NC to CA and back on a KTM 690 Duke

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Sneeze Juice, Apr 18, 2019.

  1. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    Motorcycling has been apart of me since some of my earliest memories. Granted, my memory is atrocious at best.. Although, I vividly recall being 4-5 years of age, and at the store with my great-grandmother begging her to purchase me a toy of a motorcycle. Graciously, she obliged! It was a 90s green Ninja of some sort. Growing up, no one in my family had a motorbike. Although, my father had one when he first met my mother. Both of them forbid me from ever owning one while under their roof. Shortly after turning 18, I was planning on purchasing one and my mother said she would never speak to me again if I did so. Like a fool, I respected her unreasonable wish. Till, I moved many states away a few years later. Found a good deal on a 250 Ninja, and purchased it. The only problem was I had no idea how to ride it. The girl I bought it from, dropped it off at my home for me, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Watched a few Youtube videos, and decided to ride around my development. It was rough, turning lead to going straight and throttle control didn't exist. It's a miracle I never crashed, or dropped that bike. That was 8+ years ago, and I've been hooked since.



    I've been a lurker here almost since I started riding, primarily enjoying the ride reports. Finally, joining only a few years ago. I've worked completely alone my whole adult life, only seeing other humans while going to lunch and coming home to my girlfriend. Now, that's a lot of time to be spent alone during the week. Reading ride reports while at lunch, or during down time at work was always a perfect escape. Years faded, and still no "epic ride" of my own. Always finding some excuse with myself, of why I've never taken one. Reality being, the only thing stopping it was ME.


    Last summer, things changed. The company I worked for, gave me two choices. Either move out of state, or be without a job. I've dealt with some serious highs, and real lows over the years on my own end- business wise. This event was different, I started to panic and could only see negatives with either choice given. I didn't want to move my girlfriend out of state, who had just been offered a new position she really wanted. But not moving, mean't "unemployed" I worked alone for so many years, with tons of freedom and roughly zero oversight. I couldn't see myself dealing with a boss, co workers, and none of that freedom I enjoyed so much. Panic started to settle after two weeks, and I turned down the relocation. Realizing, I actually wasn't happy with my "career" once I truly thought things over. Luckily, I've always had numerous endeavors that earned incomes, far exceeding my day job. With a new outlook on life, at 30 years of age it occurred I could actually retire and still lead a middle/upper middle class life. So, that's exactly what I did. Took that summer to travel the U.S. with my girlfriend and dog via car. It was one of the most enjoyable, and freeing experiences of my life. Few months after being back, I took my longest ride yet on a motorbike. Rode a few states away on my Ural, to the Barber Vintage Festival. Absolutely nothing buy praise for that event!



    So a few months ago, I decided this year I'm finally taking that "epic ride" on a motorbike. Briefly planned to do the TAT, but I will save that for next year. Settled on roaming around the U.S. with the only objective to hit the California coast and see as many National Parks as possible. I have zero time restraints, so this journey could last forever if I decided. Obviously, that's not going to be the case as I love my girlfriend to pieces, and will eventually want to settle back into seeing her daily! Not knowing when this trip will end, and very loosely planning things out is the major attraction for me. I also love exploring new areas, and seeing the vast landscapes this beautiful country has to offer.


    Oh yeah, the steed for this journey! I wanted the 790 Adventure, but it wasn't out at the time and still isn't. Browsing bikes at Eurosport of Asheville, when they informed me they just took in a used KTM 690 Duke with only 2,000 miles. They offered it at a great price, and dealing with them was the best dealership experiences bare none. The 690 Duke is extremely unpractical for said trip, but I'm in the camp of own what you lust after. I've owned many bikes over the years, but this has been my favorite. I feel it was made specifically for me. It's one of those bikes that always leave a permanent grim. Although, I might have a differently outlook by the time this trip ends!


    Two weeks ago, I decided to have preventative service done. The rockers on the 690s are a known weak point, and mine being an older 2013 model year, having them replaced is a wise move. While there I had them check the valves, flush coolant and toss in a fan switch that runs the fan at an earlier temp. I could have done this myself, but wasn't comfortable doing the valves for the first time if they needed any adjustments. Two of them needed the shims swapped out, which at 3,000 miles was a shock. I'm hoping no others will need touched during my trip.




