BIKE ACCESSORIES: What works. And not.

Click on images to enlarge them.


Less is more:
The less you add, the less there is to break.
On this trip, nothing broke!

In the Tunisian desert.

Suspension – the biggest Goldwing world-touring issue: Honda’s original forks are too mushy for many riders, me among them. I much prefer sprightlier, tight, positive handling – which is asking a lot of a big heavily-loaded bike.

The original-equipment suspension felt wobbly in tight u-turns. It bottomed out on bumps too easily. Followed some wiggly tar strips on the road. I scraped the pegs too often in hard leaning, such as in European mountainous switch-back turns – and I'm not alone (Wolfgang in the Black Forest, replaced his side pegs a few times, see regional Blog.)

Generally the Honda suspension made me feel insecure when handling demands became medium-high.

Then there's the longevity question; some say the standard rear-end is good for 25,000 miles. I do not pretend this is accurate, I just know we're doing far more miles in sub-optimal conditions – and I wore out mine. To shorten it's life further, there's some bad, Third-World-type roads with a heavy load, that would beat the heck out of any bike's suspension.

Plus I wanted more ground clearance. Irrationally high speed bumps in a few countries are the main issue, many higher than the bike's ground clearance; I rode around them when possible, or scraped over them at barely-moving speed.

Scraping the bottom is a scary feeling – a cracked engine casing could ruin more than your whole day.

Plus there's riding over curbs, up onto sidewalks to park the bike many times; curbs can be 6"-12" high.

We never once scraped the bottom pan (see section below) on big rocks or bad roads – just speed bumps and curbs.

Bottom line:
The Goldwing suspension is the one absolute must-do alteration
for a serious ride like this, on an otherwise superb machine.
It's a limiting engineering factor, the bike is otherwise capable
of more than its original suspension allows.

However, semi-smooth, mild-curved, normal highway/street riding was always fine – that's what the suspension was designed for.

At 55,000 km Black Bike badly needed a new rear suspension. Overworked beyond its limit, dead, kaput, RIP. We'd been bottoming out the rear end on small bumps, handling suffered badly, as did Thao's derrière.

I greatly regret not getting a heavy duty rear suspension, plus increasing the ground clearance while at home. Live 'n learn.

One smart thing I did before leaving: Installed the excellent Traxxion front suspension and forks brace [very honest/blunt explanation of GL1800 forks link] – US$1500 extremely well invested! It changed the bike's handling instantly and has held up brilliantly. After much correspondence, their President Max McAllister has been a helpful, genuinely interested, star suppler – I had lots of questions from SE Asia and needed to order bushings & seals from him. Five stars for his service. Plus five more for the bike-changing suspension.

After this positive experience, I almost went with Traxxion's fine rear suspension too – I had only heard good things. However after correspondence with people who ride/fix a lot of Wings, decided upon the Racetech [link] GS-3 [link]. Expected (nay, praying for) greater longevity was a factor; I do not wish to do this twice overseas; we have to do perhaps another 50,000 km fully loaded before home. Here's Racetech's opinion on the GL1800 standard Honda suspension [link.]

No one promises longer life, but I garnered a few expert opinions from hard-core users. Fingers are crossed that I made the right choice based upon wise objective advice. We'll see ...

One heavy-duty Goldwing rider and suspension wiz with no axe to grind had tried several systems, wrote to me that the Traxxion front end plus Racetech rear end combination: 'Rates a 15 on a scale of 10, it just doesn't get any better; if there was it would be on my bike.' He said I'd be amazed at the difference and handling is spot on.

In Bali as I write this bit: The new Racetech rear end, installed in Bangkok some 6,000 km ago – is so far flawless.

