Forma Adventure Low Boot Review

Over the years I’ve collected a number of boots and while my Alpinestars Supertech R race boots were great on a race bike I needed something a little bit more rugged for use on the GS. I had been touring with a set of Alpinestars SMX-3 boot, and while this was comfortable and easy to live with being a low boot, it was a bit too sporty and have very little in the way of grip on the sole. I had seen a very favourable review of a Forma adventure boot but I didn’t want a full height boot. Having looked for alternatives I was informed that the boot I had seen reviewed was available in a low version, what’s more the online link I was sent was a local outlet meaning I could go and give them a try before committing.

The Forma Adventure Low boots certainly look the part. Available in black or brown, I opted for the brown Full-grain oil treated leather. The low boot has two adjustable quick release buckles and a velcro closure. When open the boot flap has an internal gusset to give them the waterproof capability that my old boots struggled with in extreme rain. For when the ground gets rough the sole has ample tread that looks like it can handle the hardiest of terrain.

I was reliably informed that they would bed in very quickly but from the off they were extremely comfy with a good padded interior. As you would expect from a boot of this nature they are very sturdy and it took a minute to mentally adjust to where my foot needed to be on gear shift. The boots are solid and while I might want more protection if I was doing some extreme off road riding, I’m not and these are a significant upgrade in terms of what I was wearing for touring.

Spec wise this is what you get for your 170 British pounds…

Outer

  • Full-grain oil treated leather upper
  • Specific adventure/enduro/ atv-quad double density compound rubber sole
  • Injection moulded plastic protection
  • Plastic gear pad protection
  • Adjustable velcro closure
  • Replaceable/adjustable GH plastic buckles

Inner

  • Personalized Forma Drytex tubular lining (waterproof and
breathable)
  • Ankle TPU moulded plastic protections
  • Soft polymer
padding with memory foam
  • PP Mid Dual Flex with anti-shock EVA
midsole
  • Anti-bacterial replaceable footbed with A.P.S. (Air Pump System)

 

Available from many stockist but I can certainly recommend my local store Adventure Bike Warehouse

North Coast 500 countdown – 66 days to go

After an initial flurry of activity to get something down on paper, I’ve since not touched the itinerary, although the trip has always been in the back of my mind. I’m hooked into various sources of information and Facebook groups and I see the occasional reference. I pay it fleeting consideration as to how it may influence my planning before getting on with whatever task I have currently occupying my thoughts. Now with 66 days left to go I’m considering getting back to the plan since the initial draft was inherited from a document sent to me on a GS forum. I modified it but to the extent that it now feels disjointed. Having said that I do want to keep it as guidance rather than a rigid set of instructions and directions to be executed to the letter. That in itself seems a contradiction to the GPS route planning that I’m going to refer to later in this post. Its like adventure with someone holding your hand.

There have been many suggestions over where we should go, what we should see, what to avoid and what road would be unmissable. At this stage the trip is now defined by a few simple factors, most notably accommodation. There will be four of us taking the trip and at each stop we will be needing four single beds in reasonable accommodation (typically two twin rooms). I’ve never camped and while I wouldn’t have a problem pitching a tent there are members of the party who would be horrified at the thought. So accommodation type, and more importantly availability, dictates the start and end of each day. From our meeting spot on the M6 services at Forton we will travel to Inverness, and then from here we will skirt the northern coast of Scotland hopping between B&B and hotel with the official NC500 route being our guide if not our mistress.

I needn’t go too much into the detail of the route. Before anyone reads this I’ll probably be posting the ride report which hopefully will be much more use to anyone hoping to embark upon a similar tour of the North of Scotland. What I wanted to cover in this post isn’t much of a product review, but a couple of products that I intend to use.

Wunderlich 3D Ergo screen deflector

Since moving to the GS I have enjoyed the benefits of comfort over longer touring distances. While the screen does its job in reducing wind and buffeting, I do feel that despite being able to adjust it to its highest setting there is a little more improvement to be had. On occasion I had dipped my head down a couple of inches and found that the wind noise dropped considerably. This was nothing that would bother me while hacking around on A and B roads but a benefit, I felt, would be desirable on longer motorway stretches. Since the dipped position wouldn’t be one I would want to ride in, not without neck strain at very least, I thought I’d try a screen deflector.

