High-Tech Motorcycle Gadget Buyers Guide
When I was a kid, one of my favorite after-school cartoons was Inspector Gadget, about a quirky cyborg detective (think of a clumsy, incompetent Terminator with the personality of Maxwell Smart and the attire of Inspector Clouseau) who, along with his niece Penny and Brain the Dog, embarked on zany adventures trying to thwart Doctor Claw and M.A.D., his evil organization. When the action would heat up, Inspector Gadget would say “Go Go Gadget!” to summon a comical array of bionic gizmos, such as a helicopter hat, roller skate shoes and extendable limbs.
Many of today’s motorcyclists are like Inspector Gadget, employing an ever-growing arsenal of doohickeys, thingamajigs and widgets to fight against the evils of discomfort, inconvenience and weather. Advancements in defense, communications, information technology and other industries have led to meteoric growth in the number of high-tech gadgets for the masses, and for motorcyclists. More and more of today’s bikes have heated grips/seats, iPod integration, tire pressure monitors and more. For the hopelessly addicted gear geeks among you, we’ve brought together some of the niftiest gadgets available today.
Garmin zumo 220
Some think getting lost is part of the adventure, essential to the escape of motorcycling. For others, particularly those lacking an inherent sense of direction, getting lost is stressful. Garmin has made motorcycle-specific GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation units for years, but the $649.99-$799.99 MSRP of its zumo 550/660/665 units put them out of reach for many. Enter the zumo 220 ($399.99), a lower-cost model that foregoes bells and whistles but retains essential features, like a glove-friendly, full-color touchscreen 3.5-inch display, preloaded maps, voice prompts, lane assist, Bluetooth compatibility, a waterproof housing and more.
Smartphones can do almost anything, but if you have a problem out in the boondocks, off the cellphone grid, you might as well use your smartphone as a kickstand pad because it will be good for little else. Spot Satellite Messengers have been lifesavers for everyone from backcountry skiers to off-the-beaten-path motorcyclists. The Spot Connect ($169.99, plus $99/year) device and app uses Bluetooth wireless technology to turn your smartphone into a satellite communicator, allowing you to send email and text messages, or send your GPS coordinates to emergency responders. You can even use it to update Facebook and Twitter, but you can’t make satellite phone calls.
RidersEye Tracking Device
It’s 10 p.m…do you know where your bike is? If you’re worried about your pride and joy getting nicked and chopped, RidersEye ($395.95) from Enfotrace will put your mind at ease. The small, lightweight (3 x 2.2 x .625 inches, 6 ounces), GPS-based security and tracking device can be easily installed in a hidden location on your motorcycle, and its advanced epoxy shell protects it from moisture, heat and vibration. A web-based control panel instantly locates the RidersEye-equipped motorcycle from any computer, smart phone or tablet that’s connected to the Internet.
TOOLS & TUNING
Motion Pro Tools
As motorcycles have become more sophisticated, they’ve gotten harder to work on. And with space and weight at a premium, OEM toolkits have become Spartan, or nonexistent. Motion Pro has two items that belong in every on-bike toolkit. The MP Tool Metric ($58.99) is a hard nickel multi-tool that removes metric bolts (8/10/12/14mm), Phillips (#2/#3) and straight-slot screws and Allen bolts (5/6mm), includes 1/4- and 3/8-inch socket drivers and 1/4-inch drive sockets (10/12mm), all in a convenient carrying case (a SAE tool is also available). And when light is right, add Motion Pro’s trick TiProlight Titanium four-piece Wrench Set (8/10/12/14mm; $112.99).
Stop & Go Tubeless Puncture Pilot
As long as motorcycles run on pneumatic tires, motorcyclists will be vulnerable to flat tires. But a flat doesn’t have to deflate your ride. Stop & Go’s Tubeless Puncture Pilot ($64.95) tire repair kit includes a Pocket Tire Plugger and 12V Mini-Air Compressor in a compact zippered case. The 1.7-pound kit comes with 15 mushroom-shaped rubber plugs that work on all tubeless tires. The Mini-Air Compressor has a built-in pressure gauge, LED light, 66-inch power cord compatible with Battery Tender connectors (12-inch alligator extension clips and 36-inch extension lighter adapter also included) and a 4-inch tire valve hose with sports needle and inflatable adapter.
Cobra Engineering Fi2000 PowrPro
Fuel injection has eliminated the hassle of dealing with needle jets, cleaning and synching carbs, and losing power at high altitudes. But ever-increasing emissions standards and ethanol-blended fuels have created new headaches. Cobra’s Fi2000 PowrPro Continuously Variable Tuning ($599.95) module takes the guesswork out of fuel management. Every time the throttle is opened—in any gear, under any load or condition—the PowrPro reads actual EFI delivery up to 80 times per second and optimizes the acceleration air/fuel mixture. No dyno testing is required and no fuel maps need to be downloaded, even if you change your exhaust system or make other performance enhancements to your engine.
