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  • Last year, I met Tom Seymour on the Cannonball Centennial Ride. He's the founder of Saddlemen Seats. After seeing a number of seats from that company on the ride and being very impressed, I asked Tom if I could get one made for my bike. "Just contact me and I'll hook you up." he said.

    When I got home I contacted him to see who in his company I should talk to about having a seat made for my beloved Blue Oil Burner and asked him what the price range would be. "I really don't want to take your money. How about we make you one for review?" he said. I was humbled and honored.

    Unfortunately, shortly after I received the seat, a series of Very Bad Things(tm) happened which have conspired to stop me in my tracks for almost a year. Because I was so late in getting anything written, I reached out to Tom to offer to pay full price for the seat on two occasions. To say I dislike disappointing people, especially ones who have been so kind to me, is an understatement. He assured me it wasn't a problem and looked forward to what I had to say when I finally got around to saying it.

    So after many thousands of miles in all kinds of different conditions, much internal agonizing, and some key insights I've finally come up with something to say on the subject of Custom Seats By Saddlemen. 

    Executive Summary:

    • The ordering and build process is trouble free. You send them a seat pan. You describe what you want and how you ride. They build a seat. If you then find it's not exactly what you wanted, you can send it back once and they will alter it.

    • The degree to which they achieved what I specified is nothing short of impressive. My directions were, "Understated. Clean. Oriented towards two up brisk mountain riding." That is exactly what I got.

    • Is this the best most comfortable seat I have ever owned? Yes.

    • The quality, craftsmanship, design, and durability is top notch. The seat speaks quality and does not feel "custom". 

    • Surprisingly, I take much longer rides since getting this seat. It took me a while to recognize that parts of my body that you would think are completely unrelated to the seat hurt much less. This included my legs, knees, feet, hips, and back. The net effect is my shorter day rides have been hovering around 350 miles up from 200 miles and by the time I get home I am much less beat up. This was not something I expected. 

    • Contrary to what I would have thought, water drains out of the central channel quickly.

    • Unlike showroom seats, these seats are designed to be sat on for extended periods. Initially I was skeptical about how comfortable the seat would be for extended periods as the seat was quite firm, but after spending time with it I began to understand the wisdom of the design.

    • When you have something custom made to your specifications, it's easy to get caught up in what you hope to do as opposed to what you actually do and this can result in you getting what you ask for but not what you need. In my case, I ordered a seat for sport touring that was easy to move around on. What did I actually do? I spend many hours on the Interstate not moving around and wondering why I hurt more than I had hoped for. 
    • When left in direct sunlight, the gel in the seat seems to soak up quite a bit of heat which if you are wearing textile gear can be quite uncomfortable until the seat cools down. 

    • Because the seat was made accurately to my specifications, it's more rounded allowing me to move more easily on twisties but that means the edges of the pan tend to cut in my legs a bit when I sit still. On days I spend on back roads I pretty much experience no seat related pain, which I think is amazing. On days when I spend all day tank to tank sitting in the same position, it still hurts. However, it hurts much less than any other seat I spend extended time on. I suspect if I remember to move around just a bit while doing highway miles it would be less painful. I could also have the seat tweaked to bias it more towards long distance riding but I suspect that will compromise it's sport touring nature.

    • Having some more resources available to help the first time novice custom seat purchaser narrow down their requirements would be helpful. A Revzilla style video explaining the options and the typical gotchas would have been very helpful.

    • Is this the most comportable seat I have ever sat on? No. Another Saddlemen Seat is. (see below) I go back and forth as to whether I want to send the seat back to have it tweaked slightly altered to see if it can be made to more closely resemble the GSXR seat I saw. I would also make the passenger portion of the seat flatter and include a slight ridge to prevent the passenger from sliding forward so easily. Sadly, I no longer ride with a passenger so getting a thorough passenger review is something I am unable to provide.

    • I am sold on these seats. I will be buying ones for the guest bike and, if it's possible, also for the DR650SE dual sport.  

    Last year as I was traveling across country with the Cannonball Centennial Ride, I met Tom Seymour at breakfast one day. He is the chairman of Saddlemen Seats. Over the next few days, I had the pleasure of talking to him a number of times. 


    I live in somewhat of an abstract world and details often fail me. I had noticed in passing that the seats on many bikes looked a bit unusual in that they had a channel running down the middle, but I did not initially pay much attention to them. My focus was on the ride. After talking to Tom however I did take a much closer look at the various kinds of Saddlemen made seats present on these bikes. I looked closely at the design and craftsmanship. The quality and design made quite an impression. They certainly seemed better made and "much more serious" than any seats I have encountered before.


    I talked to a few of the riders who raved about their Saddlemen seats. It was around this time that I started to become aware of just how much I hated the seat on my bike. It was more pain maximizing torture device than cradle and had quickly gotten to the point where it felt more like brick than cushion. The Airhawk Seat Pad I had picked up before the ride turned out to be a big help but it left a great deal to be desired. With the Airhawk it's hard to lean off or feel all that connected to the bike. Fortunately, for the kind of long distance straight road riding I had mostly been doing on this trip, the pad wasn't that much of a hindrance. However, on twisty back roads I find it often gets in the way and if it's particularly hot out I also find it tends to make the ride a bit hotter.