Among the systems on a GL1800 is a rear suspension electric pre-load pump, which soften/firms the first bit of rear suspension travel. With the standard Honda factory suspension I had it set as a fairly firm 15-18 (out of 25) – but it needed to be firmed up, always. With the Racetech G3-S (I specified heavy-duty) and no passenger aboard, I have the pre-load set at '0' = zero. It is just perfect at no pre-load. With full load aboard, I set pre-load at 5, but even that is not necessary. Racetech's spring/shock combo is much stronger than Honda OEM.

Plus rear ground clearance was intentionally raised at my request by the Racetech factory. It worked. The extra 1" (they claim) is noticeable in many situations.

These after-market front and rear ends never bottom out. They smoothly absorb whatever I run over, including some pretty decent bumps taken too fast.

I torture tested the suspensions a bit in Bali (see Indonesia blog); serious twisties and narrow oft-bumpy roads. I can only say the best things about both the new suspensions; both are huge improvements.

This is equally true for North American and European riding as it is for rougher developing world roads.

. . . .Traxxion front end has been tested on 65,000 km of countless
. ... . ..narrow switchback twisties, lots of freeways, tar strips, some of worst
. ... . ..rock-gravel-sand, potholes etc. I have driven since Africa. It passes
. ... . ..(nay, 'surpasses') with flying colors.
. . . .– Front end had to be rebuilt at about 55,000 km, I think any good
. ... . .. shop can do it: Bushings, seals, oil. (See Singapore blog.)
. . . .– 55,000 km is about where the rear end quit as well.
. . . .Traxxion front end has never bottomed out once since new.
. . . .– It does not nose-dive in hard braking, even without Honda's anti-dive
. ... . . that Traxxion replaces; the absence of the anti-dive is unnoticeable.
. . . .– I highly recommend ethical nice guy Paul Hilliard
. ... . ..[email:] near Ottawa as installer/supplier.
. . . .– Ditto Marc Connely [email:] in Lake George NY
. ... . ..He's Paul’s colleague, a major wrench who helped out a lot.
. . . .– Some Wing guys I met in UK 'dis Traxxion and swear by
. . .. . .Progressive Suspension [link], but I'm experience-sold on my
. ... . ..torture-tested Traxxion and know of no first-hand comparisons.

. . . .– Will report here on longevity/performance of my new Racetech GS-3
. . .. . .rear suspension once it has been properly tested. So far at 6,000 km,
. . .. . .it's absolutely perfect. So was Racetech's service sending it overseas.

Update on suspensions after Dec 2009 Bali ride.

• • •

Heasets for intercom - a comparison: (For Helmets see 'clothing' blog.) I was on my 4th consecutive set of J&M headsets [link] and had owned no other brand. Never loved the quality of the voice sound through it and music reproduction is unacceptably poor. We often needed to shout into the mike to be heard and intercom volume was set so high it picked up ambient noise and exaggerated it. J&M sound quality is not for real conversation, but if talk is kept short, it works. I wrongly blamed Honda's sound system, until I switched to Edsets.

Then the J&M plug-in spiral cord contacts became unreliable on both headsets, some time around our first year of daily riding – albeit after major dusty roads! Cleaning them was difficult, toothbrush and alcohol didn't do it on those tiny holes. But in India WD-40 and compressed air did the trick.

Finally one J&M headset microphone wire – the short one hanging from the helmet – due to moving around constantly, eventually suffered a broken internal wire.

Plus, one microphone became damaged by heavy rain when it was insufficiently covered by a wind sock – the latter was badly torn and leaked, as we had run out of spare socks. The mike worked but was distorted.

Wind and ambient noise through the headsets had been a constant irritant. Some say it's also bad for your hearing – many riders even wear ear plugs, and we may start trying that. If you have the intercom in 'constant-on' status, I'm not aware of an available wind noise solution. There are add-on toggles and wiring made for this purpose; I've tried none of them in the name of the KISS principle that governs this trip.

When I asked, Edsets prez informed me that noise cancellation technology will not work on a motorbike due to the inconsistency of wind noise. There's no audio pattern, such as in engine noise for example. Evidently noise-cancelletion circuits won't work on a bike, bottom line.

