ATLAS Throttle Lock review revisited

Somebody asked me recently how the ATLAS Throttle Lock that I had big kudos for back in 2015 was holding up. So, how about a quick update?

Helinox Chair Zero review (and comparison to Chair One)

Helinox has a new chair out called the Chair Zero, which is supposed to be their lightest chair and very similar to their model known as the Chair One. I’m a big fan of Helinox products so I purchased it and decided to do a comparison with my current Chair One. I only need one travel chair and had to figure out which one to keep.

Of course, in my typical style, this turned into a very in-depth review of the products. So you understand how these two chairs fit with me, I’m about 5’10” and 210 pounds. Also, my wife says I’m handsome and my dogs love me, especially at dinner time….just in case that’s also need to know info.


Last two new product installs before departure

Any day that you wake up and the sun is shining, the morning temperature is in the middle sixties, and you can jump on the motorcycle and ride without tons of traffic…well, that’s almost the definition of a perfect day to be alive.    Topping it off with some new tires and a helping of a new throttle lock now in place…well, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The Mitas E07 Dakar tires finally found a place out of my garage and onto the Vstrom today, compliments of the labors of Brian, another good riding friend of mine.  Some of you may remember that name…he’s the one responsible for this customized look to my bike last fall:

Remembering the days…

Fortunately, today’s work was much easier…a simple two tire swap out from the previously ridden 95% highway tires…Michelin Pilot Road 4…to the new Dakars that are designed as a 50-50 tires…50% asphalt, 50% dirt.  It’s 4,000 miles of highway before I see dirt up north though.

Anyways, here’s one picture of Faith (the name of my bike) wearing one of her new shoes:

The Dakar’s are very, very beefy tires.  Weighing around twice as much as the Michelin’s that they replaced, there’s no mistaking the motorcycle for anything but a true dual sport bike now.  Unlike some adventure riders that have bikes like this to show off to their friends, this one’s actually going to be doing one heck of a journey in just eighteen days.

My immediate feedback on the Mitas are mixed.  They don’t produce the road noise I have heard so much about previously, but they fall very quickly.  It feels like riding on a balance beam…the slightest lean of the bike and the machine wants to keep going over.  It is a weird feeling, especially doing donuts in the round dead end at Brian’s home.  It will be very, very easy to lean this bike quickly through tight curves, that’s for sure.  Looking forward to seeing how it feels in the rain though, which I expect I will have plenty of opportunity to experience soon enough.

The tires are very slick new though.  Both Brian and I commented on that as we handled the tires during their wheel installations…a process previously described when work on my ex-Ultra was detailed on this blog a couple of years ago.  Changing lanes over a solid white, the bike got a little loose.  Definitely will need to get it to a gravel road and scrub the tires in to remove the “new tire feeling”.

The last new accessory to go on the bike is an ATLAS Throttle Lock.  This is a device that holds your throttle in a temporarily locked position while you ride, which helps reduce hand fatigue on long jaunts.  There are dozens of different types of throttle locks; each has their positives and negatives.  The ATLAS replaces a N.E.P. lock that drove me nuts.  The N.E.P. was easy to engage with the right thumb while riding, but took two hands to disengage.  Causing more than one butt-puckering event, it was time to find a different solution.

The ATLAS was a Kickstarter project which after reading up on it, I quickly participated with a purchase donation of the product that was still being developed.  You can read about the Kickstarter project HERE if you wish.  Developed by a RTW (round the world) motorcyclist that envisioned a throttle lock that actually worked properly, I received one of the first production release pieces when the developer heard I was going to Alaska and wanted to ensure that I brought this along for some hard core usage in a short amount of time.

I’ve exchanged some feedback with David (owner/creator) already on this device.  Fresh out of the box, the switch is hard to use…but after sitting in the recliner and activating/deactivating it probably around 30-40 times, it is much easier to engage and disengage now.  It’s a quality piece of hardware.  And I mean HIGH quality.  It exudes American made quality; not that import junk you find at the dollar store or even at most motorcycle gear shops.  The knurled button simply pushes in to catch the throttle and lock it…and you push down on the button from the top to release it.  If I could make one change to the product, I’d create a little lip with knurling on it to catch it just a shade easier with the thumb during the disengaging sequence.  It’s not required…but it would definitely add just a touch more to it.

This comes with pages of instructions and drawings, making it easy to install.  Also comes with the needed allen wrench too!  And a few other pieces.  And you know it’s good kit when the package comes with a sticker  as well for your toolbox collection!