After looking at my options I settled on a Wunderlich model from Nippy Normans. The reviews were good and I didn’t want to change the whole screen since I don’t like the look of these tall aftermarket options. It also looked like something that I could easily take off and throw in the luggage if I didn’t need it.

The build and fit look fine. It clamps to the top of the existing screen without looking out of place and while I have yet to fully test it and find an optimal position, visually it looks like its going to do the job. The benefits will be felt on the run up to Glasgow and beyond.

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MyRoute-app Online Route Planning Tool

Garmin BaseCamp is the default option for planning for the Motorrad Navigator and it has its lovers and haters. I can take it or leave it. It can be a bit unwieldy but it does a job. I mainly use it for publishing Garmin Adventures on my ride reports. I did use it extensively on planning my trip across the Alps. That’s not to say that I didn’t make a lot of mistakes with it and had to reprogram a lot of my routes on the hoof mainly from letting Basecamp remove a lot of my route shaping points which allowed the GPS to re-calculate on the fly rather than going where I had planned to go. The source of many of the routes in the Alps had been provided by a forum member who had sent them to me in TomTom format. They had suggested that I use the TyreToTravel application to convert them into a format I could use on BaseCamp and on the Garmin based Navigator V. It did a very good job but being a Windows based application it wasn’t a long term option on the Mac.

A couple of weeks back I saw a recommendation of an online route planning app that was compatible with TomTom and Garmin and the suggestion was that it was a good alternative to BaseCamp. The website for MyRoute-app seemed to be pushing all the right buttons and I noticed it was from the same people that did the TyreToTravel application.

While I am keen to give this a go I have been waiting to get a little closer to my NC500 departure to draw up the final GPS routes and I want to take advantage of the free trial but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will end up with a Gold subscription if it does indeed meet all expectations. I might even consider the one off lifetime membership. I think that it would be money well spent since I usually have one large annual trip and numerous planned weekend outings to make it an investment.

 

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Planning the North Coast 500

Half the enjoyment of a tour is, for me at least, in the planning. While there is a lot to be said for heading off with no idea what adventures lie ahead, the expectation of knowing where I am going and where I intend to be lets me relax and enjoy the ride.

I have spent much of my life travelling to Scotland’s west coast but I have only done it the once on two wheels. On that occasion I didn’t really have the correct tool for the job. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast on the S1000RR but boy did I feel the effects of so many miles in sports bike position. When it was suggested we return to do the North Coast 500 I relished not only the possibility of doing it on an adventure bike but also I would be going further north that I had previously ventured.

Bealach na Ba

I dived into the forums and spent a few hours on Google maps scoping out the route. I quickly realised that there was a sense of urgency due to the popularity of the route and the availability of accommodation, or lack of it. I had bought a North Coast 500 guidebook and took a look at their suggested tour itinerary but the advice I got was that I was undercooking the mileage. The suggestion was that there was little going on with the east coast and that I should be cracking on to Durness where the best of the west coast starts. With this in mind I’ve drawn up my initial plan and will continue to revise in in the coming weeks.

 

Dragon slayed, again.

Or is it slain? Its important to get ones English correct when you are the only Brit in a group of Americans.

And so it was, I had boarded my Virgin Atlantic flight to Atlanta and was once again in the US of A. Those of you who have read my previous words will know all about the US129 ‘Dragon’ and its tail so hopefully I can find something new to tell you.

Leaving on a jet plane

Arrival

Things were a lot less stressful this time since I was retracing my steps from 2015. There was the horrendous immigration queue at Atlanta but I managed to fast track myself with my British charm. Actually, it was more like standing in the right place at the right time. I said I was on the same passport as last time with the same ETSA. This wasn’t entirely true as my ETSA had expired and this was a new one, but I managed to win over the immigration official with tales of my last visit and my local knowledge. I think he appreciated that my travel intentions weren’t that of the usual tourist.

