Epic Road Trip 2017 (Prelude)

Published on June 21, 2017

It's that time of year again, when the temperatures in Phoenix soar and the highways out of the Valley and leading to higher elevations (and cooler temperatures) slow to a crawl (especially I-17, but that's less of an issue for me since I don't touch the Interstate system with my moto tires if I can help it). In 2016, I made a shorter trip with friends that took us along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and through Monument Valley before we arrived in the mountains just north of Durango where we could enjoy the windy goodness that is the Million Dollar Highway. That experience taught me two things. First, I REALLY needed to get a new seat on my Fury. Second, hail is hell on a motorcycle.

I made sure I followed up on the first lesson and picked up a new seat which I installed in October, just in time to try it on on the Ghost Town Trail in southeastern Arizona. It was a day ride, but one which took me a grand total of 479 miles in a single day. The best part was that I wasn't nearly as wiped out as I had been in the past. It's amazing the difference a seat can make. It's introduced a new issue that I'm working on, but it's nothing that keeps me from riding. Currently, I've got to stoop just a little in order to check my mirrors to see directly behind me, but I'm able to see into lanes on either side of me without any issue. I was talking to the parts folks at Western Honda (my go-to for pretty much all my gear and parts) about the issue and it sounds like a set of handlebar risers are in my future.

I settled on a Mustang seat after scouring reviews and hemming-and-hawing for about a month. In hindsight, I wish I would have passed on the rear pillion seat, but it worked out because of the changes I've now made to the luggage system of my Fury. Here's a picture of my ride from the Ghost Town Trail. Not the best idea to take the Fury on dirt, but it only lasts 6-8 miles from Pierce to Gleeson and it's worth it. This had been my only form of transportation for a year by this point, so I was very comfortable and the dirt didn't hamper my ability to control the bike at all. Still - the Fury is a chopper and it's not an ideal scenario, but at least I know I can handle it on dirt when necessary.

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On the back over the rear pillion seat are the first changes you'll notice from the Seattle trip. I ultimately dropped the sissy bar and the bags. The problems I ran into with the bolts shaking loose (which I could have rectified with some thread lock) combined with the problems I experienced in high crosswinds because of the the height of the rear bags (which I can't really do anything about) made me rule that out pretty quickly. So I started the hunt for something new. I finally ended up picking up a set of EZ Brackets mounting brackets (made for the EZ Brackets kit, but missing the plate that bolted into the saddlebags). I had to cut them down (took about four and a half inches off the end) so they would fit under the rear fender and had to drill holes into the fender to enable the brackets to mount, but it actually brought me back to something similar to my original concept.

When I first started looking for a way to mount saddlebags, I though a J-hook might do the trick and allow me to mount a bracket without drilling through the rear fender. What I ended up with was more of an S-hook. The brackets inserted between the fender and the metal frame and attached with bolts. It dropped underneath the fender, then flared outward and dropped down again, giving me the mounting point for a set of standard Honda drop bars. Adding those was easy (and I thread locked the bolts this time) and then I just had to find a set of saddle bags I liked. It all worked out quite nicely, but still didn't give me much space to carry more than a weekend's worth of clothing (and still no shelter or sleeping bag - which means hotelling it).

I had stumbled across the Saddleman's products during my search and ended up picking up one of their smaller bags (a friend of mine picked up the larger one) and was able to test it out on the Durango trip. It worked out really well, but still limited my capacity to nothing more than a long weekend. My bag held up quite nicely, though my friend's (the larger tail bag) tore at one of the seams that trip. I've kept the Saddleman bag I purchased and still use it when I need just a little more cargo. It works out, but still isn't large enough to prevent me from needing to carry a backpack when I have to take a laptop.

After getting the saddlebags mounted and the new seats, I set out searching for a tailbag that would allow me to travel for a week or more. Around the holidays, I found exactly what I needed. The hardest part about finding a tail bag for the fury is that the narrow pillion seat doesn't allow much of a platform to secure a typical tail bag. The Saddleman worked because of the "tunnel" that allows it to sit flush over the rear pillion. Most other tail bags don't seem to have that option. I finally found the Nelson-Rigg tunnel bag that offered good capacity (including fitting a 17-inch laptop) and was easily secured and removed. It has a locking capability, but since it's just cloth, the security is quite limited. Thankfully, it has quick-release straps that I can easily pop, allowing me to carry it as a shoulder bag rather than leave it out.

Another concern after my Seattle trip was fuel capacity. In general, I haven't had any problems with the distance between fuel stops, but I did push my luck on day 2 between Vegas and Big Pine, CA. Since the factory rating limits me to about 150 miles, I decided I should play it safe and supplement that. Unfortunately, nobody really makes gas cannisters for motorcycles (lots of 4-wheeler options that attach to a support vehicle or ORV, though). I eventually found fuel cannisters intended for liquid cooking fuel. With some research, I found uncovered information from the manufacturer indicating that they could also be used to store gasoline for up to 3 months. The largest size available was only a liter, so I picked up a couple. It's enough to add about 20 miles to my tank and more than enough to keep me from getting nervous.

I've tried out this setup a few times now with great success. Most recently, I made an overnight trip to Lake Powell with all the necessary camping gear attached for a longer ride (inflatable sleeping pad, backpacking tent, and backpacking sleeping bag). My initial rigging worked just fine, but I changed it up for the return trip, which provided me with a comfortable back rest because of how I cascaded the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad over the front of the bag toward the rear of my solo seat.

Epic Road Trip 2017 Gear Setup

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Full Honda Fury travel rig