Field Tested Motorcycle Accessories

Cardo Scala-Rider FM Bluetooth Headset and more

Being blind as the proverbial bat, or maybe blinder, I have a lot of trouble seeing at night. Apparently I'm not alone, 'cause quite a few of you have asked me to explain how to properly adjust your bike's headlight.

All headlights need to be accurately adjusted in both the lateral and vertical planes not only to fully illuminate the road in front of you, but to keep from blinding oncoming drivers as well. Here's the easiest way to set one up

Your owner's manual will show you where the headlight adjusters are located. Bikes without fairings normally use the headlight-mounting bolts to locate the beam vertically, while the lateral position is adjusted with a small screw recessed in the headlight trim ring. Bikes with fairings generally use screw adjusters and may incorporate an adjustment knob in the dashboard so you can fine-tune the light when carrying a passenger or luggage.

Position the bike on a level floor, preferably in an area with low light. Point the bike at a wall or screen 25 feet from the front axle. Measure the distance from the floor to the center of the bike's headlight and transfer that dimension to a 1x1-foot cross drawn or taped on the wall. Make sure tire pressure is correctly adjusted. Sit on the bike, hold it upright and-with the headlight aimed directly at the center of the cross-turn on the high beam.

When the vertical adjustment is correct, the upper edge of the high beam should be even or just slightly below the lateral line of the cross. When the lateral adjustment is correct, there will be an equal amount of light on either side of the line.

Cardo Scala-Rider FM Bluetooth Headset
Suggested Price: $179
www.cardowireless.com

When it comes to motorcycle communication devices, size does matter, and by that measure the Cardo Scala-Rider FM Bluetooth Headset (www.cardowireless.com) hits the mark-sort of. The small, lightweight unit lets you take mobile conversations onto the bike (a dicey proposition, as far as I'm concerned) without the messy wires found on a traditional headset. You get hands-free calling features like auto volume adjustment, voice-controlled incoming calls and a noise-canceling microphone. And pairing a Bluetooth phone to the Scala-Rider is a cinch, as is attaching the unit to the bottom lip of a three-quarter or full-face helmet. Best part is, you can remove it just as easily.

Extending out from the battery pack are a speaker that wraps up to the right ear and a short boom mic that extends toward the mouth. Both mic and speaker fit comfortably inside the helmet, but some fussing with placement was necessary to get optimal audio quality-which was decent at speed. The voice-dialing feature worked only half the time for us, but we really liked the FM radio bit. The Scala-Rider's controls consist of volume rockers and a multifunction on-off button, which, while conveniently located on the exterior battery pack, need refinements to make them more user-friendly (the tiny size made them hard to manipulate). The Scala-Rider is nonetheless a nice try at a convenient and seamless cell-phone solution for motorcyclists, without the fussy harnesses of Generation 1 systems. (Cardo makes a rider-passenger intercom system too.

-Andrew Cherney

Harley-Davidson FXRG-2 Boots
Suggested Price: $119
www.harley-davidson.com

With motorcycle footwear, I usually look for weather protection, some kind of armor and deep lug outsoles (you can't underestimate the power of traction on an 800-pound bike). Lots of times that translates into big, bulky things with more snaps and buckles than a straitjacket factory, and if the boots don't soothe our calloused editorial souls-er, soles-then they're not getting worn. At first blush, Harley's FXRG-2 boots (www.harley-davidson.com) hit most of those points-full-grain waterproof and breathable leather uppers, 200-gram Thinsulate insulation with breathable Gore-Tex membrane, and comfortable ankle padding.

But when I first put them on, they felt too heavy and bulky for everyday wear. That was six months and thousands of miles ago, and I've been wearing them pretty much nonstop since then. The leather/ textile uppers provide beaucoup support (there's even ankle armor), yet are flexible enough to hike in off the bike. Best part is the stout outsole, which has deep treads for good traction but is lightweight enough not to drag your feet down. Yes, the reinforced toe is stiff initially, but after a week it's all good.

The FXRG's Gore-Tex and Thinsulate combo can get a little sweaty in warm conditions and they're a pain to lace up if you're in a hurry, but for everyday use and even two-season touring, I was pleasantly surprised by the comfort, protection and versatility of the FXRG-2s

-A.C.

Field Tested
Avon Roadrider AM26 Tires
Suggested Price: Front (100/90-19)-$93; rear (130/80-17)-$104
www.avonmotorcycle.com

Finding a reasonably priced quality tire for your older bike or even for some of the current middleweights can be daunting. In many instances, choices are limited and the tires, while decent, aren't really what you'd like them to be. I mean, round and black just doesn't always cut it, does it?

Case in point: I recently needed to reshoe my 2003 Triumph Bonneville, and after a fair amount of searching, all I could turn up were the OEM skins, which while serviceable didn't exactly float my boat. I'd resigned myself to living with the OEMs when I ran across Avon's latest offering: the AM26 Roadrider.

Designed primarily as a modestly priced, broad-based tire, the Roadrider was created to consolidate Avon's product line and provide a technologically modern tire that would work on older bikes, newer retro/standards and current middleweight cruisers. Middleweight in this case includes bikes like the Harley FXDX (2000-2005) and the Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad VN1500G (1999-2003).

Incorporating bias-belt construction, the AM26 (which can be run with or without tubes depending on the application) carries a V-rating (149 mph) and uses an interrupted center groove to resist tracking. Since the Roadrider is available in 32 sizes, including the traditional 4.00x18 and 3.25x19 for you vintage guys, chances are good that somewhere on the list is a size that'll fit, whether you ride a KTM950 Adventure or a Harley Hugger.

I levered a set onto my Bonneville, and the change was dramatic. Compared with the OEM rubber, the bike turned in a lot easier, held its line better through the sweepers and felt much less nervous over grooved pavement. The transition from bolt upright to the tire's edge was also smoother, and traction on the edge of the tire was greatly improved as was feedback during braking. Even my riding buddy noticed the difference, commenting that my pace had certainly picked up with the new skins in place.

Overall, I have to give the Roadriders high praise. They have a nice, light feel to them, offer lots of traction and provide plenty of confidence. They're modestly priced and-if my past experience with Avon tires is anything to go by-should have a decent life span. (If they don't, I'll let you know.) In fact, I was so impressed with the Roadriders that I ordered a second set for one of my older bikes, on my own nickel. I can't give a better recommendation than that.

So what's not to like? Well they don't fit a lot of the larger cruisers, which sucks, but Avon still makes the Venom to fit those, which doesn't suck. -M.Z.