Four wheel transport

Ok, so I’ve done the Camaro thing and I didn’t want to do the obvious Mustang tourist thing again so I opted for a inconspicuous Mercedes. I had briefly flirted with the idea of a truck but came to my senses. I think my choice of car had confused the local Sixt agent when collecting the keys as he had assumed I was German and was a little surprised when he realised I wasn’t. Maybe I should have been renting a Jaguar? (Don’t say Tata!!). Did I mention it was Friday around 5pm? Really not the best time to be heading through downtown Atlanta at rush hour! My first destination was visiting my friend Zachary in Knoxville and this traffic was seriously eating into our drinking time. Continue reading “Dragon slayed, again.”

To Slay a Dragon

In a few days time I depart to the US to ride the Dragon. In a previous post I talked about my last trip and had promised some information on what the Tail of the Dragon is, and this is the purpose of this post. If you like your motorcycles but are not American you may know of the US129. If you are American you will almost certainly know of it. Forgive me for what follows is a blatant cut and paste job. I promise that my next post on the subject will be my ride reports.

The Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap with 318 curves in 11 miles, is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road.
Designated US 129, the road is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, with no intersecting roads or driveways to hamper your travel. It is considered “the destination” for thousands of motorcycle and sports car fans throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

The 11-mile stretch of the Dragon in Tennessee is said to have 318 curves. Some of the Dragon’s sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Shade Tree Corner, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The road earned its name from its curves being said to resemble a dragon’s tail. The stretch bears the street name “Tapoco Road” in North Carolina and “Calderwood Highway” in Tennessee and is signed entirely by US 129

The nearby Cherohala Skyway is quickly becoming a destination too, with its remote 60 miles of breathtaking scenic mountain highway.

The Cherohala Skyway (sometimes called the Overhill Skyway) is a 43-mile (69 km) National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina in the southeastern United States. Its name is a portmanteau of Cherokee and Nantahala, the two national forests through which it passes. Along with multiple vistas and overlooks, the skyway provides easy vehicular access to various protected and recreational areas of the Unicoi Mountains, including the Citico Creek Wilderness, the Bald River Gorge Wilderness, and the remote interior of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

The skyway gains over 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in elevation, rising from a low point of just under 900 feet (270 m) at Tellico Plains to a high point of just over 5,400 feet (1,600 m) on the slopes of Haw Knob near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. The North Carolina half of the skyway terminates near the south shore of Lake Santeetlah.

The area also has other incredible roads like the Moonshiner 28, Devils Triangle, Diamondback 226, Six Gap North Georgia, The Snake and Great Forest Service Dual Sport and Jeep Roads.

 

Fortune favours the brave

Foolishly, I thought our planning would magically weave a path around any incoming weather, and as I prepared to set off from home there was a possibility that would be the case. By the time I was 100 yards up the road it became clear that this was fanciful thinking and I was getting wet. My initial stop for fuel was also going to be an opportunity to get the wet weather gear out of the panniers. I wishfully checked my phone for a text calling off the trip. Nothing.

Meet up

We had arranged to meet at Llangollen in the car park of the Royal International Pavilion. Heavy rain largely dominated the journey  so I tucked in behind the bikes windshield and turned on the heated grips. The rain had subsided by the time I pealed off the motorway near Chester, heading west towards Wales. An initial 7ºC had climbed to an almost balmy 11.5ºC, small margins but it was noticeable. Once at Llangollen we headed for a much needed hot drink. Sitting opposite a card shop drinking our coffee we amused ourselves trying to pronounce the name of the shop, YSIOPFACHGARDIAUWRTHYBONTDROSYRAFONDDYFRDWYYNLLANGOLLEN. We gave up.