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    I will be picking it up tomorrow, doing an oil change shortly after and it will be ready to go!






    Since deciding to do this a few months ago, it has completely consumed me. Thinking about places to go, things to see, etc. Going to bed at night, has been nearly impossible. Staying up sometimes till 3-4 AM, brain racing and beyond excited. I could have been on the road already, but choose May as my month of departure. My girlfriends birthday is next week, and I wasn't going to be absent for it. She's a teacher and it's also spring break, which means the whole week she is off.


    Now this is where things take a turn, and remind you things are not always in your control. I'm not looking for an ounce of sympathy, and wasn't going to share this. But decided to, along with a few other personal details to make this a little different than "Here is where I'm going, and went" Historically I'm very closed off, and rarely share personal info with anyone. Recently I've discovered, that being more open is beneficial and feels good. Also, as stated at the start of this rambling I have a terrible memory. I'm truly writing this so I can look back, and remember this trip. . 2 days ago while out to lunch, I received an urgent text to call back the number I didn't know and was ignoring. Stating "family emergency" Instantly I feared it would be bad news about my Grandmother. Well, placed the call and it was my Father at the other end. My little brother passed from an overdose. Now, this wasn't shocking to me as he has been doing hard drugs for many years. He has been in and out of jail, and leading a destructive lifestyle his whole adult life. Sadly, I have been waiting to get this call for years. I have kept him out of my life, for roughly 8 years for obvious reason. Months ago he reached out, which was shocking and I decided to hear what he had to say. It seemed he turned a new page, and what I was hearing on the phone wasn't the person I stopped talking to so many years ago. I was actually proud of him, and remained cautiously optimistic. Relatives all stated the same, and said he has never been at this stage of life before. He had a job, and for the first time realized all the chaos he has caused over the years, and wanted to earn trust back. Over the last few weeks, I gave him some money for things he wanted to do. Fearing he would purchase drugs with the money, that first time I sent it I was a nervous wreck. To my surprise, he actually did the things he mentioned. Sending me photos along the way. Well, two weeks ago he claimed he was stranded due to a broken car and had no way to get back home. I didn't believe him, and waited it out for two days. Realizing he actually was out of state, I gave him money for a way home. Well, he was out of state but the story he gave me was a lie. Once I realized that, I informed him to never contact me again. Which I meant. Firm believer in you have to live with the decisions you make. Sadly here, his ended his life. Anger far outweighs sadness, and it's unfortunate my parents will have to bury their youngest kid.





    With that said, I will be traveling back to my hometown this weekend for the service. To move things from a depressing note, I've been letting my hair grow almost since last summers "retirement" I looked more homeless than anything. So here is my first "selfie", which is worthy of a good laugh!
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    Now, looking slightly less homeless,yet brutally congested from this years pollen (Hence the screen name) Maybe strangers along the way on my trip will actually chat with me vs hiding their wallets or debating to run.

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    Apologies for the novel! I will be keeping this thread current through my travels, if possible. I will most likely be setting off within two weeks.
    #1
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  2. staticPort

    staticPort Meditrider Supporter

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    Definitely in for this one! Impeccable flight plan; "roaming around the U.S. with the only objective to hit the California coast and see as many National Parks as possible. I have zero time restraints, so this journey could last forever . . ."

    Choosing a characterful, 'inappropriate' bike for the adventure just adds to the appeal. Storming the Pacific Coast Highway on my own 690 Duke is on the bucket list, although as an old fart I was thinking more of trailering it there behind a camper van. Have a great ride, Sneeze Juice, we'll be eagerly following along.
    #2
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  3. AngusMcL

    AngusMcL Been here awhile

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    Definitely in!! Since I'm planning a bit of an extended run on my Duke this year, I'm interested to see how you make out!