I chose hard-wired headsets versus Bluetooth, because wireless was still a new product when I bought my last set – reliability is everything here. However the wire umbilical cord gets annoying so am looking forward to an eventual Bluetooth change-over.

The intercom system becomes a 'can't-do-without' once you have it. Once ours died in SE Asia, it was truly missed.

COMPARISON: J&M [link] versus Edsets [link]: Edsets were highly recommended by a couple Iron Butt friends. So I had a set shipped to Bali Indonesia and used them for the rest of the trip. As I write this update we are in Australia, with three months of Edsets use.

J&Ms work. But bottom line, Edsets are simply better.

Better at what? Sound. Communication. Far better sound quality. Less wind and ambient noise. I can hear my passenger and she can hear me much better. I have the intercom volume set 25%-30% lower (at 8 versus 11) which translates into far less ambient noise. Sound is the task at hand; hence better is better.

Pros and cons: Edsets claims to be, and appears more robust, more durable; see their website for details [link]: Gold plated connectors to fight corrosion; cables protected with Kevlar; other details Ed Davis, the owner/designer/engineer does. The J&M headset clamp-on plug-in is smaller than the Edsets one; we really prefer the smaller J&M plug. The J&M mike is also a bit smaller, but their earpieces are much bigger with less sound quality and volume.

Both sets are costly Edsets cost a bit less, due in part to the $100 for a pair of lowers cords to connect the J&M to the bike; over-charging for an obvious necessity that should come with the kit automatically and for free. Edsets rightly includes them free.

Edsets with boom mike, also work perfectly with my new Schubert C3 flip-up and with Thao’s flip-up Shoei (J&M does not work as well with Schubert although I made them fit.) Installation is no big issue with either brand, with most helmets.

If I have a whine about anything in the EdSets kit, it is about the size of the connector box that sticks to the outside of the helmet. It’s very easy to mount and is rock solid, although big with three plugs, for cell phone, other audio, plus intercom. To this iron butt, bikers should not have anything but intercom plugged into their earphones – it’s distracting and dangerous. Listening to traffic and bike sounds has saved my life. So, there's my main whine, take it or leave it.

A small but daily happy-making detail: I really like the way the Edsets longer bike connector cable can be tied over the handlebar, thus avoiding that weak Honda rubber clip and the rubber water cap not getting caught in the left fairing cubby-hole door. That used to be a frequent annoyance.

I’m not dissing J&M, it’s pretty good stuff and has a big market presence. Long term we’ll see if Edsets connectors and other bits wear better as promised.

But so far, after just three months of use, we love the clearly superior Edsets sound quality, which is after all Job #1. Glad I switched.

• • •

Exhaust: TorqMaster Pipes [link] with baffles. Love them daily. This is in the Personal Taste Dept. but I find the standard GL1800 is too quiet, sounds like an Accord, albeit one that eats muscle cars at red lights. Even after some 80,000 km so far, I get a little macho tingle each ride, from the subtly but for real growlier TorqMasters. They apparently yield an extra 3 HP and 3.5 ft-lb torque boost.

A sweet musical sexy sound [link to their sound file]; nice look. It beats the Cobra exhaust sound in real-life A-B comparisons. The optional pop-in baffles are musts, or it's too loud; but you can remove them with one screw, if you ever want to out-Harley a Harley.

One can still hear the stereo perfectly at highway speeds, it's not the annoyingly loud and fatiguing (albeit sexy for short periods) blatt-blatt; more an exotic sports car growl. Jimmy the owner of TorqMaster was very helpful when I called. I installed them myself, no big deal. One can go further in adding horsepower/torque by using TorqMaster's manifold, but I passed on that potential hassle – reliability is absolutely key here.

Video of exhaust sound - after 75,000 km.

• • •

Back Rest: Utopia [link] none better. Superb simple design, inexpensive. If you do long rides, get one, I'm not alone in this view. I installed it myself (cutting a seat with electric heat is scary but no problem resulted).