Installation on the Vstrom was not hard, but it was not a simple “plug and play” type of install either.  As David previously warned, some bikes would require some very quick and easy modifications to get this to seat properly.  My bike was one of these bikes.  A small hacksaw blade allowed us to cut out some throttle grip material to get this to seat perfectly; a small slice with a razor knife allowed the fitment not to have any impedance.  I can see that most motorcycles would not have the problems that the Vstrom did.  After all, the Vstrom is a wonderous piece of machinery.  Not wonderful…wonderous.  Many of us owners wonder what was going through the minds of the designers when they created this motorcycle.  But with a little patience and test fitting the ATLAS installed in about fifteen minutes.  I didn’t see any way that the device could install easier.  Just take the needed time to install it correctly and it will work produce worthwhile results.

ATLAS installed on a ’07 DL650A

I rode forty-some miles with it today, engaging and disengaging it many times.  It holds well, is intuitive on the placement of the switch, and most importantly, it release the lock on the throttle very easily.  No more needing two hands on the right side of the bike; this releases the hold very quickly and without hardly any effort.  A nice refreshing change over the N.E.P. and many other devices.   Only time will tell how good this is…and I plan to put it through the ringer really soon.  If this device doesn’t still work as it should by the time I get back from Alaska, I’ll create an update post about it.  Right now, I don’t see anything that would create any issues for the long haul.

So far, on a scale of five, I’d give it a 4.5.  I’m dinging a shade for missing the lip to release the lock a shade easier but that is my own preference and I can see where somebody else could care less about it.  I rarely give more than a 4 in rating for any product; this is quality kit and I’m going to recommend this every time somebody asks about a throttle lock solution going forward.

You can learn more about the ATLAS by clicking HERE.

18 days…13 hours.  The anticipation is starting to ratchet up here.

Back to the adventure planning

Been some changes as of late, hence the philosophical tone of the last post.  I try to stay away from dry rhetoric or reflective ramblings too much since that’s all personal and does not mean much to many other people.  However, for just a few closely-intertwined people that I know that frequent this site, hopefully it makes them think a little outside of their narrow field of vision and allows them to just sit back and ponder what was written.

Let’s get back on track with the important project of the year…the Alaska motorcycle adventure!

The immortal Steve Miller Band got it right…time keeps slipping into the future.  The days are actually passing quickly and the countdown clock shows:

In a conversation recently, I was asked just how I would like the trip to go if I could wave a magic wand and put things into place the way I’d like to experience.  My one word answer is SLOW.  Sure, I’d like it to be a pleasant, safe, and soul-discovering trip.  I want the departure date to arrive quickly, but I want the adventure itself to crawl like molasses.  Each second that passes, I want to feel like an eternity…even those many hours on the interstates where I’m dancing with the speed limits and playing chicken with those hidden state patrol officers looking for speeders.

The goal is to rocket to Canada and then slam the breaks and start watching the scenery.  In the future, I’d like to be able to remember the entire journey and count in my head the number of trees that were passed, the number of bears that I watch scamper into the wood at the approaching sound of my motorcycle, and be able to recall those that I met along the way.  I’m taking a break from life to complete some bucket list items and to live up to a previously made promise.  Savoring the experience is what I hope happens on this trip.

Recently picked up some very neat, high-quality (and unfortunately expensive) collapsible gear.  Anything made for backpacking is ultra-light, as small as possible, and will cost lots of greenbacks for the privilege of owning such equipment.  I’ll share a few of my recent pickups for anybody that may be interested in upgrading their own travel kits.

Sea to Summit X-Pot

One of the biggest things to carry along is cookware.  It’s hard to make items that are made to be used for cooking in a small form factor.  Stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium are a lot lighter than traditional steel…but they have bulkiness.  How does one make a pot smaller?  Sea to Summit figured it out…through the use of silicone of all things.  Introducing the X-Pot.

Winner of Backpacker magazine’s esteemed 2015 Editor’s Choice Award, the X-Pot is a collapsible pot that easily goes from a collapsed height of 1.5″ tall to 4.5″ tall.  The entire kit weighs under eleven ounces.  They are slowly coming out to retailers right now.  REI has them in stock for just a shade under $50, and with my REI dividends check from last year, my cost was very minimal.  If you do decide to buy this or anything at REI, make sure you are using Ebates to get your free cash back.

Available in 1.4L, 2.8L, and 4.0L sizes, it offers plenty of food cooking capacity in a easy to carry size signature.  Each comes with a lid with built in strainer, and the other X-products like the cup, mug, bowl, and plate are all designed to easily nest inside it.  Tried it out at home…very easy to use, clean, and easily fits into a narrow space in a backpack or a motorcycle pannier.  I’ll be carrying my 2.8L X-Pot, big enough to hold a very large can of stew, in a gallon size freezer bag to prevent the bears from smelling any missed morsels.

And in July 2015, they will be coming out with the X-Pan which you can read about here.  Yes, it is on my radar!