    A.
    #3
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  4. Jabcon2

    Jabcon2 Adventurer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    May 14, 2018
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    Martinsville IN
    I put 3000 miles and 14 states on my 690 Duke last year going from Indiana to Maine via North Carolina in a week, great road-trip bike except for the gas stops every 100 miles. Get ya a set of saddle bags and have fun out there!
    #4
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  5. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

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    Great start, All IN!!
    #5
  6. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    Back in town, and the last few weeks are catching up. I never take aspirin, or any other medicine unless instructed by a doctor. I power through headaches, allergy season, and even refuse novocaine during dental visits. This years pollen has really been kicking my ass. I’ve been getting 2-4 hours of sleep the past month.
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    I caved and started taking allergy medicine, and it’s barely done a thing. Today I woke up with a brutal headache, and couldn’t hold down my lunch. My body needs sleep, and to get away from this pollen. Picked up Melatonin, and will be taking that tonight! If I wake up tomorrow without the headache, I’m heading out Wednesday!



    I still need to change the oil tomorrow, and run the wiring for the GPS.


    Bike:

    2013 KTM 690 Duke with roughly 3,000 miles

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    Modifications:

    - SW Motech rear luggage rack

    - Acerbis lighted hand guards

    - Puig windscreen

    - R&G heated grips

    - Lower temp fan switch

    - Just had updated rockers installed, as noted in previous post.




    Luggage & Essentials

    - Oxford soft bags (Unsure of capacity)

    - Dryspec 28L bag

    My plan is to eat oatmeal for breakfast, and a nutritional bar for lunch, while going out for a nice dinner that I can sit down and enjoy. Not sure how well this plan will work, as I’m used to eating out at fairly decent restaurants daily... It’s probably the only thing I never budget. Time will tell....
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    Clothing not shown, but it will be fairly minimal. 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, underwear & socks, and hiking shoes.




    Gear:

    - Imported Nolan N87 Arkad Helmet. I didn’t like the color choices we have in the U.S. This is my first non Snell rated helmet, as it has a drop down sun shade. I deemed that feature absolutely necessary for this trip.

    - Olympia Airglide 5 Jacket. It has a thermal and rain layer.

    - Olympia Airglide 4 pants with rain liner. I had these hemmed, and the fit still isn’t “perfect” But they will do.

    - Alpinestars waterproof gloves

    - Alpinestars GPX Gloves

    - Alpinestars Goretex boots

    I purchased all of this for this trip, and hope it serves me well... I’ve been wearing everything for about a month, and have no complaints. Granted no severe heat, or rain yet..


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    The detachable clothing layers, will have to fit into the Oxford soft bags, along with the rain covers for those bags. Things are going to be tight!



    Now for the wildcard. My choice for GPS. .
    It’s the Garmin Oregon 450T meant for trail use.. Hiking trails, that is!

    I wanted something really small, and hope this does the trick. Garmin wanted $100 for the road navigation maps, I found them downloaded on an SD card for $25 shipped from Russia :)

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    #6
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  7. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Oddometer:
    566
    Location:
    Charlotte,NC
    Decided yesterday, I was leaving today. Changed the oil, wired the GPS, and packed the bags.

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    Woke up, with only 4 hours of sleep. Far too excited to get any real rest. Took my time leaving the house, and realized I’ve never actually secured all of the bags on the bike fully loaded.... Also, I’ve never actually traveled like this before, so it’s all a learning curve. It took me an hour to figure everything out! At first the bag above the muffler was resting on it, and really took some work to get it at a point I was comfortable with. Slapped some gold reflective tape on for good measure.

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    Also realized my license plate expired today! Paid the registration fee online, and the new sticker will be mailed. Obviously I’m not waiting the quoted 2 weeks for it to show. Hopefully this doesn’t cause any issues...

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    Had breakfast around 11am, at a local farm to table restaurant.

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    Shortly after, it was time to actually make this happen! Nervous, tired, and excited!

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    #7
  8. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    I set the GPS to motorcycle driving, and after an hour decided it would take me years to get to my destination. Reprogrammed it to automobile, and it was highways the whole trip. Rather uneventful, and a route I’ve taken plenty of times. I got stuck in Atlanta traffic for nearly 3 hours! That was absolutely brutal, and completely killed any good vibes I had going. By the time I was out of that mess, I was ready for the day to end. But I still had a few hours to go, and Mother Nature decided to gift me a few thunderstorms till I reached my Airbnb.

