to vent from the outer edges

NEW R3 Light adjustable back vent
Additional (VelcroTM) has been added to the shoulder pads, so I no longer have to jump, or wiggle into my suit to get the shoulder pad over my shoulder. It slides overtop of my shoulder with much less effort. This was the one major hang up, (pun intended) that I had with my original Light.

Additional velcro to keep the shoulder pad in place
The R3 and R3 Light come with their TF3 shoulder, elbow, and knee pads. However, the TF5 Transit Hip Pads and Hip Pad Sleeves (which should come as a set) and the TF3 Standard Back Pad are all optional and recommended by AeroStich. Just get them! I've been using the big, bulky, TF3 hip pads out of my AD1 pants and the smaller TF5 hip pads are much better.

TF5 Transit Hip Pads
The magnets are now in little sewn pockets, rather than heat seamed or glued pockets. I've never had an issue, but I have heard from others that the glue can fail.

Magnet pocket sewn on NEW R3 Light
Old glue/heat seam pockets

I found this little button hole, which will come in handy for heated gear, I should have ordered an extension cord, but I didn't know the button hole was an added feature to the R3 Light. I have been using a battery operated heated jacket, but now I can go back to my wired, full sleeve, heated jacket.

Made in the USA, not that I have anything against the Vietnamese, but I do prefer keeping jobs local.

Previous model - Made in Vietnam

NEW R3 Light - Made in the USA

I noticed the (VelcroTM) on the hip access pockets is more narrow than the previous suit. I don't know whether or not the wider (VelcroTM) was difficult to separate or pulling on it caused too much stress on the suit. I would think the heavier stitching would have resolved that issue without resorting to less (VelcroTM). I never had a problem, but a friend has had his (VelcroTM) come away from his suit.

New R3 Light (left) vs Previous Light (right)

I also noticed small pieces of (VelcroTM) sewn onto the underarm vents. Was there an issue with vents flapping in the wind? Do these help keep the vents open? Do they create a scoop? I don't know.

NEW R3 Light underarm vent/velcro

Overall, the quality, workmanship, and customer service is what I have come to expect from AeroStich, they are top notch and have set the bar for many other outfitters to reach. AeroStich is a company that designs, manufactures and sells a product that I can trust.

Thank you again to everyone at AeroStich, keep up the great work. I hope to make it to Duluth some day soon.

Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us ever to be entirely indifferent to their condition:  it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body, or even of the soul.  ~Quentin Bell

Saturday, July 18, 2015

CycleGear turning customers away.

Now I'm a pretty loyal customer, I buy my motorcycle gear, parts, and sundries from several local shops to help keep their doors open. And I do my best to shop local before searching online, but local brick and mortar shops of late are making it all too easy to 180º out their door, go home, open up the laptop, (and a cold yummy beer for that matter), while I relax in the comfort of my own home, scroll, click... and purchase.
Oh look! Free shipping to my door!
Would you like to use Paypal to place an order?
Yes, please.
Return policy?
Of course, in fact we'll even pay return shipping for a simple exchange.
Why, thank you.
Oh, and you earned 6 Bonus Bucks for this purchase that you can use for your next purchase.
Would you like to use your loyal customer discount on your purchase today?
Yes, please.
When you receive your item, look in the box for a 15% off coupon too.

That is how you keep customers happy.

Unfortunately, my conversation with CycleGear today went more like this:
I bought a MegaBoost battery with the lifetime warranty in October of 2010, it's starting to act up, and I'm afraid it's going to leave me stranded soon, is there any way you could check it for me?
Do you have the battery with you?
Yes, it's outside in my bike.
Well, our battery tester is in the back, you'll have to remove the battery from your bike and bring it in, sorry but we don't have any tools to assist you.
I have a toolkit, I'll be right back... here's the battery, man it is hot outside.
We'll have to put it on a charger overnight to make sure it's fully charged before testing it.
(Voice in my head) Are you kidding me?!? Why did you have me take the battery out of my bike?!?
Well, I was actually hoping that you'd warranty it for me as it's 5 years old.
We'll have to look in our computer system for the receipt.
No problem, I marked the battery with a Sharpie when I bought it on October 20th 2010, it was midweek because I came up after work to pick it up. I talked to Lauren who used to work here.
(Voice in my head again) Brad, you can't remember what you had for breakfast most days, how the hell did you pull that tidbit of information from your memory?!? Oh yeah, Lauren is cute and now works for Team Oregon.

Lauren and I working together for a Team Oregon photo shoot.

