Mid-Point Gear Review

I thought that since I’m nearing my mid-point in my ride that I would talk a bit about some of the gear I’ve been using and how it’s worked up to now. I should note that some of the gear I will be reviewing was in fact afforded me under a sponsorship agreement with the manufacturer or reseller, but part of that agreement is that I do provide my honest opinion without bias.

SENA SMH10 Bluetooth Headset

This has been one of my lifesavers on the trip thus far. The quality of audio when synced with my iPhone has been fantastic. I use a GPS app called Waze on the phone most of the time and that too has been great to listen to the directions and not having to look down to the phone. I’ve actually also been on several conference calls while riding using Skype and the combination of the headset, the iPhone and Skype has really been superb.

As I was riding into Quito, for example, I was on Skype on a call with colleagues in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and the US listening in on the call and jumping in when necessary, all while riding in suburban traffic – and mind you, I was in Quito, Ecuador. Since I also have some long days on the road, I’ve listened to loads of audiobooks and podcasts which I have thoroughly enjoyed and helped me keep my sanity. It’s great to be able to juxtapose fantastic scenery with great music in the background.

That said, it doesn’t make you more approachable to the local wildlife.

I’ve also asked my family and colleagues about the sound quality, and they said my voice was clear and that the surrounding noise, though perceivable, was not a distractor. I’m not sure if it has some kind of sound suppressor for ambiance noise, but the feedback regarding the sound on the other end has been very good.

One thing that I particularly liked when paired with the iPhone was that I was still able to use Siri directly from the headset. I could check the time, have Siri read back my messages to me – I get a lot on iMessage over the course of a day – and one feature I particularly like was being able to bring up a FaceTime call while I was riding. Obviously I’m looking at the road, but the other person can see me while I’m riding, and I can look down when I get to a stoplight from time to time.

The battery life is also something I have been particularly impressed with. Usually I have to charge ever fourth or fifth day and I’m listening to music, the GPS, or books/podcasts almost all the time while I’m riding. I would guess I’m getting about 16 to 20 hours of use out of a single charge. It also came with a great and handy charging cord, which I’ve often connected to the bike while I’m riding and it charges the headset while in use. Very cool!

There is also a great deal of flexibility with regard to the microphone. It comes with two options. The first is a microphone on a flexible arm and the second is a smaller mic that can be place with either using velcro or with a sticker within the helmet.

Overall, I can strongly recommend the SENA SMH10 BT headset. It’s been through all kind of weather – thick fog where the moisture gets into every nook and cranny, torrential rain, 44C (104F) heat, sandstorm, and literally it has not missed a single beat.

Slider All Season Mesh Jacket with Kevlar from Competition Accessories – I got a mesh jacket as my second jacket for the trip on the advise of an ADVRider Crestedbutte-rtw (Fletch – http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=735281 ). It’s a great blog if you have not read it. He’s been riding for well over a year and I contacted him asking for tips and he strongly suggested to bring along a second mesh jacket. I think this was sage advise as when I did hit that 44C (104F) heat in southern Honduras, I don’t think I would have made it riding in my KLIM kevlar jacket. I went through 11 liters of water that day and sweated more than I probably had in my entire life.

The jacket is an all weather jacket. It comes with two liners – one for cold weather and another waterproof liner. I can only speak to the exterior mesh shell as I left the other two layers at home and it has worked great. The construction of the jacket is solid with good stitching, integrated padding in elbows and shoulders, along with CE Armor in the back, shoulders and elbows. These are easily removed when you want to launder the jacket. I put it in the delicate cycle – it says to hand wash in the washing instructions, but honestly, that just wasn’t going to happen. It did fine… and trust me, when the jacket sits up and starts taking to you at the end of the day… it’s time to wash it.

The color, I chose red, did not wash out and once it dried, it looked good as new. The mesh is amazingly breathable, and it comes with nice side pockets in front, a few pockets on the inside front panels, one with zipper up top where I often kept my driver’s license and registration, and a cool hidden pouch on the back. I imagine that’s to carry the liners, but it served me well where I could stash a little extra cash and passport on days I went riding without my tank bag. For the price, it’s also a winner.

When I’m back from my trip, this will likely be my everyday jacket, as I don’t have a car and normally ride my bike.

Stay tuned for upcoming stories and my next reviews.