Review TCX Drifter boots

I bought these from what is quickly becoming my favourite supplier of motorcycle goods, Sportsbikeshop and I’ve worn them on one two hour in-the-rain trip to Suffolk.

Sizing: reviewers are advising prospective purchasers to go for their usual shoe size when buying, unlike Alpine Stars for instance where you really have to buy one size up. So, I went for Euro size 45. In the house these were certainly not sloppy. My left toe (half a size bigger than the right) was pretty snug against the toecap – but comfortable. I’d describe the fit as rather narrow or you might consider it a supportive design especially around the ankles (more on ankles later).

Buckles: there are three buckles that, once you’ve worked out which way the clasps move, and adjusted the length, are surprisingly smooth to use. Along with a small area of velcro near the top, they give a very secure feeling. I see they are replaceable but I’m not sure of the material.

Comfort: like most pairs of new shoes, I think there is a brief honeymoon where you are astonished that they do not hurt or dig in. During this time they feel super comfortable. But then, somehow, you start to notice the pressure in unpredictable places. So after nearly two hours of riding and some walking comfort, these boots suddenly became exquisitely painful mainly around my ankles where it felt like some of the protection had decided to make its presence felt. This led to some desperate leg manoeuvres on the bike as I got nearer to my increasingly longed for destination. I am hoping that this will pass. It might be that I had crammed, successfully I thought, my leather trousers into these boots.

Looks: maybe this should have come first. I think they look great. A year or so back I would never imaging wearing brown suede motorcycle boots but these have changed my mind. See this web page for some beautiful product shots of these boots.

Build quality: these are very rugged. Everything is double stitched and the protection feels strong. I can see that they are not as tank-like as my Alpine Starts old Tech 3s but they are an improvement on my disintegrating Spada cheap boots which I bought these to replace as those head into the bin. They are made in Romania which is refreshing when everything seems to have been made in China.

Waterproofness: during my 100 mile plus rides the heavens opened. I did not notice my feet being wet or cold so I presume their waterproofness, aided by a part elastic top, is pretty effective.

Overall: I will be very happy if the pain I felt after a day’s riding eases off. This kind of pain that only sets in after a couple of hours of riding is a killer. It adds to fatigue and just makes you want to stop riding. My otherwise lovely leather trousers from Hideout Leather are the same. After a while the armour on the left knee becomes really uncomfortable and distracting. I have some good quality textile trousers on my shopping list and these might solve both problems.

return journey via A1120 – the tourist route

More work more buttons

Now I have installed heated grips – fiddly but working and a One-finger clutch which also was fiddly but now is working nicely. The piece of work I had to pay for is cruise control – costing £460 at Orwell Motorcycles.

One finger clutch being installed

Cruise control and heating grips

Back in Cambridge with Moto Mosko in place

We have had a shortage of fuel recently due to a lack of tanker drivers due to Brexit and probably a sudden increase in demand as people start moving after Covid. I could buy petrol just outside Colchester. It was a long day’s riding. I think I need to adjust the handlebars to dial out the right shoulder pain if possible.

Reviewing Mosko Moto Nomax Tank Bag

In 2009 when I bought a 1200GS adventure, I discovered Touratech in the same breath. It was the obvious go-to place for accessories, and for me this was firstly luggage. Touratech were promoting a vision of the world, as Lois Pryce pointed out in one of her books, of squadrons of identically dressed middle-aged European men colonising Africa and other ‘third world’ regions, surrounded in the photos by young black boys admiring the German technology of their motorcycles (see the Touratech catalogues). It was a vision that was at best corny (and old-fashioned) and at worst contributing to a racist view of the world.

That was then – this is now. What came first? Me discovering that a 1200cc bike with metal luggage was pretty much unmovable when in narrow situations – or even on the stoney or sloping carparks of campsites – or the commercial promotion of ‘light is right’ from other companies like Adventure Spec and Mosko Moto? I’m not sure. Touratech, like most companies, was selling more than just products. It was selling a lifestyle or fantasy – of a certain way to be in the world with a motorcycle. Mosko Moto does exactly the same with their well-curated videos of the team off camping somewhere on their dirt bikes. Its quite a different style to Herbert and Ramona’s trips to test Touratech gear, its more down to earth, much simpler and they are a younger, perhaps more innovative, agile bunch.

