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The Interphone F5XT Bluetooth Kit works out towards the top end of the headset market, running against the Scala G series and the Sena SMH10. I’ve just installed it and here’s my impressions and review.
Compared to its competition the F5XT has a chunky form factor and positive control buttons on the side. It’s size is actually a plus point, allowing easy handling with gloves on and simple clipping on to the helmet mount.
The inner speakers and boom microphone are fairly standard for motorcycle headsets. They have an inner jack to allow the choice between a fixed boom mike (for open face or flip front helmets) or a slim uncovered mike (for full face helmets). The cabling connection to the headset is robust and seems weatherproof. There’s also a handy looking tube of silicone grease to smear on the join for added reassurance. Good marketing psychology there.
The F5XT functions are exactly what you would expect from a developed manufacturer. Here’s the Interphone website specification list:
- Intercom with others using Bluetooth headsets® in the INTERPHONE F product range
- Cellular (also using gps bluetooth®)
- Satnav, gps bluetooth®
- Stereo music with a2dp profile and avrcp control
- Via cable with 3.5 mm jack devices
- New recharging system via 2.5 mm jack
In real life the important features for me are the high quality bluetooth technology (3.0, allowing a solid connection to my mobile phone for music and functions), and the industry unique remote handlebar control (much safer and more intuitive than taking your hand off the bars and prodding the side of your helmet around).
The control is secured on to the handlebar by three pronged screws (a special non standard fitting tool is included in the kit) to prevent anyone removing it when parked up. The real issue is positioning it so that it doesn’t obstruct the clutch lever and allows the left thumb to access the joystick easily.
The kit works well and sound quality is high. The positioning of the speakers is important; closer to the ear ‘oles is much the best position. Battery life is good and it’ll handle the greater majority of day rides easily. The handlebar remote allows me to adjust the volume and turn the RDS FM radio on/off. It takes a while to cycle through some of the spoken menus which can be a drag, however, I see this as a necessary evil to maximise safety. By listening to the menu and the spoken word options I’m not looking down at the handlebar/instrument area and I am concentrating on the road instead. Another real world limitation (eclipsed by the Interphone F5’MC’ series is the bluetooth connection intercom function only extends to other Interphone sets in the Intercom ‘F’ range. So either organise your riding mates to buy into Interphone or use the kit as a rider – pillion set up or just a solo connection. Pairing the kit with other devices and the remote control is very simple and the connection strength is very good. The range is also good from mobile to headset – I’m still exploring this but it looks like it’ll be good enough to allow me to walk off the bike in a petrol station forecourt to the kiosk, pay and retain the connection.
I’m happy with the choice. There are only a three clear market leaders in motorcycle bluetooth tech (Sena and Scala being the other two) and the F5XT has everything I need as a routine solo rider with a focus on safety and equipment durability.
Kriega R25 Rucksack Review
Sizewise this is the middle of the range model of rucksack from British kit manufacturer Kriega. Their designs are consistently good and the R25 is aimed at the minimalist market – possibly more sport bike oriented – to carry the basics with you.
It’s got one main compartment with an internal pocket, a zipped exterior pocket and that’s it.
The load carrying system is well thought out and uses a twin lock on the chest to support the weight of the bag through the rider’s shoulders. There are also attachment points on the outside to connect Kriega US 5 and 10 pouches. The compression straps work well and can also be used to secure the R25 to a bike’s frame.
As expected the build quality from Kriega is excellent. The individual parts and materials are more likely to give way than the stitching or construction points.
Overall I would place this rucksack at the daily commute side of bike luggage. It’s still too big to wear on a long distance or multiday ride. but a very good bit of kit all round.
In adventure motorcycling terms there is a (very) small group of true middleweight ‘all rounder’ motorcycles that are ready for the adventure rider. It’s the combination of a larger engine size and a greater power coupled with a relatively light frame and fairing that works. It’s a good mix for off road – up to a point – and fine on the road for long distances and riding comfort whilst on the tarmac.
Middleweight in this market segment is probably around 700 – 850cc. The engine designs vary but many are versions of v-twin or parallel twin layouts.
Here’s some of the main factors to consider;
If the bike is too heavy (mostly caused by being designed for predominantly on road use) then it’ll handle poorly off road. The centre of gravity is likely to be high and possibly over the front; limiting agility and responsiveness and making for an uncomfortable trip on the dirt. A high weight also reduces MPG figures and can stress a frame when it’s loaded with overland gear and fuel.
The power to weight ration should be the driving factor in a middleweight bike choice. If you’re in the business of trading off road capability for on road ability then you will want a punchy engine that can manage sustained high speeds for long distance work.