    I approached Tom and asked how I might be able to get a seat for my bike. Since it's such an old and relatively unpopular bike, Saddlemen didn't have an off the shelf seat for it but Tom said I could ship my existing seat in and they would be able to craft something for me. "Just contact me when you're ready and I'll hook you up." he had said.

    So when I got back home I did contact Tom, as I mentioned above. I was fully willing to pay for the seat but he suggested I do a review instead. I agreed. Tom mentioned that the April June timeframe was their silly season and wondered if I could wait until July. Of course, I could wait. They were doing me a favor and not the other way around.

    July arrived and I contacted him. He said, "I need your seat. Include your address, phone number and a sketch of what you think you would like (higher, lower, wider, narrow at nose, flat seating platform to prevent sliding - that sort of thing.). Our service techs do a verbal interview, but a sketch adds to the process (but not always necessary) - it's the starting point. With a seat and a sketch, or your comments, in front of them it is easy to go through the custom build sheet. We sell 100 "off the shelf" seats for every 1 custom, so most customers select a seat from our customers catalogs (like Parts Unlimited or Drag Specialties who sell to 10,000 dealers in the US) or from our website. We do customs for bikes where we don't offer an off the shelf selection (like your BMW.) "

    I did as I was instructed, but the problem I faced is that I had no experience to determine what features I might like in a seat. I focused on the times where I really noticed my current bucket style seat's limitations. It was hard as a board and had these ridges along the edge that always cut into my legs. So I took a photo of my existing seat and a photo of a seat that I saw on the Cannonball Ride. "Clean. Simple. Sport Touring Functional." I wrote along with the photos. I shipped a spare stock BMW K100RS seat I had from a parts bike to them and shortly afterwards received an email from one of their service techs.

    "I have your seat here at Saddlemen. We are going to customize it for you and  I have a few notes in front of me.  But If you could please call me or leave a phone number  where you  can be reached at,  I would like to go into greater detail of what you will like in your seat and give you more options. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and getting a custom Saddlemen seat  on your bike."

    I got in touch with the service tech. He mentioned that most of the seats he builds are for cruisers and wanted to get a much better idea of how I was going to be using the seat. He asked if I wanted to have anything special done with the styling and rattled off a number of options. I replied that I just wanted something in vinyl that was clean and simple, nothing fancy, but that since it was a review if they wanted to plaster a large Saddlemen logo on it that would be fine. We talked for a bit longer and from the conversation I got the impression that he didn't understand the kind of riding I do. "Does that bike of yours lean?" he had asked.

    So I showed him this photo.  


    We talked some more when I mentioned that I also do a tremendous amount of riding with a passenger and showed him this photo.  


    I heard a bit of conversation on the other end of the phone. "Oh, I just called over the other guys to show them this photo. That's pretty cool!" he said. "Yea, she's the best passenger I've ever had." We chatted some more and after a little while I got the feeling he really understood what I thought I was looking for.

    There was a little snafu which caused the build to take a few weeks longer than expected but that was not a problem. The seat arrived almost exactly one year ago today. 


    The seat was professionally packaged and insulated against damage which was good since the shipper had clearly impacted the box.


     When I pulled the seat out I had a "Whoa." moment. The degree to which the service tech nailed the "Simple. Clean. Sport Touring Functional." was immediately apparent.


    I don't know what I had expected. When I think 'custom builds' I guess my thoughts go towards 'prototype'. Looking at this seat though I thought, "This doesn't look 'custom' to me at all. This looks like a production seat that's already been through countless revisions." The build quality is simply fantastic. It feels very "solid". It also feels much more like "quality" than even the stock BMW seat did.  


    I flipped it over and one could see who solidly the vinyl is secured to the seat pan. I suspect this is not going to come loose any time soon. 


    Clearly the Corbin seat I had, which had quickly turned into a brick, is more oriented towards straight up riding. The edges always cut into my thighs and in general the seat just hurt.


    I mounted the Saddlemen seat and I noticed another thing I hadn't expected. Not that I pay a great deal of attention to looks but this seat significantly, at least to my eyes, improves the looks of the bike.  


    The plan had been to start putting miles on the seat so I could write a review before winter hit in earnest. As I mentioned above, Very Bad Things(tm) happened in succession and then Winter hit the DC area with a vengeance. I draw the line at ice. All this conspired to prevent me from doing any significant riding until spring time. I only put maybe 50 miles two up on the bike before the season was over.

    My initial impression riding the bike was that the seat at first feels much firmer than one would expect. I had anticipated a softer "initial feel" but after putting some miles on it I realized that "initial feel" is what sells bikes in a showroom but not what works after extended time on road. The seat material is a multi-layer affair including some gel. It feels to me like it "breaks in" a bit as the miles pile on. It is quite amazingly comfortable.

    The pillion position is sloped downward a bit more than I like which causes a passenger, especially if she's wearing textile gear, to slide forward too easily. If I find myself doing significant miles with a passenger again, I'll likely send the seat in to have the pillion leveled out a bit and possibly include a slight ridge to further mitigate the sliding forward issue. 

    Spring rolled around and the maelstrom that was my life had not settled down much. I did manage to do a two thousand mile Deal's Gap and Smoky Mountains trip where I met Wayne Busch of America Rides Maps. He showed us an endless array of just wickedly twisty roads. 