Utopia aervice, superb: There was a missing brace piece I discovered a year into owning the bike. Oops, guess I didn’t read the directions properly. But Utopia’s Bob gave me superb immediate overseas support via email and arranged a free part in England! You just can’t beat that beyond-call service. Thanks muchly to Utopia and their excellent reps at Colin Appleyard in UK [link]. They fixed it for me free, while I stood there, and wouldn't even take some beer money I tried to force on them. Wow.

• • •

Tank side pads: Techspec High Fusion Gripster Pads [link] are fabulous and work exactly as advertised, do not peel off yet are removable. Excellent look and function. They make one cut precisely for the GL1800 tank. The side of the Goldwing tank is just painted and eventually gets scuffed up from your knees.

They have not peeled off even slightly in two years of hard daily use, 75,000 km in blazing heat and damn cold, rain and adverse weather exposure. The bike was mostly left outside exposed overnight. The pads held on perfectly. Great product, period.

YES: Without these, tank sides would be badly scratched.

• • •

Lower fog lights: Superb HondaLine Fog Lights [link]. Make the bike more visible for oncoming traffic but also light the road just in front of you, such as when parking and cornering. They bulbs seem to outlast headlights by a long shot – mine have 75,000 km on them without any issue.

They also saved my butt when three (3!) headlamps burned out within a day! The fog lamps were all I had for several weeks.

Some new LED ones are also on the market more recently. Not sure if they are brighter, but LED's have very long life and draw low amperage ... so it's something to study anyhow.

• • •

Brake Pads: Unfortunately extremely-outdated and wrong-type (non-sintered-metal)
Vesrah pads [link] were installed by Kaulsons in Delhi India at 50,000 km. (See 'India Bike Service' blog.)

I have nothing but good things to say about Vesrah, they are superb pads by all accounts, their USA Prez was a gentleman-gem when I asked him to research the bad pads; it's just that I got dangerously taken by someone unscrupulous using the excellent Vesrah name. These pads completely failed mid-nowhere (see Laos blog.)

The Honda brand ones installed in Turkey had about 25,000 km on them but it was change time 25,000 km later; Honda original front ones squeak annoyingly, on two separate bikes at slow speeds, but they work.

In Thailand I replaced the defunct product with USA-made EBC sintered metal ones, that's what was available – so far with 10,000 km they are excellent, will report later. They don't squeak and stop the heavy bike just fine, apparently do not fade, removed them recently to check and they are wearing well.

I cannot provide objective stopping-distance numbers, so it's all personal impressions and longevity here. When we get to LA, I will immediately replace all brake pads with new Vesrahs.

• • •

Remote Control Helmet Release: Leaving your helmets safely behind instead of carrying them into the restaurant/shop, matters daily. Silly-sounding sissy stuff? Not if you use it daily and the trunk is full, a big pain-in-butt to release helmets is avoided. It works perfectly with the Honda remote control trunk release, without fail. Ian Cardwell sold me on it in UK, had never seen it in USA/Canada even though comes from California, a seriously functional improvement. Ted Malcolm, 1920 O St., Eureka,CA 95501 – I found no web link but you can look; or via Derek at PricedRight [link.]

• • •

Powder Coated & Chromed Wheels: Either are much easier to wash/clean. Big prettiness improvement. Honda alloy rims get corroded quickly, are very hard to clean, require specialty metal cleaners I do not want to pack, carry or use. Powder coating or chrome are a simple wash-off. Ian Cardwell arranged a swap for powder coated wheels in UK. Price was reasonable, do not recall exact amount but less than Canada/USA. Swapping rims is way less hassle/expense than sending off the rims and waiting.

After beating up the powder coated ones for two years on horrid roads, sand, gravel, just for prettiness' sake I got chromed wheels in LA for $600 – just to reward Black Bike for making it RTW. I plan to keep it forever.