A typical Welsh shop

Although we were passing many of our usual locations, today’s main event was Barmouth and I punched the destination into the (now behaving) Navigator V. Ever since I came back from Switzerland I had been trying to fix a problem with the Sat Nav. Even a whisker over a speed limit on any given road would cause it to give an audible warning every 20 seconds. It had been driving me crazy and I couldn’t find a solution. It became a long story but It needn’t have been. I had inadvertently turned on Audible Speed Alerts and having assumed nothing had changed in the settings I didn’t check them. Instead I was Googling and being lead on a merry goose chase about speed camera databases, and picking through the file system while ignoring the solution that was right in front of me.

Moving on

On the topic of satellite navigation, we encountered another of those little misadventures you get when you refuse to use a good old map. Having set Barmouth as the destination I was advised that there would be a toll, and I accepted the warning without taking up the offer of an alternative route.

The toll in question turned out to be Penmaenpool toll bridge. It is a Grade II listed wooden toll bridge built in 1879 to replace the then ferry crossing across the estuary of the River Mawddach. The earlier rain showers had left the wooden surface a little slippy but we crossed without incident for the princely sum of 50p each. If we had not turned off the road to cross the bridge then we wouldn’t have encountered traffic that we have earlier passed. They were not following the same navigation goals as we where and were on a more direct but slightly longer route. But hey, that’s the adventure right?

Penmaenpool toll bridge

Barmouth

We crawled into Barmouth through narrow streets behind your typical caravan and motorhome selection of day trippers. Barmouth was built up from the ship building industry but is now a seaside resort. We found a nice spot to park up on the promenade. The tropical trees lining the promenade looked out of place despite it warming up a little. However, not to that extent. We found a cafe. I had a full English, my riding companion had a stack of American pancakes and syrup. We were living the Welsh dream.

Tropical Barmouth

We left Barmouth and followed the coast road towards Harlech. We turned inland and shot over the excellent A470 from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Betws-Y-Coed with its long sweeping bends. At ‘Betsy’ we pulled into the recently resurfaced car park and slotted into the newly painted motorcycle bays. Betws-Y-Coed is a regular stop and a hub of many routes in Snowdonia. Its not uncommon for us to fuel up both bike and belly. Having just fuelled the bike, and with bacon, sausage, black pudding, egg, mushroom, beans, tomato and toast still working its way down my innards from the cafe in Barmouth, it was a quick cup of tea before heading for home.

There were a few light showers but nothing to have me reach for the now stowed wet weather gear. Fortune had favoured the brave. Faced with the possibility of a soaking we’d gambled and had a great ride out. Chalk up another 250 miles.

Check out the route on Garmin Adventures

The Dragon, the beach and the hot tub. Adventures on the US129 and beyond.

In a previous post I mentioned that back in 2015 I visited some of my friends in the US. Flying into Atlanta we rented a Camaro and did a four state round trip taking in The Dragon aka Deals Gap, Knoxville, and finally, Hilton Head Island for a bit of beach relaxation.

It was on this trip that I first experienced the R1200GS through a rental and had a blast riding the US129 ‘dragon’ during the day and drinking beer sat in hot tubs in the evenings. This year I plan to return in July and at this stage have barely given it a thought although I will be just doing the week in the cabin at the base of the Cherohala Skyway. What I do know is that a very generous friend is allowing me to use one of his bikes during the trip. Its a lifesaver as I had entertained the notion of renting a GS from Eagle Rider in Atlanta but the cost for the duration was over $2000 in comparison to $600 for a Mustang/Camaro from Atlanta airport to get me over to the dragon for the same rental duration.

Hopefully between now and the trip I will share with you some more information on the dragon and the surrounding area. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my video of 318 curves in 11 miles from my last trip.

R1200GS on the dragon
Riding the Dragon

Clearing the cobwebs

The lack of posts on here and on Facebook are an indication to the lack of riding that has been taking place. As the weather continues to improve the trips out on the bike will become more meaningful. As I look forward, inevitably I take a glance back and I’ve been reminiscing on last years rides and the tour of the Alps, looking over the photos and watching the video.

It occurred to me that many who might stumble on this blog might not have seen the links to the Garmin Adventure sites. Even on Facebook where they were initially published they are a little fragmented and as a resource they may be invaluable as they would give people access to the GPS routes. So without further explanation, here they are: