Dowco Fastrax Sport and Adventure Luggage-Elite Series
When it comes to sport touring, we're usually indifferent to soft luggage and generally prefer solidly mounted hard bags. But this Fastrax tail bag, tank bag and saddlebag set from Dowco has changed our minds by nicely addressing the typical soft-luggage concerns of space, adaptability and secure mounting.
Built from 1680 denier polyester with shape-holding inserts, the bags are sturdy and appear ruggedly made. Capacity is on the small side with the saddlebags and tail bag combining for just less than 2 cubic feet of storage. However, the top of the tail bag and the bottom of each saddlebag have expansion zippers that provide up to 4 inches of additional height, leaving plenty of space for a weekend getaway. An additional nylon bag that can be strapped to the top of the tail bag is supplied as well. The saddlebags' moderate height allows them to work with upswept pipes when necessary, and the bags adapt to fit on practically any bike.
The Fastrax mounting system is among the more secure that we've sampled. Areas that come into contact with the bike's finish are no-slip and scratch resistant, and the saddlebags have heat shields that can be mounted to the side or bottom, depending on the application. Plenty of straps-all no-slip and scratch resistant-are provided to attach the bags to a bike in a number of ways, and we were confident that on every bike we tried the load wasn't going to shift or fall off. The tank bag (not shown here) mounts to steel fuel tanks with nine incredibly strong magnets or with straps similar to those for the tail bag.
Each bag has a zippered compartment containing an attached rain-cover rubber, a molded handle for carrying and a shoulder strap tucked away in the bottom. The tank bag and saddlebags have clear map pockets, and inside are plenty of compartments for odds and ends. An optional hydration bladder slips into the top of the tank bag, and the saddlebags have storage and a headphone port for electronic devices. All the zippers are waterproof and lockable, and, finally, any of nine provided color swatches slip into slots on the side of each bag to add a bit of unique style.
We're very impressed with the overall quality and design of the Fastrax luggage. The setup had plenty of space for our Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend, the bags and straps left no marks on the bike's bodywork and everything stayed tight and secure on some rough roads over the course of the trip. That quality and security is quite reasonably priced as well; the tank bag costs $119.99, the tail bag 109.99 and the saddlebags $169.99.Dowco
Strapless Transport Stands
Securing a sportbike for transport can sometimes be a frustrating affair. Wheel chocks and good tie-downs can go a long way to easing that frustration, but you still have to worry about scratched bodywork; suspension that is compressed sometimes for days at a time, and space for the bike, chock and tie-downs. Strapless Transport Stands offer a unique way to solidly hold a bike in a truck or trailer that doesn't require tie-downs at all.
The stand has two baseplates that screw to the bed of a truck, trailer or even a shipping crate; the baseplates are flat and unobtrusive on their own, but the stand clips securely into place when needed. The two uprights have slots into which a rod fed through the bike's rear axle fits, holding the bike in position. Simple in concept, it's the details that make the strapless stands easy to use. Each stand includes a rod and spacers specific to a model of bike, so that the axle rod is held perfectly between the stand's uprights. Loops welded onto the uprights act as ramps and guide the rear wheel up and into the slots, and tabs are used to lock the axle rod into place. It takes less than a minute to lock a bike into its stand, with only one person required.
The advantages of the stand are numerous: The suspension is not compressed, eliminating the potential for blown fork seals. No tie-downs are required, so there's no worry of scratched bodywork or finding solid mounting points. Additionally, the bike can be secured closer to a wall or another bike, saving space. We've been helping out some friends who cart up to six bikes in an enclosed trailer to races and track days around the western States, using the Strapless Trans-port Stands. It takes significantly less time to load or unload the trailer with the stands than it used to with tie-downs and chocks, there is more room in the trailer and the bikes arrive safely at their destination every time.
At $249, the Strapless Transport Stands are not cheap, and their model-specific axle design does limit their usability in some situations-we cart way too many different bikes around to take advantage of them in the SR shop truck, for example. That's a rare case, however, and the money is well spent if your bike spends much time in a truck or trailer.Strapless Transport Stands
Puma GP 1000 Boots
Well-known athletic footwear manufacturer Puma has entered the motorcycle apparel market this year with an assortment of boots, including the new GP1000 model aimed at racers and hard-core sportbike enthusiasts. Developed with the help of several MotoGP and World Superbike competitors, the 1000 boasts some innovative new ideas in foot protection technology.
Utilizing a Lorica-style "microfiber" synthetic leather outer construction, the GP1000's most imposing feature is the injection-molded plastic bracing encasing the heel, ankle and shin/Achilles tendon area that the company brands as the "Ghost Doctor Ankle Protection Device." The patented device uses a hard plastic brace pivoting at the ankle and extending up and over the shin; because the brace rests against the shin area, the amount of ankle flexion (forward movement) is limited by extension tabs on the pivot mechanism. The amount of ankle extension (rearward movement) is likewise limited by a hard plastic brace running up the Achilles tendon area that is attached to the heel assembly. The heel and ankle are ensconced in energy-absorbing protective cups, with both the heelbox and toebox of the boot reinforced for extra protection. A dual-compound, oil-resistant, injected-rubber outsole provides optimal footpeg feel and grip, with a nylon toe slider cap-ped with a steel plate preventing excessive wear at extreme lean angles.
Foot and ankle support is provided by a neoprene fabric inner bootie that is sewn into the GP1000's construction, so it isn't removable (the footbed is removable, however). The padded bootie extends all the way up the shin, with both the hard plastic shin plate and Achilles tendon plate supplying the necessary impact protection. A lace-up system on the Achilles tendon area of the bootie gives a custom fit and offers additional ankle support, and a ratcheting ski-boot-style CNC-machined aluminum buckle snap cinches up the protective top portions of the boot.
Because the neoprene inner bootie is made to be snug around the rider's calf (with no openings for easy entry), the Puma GP1000 boot can be a little labor-intensive to put on and take off. Sliding your foot into the bootie requires holding the provided heel strap and working your foot down into the boot. Then the lace-up on the Achilles tendon area must be cinched tight, followed by the upper buckle. Removal takes a little work as well; a good pull is required to get your foot out of the inner bootie.
Once the boots were on, however, we found the Puma GP1000 to be one of the most comfortable racing boots we've ever tried. Overall ankle support was excellent, and the Ghost Doctor offers enough flexibility to ride rearset-equipped bikes while still keeping ankle movement within safe boundaries. Foot control feel was superb, and the sole isn't too stiff like some other boots we've tried; the toe slider isn't overly large (and seems fairly durable with the steel cap), and the sole also has an extension lip just behind the toe slider that provides good grip when running on the outer edge of the boot while leaned over at extreme angles.
Our only real complaint with the Puma GP1000, other than the labor-intensive fitment/removal ritual, is that while the sole's pliability makes for excellent peg feel and flexibility, those riders who position their foot on the outer tip of the footpeg while leaned over will find that not only will it begin to put pressure in the middle of their feet after a while, but some noticeable wear starts to occur at that point on the sole as well. We also found that the steel inner pivot cap will scratch unprotected frames and swingarms.
The Puma GP1000 retails for $395 and is available in Euro sizes 38-46, in three color combinations: black/metallic silver, "Vaporous Grey"/black and "Smoked Pearl"/orange.