    Interestingly, I failed to notice the seat on this trip despite the fact that I was trying to pay attention. A seat is something that is typically, at least after a few hours, first and foremost on my mind. I also failed to notice that I wasn't getting nearly as tired after 90 miles as I normally do. I instituted the "take a break every 90 miles" rule years ago because after about 90 miles everything starts to hurt and if I don't take a break I'll hurt so much that my days get cut short.

    I did notice, however, that riding my bike on these twisty roads was easier. Having less of a ridge on the sides of the seat also made it much easier when flatfooting the bike.

    It was fairly hot on this ride and one time having left the bike out to bake in the sun I noticed the seat got quite hot. I suspect the gel in the seat soaked up the heat. Having textile gear on allowed alot of that heat to transfer to me and it took some time for it to cool down. I think riding through a desert or in other hot climates, I might keep a towel or something to drape over the seat if I leave it in the sun for long.

    One thing I had been concerned about looking at the design of the seat was the water would accumulate in the center channel as I could see no visible drains. To my surprise less water pools in that center channel than would accumulate on my previous seat. If you let it sit for just a little while all the water drains out. Impressive. 

    While down at the Gap, John came down to meet us on his GSXR 750. I immediately recognized that the seat was also made by Saddlemen. 


    Compared to the seat on my bike this one has a much more aggressive channel and much more padding. John let me take his bike through the Gap which was tremendous fun. The seat on his bike, at least for the 45 minutes that I was on it is wicked comfortable. (Just last night I was chided on the use of the word "wicked" which from a New Englanders perspective has a specific meaning. I do mean this seat was "wicked comfortable." You may, however, disagree.)

    If you look very closely at my seat you'll notice where the padding gets very thin towards the forward edge of the pan. I find that on extended Interstate travel that edge does cut into my legs a little bit. If I were to have the seat tweaked, aside from the passenger modifications I discussed, I'd likely have the profile adjust ever so slightly to more resemble this seat. I fear however that would raise the height a bit. Everything is a tradeoff.


    I had intended on writing this post after getting back from the Gap trip but something was nagging at me. I just didn't feel like I had enough insight to write anything meaningful. In July and then again in August, I took the Superslab up to Ontario, Canada. Contrary to how I like to travel, these were trips on a Schedule(tm). I decided to do the 500+ miles in a day but on both trips I got late starts so had to make up time. 

    It was on these trips that I noticed several things:

    • My knees, legs, hips, and back hardly hurt at all where as after about 100 miles all would previously hurt. Correlation does not imply causation but as far as the bike goes the seat is the only change I've made. While I do not know for certain, my suspicion is that the center channel is largerly responsible for this improvement. Now when I get on a normal seat, I'm immediately very aware that the center channel is missing and things are getting pressed on.

    • While it was not pain free, I was able to without going into agony ride through two full tanks of gas stopping only to get gas. In all the years I've been riding, I've never done that without the help of a tremendous amount of Advil and that was back 20 years ago. I should note that this seat might be pain free for someone without an autoimmune disease that expresses itself in joint pain. 

    • I find it's much easier to shift around on the seat sliding forward or backwards and that after a few moments if I happened to be experiencing any pain it would dissipate as long as I moved. The key seems to be not to stay in any one spot for any length of time.

    • The pain I did feel was mostly the narrow contact points where ass meets seat. Sometimes being in significantly less pain gets you, irrationally, to overfocus on the small remaining pain. Slightly more padding with a flatter profile might help in this long haul context.

    On these longish superslab trips, I found myself troubled that this seat that I regarded so highly was not "Ironbutt Ready". As I keep reminding myself, context is key. Change the context ever so slightly and you have to reexamine all your assumptions.

    I had only talked about Deal's Gap and cornering with the service tech. I talked about leaning, moving around on the seat, and riding in a spirited fashion. At no point did I think to mention that I only do that for maybe one or two weeks a year and that at times I might sit for endless hours on Superslab. I had described to him the riding that I like to do but not the riding that I actually do. 

    It was on the second Ontario trip that I realized I had, in fact, gotten exactly what I had asked for. I had asked for a sport touring seat molded for the purpose of carving mountain roads and this is exactly what I received. It was around this time that I also began to understand that a "review" would not be appropriate. A "review" is relevant for a commodity. I buy a thing and review it so that you can read the review and gain some understanding of what you might experience with whatever is being reviewed.

    This however, is a custom seat created according to my specificiations. Telling you that I have a 4.5 out of 5 star seat is in large part just telling you about how I view my design decisions and where I did not think clearly. So this is more a description of an experience. 

    Professionally, I write largeish one off custom software systems. There are quite a few parallels between what I do and the buiding of a custom seat. My customers typically are not experienced 'custom software purchasers' so there is an education step. There's a great deal of communication involved where I try to understand not only what they are trying to convey but also what they are not telling me. I have to use imagination and experience to anticipate that unspoken needs my customers have. Inevitably, it's a trial and error process as we get to know one another. As I build versions of software, they get a better understanding of what's possible and their requirements then get adjusted. So we iterate against a moving target. This is how it always is. 

    So, to view a custom seat as a "product" where a company magically "get's it right the first time" is not a constructive model. It's probably more constructive to think of a custom seat builder as a provider of a professional service. They service tech takes your requirements as you describe them and their experience in an attempt to deliver something that meets your spoken and unspoken needs within the constraints of the stock seat pan you send them.