Chrome rims are gorgeous! Big aesthetic improvement. Easiest to clean of course. They work on this bike and are highly recommended as a visual upgrade.

• • •

Hand Grips: Honda rubber grips are too small for my big hands, but the standard equipment grip heaters are superb. Kuryakyn ISO Grips [link] slip over the heated Honda Grips, an easy install, and they are for sure a 'yes-buy' for biggish hands. They transfer heat poorly from the Honda electric grip however, some heat still comes through but not in sufficient quantities when you really need it. A big drawback, that must be fix-able Kuryakyn/Honda, are you listening? Maybe some big open voids in the rubber sleeve so the metal sleeve gets hotter?

The Kuryakyn grips however win (sorry) hands down, for their extra big-circumference leverage on the throttle, comfort in normal weather and non-slip rubber. Less hand fatigue. Love them. And after two years of daily hard use, zero signs of wear. Excellent product.

YES: Perfect for bigger hands, comfortable, excellent grip.
The orange slip-ons fight blazing sun's heat on levers – necessary.

• • •

Highway Foot Pegs: Absolutely 'yes' for all long distance riders, to Kuryakyn Ergo II pegs [link]. This is the best-made, most solid highway peg I have ever owned, out of many. The attachment system is brilliantly strong. On BMW K (and some R Bimmers) you cannot install highway pegs due to fairing width, an actual buying-decision negative for me. Highway pegs seriously help long distance comfort, meaning less frequent stops for leg stretching. Get them!

Forget the Kuryakyn flip-out 'switchblades' for your heels – I have them but have never used them, they are unnecessary. Ergo II by itself is well-designed, solid, comfortable.

They also protect Honda's roll bars when dropping the bike at low/no speeds, as I indeed have done a few times. That's a big bonus Kuryakyn do not even advertise – the foot pegs actually protect the bike and roll bars and saved me some costly scratches. I even had to get one of my pegs welded in Thailand when I broke it (my fault, not the product's.)

. . .Hint #1: During installation I separated the roll bar from clamps with
. . . .. .cloth tape, protects roll bar from scratches when the clamp get shifted
. . . .. .by the weight of a bike drop.
. . .Hint #2: Get the right length offset arm for your legs; it comes in 3
. . . .. .lengths and wish I had the shortest long-legs one, have the middle length.
. . .Hint #3: The higher you can mount it the better, in hard leaning the
. . . .. .highway peg scrapes before the Honda peg, restricts hard riding.

YES to Kuryakyn highway pegs.
OK so it's been emergency-welded and the bolt is rusty,
but this is after 75,000 km and 2 years of rough use.

• • •

Theft & Tampering Deterrence:
.....A. Burglar alarm;
.....B. Theft-proof chain;
.....C. Bike half-cover;
.....D. Flashing LED.

Bike theft is a truly huge, organized business even in UK, plus many other places, way worse than at home. This is a sexy, shiny target. I have no $3500/yr theft insurance because I actively deter theft on a hard-to-lift 900-lb monster; make it darned hard to steal. Plus, I garage it at night when possible. Make your own choices, here are mine:

A. Burglar alarm. Scorpio Alarm [link] is evidently the best system, but I suggest you buy direct from them not through a dealer to assure getting the latest; I got 2-year old model from my dealer last-minute in Canada and was very pissed! Mine did not work period, when I installed it perfectly in UK, which caused weeks of delay/hassle. I suggest you get a dealer to wire it at home and test 100% for a few weeks, my mistake I left it too late.
Finally Scorpio sent me a new alarm system under warranty, which works perfectly. I would try make the screamer louder, more scary. And get a spare remote in case you lose/break one.
Remote alarm is a very good idea, please get one – it alerts you up in the hotel room or restaurant and it does go off more than you think!
• Proximity/perimeter sensor is a must-have and keeps most people away.
• Men and kids love touching the bike; in some countries adult men even climb aboard for photos if it's not covered and alarmed – they press buttons and can break things or knock it over.

