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Monday, March 21, 2016

Rising up on the Honda VFR 1200 - Helibars review

The Honda VFR 1200 is a great machine with plenty of horsepower (172 reported by topspeed.com), ABS, traction control and a sleek top notched finish.  This sport-touring motorcycle, however, has one of the most aggressive seating positions for its class. It took a little getting use to after almost four years on the Yamaha FJR 1300 and its less aggressive position.
Photo taken during first all day ride shortly after purchasing the VFR.
On shorter rides (200 miles or less) the riding position was OK and the fun factor was great, but I did notice more discomfort than I would like, especially on the 653 mile day I rode in July 2014 to Walsenburg, CO.
Riding and camping in Colorado & New Mexico, July 2014
In January, 2016 I started considering selling the VFR and purchasing another FJR (both are great bikes).  After a lot of thought and discussion with fellow riders I decided to customize the VFR for me.  The top priority was to relax the sitting position.

After performing some research I ordered the Helibars VFR 1200 risers which provide a 2 inch rise, 1 inch pull back and are longer by 1 inch.  They arrived in 2 business days complete with detail installation instructions.  With the help from a couple of friends the new bars were installed in short time.
Helibars look so much like the stock bars it is almost impossible to tell the difference
My initial test ride with the Helibars was very positive.  I immediately felt more comfortable and noticed a smoother/easier control on turns & curves.  Suspecting my first impressions might be my optimism and anticipation of the changes I knew I would need to take a much longer ride to gather clearer and more detailed impressions.
Upon inspection one can see the bigger gap between the base of the handlebars and the controls.
A couple of days later I was able to ride the VFR on country and city roads, with and without traffic, through sweeping curves and tight corners - a ride range of riding environments.  Now I can say with all certainty the Helibars were worth the money!

I felt more relaxed, more in control and less fatigued at the end of the day.  The risers decreased my lean angle by approximately 8%.  I was expecting the risers to improve the comfort of my ride, but the improvement and smoothness I felt in the handling is a bonus!  Pressing into the corners feels more fluid.

The Helibars risers' finish is professional and they merge with the stock controls seamlessly.  everything fit perfectly and was easy to reinstall.  Other than the height change one can not distinguish the difference between the stock bars and the Helibars.
Great finish on the Helibars risers - photo from Helibars.com
I highly recommend Helibars, especially if a rider needs to relax the riding position on his/her bike.  Great quality and quick fulfillment of the order.  Installation instructions are clear and complete.

Lets ride!
  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

You are coming through loud and clear: a Sena review

The Yamaha Venture I had for four months (until a lady decided to run a red light and hit me) came stock with CB/stereo.  With the help from friends my Yamaha FJR was fitted with a J&M communication/CB system.  Both worked well, but I wasn't sure I got my monies worth from the J&M.  Not because it wasn't great - it was a high quality unit.  I just did not need the communication with other riders (during the ride) as much as I thought I would.

I resisted the temptation to add anything to the Honda VFR and chose to listen to my music using earbuds and my cell phone.  It did not take long to discover I was unable to hear the music very well when riding at a "spirited" pace.  Quality moldable earbuds helped; however, cell phones can only crank out a limited volume. Limited volume gets drowned out during moments of "spirited" riding.

After research and visiting with fellow riders who own various communications/stereo systems I decided to purchase the Sena 20S.  A friend and I purchase a dual set at the International Motorcycle Show in Dallas in January.  He needed another Sena for his wife and we both wanted to save money. After some bargaining we purchased a pair for $400 total (taxes covered by the vendor).
Photo of 20s with antenna - photo from Sena.com
The Sena 20S mounts to the helmet easily and is low profile so it fits snugly on side of the helmet.  Weighing only 2.11 oz I don't even notice it when the helmet is on.
Profile view of 20S
The 20S small size does not upset the way the helmet feels.
The unit is 3.7 inches long, 1.9 inches tall and only 1.0 inches wide.  The size and weight minimizes any unbalancing of the helmet (I did not notice any) and there is no noticeable wind resistance.
When the main module is removed there is very little left on the helmet.
The Sena 20S comes with a claimed 13 hours of talk time, a bike to bike range of 1.2 miles in open terrain and an FM radio is built in the system. I have not tried the bike to bike communication yet, but my friend has and says the unit works great and the sound quality is crisp and clear.

I have answered and made phone calls with the unit and have been impressed.  The sound is clear and those on the other end of the phone conversation could not tell I was out riding.  The noise cancellation system works very effectively.  One friend observed that my voice was clearer than when I am talking through the Bluetooth system in my 2010 Ford F150.
Sena 20S
The unit comes with all you need including speakers for the helmet and three different microphones (options for full, 3/4 and 1/2 helmets) plus additional supplies to custom fit your unit (complete list).

Pairing the unit was easy and quick.  The operation of the unit is straightforward. The jog dial and buttons are easy to use even when wearing gloves.  I recommend spending some time on the couch wearing the helmet learning the functions and operations of the unit.

The system comes with an earbud jack.  I use high quality earbuds with the unit if I am going to be riding at "spirited" paces.  The earbuds reduce the wind noise as well as brings the music and communications straight to the ear.

Two features I like include the ability to charge the unit while using it.  If the bike has an auxiliary power port I can use the car charger while riding and using the unit.  This will be beneficial on long trips.  The Ambient Mode button is a nice feature allowing me to hear what is happening outside the helmet.  When I pull side to side with another biker I can use the Ambient Mode to hear what he or she is saying to me.  It will come in handy.
Photo from Sena website
There are other features I still need to try i.e. voice commands and speed dialing. This small unit is packed with quality and features.  I am really impressed with the Sena 20S and without reservation recommend the unit to anyone looking for a communication system.

My Moto Oz business partner is impressed and is buying a unit so we can communicate when I am leading our Moto Oz Beat The Heat Tours (Summer 2016 we are heading to Breckenridge, Colorado).

I also purchased the Sena Prism camera which can pair with the 20S and can be controlled with the 20S unit.  I will post review of the Prism later after more usage, but the preliminary impressions are very positive.