    Given how little experience I have with ordering custom work and how little I described, it's amazing to me how well they hit this target. Is this seat an Iron Butt seat? No. But I did not ask for an Iron Butt ready seat. I think if I had the resulting seat would have compromized on it's sport touring character. Any choice involves a tradeoff between competing requirements, in this case long haul comfort versus sporting usability.

    So as I was logging all those Interstate miles wondering why it was not completely pain free I realized that I need to take responsibility for my own choices and understand the tradeoffs I had asked for. I also believe this is where the wisdom of "one free alteration" comes from. Customers, myself included, rarely know what they actually want. You have to give them something that helps them frame what they want. I do it in software. Saddlemen does it with seats.  

    Towards the end of July Duncan and I restarted our weekend day rides. We had remarked a number of times on these rides that I was able to go much further before complaining that I was tired or hurting too much. While before we used to do 200 miles we were now regularly clicking off 300+ and I was hardly feeling like I had spent any time on the bike. On this last ride, we did 430 miles of hill and mountain roads and by the time I got home I was in no pain. Of course, on these roads I am moving around a fair bit.

    "This seat is perfect for the mountain road context." I found myself thinking, and it is.

    In conclusion, this is the best seat I've owned. For the purpose I asked it to perform, Saddlemen has executed to near perfection. Just like the myth of the four seasons riding suit, a seat for all purposes is likely also unattainable. Make something sportier it's going to compromise it's long haul use. I may just need to have two seats for my bike and switch them. 

    If I had it to do over again I would:

    • pay more attention to the full range of riding I do. For a single seat, I would probably compromise and decide to go with a slightly more touring oriented seat and then complain about how it isn't perfect down at Deal's Gap. 

    • research more existing seats. If I had encountered the GSXR seat prior to having my seat made, it would have influenced what I asked for. Additional research may have also provided me a better vocabulary to use.

    • be more willing to go through the alteration experience. It might be interesting to see whether or not there's a better compromise to be made for my use case.   

    In conslusion, do I like the seat? Yes.

    Do I think it rocks? Yes.

    Do I think it's perfect? It perfectly matches what I asked for.

    Would I buy one? Yes.

    Will I buy one for my other bikes? Hell Yes.

  • This guest post is contributed by long term Miles By Motorcycle member and frequent contributor, John St. John, who we met down at Deal's Gap along ⁞with his son Joel some years ago.

    Adventures in Learning

    This spring, I finally bought an Adventure Bike. What ensued was a learning experience about many previously ignored aspects of motorcycling, and a great need to learn how to more fully use the Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, that came with the bike. The following is my meager attempt to explain my personal quest to learn the basics of plotting a course, uploading files to the GPS, and following a pre-planned “Route”.

    Now, to anyone that knows how to do all this already, I say: “shame on you”, for not sharing this secret knowledge. Internet browsing, I found only snip-its of information and hints as to what others could do. Where is that global sharing of rider insights and information, when the topic is using a GPS? Is it really so obvious to everyone else? Am I really getting that far behind the technology curve? The answers to my questions are a resounding “YES”, but, still…….someone needs to break the silence. This is both a call for help, and my small contribution to the web content on the subject of using a GPS.

    Background: The event that created a need.

    On a recent charity, Big Bike Rally for Cystic Fibrosis, the sponsors handed out “Rally Sheets” and had GPS tracks available for uploading the Route to a GPS. We were to follow a course they had carefully planned out for us, which included many scenic back roads, a lot of which were dirt, and some “Hero Sections” that were truly challenging to ride on a big adventure bike. (Think: Long Way Round, in Mongolia.) The planned route, included a free lunch stop: a real incentive to make at least one check-point.

    The Big Bike Rally consisted of about 30 riders that self sorted themselves into smaller, more manageable groups, based upon luck, timing, and a process that reminded me kids picking their softball teams. Now, the guys with GPSs either did not have a cable to upload the files, or wouldn’t admit that they didn’t know how to do it, anyway. I suspected both to be true when a fellow asked me if I had a “BMW Cable”. Regardless, no one had the route on their GPS.

    Being “Big Bike” riders on large adventure bikes, no one in our group had any experience with what dirt bike riders use on these sorts of organized events: “Rally Sheets”. (Think: adding machine roll tapes with tiny fonts, on a tiny roman scroll, mounted to your handlebar.) We could look at the scroll, or look at the road……so we all got hopelessly lost.


    We did manage to find the lunch stop, but missed a large portion of what must have been a great ride. We found the lunch stop by imputing the address of the restaurant into the GPS, and subsequently followed it’s directions through some awful urban blight and congested highway, to reach our “Destination”. The GPS not only was useless to follow a nice pre-planed route, but it gave terrible advice on how to recover from getting lost. I was so miserable. Here we were, a group of adventure riders in full armor, sitting in downtown traffic. The “avoid highways” option does not mean “find me a nice pleasant twisty route down back roads”. I wish it did.

    So, the next morning, I awoke with a conviction to figure out how to use my GPS. And in part two, I’ll tell “the rest of the story”. Right now, it’s time to ride.

    Part 2:

    Entering the story: Neighbor Dave (as he likes to be called) is an enigma. He’s one of those rare individuals who’s hitch hiked all around the world, several times, hiked every trail you’ve ever heard of, and some you haven’t, and in general seems to have a depth of knowledge, on any topic, that few possess.