Well, Megaboost changed their policy and doesn't offer the lifetime warranty unless it was before 2011.
Breathe Brad, deep breaths.
Great! I bought the battery in 2010, so it is still under warranty.
Well, we can test your battery but if it holds a charge it is still good.
Fine, go test it then.
It could be your voltage regulator or stator.
Yes, I suppose it could be. But you think that possibly it could be the 5 year old battery?
How about I buy a new battery, you keep the old one overnight, I'll be back tomorrow, then you can refund my purchase price?
But if it holds a charge, then we can't warranty it.
How long does it take to charge the battery?
About 5 hours, but they do come with an initial charge. You'd have install it, ride home then charge it.
That's fine, but you won't warranty the old battery?
No, not if it holds a charge.
Here's a thought, what if you keep the battery in the back room for a year, then when it good and dead you can call me and issue me a refund?
And I can't find record of you purchasing the battery at this store. Sorry we can't help you.
Really?!? Okay, let's review. I'm asking to buy a new battery from you, dispose of the old one, fuck the warranty and you can't grasp that concept?
No problem, thanks for your help, have a great weekend!

Oh look, has a Yuasa battery for my bike, in stock, ready to ship to my door, I receive a 15% AMA member discount, and I earn $2.20 in Bandit Bucks!!!

Oh darn, another cold yummy beer is in the fridge, a mere 20 feet away.

BTW, we noticed Wullerton has the same syllables as CycleGear.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pushing the Limits of Stupid

I'm still alive, we just haven't been doing very much lately, nor anything worth writing about. Since I am not chained to a desk for work, I am not on a computer for 45+ hours a week like I used to be when I started this blog. I was told asked to "be available" during my hour long lunch breaks, so I would use that time to read and write blog posts. My current job has me operating a forklift on the warehouse floor so no cell phones let alone computer access, a quick half hour lunch break, and four 10 hour work days. I love my current schedule, however with being so disconnected, my blog has suffered, my apologies.

~ ~ ~

I have been using my time off riding my mountain bike, however I've been getting bored with the local trails close to home. Trails too close to town means too many people, too many people lead to too many dogs, and too many people with too many dogs leads to too many dog shits. Not pleasant.

So one must travel further away from town to enjoy the fresh air and tranquility. This means loading the bike onto the car and driving for a half hour or more to get to the good trails. So not only for the fun of it, but to save money and gas, Polar Bear and I load up one car and drive to the trails. This can be better for the environment, but putting both of us together in a confined space for more than a half hour has a tendency to lead to some pretty harebrained discussions and ideas.

Many of our discussions usually start off "What if.......?" or  "I've been thinking....." then before long we find ourselves asking each other "How could we........?"

I believe one of our most recent conversations lead to the very question "What if we could carry our mountain bikes on our motorcycles!?!" We could ride our motorcycles to the trails, ride our mountain bikes all day, then ride our motorcycles home!!!
Wow! To think if so much can be accomplished with one mind, can you imagine the endless possibilities when we put our two heads together? Ummmmmmm yeah, that's a rhetorical question, don't answer that.

Andy managed to get his fat bike mounted first and pulled up to the range one morning just as I was finishing up the last exercise of the day. My teaching partner says to me "Hey look! That guy has a bike on the back of his motorcycle!"

Ha, I didn't even have to look, I knew who "that guy" was and during my break I went over to take a look see. He had the bike mounted on a conventional trunk mounted bike rack, then strapped to his top box, perpendicular to his motorcycle. Pretty cool set up, but it was also pretty wide, so I started thinking out loud of other ways to mounting it.

Wait! Squirrel!!! I had to get back to class!

Photo blatantly stolen from Polar Bear

The other instructor with me that day started asking me questions about what we were doing and why. The "what" part of his question was easy to answer, I couldn't explain "why", although I think he knew. He thought it was cool and told me that he used to work in a bicycle shop so he had extra bike mounts kicking around his garage that I could use for my project. Uh oh, not that I need further encouragement, but by not having any parts readily available to me at least I was able to  procrastinate. Not anymore.

I picked up the parts that night and started mocking something up. My thought was to mount the bicycle on the rear rack, parallel or inline with my motorcycle. Using a fork mount and rail I was able to get the bike up there but it needed a much more solid base mount.

Mock up
Friday of last week I went into town to the local metal recycler looking for a piece of aluminum plate to use for a solid mount. They didn't have exactly what I wanted but I scored a couple of aluminum parking signs for cheap and fashioned a sturdy mount out of those.

I got into the project and was anxious to go for a ride, but not in the 100º heat, I had to wait for the temperature to drop that evening. I got everything bolted and strapped down then went for a ride around the block.

I think this is where fear turned to common sense telling me not to do this, but you know what? "Never let fear and common sense stand in your way" and off I went down the road for a shake down ride.

Shake down was exactly that, shaking my bike, shaking my handlebars and shaking my arms. It wasn't too bad at speed, but coming and going from a stop was disconcerting to say the least. I pulled into a deserted parking lot to attempt some professional maneuvers.