This is a critical area. There are many contenders for the middleweight adventure motorcycle segment but only a few are genuinely worthy of consideration. To be in this list the bike must be able to go off road properly. Many look like they could do but few actually cut the mustard once on the dirt. Road biased set ups will generally have limited ground clearance and soft suspension. Whilst this can be changed with a set of TKCs and an adjustment to the fork preload it won’t be enough to get a road bike into the ball park and competing with a Dakar design.
Here’s a list of some of the best true middleweight adventure motorcycles out there:
Released in 2013 as an upgrade to the F800GS model, the ‘Adventure’ F800GS comes with 798cc in a parallel twin making a claimed 85bhp @ 7500rpm.
• 24 litre underseat tank increases range and lowers the centre of gravity.
• Massive amount of touring accessories available.
• Expensive BMW premium.
• Still relatively heavy at 230KG.
A very capable top-of-the-range adventure motorcycle. Powerful and capable off road and equally impressive on road, it’s a good all rounder that minimises the compromises common to this market segment. You get what you pay for; and in this case you certainly do pay for it!
Triumph Tiger 800XC
A classic middleweight design; 799cc, 215kg wet weight and plenty of real world power with 94bhp @ 9400rpm. In line three cylinder engine produces plenty of low down torque as well.
• Great power – able to be used on and off road.
• Off road handling is very good. Low centre of gravity and high agility.
• Spare and parts availability likely to be limited outside US and EU.
• Short screen and (relatively) small tank at 19litres.
A great all round option. The Triumph Tiger 800XC handles on and off road with the best of them. Triumph has taken on board the lessons of the big trailie era and in the 800XC has made a real tiger off road.
Honda XRV750 ‘Africa Twin’
The original Africa Twin was based on the Paris-Dakar NXR750 rally bike. Produced between 1989 and 2003, the Africa Twin was an adventure stalwart. Combining legendary Honda reliability with a 742cc v-twin design it had loads of useable power and great ability off road.
• Build quality and parts availability.
• Close to perfect balance of power, weight and dirt riding credibility.
• Now out of production, also not sold in the US.
• Heavy and slow compared to the latest generation.
As close as the last two decades have come to the holy grail of middleweight adventure hero – this is the bike you would choose for an overland expedition.
Finding the best lightweight adventure bike is a perennial source of debate and argument amongst the adventure motorcycling fraternity. Deciding what bike to buy is also one of the most common reasons to research online for help, advice and information. We’ve put together a list of the most important factors to consider whilst choosing your perfect bike, and a guide on some of the best and most popular motorcycles out there.
Adventure. Everyone has their own definition of ‘adventure’. For some they will spend most of the time on packed dirt tracks, fire breaks and desert; perhaps with the odd stretch of tarmac thrown in to connect the trip together. Others will spend 90% of the journey on tarmac, only venturing on the occasional foray off road. Most riders will fall somewhere in the middle, looking for the best adventure orientated dual sport machine for them and the kind of riding they do.
Riding. There may also be a delta between the kind of riding people want to do and the kind of riding they actually do. Adventure motorcycling’s ultimate vision is all about heading off into the distance on that trip of a lifetime around the world, ready for all the challenges ahead. The most common riding we actually do is either a regular commute or longer weekend trips at best. In the US or Europe most of the miles are done on tarmac.
Lightweight. We’ll consider bikes up to around 600cc as ‘lightweight’. There are lots of other designs that change the weight, power and appeal of these dual sport motorcycles but the outstanding design component is that they’ll all be enduro styled and able to carry a rider and equipment for a couple of day’s riding on and off road.
Deciding Factors. There are some pretty key requirements for a lightweight adventure motorcycle; here are the top ones.
Weight. ‘Light is might’ and ‘Light is right’. No two ways about it. There is nothing like the amount of sheer pain and effort of riding a bike that is too heavy to pick up, overloaded with gear and fuel in a challenging off road context. Lighter bikes are easier to ride, particularly off road in the wet, and easier to lift (or manhandle onto a vehicle if need be). There’s also a trade off with a better MPG return – useful for long distances between fill ups and for saving money.
Reliability. Once you’re on the road you’ll be happier with a more reliable bike because you rely on it. Any machine that’s solid, easy to work on and with a plentiful supply of spares will be better than an exotic bike with major electrical problems. The truth is that adventure motorcycles get exposed to a lot of wear and tear and the elements. They will break down at some point.
The aim is to reduce the number of times or impact of this when it does happen. Bikes that are easy to work on will make it possible for you to not only repair if need be but also stay ahead of trouble; with regular servicing and replacing of worn parts.