    “So, you got an Adventure bike?”, he says. Then, he proceeds to tell me about all of these adventure bike rides with memorable names like the “Puppy Dog Ride” in Vermont, the “Trans-Mass” tail in Mass, and the “Hampster Trail” that runs the length of New Hampshire, on mostly dirt roads.

    More than a little intrigued, I looked up the “Hampster Trail” on the internet; nothing. Then “Hampster Trail adventure ride”: Bingo!

    In this post on the Advrider forum, the author offers several links: the first is to a drop box file. Not having a Dropbox account I shied away from there, besides, I didn’t know what I would do with the file if I downloaded it, anyway.

    Next: there’s a link to a site called “Rally Navigator”

    Here, I could see the route, it’s way points, and see that the site allowed the user to create his or her own routes. Now, we’re getting somewhere! Although, I could tell that a major emphasis of the site was to create the Rally scrolls that I hated, I could also see that it might provide the missing link I needed to make my GPS really useful.


    So, after creating a free account, I was able to save some pre-made routes to my own personal routes library, and even make and save a route of my own. Now, to get these files onto my GPS. I hit the button to “My Routes” and was able to see the files I had saved to there (wherever “there” is).


    Not being terribly computer savy, I clicked on the name, which took me back to the map view, with no new functionality. So, back around to “My Routes”, again. Under the “Actions” column, you can select the only option that there is for action, which is to download the GPX file. So far, so good.

    With the GPX file on my local computer, I plugged in my Garmin Zumo 550, which immediately caused it to prepare for USB mass storage by backing up all my the GPX waypoints, routes and trip log information in GPX format. Files that I didn’t even know I had. Next, I downloaded the Garmin Express software, which configured itself to work with the found device. (I must really be boring some of you, but I’m trying to be thorough here.) The tools, vehicles and voices features in the Garmin Express software all seemed pretty useless, to me.

    Using Windows explorer, I walked down through the file folders on the device and found the GPX folder, and copied the saved GPX files into there. Oddly, as long as the GPS was connected to the computer, or powered by the USB cable, I could not access the menus, but only had this screen.


    As luck would have it, when I went out to the bike to use the new routes I’d downloaded, the GPS would not load the maps. It tried for a few seconds, then quit; again, and again. After a second attempt to load the files, and a little searching on the internet, I found some chatter about the batteries on these units often go bad. And, when they go bad, the GPS won’t work, even when plugged into power on the bike. The test for whether you need a new battery, or if you just need a new GPS, is to take the battery out of the GPS and plug it in. If it powers up, you need a new battery. (Sorry, I digress).

    After loosing the battery, I just walked through the menus on the Garmin: Where to; Routes; Selected the Hampster Ride; and hit Go! Whala! And, so I did.



    Part 3: Retrospective

    It seems that once I knew enough to start looking for GPX files, and my searches included the term “GPX”, the subject of mapping and routes with a GPS just started to unfold, easily. Once I understood how the pieces of the GPS puzzle fit together, (so to speak) the Miles-By-Motorcycle mapping function suddenly started working great! (For years, I thought that only Yermo could get it to work;-)



    Learning anything new is a lot like riding a motorcycle. Once you’ve gotten some traction, and enough momentum to keep from stalling, you just start rolling along. Fear and frustration is replaced by excitement, and then matures to a deep and lasting joy.


  • This is a guest post by Miles By Motorcycle member, Lisa Hall which was originally posted to the forum here.

    In Lisa's own words, "I'm a passionate motorcyclist. If I'm not riding I'm reading about riding. I've been riding for over 21 years and have logged over 275,000 miles. I'm getting close to 300,00. My husband and I began riding at the same time and we have loved each and every mile. We've been involved with group riding since 96 and have led thousands of rides and trips. I do all of the ride planning which is really something I enjoy. i get the most satisfaction when people comment on how much they've enjoyed the ride. I've been across the country and to New Foundland and Nova Scotia. I've have had many diffirent motorcycles Hondas Kawasaki BMW Harley. My favorites were the Gold Wing. The K1600 and my current bike A 2013 HD Road Glide."

    Read on for her review.

    I promised I would give a review of the new Sena 20S Bluetooth headset. I purchased the 2 pack from Revzilla and as usual with Revzilla It was delivered in 2 days. I couldn't wait to start playing. In the box comes two headsets already paired, 2 mounts, 2 boom mics, 2 wired mics, 2 car chargers, 2 usb chargers, 8 mic socks.  I was quite impressed with all the goodies that came in the package. Mounting the headsets was easy (I've installed lots of headsets on helmets so it was a snap). The only thing I thought was odd was the screws that secure the mount to the helmet face the inside of the helmet making screwing them in slightly more difficult but no big deal.  I mounted my headset to my 3/4 helmet and mounted my husbands headset to his half helmet (I made pockets for the speakers to sit in the half helmet).    

    Sena has a smartphone app for this unit so I downloaded that and quickly paired my iPhone using the app. The app also allows you to set some basic functions on the headset. Next I paired my GPS and again everyone paired easily

    Today was the first time using the headsets. I was so excited this morning but as we were ready to pull out my unit says "battery Low" and shuts off. Well it turns out I had left the unit on after playing with it during the week. No problem my husband has a 12volt charger in his trunk so I got one of the car chargers and plugged it in for our ride to the meeting location today. It got a 40 min charge and that was good enough.
    Now it's finally time to see how these work.  I was really impressed with the sound quality and the volume. As I said my husband was using a half helmet and I was worried about wind noise being transmitted, but that was never a problem. I heard him loud and clear.  Even on the highway I could hear him well.  

