Helmet – AGV Longway II
The AGV Longway II has been a great helmet for or needs. It is not too heavy, it has the flip-up front face, flip down sunscreen, and a respectable safety rating. It was also quite affordable considering it comes from a known brand name. One little quirk, that could very well be a positive, is that it needs to be flipped up in order to take on and off otherwise the grip around the jaw/chin is a little too tight. Also, as a personal preference, the internal sun visor is a bit preferable to the outer one as in the Longway II as the outer one can catch wind and sometimes be a bit awkward.
TCX Riding Boots
We had a bit of a debate before starting out about whether or not to go for full riding boots for the trip or to go with something more versatile like hiking boots that offered some rigidity and protection. In the end we went with TCX boots (T-Lily for Amy and ActionX for Buck). They are a bit too hot to use as sightseeing shoes so backup walking around shoes are a must, but they’re great for riding as neither of us have experienced any discomfort and they have been more or less 100% waterproof (the Action boots are a bit lower, making them more versatile but also more vulnerable to water getting in through the top).
The Motorcycle – CFMOTO 650-TR
We are very excited to be partnering with CFMOTO, the official sponsor of The Great Ride of China, and to have the opportunity to take one of their flagship motorcycles, the CF 650-TR. The 650-TR is the touring version of their 650 line of bikes which also includes the 650-NK sport bike. The four stroke, 649cc engine will give us the power we need to navigate the often treacherous roads in China and a 4.62 gallon tank will help us travel around 300km at a time before fill-ups. Though we will be putting our 650-TR (still yet to be named!) through some of the most rigorous trials possible on a bike, CFMOTO has built its reputation as one of the top domestic brands by focusing on quality rather than simply sales volume and we’re looking forward to seeing how it does.
An important aspect of this trip is that we really wanted to be able to capture everything that happened along the way. Though our trusty camera phones had served our Instagram centered purposes up to the point before The Great Ride of China, it was really time for an upgrade. The problem is that neither of us have much experience in photography and certainly not with DSLR cameras. We settled on the D3200 for several reasons. First we heard that Nikon tended to be the preferred camera for professional photographers (sure we’re suckers, but hey, who are we to argue). We also had a couple friends with the Nikon 5100 that had good things to say about it. The 3200 had most of the same feature set but what was slightly cheaper and supposed to be a bit easier for complete beginners. We’ve done some testing, took a class, and are starting to get the hang of it. So far so good!
Canon PowerShot G12
We couldn’t very well go digging around for our DSLR every time there was a good shot along the side of the road! Half of the job of taking good photographs is timing after all. It was recommended to us that we get the Canon PowerShot G12 as a point-and-shoot that Amy could keep in her jacket for easy access if we saw a good opportunity for a photo while driving.
Drift Action Cameras
These have been great accessories to help us with the recording of our adventures. Both the Drift HD and the Drift Ghost come with built in screens so you can see what you’re recording and a remote so you can control the camera when it’s not nearby. There is also a smartphone app for the wifi enabled cameras allowing you to control the settings and preview the video from your phone. One of our favorite features though is a seemingly simple one: 1/4″-20 thread allowing you to attach to any standard camera mount. This means we can setup the Drifts on a tripod mount or pole mount. The other feature we couldn’t do without is the Tag recording on the Ghost. This allows us to keep one camera mounted on Buck’s helmet continuously running and if something happens that we want to keep, we can use the remote to “tag” it and save that recording plus a couple minutes into the future. The LEDs built into the remote let you know it’s working too!
Lenovo Thinkpad E135
Though we’re normally Apple fanatics, neither of us having used anything but a Mac for years now, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to bring along a computer worth over a $1,000 on the road with us. The Lenovo Thinkpad was a great choice for us as it had great reviews for durability, was extremely compact and portable, and most of all was very affordable. We got ourselves our Thinkpad for just under ¥3,000 loaded up with the Linux system Ubuntu on the online Chinese retailer 360Buy.com. Here are some of the important features for us:
- 7.5 hour battery life
- Spill resistant keyboard
- Active Protection System (APS) that detects drops
- Weight- 1.5kg
- 11.6″ diagonal
Rev’it Cooling Vest
An unexpected MVP (Most Valuable Product) candidate, this piece of gear has been a real life saver, especially during the first half of the trip as we went through summer heat in the north east, traffic jams in the center, and long stretches of desert in the west. Once the outside temperature gets above body temperature, radiant heat from the wind can actually make you hotter rather than cooler. Whenever an opportunity arises, we soak the vests in some water let the excess drip off and the material in the vests retains the moisture helping to keep you cool. Zipping up all of our vents and keeping on the vest can go a long way to keeping us cool for long stretches of desert highway!
Rev’it Sand 2 – Pants & Jacket
This has been a great set of gear for us on the trip. The Sand2 set comes with two removable liners, one waterproof and one warm layer, so that it can be used in hotter weather as well as cooler. We tend to ride mostly without either of the layers and use a separate outer waterproof layer for when it rains (the rain layer isn’t 100% waterproof). There are lots of vents all over both the jacket and pants as well to help with air circulation and plenty of pockets too, including one in the back so that your passenger can store things for easy access. With temperatures above 35C the gear can get a bit too hot though (which is where the cooling vests come in!) and if you go for the white/sand/storm trooper color, it can get pretty dirty pretty quickly.
Apps & Software
MotionX GPS was an incredibly valuable tool in our smartphone arsenal. We used this app essentially every minute of every day. Have you noticed our GPS track that’s available in our Command Center (there’s an image of it in our sidebar too)? We kept this app running constantly in the background on the iPhone5 we were traveling with in order to track our progress and be able to output it on our website.
The GPS tracking has a lot of great features including the ability to report to you after a certain number of minutes or kilometers has passed (useful while riding so you can know it’s still running in the background) as well an automatic pause that knows when you’ve stopped moving. You can also save waypoints if there are interesting points along the way that you want to revisit later. Up to 500 waypoints are allowed with the basic version of the app and paid upgrades are available for more. You can also download maps for offline use.
By the end of our 146 days on the road, our final track was over 70MB large, which is very big for a GPX file, a testament to the power of the app that it was able to handle that much information. You can also use the app to share your location and progress via social media or email.