The amount of power needed to go round the world is much less than the amount of power most dual sport bikes make. A healthy, lean power-to-weight ratio is the holy grail. Useable and agile power will get you through tricky off road sections, over obstacles and even out of trouble around other vehicles on the roads. The top end of the engine power bands will help with long distance cruising in comfort and overall road ability. Too small an engine and you may get trapped between trucks or around other road users, too big an engine and the bike is going to be overweight and handle badly when you do get off road.
Engine. The engine design will affect the amount of power that you can put through the tyres in different situations. In general most adventure bikes favour a variation of one – three cyclinders, usually offset or opposed to produce more torque lower down the rpm range. This helps with low speed control and handling in off road situations.
The bike’s frame needs to be strong enough to take the weight of at least the rider, a full load of equipment and spare pack fuel as well as the possibility of a pillion passenger.
Luggage attachment points on the frame, panniers options and positioning of the exhaust system affects this. Think about what kind of luggage you want early on and plan ahead.
Extras to consider
Fuel tank – can you fit an aftermarket one to increase range?
Handlebar risers – are there risers available to aid control when stood up?
Screen and wind protection – is it sufficient for you?
Storage and luggage – how much do you really need?
Kick start – peace of mind when the electric start fails!
Having read this far you’ve hopefully got an idea of what to look for – and what might suit you and your style of riding. Here’s a compilation of some of the best lightweight bikes available:
KTM 690 Enduro
The KTM middleweight entry to the Dakar Rally from 2008 – 2010. Class leading power to weight ratio and a bulletproof single cylinder 654cc engine. KTM have designed this bike and it’s engine to fit at the upper end of the lightweight adventure motorcycle group (hence it’s included here).
• Lightweight overall and excellent power
• Excellent off road ability
• Limited long range comfort and protection
• Not many equipment options for hard panniers
A hard core option for dedicated trail riding and off road adventure. Few compromises made to long distance ability. Lots of power makes it a popular hypermotard model for street use rather than a true ’round the world’ option. KTM build may indicate high maintenance and can suffer from electrical gremlins with the speedo cabling. For short trips off road it’s hard to beat.
Single 650cc ‘thumper’ with a reputation for being solid off road. Can be ‘vibey’ during long distance on road runs.
• Long running Suzuki stalwart – plenty of spares and modification options.
• 46bhp on the road
• Heavy off road
• Needs modifications for off road comfort.
A good all round option on paper. Riders complain of nerveless hands after long distances. Hardcore following modify it for RTW trips.
Honda’s virtually unchanged answer to the lightweight adventure market has been part of their long running XR production series since 1993.
• Great off road
• Reliable, easy to maintain engine.
• Limited comforts on road
• Fewer equipment options.
Lots of owners upgrade the tank and seat .
It’s noted for excellent useable power off road and has a more dirt capable focus than it’s nearest competition (KLR and DR series). It probably suffers slightly as a trade off once on the road with a weaker frame and fewer hard luggage options.
Yamaha Tenere XT660Z
‘Out of the crate’ ready for overland travel. This is Yamaha’s definitive adventure lightweight bike. Single cylinder not for everyone.
• Long range – 400 miles
• Simple and reliable construction
• Robust design with good options
• Single cylinder can be vibey
• Tall seat height
Very popular adventure travel machine. It’s centred around a single cylinder engine but solid and very capable on and off road.
BMW F650 ‘Dakar’
BMW’s popular lightweight adventure bike. Built on an air cooled single cylinder engine with a tall seat and robust frame.
• BMW build quality
• Good mix of on and off road capability
• Tall seat height
• BMW premiums.
Tall, miles of suspension travel and it’s got ‘Dakar’ in it’s name. Popular.
Kawasaki’s lightweight adventure bike is ugly, has plenty of modification options and is popular for it’s agile ability off road and solid presence on road.
• The simple design and ease of repair likelihood.
• Cheap and available. Plus good low down power.
• Heavy, underpowered and small range comparatively.
• Ugly yet functional!
Impossible to overlook, the KLR650 deserves it’s place in this lineup but it’s not for everyone.
This afternoon I headed west away from the A1/Catterick area and headed out into the Dales. Leyburn is a kind of frontier town before one commits to the real Dales experience; stone walls, narrow roads, twisty and tight roads running along valley floors and grey hamlets en route.
The BMW was perky and on new Metzeler Tourance tyres. A combination that I kept an eye on to avoid any sudden stepping out as new tyres are wont to do.
This afternoon’s ride was one of the first this year, what with a busy work/home life I’ve not been riding much so far in 2014. The plan was to sweep some cobwebs away and take in the Yorkshire countryside as a bit of a stress reliever.
I stopped in Hawes and then picked up this summer’s Tour de France route over the mountain by Thwaite.
After some fast sweepers along a cliff side road I came back down to the Swale River valley – the real “Swaledale”.
Despite the damp and chill it was a good run out. Looking forward to some more riding soon!