    I was able to play music through my iPhone and the quality of the music was pretty good for helmet speakers. Probably better than others I have used. The music would play and if either one of us spoke the music would be lowered to a background level that you can adjust.  

    These units can pair with other non Sena Bluetooth headsets as my friends have the scala g9.  I wasn't able to try that out today but will give a report when I do.

    Overall I am completely happy with this purchase and grateful to have a decent communication system

    Update from 12/6/2014:

    As an update on the performance of the 20s one of our units kept shutting off randomly throughout the day. I contacted Sena they asked me to try a couple of resets. I did that but still the unit would shut off. Now they are sending me a replacement under warranty and paying for the return of the defective unit. 

    Im very pleased with how Sena responded.

    The other unit works perfectly. 

    The Sena 20S is available for purchase from Revzilla.

    * Please note that Miles By Motorcycle is a RevZilla affiliate.

  • On July 26, I was invited to give a talk at Bobs BMW Motorcycles in Jessup, Md about my time on the Cannon Ball Centennial Ride which I took part in from Dodge City, Kansas to Battery Park, New York, New York. A long time family friend, Dr. Garret Hyde, offered to record it. 

    I feel terribly self conscious about this. Now, gritting my teeth with trepidation, I am making the videos of the presentation available.

    It's a one hour presentation divided into 5 parts.

    I worked on the presentation until nearly 2AM the previous night and as a result did not have a chance to give it a dry run through. So this was done cold-turkey.

    After the fact, I realized there were so many themes I wanted to tie together which weren't tied together to the degree I would really have preferred. 

    During the ride, talking to Gary McKechnie who created a wonderful series of blog entries about the ride along with companion videos (my bike can be seen in a couple), I mentioned that I thought that what actually happens on a ride, during an event, or a time in life, is far less important than what it means. What can we learn from what we are seeing? 

    I pre-occupied myself with this thought as I rode across the country with a diverse group of people from backgrounds so different than my own.

    Of course, any ride involves thoughts of risk. The risk of falling. The risk of injury. But there are other risks and how we respond to those risks will determine if what we have is just another ride or maybe a great adventure.  

    The focus of the ride for most was the story of Cannon Ball Baker and what he accomplished 100 years ago in taking a 7 hp Indian motorcycle, which at that time was little more than an over-glorified bicycle with a motor, across the country on a record breaking run. It was a great accomplishment if one considers the hardships he had to endure covering so much distance across a largely unimproved country. There's the old saying that, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." But there is also another perspective that makes history even more personally relevant. As times change and "new normals" arise we have found ourselves in an era where it's often considered "too dangerous" to take any risks let alone ride a motorcycle across the country, even given all the safety equipment and other gear we now have available to us. We live in an age ruled by fear. "Motorcycles are too dangerous." many say. There are those who would like to see the driver removed from cars "for safety". Looking back and hearing these stories of so long ago reminds us of what we were once capable of, of how we used to dream much bigger dreams, and how we did not shy away from those dreams for fear of the risks involved. There was a time when people looked to the moon and dreamed of going there.

    There were also the stories of these riders 100 years later, which for me were in many ways more inspiring. Their stories are worthy of a good telling as well. There were champion racers. There were adventurers who had ridden motorcycles on every contintent. There were those from industry. Listening to a few stories, I was amazed to hear the kinds of challenges and adversity these men have endured and overcome.  Accidents, pain, or life threatening injuries did not dampen their spirit. At each point, when they fell, they got up again and continued on. After listening to some of these stories, I felt a little self-conscious thinking about the little challenges I've faced and the toll they've taken on me.

    There was also the theme of age. At 46 years old, I was one of the youngest members of the ride. Watching these riders, one a grandmother on a GSXR 750 no less, was an inspiration. I have often commented about how old I feel. I've always felt old. I've listened to 21 year olds tell me they feel old. I've even wondered how many more times I would be able to go cross country. Then I join these riders across the country and see what they can do and suddenly I don't feel so old. I feel embarrassed.

    Why do we feel old? It dawned on me that we cannot imagine how we are going to feel tomorrow. We only know how we felt yesterday, what we used to be able to do, and compare it to today. Tomorrow is an unknown so of course we feel "older" than we ever have. A big theme for me from this trip was not to fall into the trap that dreams die with age. As long as we are breathing we can still strive and seek as long as we do not yield to the inconvenience of age.

    And finally, "There's something about motorcycle people." she said early in the trip and that observation became a theme of its own. Once the helmets are on and the kickstands are up, we are all just motorcyclists and there's something about that regardless of whether you are famous race winner, a titan of motorcycle industry, or just a random stranger, the motorcycle and what it means to us all brings us together in a way that few things in life do.

    For more information please see:

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  • There are many ways to travel. Most people like to book reservations and know exactly where they are going to end up when. For me that feels too much like day to day life. I learned a long time ago when I was in a very different place, that being flexible and open on the road can unlock doors that from the start you would not have imagined possible. 

    I've tried to share this view, but in practice it's harder than in theory. 

    I had parted company with John and Lucy and headed out from Canon City to the Big and Flat that is the midwest. Despite having started late in the day, I was making good time and by early afternoon I was just outside of Dodge City. I had been second guessing my decision to leave. John and Lucy's kids are flying out on Friday to ride around Colorado. It would have been fun to spend some time with them.