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    Made it to Birmingham, Alabama at roughly 9PM completely exhausted. My Airbnb has a hot tub, which is well needed right now. Tomorrow’s plans are Barber’s Museum, and most likely on my way towards New Orleans afterwards.



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    It’s now after 11PM, and time for me to pass out shortly! Interesting first day.
    #8
  9. docm26

    docm26 Been here awhile

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    This is going to be a fun trip!
    #9
  10. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    Woke up at 6AM this morning, feeling every square inch of my body ache. Although, still very eager to visit Barber! Parted ways from the Airbnb at 9AM to grab breakfast. None of the highly rated spots I found online were on my way towards Barber, so I took a chance on a dive.

    I asked for my breakfast sandwich on a bagel.... the worker found that very amusing, and informed me they only have white bread. . . Not a bacon guy, but this uninspiring looking mess was actually tasty.

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    Quick 5 min ride, and found myself at heavens doors.

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    I spent my first time here during the last vintage festival. Came back everyday, over that weekend and spent a lot of time checking everything out. A lot of stuff was the same, so I was able to move a bit quicker.


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    I will never get sick of admiring this machine!

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    Various Porsche were on track, from the rental experience they offer.


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    #10
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  11. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    Endless art inside this facility

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    Now this is a mean single! Much more exciting than my Dukes single :)


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    Spent a little over two hours here, and met two people traveling the world. One guy from Columbia (I think) And the other from Germany. Pretty cool!

    Decided today’s destination would be Baton Rouge, LA


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    Took highways again, just to knock out some mileage and get out of the south. Cannot wait to get towards better roads. I did take one detour to a NASA facility in Mississippi. It was closed though.


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    It was rather windy today, especially at the 80-90+ MPH pace I was keeping. . I took far too many breaks today, but my body needed it. Riding the Duke on the highway is absolutely exhausting above 60 MPH, things will be much easier once I start taking back roads.



    Ended up getting rained on a few times today, which all felt great during the day. The last 30 mins of my ride, it decided to pour. I arrived at my Airbnb without any issues though, and beyond happy to be laying in bed right now!


    Oh yeah, immediately upon crossing Louisiana’s border it looked like it was raining. .

    Wrong! Not rain, but bugs. I’ve never seen anything like this. I had to stop twice to clean my visor.

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    Spending tomorrow night here as well, so excited to see what Baton Rouge has to offer...
    #11
  12. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    566
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    Woke up this morning, and decided to hang around my Airbnb till noon.


    Headed off into the city in search for a lunch spot, but everything I drove past had a “chain” vibe. Hoping on Google would have yielded the results I was seeking, but I had all day to burn. Eventually found a spot in Spanish Town. It was a grocery/cafe style joint, and was fairly busy. I felt like a jerk taking up a table, but no one went without a table. This kept me anxious the whole time. I probably shouldn’t care about such things.. The food was nothing special, and it took ages.

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    From there I just rode around, looking for interesting sights. Stumbled upon the Capital building, and decided to check out the grounds.


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    This building has some interesting history. Governor Huey P. Long Built this, and was assassinated in it. His remains are buried on the grounds..


    There’s an observation deck, that provides a 360 degree view point of Baton Rouge. It’s free, and I was the only person up there for 30 minutes.



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    From there I just wondered around the city, and did a lot of walking. Nothing too interesting, but it’s not everyday I see a battleship or fighter jet. Kinda cool!



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    Wrapped up my day, with a simple meal. Grilled chicken, and arugula sandwich and Cajun fries.... I’m not a fry guy, and will avoid them whenever I can. This was my second time having Cajun fries today. Neither restaurant offered any vegetables!