Helinox Cot One

One thing thing that has taken away the joy of camping for me is the fact that the older I get, the more I appreciate my bed at home.  Or even one inside a motel room.  Sleeping on the ground, no matter how much padding is placed or how expensive of a sleeping pad is used, just is not pleasant to me any longer.  Since the trip to Alaska will either require some camping or the requirement that I scurry around trying to find a motel room which barely mah exist along the chosen route and at the locations I plan to stop for the night, I have been on the search to find something that will make sleeping a tent comfortable.Over the winter, I have tried four different sleeping cots.  I hated every one of them.  Either too big to easily carry on a motorcycle or just lacking in comfort, each were immediately returned or sold for a little loss after just one night (and in one case, three minutes) of trying each out in the warmth of the house over the winter.  Why can’t somebody make a portable cot, that can hold lots of weight, that assembles and disassembles quickly, is somewhat comfortable, and that will fit on a motorcycle?

Somebody has.  Say hello to the Helinox Cot One.

I’ll be honest.  It’s not my bed at home in comfort.  But it sure blows away sleeping on the ground even with a very nice sleeping pad and bag.  I throw those two items on top of this cot and I can actually get some sleep.  Some people sleep on anything really well.  Not me; a tosser and turner I have become, waking up every hour or two.  This cot offers me no difference in my sleep…but it does not creak like the Luxury Lite cot nor does it stay behind at home like some of the other oversized cots.

The cost of this cot is ridiculous.  I mean EXPENSIVE.  You can buy a very beat up old car leaks fluids and blows smokes but that still runs for the price of one of these.  If you really want one, REI and other retailers have them for $299.  Or, you can join Promotive and save a LOT of money on this and all your other gear.

The way I see it, the cost of one of these equates to one night in a decent motel or lodge on the trip to the last frontier.  One night on this and not sleeping on a pillow-top mattress with bedbugs at some mom and pop pays it off and I can use this indefinitely.  This was very easy to put together quickly once you read the instructions.  And it fits in many motorcycle panniers as it is only 21″ long when folded down and in the carrying bag.

That’s it for now.

Alaska book reading in the tropical sand

While working on absorbing as many sun rays as I could while laying on the beautiful clean sands of the Dominican Republic, I had brought along a few books to read while I found nirvana in eighty-five degree heat.  At home, life constantly gets in the way…family, work, and about six other major things I am working on to secure a decent retirement.  The life interruptions just constantly prevent me from sitting down and reading a book cover to cover.  To me , that is bliss…quiet enjoyment expanding my knowledge while life goes on without me for a few hours.

One of the books I read (twice!), while listening to the waves crashing onto the shore repeatedly as the best background noise in the world, was The Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska, by Lee Klancher and Phil Freeman.  I had heard a number of good things about this book, which appears to be true since it’s nearly impossible to find it on the secondary used market.  I expended the required Jackson note plus an additional Lincoln to get it sent to me to take on this beach adventure, threw it in my backpack for the plane ride south, and forced myself to wait until the second day on the beach when all I wanted to do was read, sleep, and try out the local fruity beverages.

There’s some great reviews of the book out there in the world already and no sense in my wasting time repeating tons of information that can already be easily found online from other readers.  What I would like to add to those reviews is my agreement that it is a much recommended book for not only those interested in riding a motorcycle to Alaska, but for anybody making the journey by other means.

Not only does the authors detail information about each of the major highways in Alaska as well as NW Canada, they cover some great recommendations of local diners to eat at, places to camp and motel, and sites to see.  They even give specific information on finding the correct turns off the main roads to get to some of the glaciers as well as other hidden sites to see.  My bike will be fully packed for the trip to Alaska in June but I’ll be sure to find a digital copy of this book to take along with the digital copy of The Milepost, the bible of going to Alaska.  I had a notebook full of notes before reading this…even with all I already knew, I added a couple more pages filled up with reminders of places I should check out whenever I get up there.

I even reached out to Lee Klancher when I got back from vacation since I enjoyed this easy reading literature.  I think it is important to let authors know when you appreciate their work, and Lee was very receptive to my thoughts.  From our discussions, he ascertained that I had wanted his newest version of the book but was unable to get it delivered in time for my departure.  Lee took my address and in a week I had the latest version in my mailbox!  The newest version is nearly identical…there’s a little book association emblem on the cover and inside Lee and Phil updated the content to bring it from 2012 info to a September 2014 update of what things have changed since the original publication.

So, even if you already have this book, grab the latest version.  Especially, if like me, you find yourself headed to the Last Frontier this year.  This book was very interesting to read and I didn’t put it down once I started it.  It’s easy to hold in one hand when you are slamming down pina coladas too.