    However, I was feeling the pressure to get home. There's much that I need to do and funds are getting low. My plan was to push through another few hundred mles and then have an easy few days to arrive home on Saturday in time for Mothers Day on Sunday.

    I ran through nearly a tank of gas breaking my 90 mile rule, and suffering appropriately for it when I stopped at a gas station to fill up. I noticed a couple of bikes. A custom Harley and a bike that I first thought was an old Indian frame with a new engine in it. It looked like something Duncan would like, so I asked the rider if I could snap a photo.

    "Sure." he replied so I did. Strangely, this Indian really appealed to me. It was clean and it had dirt on it. I liked the rough and used look.

    "Is that an old Beemer?" he asked.

    "1992" I replied.

    "So not old." he replied. "Where are you headed?"

    "Back home to Maryland."  

    "How far did you go?"

    "Out West to Los Alamos to visit a buddy and then tooling around New Mexico. A few thousand miles."   


    The he said, "Hey, we're meeting a bunch of bikers over at a hotel in Dodge City. You should join us. I'm sure we can get you a room at the hotel."

    I guess I must have given him a tentative look as I was pondering what I might encounter. I had visions of feeling really out of place in some rowdy biker bar scene.  

    "Oh, most of the bikes there are like yours. That and lots of adventure bikes." he said betraying a strange perceptiveness and willingness to put me at ease.  

    "Oh, ok. I'm in."

    I hold on to my wants loosely. I had wanted to do a few hundred more miles that evening but this was an opportunity to meet another group of riders. 

     "Who knows what might happen?" I thought innocently enough.

    So I followed them towards Dodge City.

    As we rode along I found myself thinking about taking chances. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or what kind of people I might encounter.  Was it going to be ok? I've traveled with people who were closed to these kinds of things. "We don't know these guys from Adam, why would we trust them? They're going to trick us. I can feel it." I can remember them saying. don't enjoy traveling with those who are not open on the road. 

    "There's something about motorcycle people." Debbie had said. Her friend Andy had been concerned about her traveling alone and meeting up with random strangers. "But that's the best part." I think I replied.

    So here I was riding behind a custom Harley and in front of some strange Indian. Both riders had clearly been riding for quite some time as we all stayed in a perfect staggered formation without a word having been spoken about it. "These guys have been riding a long long time. They get it." I thought. Normally, you don't see Indians, Harleys (especially custom ones), and BMW's riding in perfect staggered formation. The 17 miles passed quickly.

    We rolled up to the hotel they had mentioned and I saw that there were nearly 30 bikes of all makes and models. There were guys about futzing with their bikes. 

    "This might be ok." I thought. 

    Someone mentioned something about a centennial ride related to someone named Erwin that had done some cross country trip in 1914. "Ok, so this is a group ride across the country." I thought. 


    I got off my bike and walked in to see if I could get a room. "If there's no room for you, you can take mine and I'll share one." my new companion said. I thought that was amazingly generous especially for a complete stranger. "By the way, my name is Robert." he said.

    As it turned out, there was a room available. The pretty young woman behind the counter asked, "Are you with the riding group?" and before I could respond, Robert said "Yes."

    I didn't give it much thought. 

    I walked back outside to take a look at this strange Indian. 


    I put my stuff away and then walked back outside. The initial plan had been to go some place else but it was then decided to eat in the hotel Saloon. I wandered in and saw Robert sitting with a group of people chatting away.

    Walking into groups of people I don't know always makes me feel awkward and off balance. At first glance, I got the feeling these guys were not at all what I had initially thought. They were professionals of some sort and clearly were into riding. I listened and awkwardly tried to join in the conversation. There was the typical guy banter and storytelling. I didn't have much to contribute. Robert explained the trip he was on. It was to retrace the route of Erwin "Cannonball" Baker who in 1914 smashed the cross country record of 20 days. He did it in 11 on a 7 horse power Indian in an era where the road system was, let's say, challenging.

    There's also a website

    I had never heard of Cannonball, but someone mentioned that it's where the "Cannonball Run" comes from. It turns out it's an industry invite-only event that's been in the planning for 3 years.

    I asked Robert about his Indian figuring it was some custom.

    "It's a prototype that's likely going to be scrapped but I talked them into letting me take it on this trip." I think he called it and "Indian Adventure Bike". I believe he also mentioned that the guy who built the Spirit of Monroe streamliner fabricated the bash plate protecting the engine.

    (It turns out that Indian Motorcycles has an article about it. So does Cycle World.)

    "Really? How is it that you were able to secure yourself an Indian pre-production prototype?" I asked wondering how someone might be able to make that happen. 

    "I'm the PR Manager for Indian Motorcycles." he replied. "Barry, to your right, shoots and writes for Cycle World and is covering our ride. Ken writes for RoadRunner and Motorcycle Consumer News." He went on to name more people than I could remember, all industry insiders either famous for their racing or movie roles or deeply involved in the media or business side of things. There's Keith Mashburn who was in the movie "On Any Sunday" with Steve McQueen. It's being organized by AMA Hall of Famer Don Emde.

    "Holy Sh*t." I thought. You just never know who you are going to meet.  

    I listened and between jokes and stories were comments about how much press the ride was getting. Apparently, it had made the New York Times.