GoPro HD Hero Camera
With the rise of YouTube and huge flat-screen TVs, home movies have come a long way since the days of Super 8. Documenting your ride on video allows you to relive the experience and share it with others. Affordable, durable, versatile and easy to use, GoPro cameras are popular among all kinds of athletes and enthusiasts. The HD Hero Motorsports camera ($239.99) records high-definition on-board video (1080p, 960p and 720p HD resolutions with audio) and 5-megapixel still photos. The camera has a rechargeable battery, and the kit comes with a waterproof, crushproof housing, a suction-cup mount and various adhesive mounts.
UClear Helment Communicator
Communications technology evolves quickly, with devices continually getting smaller, offering more features and (hopefully) becoming easier to use. UClear’s HBC100 Moto Helmet Communicator ($229.95) uses military-derived boomless microphones built into both speakers and patented Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology to isolate your voice and eliminate background noise. Easy Bluetooth pairing allows you to listen to high-fidelity music or GPS commands, intercom with another UClear headset or take mobile phone calls (including voice commands for hands-free call pickup). Multiple DSP algorithms and Bluetooth profiles are supported, and the rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery provides up to 10 hours of talk time.
Scosche iPod Remote
Like having a soundtrack for your ride? If you use an iPod but your motorcycle doesn’t have an audio system with full integration, then you’ve experienced the frustration of getting stuck on a disliked song. The Scosche iPod Remote ($79) uses a wireless RF remote system that fits any iPod with a dock connector, allowing you to control your iPod from up to 100 feet away. Skip tracks, adjust volume, hit play/pause, select playlists or shuffle via large, glove-friendly buttons. The compact, lightweight, waterproof remote fits into a holder that can be securely fastened to your handlebar or elsewhere using a hook-and-loop strap.
Danny Gray Airhawk Seats
When it comes to rider comfort, nothing is more important than a motorcycle’s seat. Danny Gray makes seats for Harley and metric cruisers that are contoured to cradle the anatomy for maximum comfort. Higher-than-average foam density allows a low-profile cut and good support for the posterior and spine. And select Danny Gray seats have the Airhawk Comfort Seating System built inside, using air cells originally designed to reduce tissue pressure for wheelchair-bound patients, an FDA-approved Class II medical technology. Airhawk equipped seats (prices start at $479), which have an integrated pump for on-bike air pressure adjustments, eliminate hot spots and offer superior shock absorption.
Mobile Warming Apparel
Food, shelter and clothing are basic needs. Mobile Warming’s new line of heated clothing uses high-tech fabrics and batteries to make it easy to fend off the elements during your ride. The Classic soft-shell jacket ($179.99-$197.99) is made of Windshark 4-way stretchable, breathable, waterproof fabric lined with three heating panels (two on the chest, one on the back) that use steel-alloy fiber elements and reach a maximum temperature of 135 degrees. The panels are powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’s good for up to 10 hours and has a built-in 4-level temperature control. Available in men’s and women’s sizes in solid colors.
Flash2Pass Garage Remote
The modern world is full of remote controls. There are five on my coffee table, for the stereo, TV, DVD player, Wii and Apple TV. Inevitably I point the wrong remote at the device I’m trying to operate, or I misplace one of them among the couch cushions. Flash2Pass ($79.95) eliminates the need to keep track of at least one remote by turning your motorcycle’s high beam switch into a transmitter for your automatic garage door opener. Ride up your driveway, flick the high beam switch and your garage door will open upon command. The kit includes a transmitter, receiver, installation hardware and instructions.
Deltran Solar Charger
Gadgets like cellphones, cameras, iPods and battery-operated heated jackets need juice to keep them running. And so do motorcycles. If you need to keep your bike’s battery in tip-top condition but don’t have easy access to a wall outlet, Deltran’s 5-watt Solar Charger with Built-in Controller ($79.95) may be just the solution. The 3-pound, 16- x 13.25- x .875-inch solar panel has a nominal voltage of 12V (270 milliamps), temperature compensation sensor and built-in Battery Tender smart charging controller. Deltran also offers 10- and 15-watt solar chargers ($109.95-$149.95) that include 3-step automatic microprocessor controllers, and all have five-year warranties.
Morpho Airbeam Tent
If you enjoy motorcycle camping, you know there’s no substitute for a durable, compact, waterproof tent that’s easy to use. The Morpho 2-person Airbeam tent ($489.95) weighs just 5.5 pounds and has a 39 square-foot floor area. Rather than standard tent poles, the Morpho uses inflatable Airbeams (a collapsible foot pump is included), which are lighter, pack smaller and make set up and take down a breeze. When set up, the Morpho measures 104 x 35 x 42 inches; when packed, it measures 14 x 7 x 7 inches. Optional accessories include a machine-washable fabric inner liner and a 70D PU coated nylon footprint.
RotopaX Fuel Container
Other than getting a flat, running out of gas is the easiest way to siphon the fun out of your ride. Gas gauges and low-fuel lights are great, but they’re just warning devices. When gas stations are few and far between, the best insurance is carrying extra gas. RotopaX are durable, EPA/CARB compliant fuel containers that can be mounted and locked directly to your motorcycle, ATV, truck, etc. RotopaX containers come in various sizes, and multiple containers can be secured together. A 1-gallon fuel container (9-1/2 x 13-1/4 x 3 inches) with an anodized aluminum Pack Mount and ECO spout is $74.95.
(This Buyers Guide was published in the June 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)