B. Theft-proof chain. I also have a monster chain that is literally uncuttable unless you have a grinder, the best in world is by Almax Chains [link] it's big, heavy, major visual deterrent I carry with the bike half-cover on an aluminum trailer hitch platform I designed and had made (see photos). Start with the good, light, inexpensive, no-surgery Rivco trailer hitch [link] – it does the job perfectly, and keeps this bulky stuff out of valuable saddle bag space. When you get a chain, go for the 1.5 metre, so it goes around front wheel and lamp posts. You will sleep well.

C. Bike half-cover. You aren't as likely to mess with things you cannot see. The right half-cover is thin, compact and works well, but mine is tired after 5 years so ordered new one in Tunisia from who recommended and sent me by FedEx – a cover by Kuryakyn [link] that is flashy bright silver (you do not want flashy!), bulky as hell, hence I could never used it, I just gave it to hotel staff in Tunis. Get a light, thin, compact one, it should roll down to about 4" x 8" in its own bag – my old one does. I was pissed with Wingstuff (yet again) for recommending a very wrong product.

D. Flashing LED. Finally Ian Cardwell installed a simple gizmo for me very cheaply in UK, a red flashing LED that's just a fake alarm warning, but makes for visual deterrence. Just turn off the ignition and a red blinking LED comes on. It works.

Custom metal box attached to trailer hitch, holds chain and bike cover.

• • •

Drink mug: Drink Butler [link] Absolutely yes! An iron butt necessity especially in hot weather; 20 oz is the right size for us, but they make bigger. Who cares if some consider it un-macho, you need to stay hydrated while riding in the heat. Sipping on water, soft drinks or coffee while riding long distances helps keep you fresh, awake and focussed. Safety 101.

Storage space is at a premium on such trips so keeping bulky fluids outside the saddlebags is a plus; we use these mugs every half hour or so, every single day.

Holds hot or cold temperatures very well, is easy to wash, easy and safe to sip while riding.

Unfortunately our aft passenger mug got blown away twice by wind when empty, we bought replacements, but regardless we have been down to one mug for the last year of riding. When I get another replacement, I'll figure out a way to hold the passenger one on board with a Velcro strap when its empty. We put our mugs away nightly so no one can swipe them.

The last remaining one has held up brilliantly after >2 years of use sitting most of the time in blazing direct sun. Cannot speak too highly of it.

YES: Our most-used accessory?
Photo after 2 years' daily use & exposure to blazing sun.
If riding in heat, a health-safety necessity.

• • •

Belly pan: Get one, it's cheap, easy to install and necessary! There are vulnerable bits under there – not just your life-death oil pan, but also a plastic fluid tank. Even at home a stray something flying off the road can disable your bike for real.

On this trip – it likely saved the oil pan and thus maybe a small fortune. Wingstuff [link] has a stainless one, mine is sadly aluminum but stainless ones didn't exist at the time. Wish I'd made a heavy duty one: See photo below taken in India of what was left of mine after 50,000 km.

I am installing a new stainless one in LA. May the old aluminum one Rest in Deserved Peace, it likely saved my oil pan.

Why belly pan is needed. And why not aluminum.
Click to enlarge.

• • •

Handlebar helmet holder: [link] I use it every time I get off the bike. On the '06 you can only install on left side due to brake oil reservoir in the way on the right.

• • •

Kickstand with bigger footprint: Yes to Cruis Wing [link.] It sinks less into soft asphalt and sand/gravel. After 55,000 km zero issues.

I also carry and often use a 3" x 5" x 1/4" aluminum plate I had made, attached to a string, which I use on ultra-soft surfaces or where the lean angle is too great. It fits unobtrusively into left fairing pocket. Use it often!

• • •

Trunk lid supports: When the fairly heavy rain-gear bag is on top and you open the lid many times daily, it's a lot of stress on the excellent Honda hinges. Never had a problem with them, but as a precaution added a couple support wires to take part of the stress.