Mosko’s luggage is, of course, ‘soft’. But its also cleverly designed. Here’s the tank bag. Many other tank bags are bigger and have one large compartment and maybe a couple of small pockets on the outside. The Nomax takes a different approach and splits the available space, which is not large to start with, into four narrow layers, the bottom-most being designed to hold a hydration pack – supplied with the bag. Where the spaces coincide with the owner’s intentions things work well of course. In mine I have one layer devoted to a clever new USB device that charges up to five different devices (batteries, iPhone), running from the single USB socket on the bike’s cockpit. If you have many small or flat items that you want to carry with you then this is perfect. If you want to drop your grocery shopping in there or want to keep your DSLR in it, you will be disappointed as neither will work. You need to think of another solution. But it is small which works well for me on a bike significantly shorter than my 1200GS and, in my view it looks good. You can buy a separate map holder, with transparent top (obviously) as my previous tank bags have had – this is almost their most useful feature because as well as maps and instructions you can keep a passport or cabin ticket there at hand. All my luggage shopping was delayed by post-Brexit fiascos so the map pocket did not arrive for my holiday. In fact neither did the map I ordered from Stanfords. The problem with it, now that I have it, is that it is too small to fit the A4 sized road atlas that so usefully fitted into my previous holder. So, again, I will need to think of another solution. Unlike Touratech who had the budget to develop luggage specifically for different motorcycles, MM have to design a fitting that is versatile enough to work with a range of bikes. I think this makes them a little more fiddly to take on and off – but not by much. Finally, their products are well made, using what definitely feels like high quality materials. The factory in Vietnam must have hugely strong needles in their sewing machines. Buckles, straps and velcro are supplied in generous qualities.

Nick Plumb’s Adventure Riding Basics DVD part 1, released 2013

I bought this DVD from Nick Plumb himself, unassumingly serving at the Touratech stand at the MCN Motorcycle show at the Excel Centre in London in February 2013.

The cover says it’s the first in a series of three DVDs about off road riding and they get more advanced as they progress – I assume. (Its 2021 and I’m not aware that any others in this series were released.)

This one opens with a very short interview with Nick where he talks a little about growing up. He says he thinks his father was a biker but he’s not sure because, sadly, he left the family when Nick was 4 years old. His first experience of riding involved, he says, a brick wall. After hearing about his Dakar credentials (impressive), and that Touratech UK is a family business (also impressive), we then move onto ‘lesson one’. What I really like about this DVD, as an unconfident absolute hesitant beginner (and who still feels a bit like a beginner after 15 years of riding), is that he starts where I am. He speaks to my fear! By acknowledging that its possible to feel intimidated by the bulk of heavy adventure bikes even when just trying to park them or get on and off, he bridges a huge gulf. At the outset he shows you the simplest work with the bike, getting it on and off the centre stand, finding the bike’s balance point and moving around it holding it with one hand or one finger and then getting on and off it with the stands up and the bike just on its balance point. Also he shows how to push the bike along in gear while walking beside it. Of all the foundational techniques he demonstrates, I’ve found these really amazing for getting confidence with a bulky bike. At one point the bike crashes onto the floor – a great opportunity to demonstrate how to pick it up.

From then on the techniques get progressively more difficult, as you would expect, but I like the way he includes dealing with difficulties, so he acknowledges that things might not go smoothly and that the effect is that you can get more tired and stressed than you need on an already tiring ride. For example he shows that if you stall the bike climbing a steep hill, you need do absolutely nothing. The bike will simply stop and won’t roll back down because the engine has stopped. He shows you how to recover from this position.

The DVD is split into short sections covering particular skills and techniques. His style is engaging. There is no swagger and everything is shown very carefully, usually repeated in slow motion or from another angle. The DVD isn’t highly scripted but Nick is obviously really keen to communicate what he knows. He uses a number of nice new adventure bikes including a Ducati Multistrada, a Yamaha Super Tenere (the one he drops in the Touratech carpark) alongside a BMW 1200gsa and a couple of others. I wonder who owns them.

I would really recommend spending the reasonable £20 for this DVD, especially for beginners with large adventure bikes. Its available from Touratech here.

Jupiter’s Travels review at last

Caption: that’s a pretty good cover photo (so many books seem to have an endorsement from Ewan McGreggor on them)

Ted Simon is generally credited as starting off the whole adventure motorcycling industry and certainly the making a record of it. Jupiter’s Travels was published in 1979 by Penguin. As it says on the cover, Ted Simon spent four years travelling the world on a Triumph motorcycle. He was a journalist employed and supported on the trip by the Sunday Times newspaper. He left London on 6th October 1973 for what turned out to be a journey of 63,000 miles. This was the same day, he notes, that the Yom Kippur war started, inauspicious but signalling the way his journey and the book criss-crosses with world politics of the period. Ted Simon writes with interest and insight into the cultures and lives that he comes across and becomes involved in across Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australia and Asia. He is politically and personally astute and inquiring. He also writes movingly about the inner life. Its my opinion that though very many books have subsequently been written about this kind of world-encompassing adventure, no one has come near to Ted Simon’s account.

The group of people who have become known as adventure riders come in many orientations I now realise. There is a spectrum from the athletes at one end who’s ride is all about endurance and technical matters to do with the bike and its preparation and at the other end are travel writers, people endlessly curious about the world, its culture and its people who have chosen to ride a motorcycle, maybe because it gives a unique access coupled with vulnerability and openness to people. There are some riders who are somewhere in the middle of course. There are some who seem more focussed on the non-human (landscapes, vistas, wild animals) than human culture.

Ted has written a number of books since this, Riding Home (or Riding High as it is sometimes called) includes further reflections on the same journey. But he has written about other travels, notably his ‘re-run’ of the original trip done 28 years later, starting in 2001 when Ted was 69. All the details can be found on his website and its possible to order his books and video from there too.

Ted turned 90 years old earlier this year. I like him because he makes me feel young.