"Kids, do not try this at home. I am a professional rider on a closed course."

No, no, no. No way. Nope. Not going to happen. Forget an offset cone weave, I had a hard time completing a straight line cone weave. A swerve at any speed was sloppy at best, and a quick stop was too risky to even try. Forget it, how would I explain a crash like this to my insurance company?

I needed gas in my bike so I wobbled down to the gas station to fill up. I can say that people do see me, I had people gawking, smiling, waving and taking photos of this crazy idiot carrying a mountain bike on his motorcycle.

I topped up my tank and went to head for home. I thumbed the starter button... rrrruurrr, rrruuurrr, rruur.... dead battery! Well... on an up note, technically, I wasn't stranded... I had my bicycle with me.

I pushed the Tiger out of the way and sat for a minute to consider my options. I could ride my bicycle home in 95º heat, or I could call my ever supporting wife to come get me in the car or to boost me. Hmmm, but the battery is under the seat, which is under the bicycle mount, which is bolted to the rack, and my tool kit to undo the bolts is next to the battery, which too is under the bicycle mount, which is bolted to the rack... (along with my motorcycle registration, not that I would get pulled over. A guy with a bicycle on his motorcycle would never attract the attention of the local law enforcement). I didn't, but I guess I should have brought some wrenches with me.

I'll bet, due to the heat that my radiator fan was on and if I wait 10 to 15 minutes, the bike should cool down enough to start. Photo op while we cool down.

"C'mon Lucy, don't let me down! Good girl! Let's go home!"

I plugged her in for the night and gathered up my gear for another weekend of teaching. One stipulation for using the bike rack parts was that I had to show my fellow instructor the completed project. We just happened to be teaching together so Saturday morning I was off to the range, bicycle and all. He loved it and thought it was so cool, but I had to tell him it was not meant to be and that it was just too unstable to keep. He immediately went into devising another way to mount it, "what if you dropped the rear wheel lower?" and "what about mounting it off the passenger peg?"

Isn't funny how friends encourage you to do stupid things?

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.  ~George Scialabra

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Inspiration from a Townie

Sonja posted up photos of her Quest for Spring, but it was her Townie bicycle that inspired me to take my Electra Deluxe Relic 3i out for a bicycle ride today. Thanks Sonja!

I love the older style bikes and follow Rat Rod Bikes with admiration for the work these fabricators do and share.

So I thought I'd strip off the modern reflectors, forgo the helmet and go get some photos of my ride with the idea of making a modern bike look old timey. It helps to have an old timey university nearby.

I love this bike, it reminds me of the bike my dad had and how he would take us for rides on as kids.

A simpler time.... a simpler time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rider Skills Practice

Spring is just around the corner and many of you may be anxious to get out on your bike, if you haven't already....

So, is your bike ready?

You've tested the levers and controls, checked that the headlight, the brake light, signals and horn are all functioning properly. You made sure to replace and top up the fluids. You adjusted and oiled the chain, checked the tires and set the pressure. All systems go!

Now, are you ready?

Edmonton Journal photo
Duh, of course! You just spent most of the winter online shopping for new gear, waiting for the snow to melt to try out the new duds.

Okay, but are YOU ready?

How are your skills? Remember, it's been a cold, dark winter. Many of us haven't ridden for several months and those of us who've managed to sneak in a ride or two, our rides have been short and probably less than stellar. I know my rides have been tense, as I shrug and hunker down to keep the cold air out.

Spring is the perfect time to sign up for a Rider Skills Practice (RSP) course. These courses are great for dusting out the cobwebs of your mind, polishing up on those skills and restoring that muscle memory we've neglected all winter.

I sign up and take a rider clinic every year, whether it's a RSP class or an ART course (cornering and braking clinic) to hone my skills as a professional motorcyclist and instructor.

Rider Skill Practice

Rider Skill Practice

I highly recommend every motorcyclist to do the same, if not every year, at the very least every other year. 

Advance Rider Training

Advance Rider Training

In the classroom of our Basic Rider and Intermediate Rider Training courses, we ask students for their expectations of the course, and most reply with a less than enthusiastic "to get my endorsement". It is my job to surpass that expectation and have the students finish the course with so much more than "just their endorsement", but a life long skill set or foundation to build upon.

 A foundation to build upon.

BASIC Rider Training 

So practice the skills you've learned today, then come back next year and take the Rider Skills Practice. You have your endorsement so there isn't the pressure of taking a test or failing.... whew!

This is about you and building on that foundation, but in a safe environment and the familiarity of your own bike, with the benefit of professional coaching to make you a better, safer, more proficient rider.

So before going out and tearing up the streets this Spring, sign up now for a motorcycle safety course.

And special thanks to Princess Scooterpie for inquiring about the RSP and inspiring this post.