Click to zoom in on details. Note: (a) Two LED flashlights attached with Velcro, one with headband, the other hand-held; (b) I lined top of trunk with soft side of Velcro to protect the plastic and the rubber gasket seal on lid; (c) extra map flash cards are duct taped in place next to the GPS reader. So far all these additions have worked perfectly.

• • •

Tool/parts hidden storage: In the rear of the GL1800 saddlebags are two otherwise-wasted nooks next to the tail lights. Perfect spots on both sides for: 3 misc tool pouches; 2 pouches for various glues, epoxy, tape, wire, WD-40, small spares, etc; 1 pouch for tire repair and re-inflation kit. 6 pouches in total. They are held in place with industrial-strength Velcro and a scrap of plexiglass; easy access, no wasted space and you can see what's behind the little wall. Not pretty, but it works!

• • •

YES! to Pitbull lift.
Ever seen a cop on a GoldWing? Me neither. Looks cool though.
Photo from Pitbull's site.

Bike lift/hoist: Obviously a back-home item. But after 90,000 km, 2 years of rough riding, 37 countries RTW – I'm totally besotted with Black Bike, my never-sell trophy. Plus I'm hoping to do another 100,000 km in Americas and Europe.

Hence am going to baby it, do some of my own service, try to keep it nicely detailed.

Safety too: Rotating tires and inspecting every inch of them possibly saved both our lives in remote East Indonesia (see that chapter of blog.) Had I not laid on the ground to inspect the rear wheel that day, I'd have blown the tire in bad mountain tracks while fully laden. Perhaps the closest call on the entire trip. Now I check for tire flaws carefully – on a lift is obviously best.

Without a lift, washing the wheels, exhaust and some maintenance was done lying on asphalt or concrete. That's not much fun.

During off-season storage, the tires are happier off the ground. Then there is moving the bike easily into a corner when you need the garage floor space. Forget changing the oil without one. Wheel removal. Brake pad inspections. Etc.

So I studied various lifts. For my light use, I didn't want one of those big professional ramps that occupies a lot of garage.

GoldWing and big-Harley owners consistently rave in chat rooms about the Pitbull Motorcycle Lift [manufacturer's link].

I bought one after comparing all brands and reading chat rooms. From first use, I love everything about it. Unpacking and assembly was a 30-minute snap.

It slides under a GL1800 on side stand with plenty clearance; has excellent castors, you can easily roll it around the garage with the bike on it; Zerk grease fittings on all moving parts matter on a lifetime product; it lifts the bike two feet (25" = 65 cm) which is a lot; robust all-MIG-welded frame that's VERY stable; four tie-down strap rings welded into it; safety chocks flip down to prevent it coming down by accident.

It's a dead simple product manufactured the old-fashioned way – i.e. properly. Made in USA by a 20-yr family biz, with lifetime warranty.

Pitbull have videos showing the lift in action on their web site, with people climbing aboard once the big bike is up.

There is an optional lazy-Susan type turntable your bike can sit on, but I didn't want one. It's plenty convenient with the bottom of bike being 2 feet up, sitting on a stool while I work on the underside.

The lift costs some $400 + freight. Being made in USA it's duty-free in Canada/Mexico under NAFTA.

By comparison, some competition are over $1,000. I confess to being tempted by a $100 lift I saw at Costco claiming 1500 lb. capacity. But I view it as a dangerous risk with 800 lbs of machinery over one's head. A good motorcycle lift is something you buy just once; the wrong one can be a nasty error, both for you and the bike.

A few online chat rooms talk of another brand of lift that would not come down, it jammed on more than one owner, so bikes were stranded aloft. I also read of wiggly jacks. It's worth a lot to have reliability and safety.

Altogether a perfect lift for a GL1800; after a few months of use I cannot come up with any suggestions or quibbles.