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    I had planned on heading to Houston, Texas tomorrow. But, it will be thunder storming the whole way from Baton Rouge. Not looking forward to that, and I might just stay here another day to avoid that. The weather in that area of Texas over the next week is looking pretty grim too... At this point, who knows what tomorrow will bring?
    #12
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  13. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

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    Thanks for taking us along!!
    #13
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  14. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    My alarm clock this morning was lightning crackles, and heavy rain. Decided to just stay another day in Baton Rouge, and head to Houston tomorrow and hopefully stay dry.


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    Uber wants $15 for a one way ride 5 mins away, from my Airbnb. Not going to pay $30+ for a 10 min round trip, so it looks like I will be testing out the rain gear today..




    Saw a break in the weather, and headed out. Within a few minutes it started to rain again, and I pulled off under a church awning to toss on the rain gear.

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    Went and saw Avengers end game. Not really my kinda movie, and have been sucked into viewing the previous ones. I didn’t find the movie enjoyable. Toured the city again today, this place reminds a bit of Savannah and Charleston


    Currently having dinner at Whole Foods our of all places... Chicken, Jambalaya, and some mixed fruit with almonds. Excited to be heading off towards Texas tomorrow. .

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    #14
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  15. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    I woke up this morning, debating which direction to head. Towards Houston or Dallas. Houston was the original plan, but the weather is looking grim for the rest of the week, but I really want to visit the Space center and Austin afterwards if the weather decides to hold. So looks like Houston it is.


    Geared up to leave around 11, and had a really tough time securing all the luggage to the bike. This is one of my least favorite things to do. It’s a real hassle, especially on a bike that’s just not meant to hold all of this junk. Got things strapped as best as I could, but not good enough....


    Left Houston around noonish, after a quick lunch.


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    Adios Baton Rouge, it’s now time to discover how lovely I-10 is. Just kidding, it’s probably the worst highway I’ve ever ridden on. Awful tarmac, insane drivers, trash and tires littering the road. I had an 18 wheeler turn into me, and an asshole in a Toyota mini van do the same. Both freaked out, and were beyond apologetic with the hand gestures once they heard my horn and saw me on the shoulder next to them after having to swerve. What do I notice in the Toyota drivers hand? A fucking beer. What an awful human



    After that encounter, I pulled off to get gas and stretch my legs. Checked the side bags, and one was resting on the muffler! Hurried up and lifted it, and luckily there wasn’t a hole or fire!


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    Luckily I put that silly gold reflective heat tape on before leaving. It actually saved it from a hole. I’ve been using all the tie downs that came with the soft bags, and my dryspec bag. Today that wasn’t enough, so I pulled out two Rok straps I had, and used them to keep that bag tighter. They worked.


    Made it to Houston, and will explore tomorrow.



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    #15
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  16. BC Biker

    BC Biker Adventurer

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    Enjoying your report! Keep up the good work and ride safe.
    #16
  17. AngusMcL

    AngusMcL Been here awhile

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    When you get a chance, can you get a pic or two showing how you're securing your soft bags? I've got a similar set showing up this week so I'm interested in how you've done it.

    Thanks,

    A.
    #17
  18. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    I will try and remember to snap some photos, when I leave Houston.

    The side bags have two straps each. I secure one to my SW Motech rack, and the other to the passenger peg mounting bracket. These bags have three Velcro straps that go over/under the seat as well. Just doing this is completely fine, for minimal weight for around town. On this trip, they will say a bunch and need lifted..

    So, I use the Dryspec bag to assist. The rear of the bag I tie to the rack, and the front half I loop down to hoops on the side bags. Doing this you can bring the side bags up much higher, and things become much tighter. Not the best solution, but it’s literally the only option I have. Yesterday I had to also use two Rok straps to keep one bag off the exhaust, that side was packed different than the last few days and probably too much weight.
    #18
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  19. AngusMcL

    AngusMcL Been here awhile

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    Location:
    HRM, NS, Canada
    I don't have a rack, so I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I'm going to do this.
    #19
  20. Sneeze Juice

    Sneeze Juice Been here awhile

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    On a duke?


    There’s passenger grab handles that I could possibly use, but I don’t think it would work with the weight I have in the bags for this trip. Especially on the exhaust side, even using the two added Rok straps over there clearance from the muffler is very limited. I cannot fit my hand between the bag and muffler....
    #20