    We sat at dinner and I tried to participate but didn't have much to contribute. I felt terribly awkward. There was "Mucho Bill" who said he owns a Frank Loyd Wright house. There was Ken Freund who talked about riding in places all over the world. (So did Bill.)

    I sheepishly raised my hand and said, "My photo is in the Aerostitch catalog. Yea, I got nothing."


    We stayed up fairly late and I listened to all kinds of motorcycle stories. More than I remember. At the end of the evening, they asked, "So are you going to join us for the ride tomorrow?"

    I thought about it for about a half second and said, "Yes."

    I can make it a long day Friday and Saturday I thought and still get home.

    To my dismay this meant getting up at 5:45AM because the ride started promptly at 7:30. It was far easier to get up than I had imagined. 

    At breakfast I found Nancy Emde-Steward stamping the leather bound journals given to all the riders. "I'm just some random guy the Indian rider met at a gas station."

    She didn't seem to mind. 


    Eventually, Don Emde, the organizer showed up and asked me who I was. He was concerned that I might expect to tag along for the entire ride. "You can't attend any of the events we have planned. These people have paid in good money and it would be unfair to them. I can't stop you from following us on the road, but you have to pay your own way."

    "Of course!" I said explaining how I had ended up there and by no means wanted to be an imposition and was only planning on tagging along for the day today and then I would be off.

    Shortly there after, off we went.

    I still had no idea what I was getting myself into.

    This is the largest group of riders I have ever ridden with.

    And these people can ride. 


    We did about 300 miles that day from Dodge City to Kansas City. I met a number of the riders and the story of the "random gas station k-bike guy" had made the rounds through the group. "So are you joining us all the way to New York?" a number of them had asked. "No, I don't want to impose. I'm just here for the day."

    After maybe the 10th person asked, I began to think, "I wonder if I paid my way in would they let me join them? I'm not sure when I'll get an opportunity like this again."

    So at the hotel that evening, before going to dinner, I approached Don and asked if I might be allowed to join them if I paid for the half of the trip I was on. I figured the answer would be "no". 

    "The last thing I want to do is be a freeloader. I see how much work, planning, and effort has gone into making this ride happen. I know that costs money and I'd like to contribute."

    "I'm really glad you see that." he said, his demeanor having changed. He went to to talk about the trip some more and then explained I just needed to talk to Nancy.

    And with that I was an official member of this ride. I still had no idea quite what I was getting into.

    So here I sit, a few days later, in Indianapolis in a swanky hotel not far from the speedway. I have my own leather bound log book. There's a Canonball sticker on my bike. My photo has been taken dozens of times and embarassingly enough people occasionally ask for my autograph. There have been receptions. There was a dinner and drinks the night I joined. There was a police and firetruck escort through the town of Greenville. As we rode into town the whole town was out waving as we went by. A ceremony followed. 

    I've ridden hundreds of miles with journalists. Watching Barry work has been fascinating. We rode in a small group today. He would stop from time to time to shoot photos of various things along the way using this huge camera he had strung around his neck. There's one shot he staged where five of us rode through a small covered bridge each of us just inches from the other. These people can ride.

    There are too many stories, too many insights and there's always something happening. In 45 minutes, I have to be downstairs. It does not look like I'm going to be able to have dinner with them at St. Elmo's because they are booked to capacity. "Of course, I understand." I told them. I'm trying to be as flexible and non-problematic as I can possibly be. I'm not sure, but I get the impression many have asked to have the opportunity that I have but have been told no.

    I have no idea why I've been allowed to be included in this event, but I'm "rolling with it."

    Because there's been so much going on, I haven't had a chance to write much. I look at my own writing now, with it's typos and half baked thoughts, and I'm self-conscious. There are professionals who are going to see this stuff ... since some of them are friends with me on Facebook now. I'm going to have to step up my game.

    I leave you with some photos.


    Group photo at Donelson Cycles and Museum 


    Keith Mashburn eating lunch in the museum. Duncan would have loved this place. 


    Assembling for the escort through Greenville. Of all the stops, Greenville is the only one that still has the original post office where Erwin Baker got his log book stamped to prove his times. It's a small friendly town. 


    The police and fire escort. My radiator cooked me pretty good here. 


    The mayor making a declaration and giving Don the key to the town. 


    There was a "cruising night" going on that same night with all kinds of old cars and people in the streets. I think Bruce would have liked this GTO. 


    Breakfast the next day. 


    The town had given us shirts. Randy, who was on the Harley riding with Robert when we first met at the gas station, wore the shirt the next day as did I. 


    Barry, shooting a motorcycle mailbox. 


    Swanky hotel in Indianapolis. Note there is Starbucks right here in the lobby! 


    My room with a view. 


     There are so many stories to tell and so much to write. This has been an eye opening experience.

    I have to say, one of my favorite moments riding has been following five of these guys around a 25mph off-ramp at speed each of us riding exactly the same line falling into the corner light WWII fighter jets. That's the one moment on this trip that I really wish I had had the gopro camera mounted. This is the best collection of riders I have ever ridden with.

    "They're mostly industry people." Tom, the founder of Saddlemen seats said to me as we were pulling away.

    Another said, "We're surrounded by living motorcycle legends."

    That does seem to be true.

    I'm going to be riding with these guys until Thursday. I suspect I will be back home by Friday if all goes well. 

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