I give it 5/5 stars. Want a motorcycle lift on casters? Do your homework and I bet you'll end up with a Pitbull for the rest of your biking days.

• • •


Carnet de Passage: A very costly 'passport' for your vehicle, that assures you do not sell it in member countries. You need to check where you are traveling and avoid this expensive hassle if at all possible. Not necessary on this trip prior to Egypt and then Iran, India etc ... not needed in Europe or most Middle East places. It's my 2nd one in 30 years; in some countries is simply unavoidable. CAA is the only source in Canada or USA; check online and phone helpful, very nice Suzanne at CAA [link] for advice.

I decided the Carnet is unavoidable after trying various embassies in Tunisia, hoping in vain to find a way around it.

It arrived quickly, thanks to the helpful efficiency of CAA in Ottawa and FedEx (2 days from Ottawa to Tunis on a weekend!) A notable, loud 'no thanks' to the rip-off by TD Canada Trust my bank for 40 years, in arranging the $52,500 ILC (I put up 100% in cash at the branch thus they have zero risk) but still TD charges an exorbitant $1000 a year for up to 5 years = $5,000 for the ILC. My local branch people were (with one exception) fine, they tried hard, but helpless in dealing with the higher Bank officers who do not evidently speak to customers even upon request.

Extremely helpful however were Vito and Maryanne at TD Waterhouse [link] my excellent brokers, without whom the Bank would still be sitting on it's narrow-sighted haunches, leaving their customer in the lurch overseas – for no valid reason.

My best advice: Do the banking and ILC part at least, before you leave home, in case you eventually need one. It got done, but just barely.

• • •

Insurance: You need what's called an international insurance Green Card to cross overseas borders. The countries covered are listed on it; those not listed sell insurance at the border which so far, has been fairly reasonably. Gail Goodman at MotorcycleExpress [link] will sell you the green card, the same firm that handles the bike's air freight. Mine was about US$1,100 a year liability-only.

Insurance in the 'East' is another matter. The Green card does not cover you for the basic required coverage. In most countries from Pakistan and east of there, you can buy country-by-country insurance cheaply. Ask Gail Goodman above ...

I passed on the theft/fire/collision insurance because the theft odds are so slim; my guess on theft is 1:1000 odds. Given my security system and the size/weight of the bike, I'm self-insured on theft/fire/collision, saving ballpark $3500 a year x 2 yrs = $7,000.

In case of a serious crash or bike total, the cost of the bike is the least of our problems, I figure (been there.) If you find a better insurance deal, let us know!

In many countries in SE Asia that did not sell insurance at the border, I rode with zero insurance because I could not find a Green Card for the East.

Risky? Yes, I suppose so. But few people I met, even whites who live there and have cars, get insurance in Indonesia for example. If you happen to kill someone, rumour has it it costs $2,000. Certainly not tens of thousands or millions. I simply took the risk. And was bloody careful!

• • •

General Bling: To most folks on the streets of all countries visited, it is a very attractive machine, just to look at; parked or riding. Without exaggeration, we could not have garnered more (mostly male) admiration with a $200,000 exotic car – the honks, waves, smiles, thumbs-up and inquiries are non-stop, which is 99% positive. One makes many new friends just from walk-ups.

They have seen tough-looking enduro-equipped bikes before, but few have seen a GL1800.
I have often wished it was less sexy-looking however; we 'show' more obviously rich then I'd prefer. I'm not talking about Paris, Monaco et al., places where it's hard to appear too rich, rather in the vast majority of poorer places.

'Less is more' in the Bling Dept. Suggestion: Forego the LEDs, too much chrome. If getting a new bike for the trip, let's say I'm glad I chose black: It's slimming and leans towards understatement.

We also do not wear expensive-looking stuff when it can be avoided. Just being white, from afar, and fiscally able to do the trip, is statement enough.

Just some advice, worth every penny you paid.

It's blingy enough to attract crowds everywhere.
In a Syrian town, I stood there to supervise 100 fans & photo ops.

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